1/27/2020

Roger Scruton, Sentinel of the West

"Scruton was that he was very much a man of order. By that, I don’t mean that Scruton was inclined to authoritarianism or totalitarianism. His dogged and very direct help for dissidents laboring under Communist tyranny in Eastern Europe is ample proof of his opposition to such systems. That said, Scruton was convinced that there was no liberty without order. Nor did he think all order was spontaneous. Sometimes it had to be chosen and backed up with authority.

As illustrated in perhaps his most political of books, The Meaning of Conservatism (1980), Scruton regarded order and authority as central to the agenda of modern conservatism. That order included objective morality, a strong attachment to private property, a rich and independent civil society, tradition in the best sense of that word, broadly orthodox religion, the conviction that some choices are always good and others are always evil, and that the state and law do have some responsibilities in this area. It’s hard to imagine a better list of positions to which most of today’s left would strenuously object.

The same belief in order also lead Scruton to express reservations about an economics-first approach to conservative thinking and policy. He was always anti-socialist, anti-Keynesian and, maybe above all, anti-technocratic. In his later years, Scruton spoke eloquently about the importance of private enterprise. He maintained, however, that markets needed to exist within the cultural, moral and legal setting bequeathed and adapted from the past. This was one reason why Scruton admired the writings of the economist and social philosopher Wilhelm Röpke and the ways in which Röpke showed how the dynamism of markets could be reconciled with the type of institutions and habits typically favored by conservatives."