Sir Roger Scruton, the great conservative philosopher, thinker and writer, has died. Well, we all have to go sometime I suppose. This one irks me somewhat, however, as I have long held his quiet disobedience and nonacceptance with the modern regulatory state as a personal guide and inspiration. I am well aware that the term conservative has lost all its meaning, but if there had been a few more conservatives like Sir Roger then we wouldn’t have lost our way quite so badly.
An example of this is this article from 2001 titled, What is Acceptable Risk?
In the past, the law made a distinction between those risks to health and safety that citizens might voluntarily assume and those from which the state should protect them. Since every act of protection by the state involves a loss of freedom, lawmakers assumed that only in very special cases should the state expropriate our risk taking. In matters of public hygiene, where the risks taken by one person also fall upon others, it seemed legitimate for the state to intervene: for example, the state could compel people to maintain standards of cleanliness in public places or to undergo vaccinations against contagious diseases. But it should not forbid a person to consume a certain product, merely because there is a tiny risk to his own physical well-being. For the state to extend its jurisdiction so far involves a serious invasion of privacy. In matters that affect the citizen alone and that have no adverse consequences on others, the citizen should be free to choose. The state can inform him of the risk, but it should not forbid the choice.
The article defended smoking and fox hunting, among other frowned upon personal pursuits in our so modern society. At the time it was a breath of fresh air for me, and it helped to direct my own thoughts and then writing on the same topic. Personal freedom within a greater degree of responsibility.
Of course, the reason that we have lost so many freedoms to the managerial state is because we have outsourced our own responsibility to it. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, as the cliche goes. Our doom was sealed with the rise of personal litigation. In my mind, the only way to unwind it is to take back control of the courts and arbitration process.
He wrote many books which I would recommend. If you haven’t read any of his work, start with his wonderful collection of essays, Gentle Regrets. Sir Roger was indeed a gentle man, but he was most certainly a man. Not some insipid wasteoid that is so ubiquitous in the academic world today. And even though he has died and we will miss him, we have his collection of work to continue to inspire us. He left his mark.