Michael Gove MP gave a speech to IPPR yesterday on, "Why Conservative social policy delivers progressive ends". He outlined how the Conservatives would approach education, relationships and family policy.
Gove did well identifying where the state has been destroying the community through it's war of attrition on what binds us together; a war that has increased its pace over the past 10 years:
More broadly, the web of autonomous institutions which help bind communities together have found their lives made more difficult in the last ten years. From scouting to child-minding, regulation has driven adults out of roles where they served their communities. School governance and charitable engagement have become much more time-consuming, legally fraught and bureaucratically complex.
He rightly identifies the problems that centrally driven targets have on children within education – none more so than those who live in poverty. He wants to 'devolve power downwards' to make institutions friendlier, and he's right to say that this will create greater responsibility. By empowering people, it gives people greater choice and allows them to tackle their problems first hand and head on; encouraging them to draw on their own resources (family, friends etc.).
Gove also said, "the costs of relationship breakdown, of children left fatherless, of men behaving badly, are borne by us all." And he's right – but the reason a sub-section of males within society act as they do is that the state countenances their behaviour. Via the tax system, the state funds the benefits and tax credits that allow people to live without responsibility for their actions. The 'lads mags' of the past 15 years (which Gove criticized for irresponsibly promoting "one-hit hedonism") merely reflect market opportunities – market opportunities that the state has accentuated through its destructive policies.
For those of us who understand how incentives and cradle-to-grave welfare affect behaviour it is easy to see that the state is not the solution. Even paying families to remain together has proven to be detrimental to children in some cases.
So, Mr Gove, could you, and the rest of parliament, please step aside and let us rebuild our societies?