Saturday, October 16, 2010

Philip Blond's Red Toryism: A Canadian Tradition Revived and Revised

Editorial Note: Red Toryism is a Canadian political tradition that has been revived (with some alterations) in the UK by the Radical Orthodox scion, Philip Blond. To get a sense of the similarities and differences between the Canadian Red Tory Tradition and its recent British counterpart, compare Ron Dart's article on the [Canadian] Red Tory tradition with the following variety of attempts to define Blond's current revised vision:

ThatcherThe Red Tory sounds like Margaret Thatcher in a Che Guevara beret, just as the distributist sounds, to someone unfamiliar with the term, like a redistributionist, or a communitarian might be confused with a collectivist. (It would not hurt the third-way Chesterbellocians to update their nomenclature.)

Zach Dundas describes Red Tories this way:

The Red Tories argue that modern free-market capitalism poses as potent a threat to individual liberty and communities as Big Government. Red Tories lump big-box stores, industrial agriculture, and high-finance shenanigans together with heavy-handed bureaucracy and high taxes: all, in their view, undermine the rock-ribbed Conservative values of local autonomy, strong community, diverse traditions, and decentralized power. The Red Tories view themselves as defenders of grassroots community against both the free market and the State.

Writes Patrick J. Deneen:

The brainchild of Phillip Blond, the “Red Tory” movement attempts to move beyond the well-rutted Left-Right positions of our time, instead seeking to combine a more Left-oriented concern for the depredations of concentrated wealth in advanced industrial economies with a more conservative defense of “virtue, tradition and the idea of the good.” Invoking the likes of Benjamin Disraeli and G.K. Chesterton, Phillip Blond has become something of a political force in England, even recently providing counsel to the likely future Prime Minister of England, David Cameron.

Here is Rod Dreher:

By advocating a localist, communitarian, distributist, anti-statist form of conservatism, Philip Blond gives us American conservatives something useful and important to work with. The GOP is a zombie party now; the conservatives to watch are Cameron’s Tories.

The term Red Tory originally comes from Canada, where the Tory color is blue and the Liberal color is red, and a Red Tory was a conservative whose platform contained some planks that could be regarded as liberal or progressive. Note that conservatism means different things in America and the British Empire: the preservation of classical liberalism and individual liberties here, and of monarchy and social order there.

Writes Shawn Summers at the Frum Forum:

On the one hand, Red Toryism is a reactionary conservatism. Distrusting the “atomized individualism” of the last half-century as leading ironically to ever-greater government as local civil society broke down, Red Tories emphasize the importance of local institutions – church, family, school boards, etc. – as a counterweight to excessive intrusion from an ever-prying state. However, Red Tories can also espouse traditionally leftist shibboleths like anti-corporatism with a fervor that would make Michael Moore blush.
Red Toryism, which really hasn’t had an equivalent here in America, strikes a chord among Front Porchers, who heard the philosophy’s leading spokesman speak at Georgetown and Villanova recently.

David Brooks writes:

To create a civil state, Blond would reduce the power of senior government officials and widen the discretion of front-line civil servants, the people actually working in neighborhoods. He would decentralize power, giving more budget authority to the smallest units of government. He would funnel more services through charities. He would increase investments in infrastructure, so that more places could be vibrant economic hubs. He would rebuild the “village college” so that universities would be more intertwined with the towns around them.


Essentially, Blond would take a political culture that has been oriented around individual choice and replace it with one oriented around relationships and associations.

Writes William Chellis at Regno Christi:

First, the Red Tories remind us that civil society matters. We are all in this together. Theologically we calls this the principle of solidarity and it reminds us that a cold libertarianism can never replace authentic, family and community based conservatism. Second, the Red Tories remind us that markets must be moral. A humane economy is the purpose of our economic freedom. Third, the Red Tories remind us that small is beautiful. Too big to fail is too big to exist. Fourth, the Red Tories remind us that localism can save democracy. Power is responsive to the people when exercised by folks you see at the grocery store. Finally, the Red Tories remind us that conservatives conserve. Our communities, our schools, our traditions and our environment. If Phillip Blond can help us recover these things, his trip will be welcome indeed.

Published from The Jury Box

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