I've mentioned Matt Ridley's 'The Origins of Virtue' a few times now on this blog. From Richard Dawkins:
If my The Selfish Gene were to have a Volume Two devoted to humans, The Origins of Virtue is pretty much what I think it ought to look like.
Praise indeed. The book ends with the conclusion that part of the problem with modern society, is bloated and unnecessary government:
If we are to recover social harmony and virtue, if we are to build back into society the virtues that made it work for us, it is vital that we reduce the power and scope of the state. That does not mean a vicious war of all against all. It means devolution: devolution of power over people's lives to parishes, computer networks, clubs, teams, self-help groups, small businesses - everything small and local. It means a massive disassembling of the public bureaucracy. Let national and international governments wither into their minimal function of national defence and redistribution of wealth (directly - without an intervening and greedy bureaucracy).
The roots of social order are in our heads, where we possess the instinctive capacities for creating not a perfectly harmonious and virtuous society, but a better one than we have at present.
Devolution is again becoming a hot topic in Britain today. When Tony Blair swept to power over a decade ago, it was on the back of promises of extensive social change. Things were going to get better and devolving power back to the people was going to be part of that process. So what is Tony Blair's opinion today? According to the Guardian:
Tony Blair yesterday marked the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union by warning that "it would be crazy for Scotland to be wrenched out of the UK".
But if the local people in Scotland want more say over their affairs, who is anyone else to complain? When you understand that everything is pointless and that our leaders and politicians are just normal naked apes, like you or I, then you begin to understand how government can be diverted from its aim of helping people, to being corrupted and self-serving. But more than that, leaders can also be ignorant. Tony Blair is a theist, which is a kind of ignorance and he believes devolving power will destroy the UK.
He is wrong about god and I'm sure he is wrong about many other things too. We are all cousins, descended from a common ancestor. No one person has any more right to control things than any other. The power we give to others can quite as easily be taken back. But we should not be surprised if those in power relinquish it, begrudgingly.Go Top