Roger Scruton är en mycket intressant filosof. Framför allt eftersom han lyckas med att alltid diskutera frågor som ligger i tangenten av vad konservativa och moralbaserade politiker resonerar om, men ständigt drar diskussionen flera steg ut från vad man (inkl. jag) generellt kan acceptera som rimlig politik i den dagliga politiska debatten. Hans resonemang är dock alltid intellektuellt stimulerande och intressanta att följa. Han blir än mer intressant eftersom han gör allt detta utifrån en politisk riktning som knappt hörs i Sverige, annat än ibland vantolkad som liberalism. Jag tänkte presentera en kommentar som han har skrivit på sin blogg (som svar på en fråga), vilken jag tycker är läsvärd nog att delas med de som orkar följa min blogg.
You are right that there is a tension, in the minds of thinking conservatives, between the conservative and the libertarian tendency in their thinking. Many would agree with John Stuart Mill, that the only situation in which coercion can be used against one citizen is to prevent harm to another, and that the immorality of an activity is never in itself a sufficient reason for banning it. Interestingly enough, that is not a principle endorsed by leftist governments – witness the Labour Governments ban on hunting with hounds, on grounds of ‘immorality’, and without proof of harm.
On the other hand, conservatives have a much more developed concept of harm than liberals tend to have. A conservative is likely to believe that society as a whole is harmed by hard drugs, since these drugs damage all relationships, and destroy the lives of the parents, children and spouses of those who are addicted to them. The same is true of the kind of play to which you refer, and of pornography generally. We cannot simply insulate society from the effects of degenerate and addictive behaviour, even though only a minority indulge in it.
You have in fact identified what I think is the greatest problem for conservatives in the world today. We are living through a period in which old moral precepts and codes of conduct, which conservatives believe to be essential to the survival of civilised society, are openly scorned. Do we try to enforce those old codes of conduct by law, or do we merely shield our children from the growing chaos, and hope that they, at least, will perpetuate the social virtues? And how can we shield our children, when the nastiness is deliberately propagated by those who are already immersed in it, who feel uncomfortable at the thought that not everybody is joining in, and who try to use the state and the law to gain legitimacy for their way of life?
There is no simple answer to those questions. However, here is one suggestion. The state may not be able to forbid depraved behaviour; but it should not condone it, by offering facilities, subsidies and so on. Nor should it forbid people to remove themselves and their children from influences of which they disapprove. This raises big questions about the role of the state in entertainment, education and so on. Most of us don’t object when the state subsidies symphony orchestras; but we do object when it subsidies pornographic displays that offend the old sense of decency. Most of us don’t mind the state compelling parents to send their children to school; but they do mind when the children receive compulsory classes in ‘health education’ which preach sexual liberation for 14 year-olds. In the light of this it is clear that conservative policy should be less state involvement, not more, with the state not taking control but merely clearing the space for others to take control. An example has been set in this respect by the home schooling movement in America, and it is an example to follow. How to work this example, and all that it suggests, into a general theory of law and institutions is the intellectual challenge that conservatives must meet.