Amidst all the discussion of British values yesterday, and during the maybe democratic revolutions in the Middle East, we should ask ourselves about the underlying theories and values of the UK establishment.
Sometimes those who argue strongly for toleration and civil liberties are the ones who are harshest in seeking to censor or silence people of differing views. In the UK over the last couple of decades there have been several Establishment assumptions which you question at your peril. A successful and open democracy is one where there should be healthy scepticism about the assumptions and theories behind public policy.
In the late 1980s the political and business establishment all believed that the Exchange Rate Mechanism was the right way to run our economy. It was disastrous. Those few of us who kept up the argument against were pilloried as beyond polite society and commonsense. The ERM ers dared to say they were creating a “golden scenario” when they plunged us into boom and bust.
In the last 13 years the Establishment has told us that an independent Bank of England would give us low inflation and economic stability. Instead, that too has given us boom and bust on an even bigger scale, and now has delivered high inflation by western standards as well. Still many hold to the conventional wisdom, and few see that you cannot have a truly independent Central Bank in a democracy. As has happened at least twice recently, the elected officials will override when needs must. ( Ministers effectively set lower interest rates in the slump, and changed the inflation target)
The Establishment believes in global warming theory. Anyone who dares ask questions or seeks to test the underpinnings of this theory is treated to intellectual abuse. The growing dislike of some of the policy consequences and the unwillingness of the Establishment to argue its case for the theory backed up by data creates tension between governed and governors.
Eurosceptics have grown used to being treated badly by large sections of the UK establishment, which has for a long time wished to blend the UK into the EU against the instincts of many voters. The British media, as opposed to the press, has been reluctant to provide a reasoned and sustained critique of EU government in the way it allows for UK government, shielding the EU from proper criticism and analysis of its waste and error.
These and other commanding ideas need to be properly exposed to challenge and criticism for us to have a vibrant democracy.