The British Example


Douthat believes that American conservatives could learn a thing or two from David Cameron:

Cameron’s critics missed the forest for the trees: They took note of every centrist lunge, every compassionate-conservative gesture and every touchy-feely gimmick, while failing to recognize that the Tory leader and his brain trust were putting together a more sweeping and serious blueprint for cutting and decentralizing government than we’ve seen from any Republican politician since Newt Gingrich, and maybe Ronald Reagan.

Whether that agenda can succeed is still very much an open question. But its very existence offers an impressive example to American conservatives, and a rebuke to those on the right who see any attempt to reform and modernize the G.O.P. as a betrayal of conservative principle.

I couldn't agree more. Check out this first-hand account of how conservative thought and policy are thriving in Britain, infused with some liberalism from their coalition partners. They have not clung to Thatcherism as the GOP has to Reaganism, because they are Tories and know that societies and problems change, and so too must policy. This strikes me as very sharp:

James Forsyth made the point that Cameron himself is not a particularly ideological thinker. He is a traditional organic Conservative. The combination of the electorate’s distaste for politicians and the financial swamp which emerged after the credit-crunch, means that his government must be a truly reformist administration. Modern Conservatives’ big and radical ideas are driven by the huge and deep-rooted problems that were left on Cameron’s desk when he arrived at No10.

No wonder he and Obama get along - although, of course, Obama is more liberal than Cameron on the economy and more authoritarian on civil liberties. Here's the future:

New politics and new economics will have the greatest chance of success if they are born in relationships that are based on trust. One of the roles of Government needs to be in creating open trust networks where people do not need bureaucracy because there exists ethos and intimacy. Those who cynically dismiss the possibilities of this happening should look at Zopa, the person-to-person lending service, or E-bay, the on-line auction house. In a system such as E-bay a person’s trust rating is often worth more than a single financial transaction. This fact and the innate human desire to live in a fair and orderly society means that 135 million people each year give money to complete strangers for products they mostly have never seen. By tapping into the nature of trust it should be possible to significantly reduce transaction costs. 

Phillip predicts that the Coalition will deliver mass mutualism because our future relies heavily on the success of relationships in economic environments. 

They take climate change and civil liberties seriously; they are investigating torture; they are including everyone in conservative values. Can a reform Toryism save American conservatism? Or should I have stayed in Blighty?

(Photo: David Cameron and Nick Clegg by Christopher Furlong/Getty.)