Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Nige pre-empts me on the matter of the new legalism that has overrun our country after a decade in which we have been run by lawyers. Nige refers to 'the erosion of Judgment in both personal and professional life, and its replacement with legalistic structures of compliance and proscription.' The combinations of Blair's ASBO mind set and Brown' savagely centralising authoritarianism have unquestionably enserfed us and drained our capacity for independent judgment. But which came first, the serfs or the lawyers? Take the teachers. People blame Blair for loading our children with tests. But they miss the point. It is not the children that are being tested, it is the teachers. Teachers had, from the sixties onwards, effectively deprofessionalised themselves by destroying any realistic possibility of assessment and compromising our ability to transmit culture from one generation to the next. This made them unreformable other than by the coercive and legalistic device of tests. Nobody can say this openly, but, in private, it is bipartisan orthodoxy. This legalism was thus forced on Blair. It was the result of a cultural collapse, a loss of ethos. There are many other examples - the National Health Service being the most obvious. This movement away from ethos and towards legalistic coercion certainly happened in the Blair decade. But did Blair and the lawyers do it or were the people at fault? The answer is both. Ethos collapsed and a bunch of busybody Labour lawyers arrived on the scene at about the same time. The shift from ethos to legalism is a move away from custom, wisdom and judgment is unlikely to be reversed in the near future. Maybe it had to happen, but it lowers us as a nation.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 9:11 am