Oh well done Willy, well done!

Today\’s absurdist piece of political logic:

There was a time when to live a life virtuously was well understood. It embraced personal integrity, commitment to a purpose that was higher than personal gain, a degree of selflessness and even modesty. Those at the top may have got there through ruthlessness and ambition, but they understood that to lead was to set an example and that involved demonstrating better qualities than simply looking after yourself.

No more. Perhaps the greatest calamity of the conservative counter-revolution has been the energy it invested in arguing that virtue, whatever its private importance, has no public value. The paradox, the new conservatives claim, is only through the pursuit of self-interest can the economy and society work best. Responsibilities to the commonweal are to be avoided.

The retreat of virtue has become the plague of our times. Greed is legitimate; to have riches however obtained, including outrageous bonuses or avoiding tax, is the only game in town. But across the west the consequences are becoming more obvious. Politics, business and finance have become blighted to the point that they are dysfunctional, with a now huge gap in trust between the elite and the people.

The drama playing itself out in France is a classic example. François Hollande was elected president of France less than 12 months ago, promising an \”exemplary\” administration after the sleaze of the Sarkozy years. Then came Jérôme Cahuzac. Until four weeks ago, he was the French socialist budget minister, leading the crusade against tax avoidance. It now transpires that he himself had hidden ¤600,000 in a secret Swiss account. He has resigned, but it has triggered not just a crisis for the French president, but for the entire French political class and political system.

D\’ye see what he\’s done there? That a socialist is a tax cheating bastard is a result of conservatives?

Truly, the Gulag existed as a result of the rightist split against Stalin.

It\’s also worth pointing out that he\’s got his conservatism part wrong there as well. The modern meritocracy is a most unconservative idea. The idea that a grocer\’s daughter, a garden gnome maker\’s son, could become PM is not conservative: that\’s something that should be reserved for whichever scion of the Great and Good wants to have a go this generation.

\”There was a time when to live a life virtuously was well understood. It embraced personal integrity, commitment to a purpose that was higher than personal gain, a degree of selflessness and even modesty. Those at the top may have got there through ruthlessness and ambition, but they understood that to lead was to set an example and that involved demonstrating better qualities than simply looking after yourself.\”

That\’s exactly what people like Willie Whitelaw thought they were doing. ~Exactly the sort of attitude that Hutton has spent most of his life railing against in fact.

15 thoughts on “Oh well done Willy, well done!”

  1. So Much for Subtlety

    The retreat of virtue has become the plague of our times. Greed is legitimate; to have riches however obtained, including outrageous bonuses or avoiding tax, is the only game in town.

    See what else he does there? He condemns people who make money through their own efforts. He also implicitly praises people who take money from other people through the threats and bullying of the tax office. So in Willy-s topsy-turvy world, making money by providing goods and services people want is wrong, but making money by taking it from others is just fine and dandy.

    Tosser.

    Which is almost a shame because he is blindly groping his way to half a point.

  2. There’s something incredibly impressive in Hutton’s writing style. The sheer pomposity is overwhelming. Question? Have him & Peter Hitchens ever been seen in the same place simultaneously? It’s just a suspicion, but…

  3. yes, Tim, but in WillyWorld when public schoolboys like Whitelaw give over their lives to public service and improving the lot of others, it’s because they’re patronising posh bastards, whereas when public schoolboys like Blair or Balls do it it’s out of benign altruism. See the difference?

  4. ‘It embraced personal integrity, commitment to a purpose that was higher than personal gain, a degree of selflessness and even modesty.’
    Didn’t Willy manage to bankrupt the charity (The Industrial Society) he was running while making a fair pile himself?

  5. Cahuzac’s excuse is that he wasn’t born with a golden spoon in his mouth (unlike many socialists) so he needed to found a patrimony. Not sure how this will play with the judges, who tend to be more bon chic bon gendre.

    Anyway, the joke going round Paris for years was that he only did hair transplants for black hair. (Geddit?)

    Latest on socialism: when the bank asks for a tax certificate, simply forge one.
    Latest latest: He tried to transfer 15 million euros. Now that kind of money is beyond even a hard working cosmetic surgeon. Where did he get it?

  6. “only through the pursuit of self-interest can the economy and society work best. ”

    Does he realise that was pure Blair? Other than that, to an extent I agree with Willie for once, despite him using the wrong word – he’s actually talking about ‘duty’, and personally I don’t disagree that we could do with a little more shame poured on those who lack such a concept.

    Reliance on ‘duty’ strikes me as a bad basis on which to run a country, but a little duty would be a good thing to add right now.

  7. sackcloth and ashes

    ‘The retreat of virtue has become the plague of our times. Greed is legitimate; to have riches however obtained, including outrageous bonuses or avoiding tax, is the only game in town. But across the west the consequences are becoming more obvious. Politics, business and finance have become blighted to the point that they are dysfunctional, with a now huge gap in trust between the elite and the people’.

    We are of course reminded here about how the senior cadres of Communist regimes in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China and North Korea lived absolutely frugal lives, did not abuse their privileges, did not amass fortunes for themselves, did not acquire mansions and private recreational reserves (hunting lodges, personal spas, resorts etc), and generally shared the experience of their peoples – the ones who queued (the lucky ones) or the ones that starved.

    [Sarcasm off]

  8. Latest story in the French guardian -liberation – is that the foreign minister Fabius also has an undeclared account in Geneva.

    Also the reason why the French politicians hide their monies overseas is because there is a wealth tax in France for which you have to list all of your significant assets. It’s medical equivalent is the rectal examination.

  9. Also the reason why the French politicians hide their monies overseas is because there is a wealth tax in France for which you have to list all of your significant assets.

    This is the point I was trying to get across to a certain dickhead on a recent thread: it is not the elites who suffer from high taxes, capital controls, etc. as they merely ignore the rules they foist on the rest of us. It is the ordinary person who gets shafted.

  10. I would argue that the dysfunction in modern politics is nothing to do with ‘greed’ or big business, and everything to do with a political class which despises at least 50% of the population and which rules out of bounds many important politico issues.

    Add in uncountable ‘charities’ and quangos, and a media class which just prints their press releases verbatim.

  11. TimN,

    Yes – if you’re a PAYE serf with a reasonable sized company, especially one that doesn’t specialise in odd ex-pat locations, you’re tied to the rules.

    If you own your own company, you can play a bit with income tax / NI / capital gains. Oh, and be a bit more generous on the expenses stuff.

    If you’ve got loads of liquid capital, ideally cash, and a small bit of political clout, then you can get away with pretty much anything. And the ‘like people believe Freemasonry is’ of the enarches (I suspect the same is true in many political elites -but our and the US two-party elected dictatorship system does occasionally mean that they’ll go after one of the ‘other lot’) ensures that they’ll mostly get away with it.

  12. Yeah, that Jacques Chirac wasn’t a dodgy character. The councillors who received bundles of brown envelopes from builders in the 1960s and 1970s for council house contracts were “living virtously”. The people running Chicago in the 1930s had a “commitment to a purpose that was higher than personal gain”.

    As you’ve pointed out, the left are now about the most conservative force in this country, and the root of conservatism is misplaced nostalgia – the idea that there was once a golden time in the past that must be restored. For the left, this is generally either the post war period or the 1970s.

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