Andrew says it’s O.K. for government to take care of the basic needs of the “unlucky,” which leaves a lot of wiggle room for a welfare state. On yet another hand, he seems to think it wise to wait until the social order is visibly unravelling before trying to do something about gross and growing inequality. But my reading of The Dish tells me that he thinks we may be reaching that point already, so in practical terms we’re probably broadly in sync.
Yes, I do, alas. I think the startling rise in social and economic inequality and the erosion of the middle class are things conservatives should worry about. Unsustainable debt, however, is a dagger at the middle class too. So aiming tax hikes at the successful and even middle classes in those situations is unpleasant but sometimes necessary.
One of Aristotle's keen observations was the critical importance of the "middle" in a polity in maintaining a defense against either mob rule or oligarchy or tyranny. My conservatism is of a modern kind, rooted in bourgeois values, not aristocratic ones - but it was influenced by reading Aristotle's Politics very closely as well. Now it may be that global economic forces accelerating this are beyond our control but it should not be un-conservative to defend the middle class if we can - by taxing the successful to investing in publicly-funded education, for example (one area where the British Tories are not cutting spending, I might add). Of course, if that doesn't raise enough revenue, you're stuck. But cutting middle class entitlements is not incompatible with defending the middle class; it can be seen as restoring the middle class's self-reliance and bourgeois values.
Times change. Conservatism is defined by an ability to change prudently with them, and respond to emergent social problems with pragmatic, if cautious, reform. It is not defined by rigid ideology (no tax hikes ever) or denial of reality (climate change is a hoax; freedom is on the march in Iraq; deficits don't matter).