Letter: End of simple belief in government

Click to follow
Sir: As a visiting American studying ideology, I was intrigued by your editorial "Death of ideology is greatly exaggerated" (24 April). Ideology never dies, it just seems to fade away when there's consensus about the key ideas. Your refreshing insistence on the well-being of the "small guy" restarts a vital discussion.

The problem is that the enemy of the little person is not always "centres of power". It takes a strong government to confront a big business, just as it takes a morally courageous individual to confront a government bent on destroying rights. The reason government is a better friend than business is that it is constrained by democracy and legal structures that offer public accountability far beyond what businesses face. So long as a few consumers want what business has to offer, the providers don't have to worry about the normal niceties.

We are coming to the end of simple-minded beliefs in government, or in the market. Either can do great things; either can commit atrocities. Old Labour may have stifled enterprise, but buccaneer capitalism is debasing our culture and undermining elemental conceptions of justice.

In both Britain and the US, a "politics of human development" is being born, and you can see it in the kind of issues that are coming to the fore. The voters plainly want new concepts and institutions that help families succeed, that support people of all ages in building a sense of competence and integrity, that reduce violence, and save the environment. Responsive government, enterprising workers and managers and careful protection of individual rights are all essential to these tasks.


London, N19

The writer is a Visiting Academician at the London School of Economics and St Catherine's, Oxford.