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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 229 of Albert Venn Dicey’s magnificent 1905 book, Lectures on the Relation Between Law & Public Opinion in England During the Nineteenth Century; Dicey is here speaking of the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (1801-1885) (link added):

From [Robert] Southey he had imbibed that opposition to laissez faire which is characteristic of every collectivist, and which falls in with the natural desire of an ardent philanthropist to save from immediate suffering any class of persons who are unable completely to protect themselves against oppression, and to do this by the means which lie nearest to hand, without deeply considering whether action which gives immediate relief to sufferers, e.g. women overworked in factories, may not possibly in the end produce evils of untold magnitude.  Lord Shaftesbury, in short, was in practice, though not in theory, the apostle of governmental interference, and this, in part at least, because his intellectual limitations prevented him from realising the difficulty of reconciling paternal government with respect for individual freedom.

Shaftesbury was no liberal, neither in the correct sense in which that term was used during his day nor in the corrupted sense in which it is abused during ours.  He was a Tory.  He was like many current conservative politicians today in the U.K. and the U.S. who proclaim, in theory, an understanding of, and strong allegiance to, genuine individual freedom but who in practice have intellects too small, imaginations too dim, visions too short and tunneled, and principles too ill-formed and weak to avoid – even when they are able to rise above their own narrow political interests – proposing or supporting ham-fisted government interventions.  Such people can ‘see’ only what is most immediate and apparently obvious.  The intellectual exercise of carefully considering consequences that are beyond the immediate, and that are distinct from the intentions proclaimed in public and written on paper, seems either never to occur to them to do, or is beyond their mental abilities to carry out (or both).  This intellectual failing occurs on both domestic- and foreign-policy fronts.

Of course, the chief distinction separating such conservative politicians from “Progressive” politicians is that the latter never bother to proclaim in any serious way a strong allegiance to genuine individual freedom.