'Brexit will give us back the countryside, as well as our country' Spectator Life, 29 Nov 17

Brexit will give us back the countryside, as well as our country
Escaping the Common Agricultural Policy will preserve rural landscapes and lifestyles

The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy was designed to support the small farmer, and it is fair to say it has failed to achieve that purpose. Because subsidies have been calculated by acreage, they both push up the price of land and benefit those who own the largest chunks of it — which means absentee agribusinesses. The CAP is indeed one major cause in the decline of the real rural economy — the economy of the small farmers who live and work in the fields. Leaving the EU is our opportunity to devise a new system of subsidies, one that will achieve what the public really wants from farming, which is not only food, but the two precious attributes that large-scale agribusiness threatens: beauty and bio-diversity.

In the 200 years since the Romantic movement, the British people have identified the landscape as an icon of their inheritance. Urban residents feel this as strongly as countryside dwellers. We believe that the landscape is ours, regardless of where we reside or how we earn our livelihood. Proposals to build on the green belt, to drive motorways through unspoiled valleys or high-speed trains across precious corners of our country are greeted, rightly, with the most vigorous of protests.

This shared sense of ownership has affected the way the countryside looks. Our landscape is criss-crossed by footpaths, green lanes and bridleways; copses crown the hills and hedgerows divide the fields; wherever you wander you will find a passage through, with gates, stiles and hunt jumps opening each boundary to the legitimate visitor. The natural edges and corners of small-scale residential farming are also precious habitats, helping native fauna to survive despite increasing pressure from the human population. In short, compared with continental agribusiness, our traditional ways of farming have been an aesthetic and environmental success.

And that is the real reason why those ways of farming should be subsidised. Our small farmers are sitting on a highly valuable asset; their land. It may also be their only capital. But we do not allow them to realise the market value of that land. They cannot build on it; they cannot turn it into leisure centres or caravan parks. They are condemned by our environmental and planning laws to maintain its traditional appearance, even when it is no longer profit-able to farm it. This is the rationale for farm subsidies: to compensate farmers for the losses that taxpayers impose on them. Subsidies should help farmers to maintain what we love in our countryside, not add to the profits of those absentees who have done so much to destroy it.

We should begin from an inventory of the things that we love: beauty, bio-diversity, boundaries and habitats; wildflowers, birds and river life; footpaths, bridleways and the hospitality offered to those who ramble and ride; local food and the markets that deal in it. And we should then assign points to farmers according to the contribution made by their land to the greater cause, which is not the land but the landscape —the land conceived as a national, rather than an individual, asset. Subsidies should not be automatic, but weighted to compensate those who earn the least from farming, provided that their farming conforms to the standards set out in the inventory.

Perhaps the most important item in this inventory is the local food economy. Farmers whose produce is sold in a local market create a benefit that cannot be measured in pecuniary terms. They are maintaining a national food economy that is maximally resilient in the face of global changes and external threats; they are producing food that does not travel hundreds of miles to its destination; they are helping to loosen the grip of the supermarkets on our food economy and so protecting our town centres from decay at the hands of the predators perched on their perimeter; and they are amplifying the experience of neighbourhood, which is a vital part of what we cherish in the day-to-day rhythms of the countryside.

As by-products of all this, they are enhancing the beauty and bio-diversity of a countryside which, despite all our post-war upheavals, has retained its immovable place in the hearts of the British people. Whatever you think about Brexit, it is surely right to be pleased that at last we can devise a system of farm subsidies that gives us the countryside we want, with the support of those who live and work in it.

Published in Spectator Life

Free Speech and Universities The Times - 27 Nov 17

Religions offer membership. They fill the void in the human heart with the mystical presence of the group, and if they do not provide this benefit they will wither and die, like the religions of the ancient world during the Hellenistic period. It is therefore in the nature of a religion to protect itself from rival groups and the heresies that promote them.

'Brexit will restore a proper sense of patriotism'. The Times Comment - 17 Nov 17

When David Cameron asked the British people to vote on whether to leave the European Union, he did his utmost to persuade us that the question was a purely economic one: would we be better off in the union or out of it? And he assembled teams of experts to warn about the economic cost if we decided to leave.

For many ordinary citizens, however, the question was not about economics at all. It was about identity and sovereignty. For such people matters were at stake that the politicians had systematically marginalised, and which were more important to them than all the economic and geopolitical arguments.

Their question was not: what will make us better off, but rather: who are we, where are we, what…

The full article is available in PDF format HERE

 

'A Philosopher on the Decline of the English Countryside, Brexit, and the European Project.' The Weekly Standard - Nov 17

A crisp, autumnal morning in the Vale of Malmesbury, 80 miles west of London. Watery skies, clay soil, and gentle hills quilted with the ancient pattern of cows and sheep, hedges and coppices, stone farmhouses and industrial barns. At Sunday Hill Farm in Brinkworth, the range was fired up early, and the kitchen is busy. Half a dozen apple pies are cooling on the table, a partially carved leg of cold lamb waits on the sideboard, and a dog dances under everyone’s feet. The annual Apple Festival begins in just over an hour’s time.

The Jeremy Vine Show, BBC Radio 2 - 7 Nov 17

Sir Roger Scruton debates the Russian Revolution on the 100th anniversary.

Listen to the full episode HERE. 

'The English Fix' BBC Radio 4 - 14 Sept 17

Patrick Wright meets the philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, who argues that the EU has encroached on the fundamentals of Englishness: the landscape, and the common law.

And he hears from others who question the idea that the European Union has encroached in this way, including Martha Spurrier, the Director of Liberty, author Robert Winder, and Greg and Teresa Malciewicz, editor and publisher of UK-based Polish-language weekly New Time.

Producer: Phil Tinline.

Listen back HERE

'Coming Home in Scrutopia : A happy week with Roger Scruton' - The Imaginative Conservative, Tina McCormick

According to Roger Scruton, traditions and attachments to place and home are precious as they give order and meaning to life. They fill a basic human need. Once destroyed, they cannot be brought back…

G.K. Chesterton famously wrote “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” What he meant, of course, is that travel awards us the chance of returning home with fresh eyes for its merits and a deeper appreciation thereof. It is of little surprise that this mental twister should emanate from Chesterton’s pen just as it is not surprising that it should be written by an Englishman, pampered by the rich history and bucolic beauty of his country. Yet such “home coming” took on a new form when twenty vacationers descended on Cirencester in Gloucestershire this past August to attend Scrutopia, a summer school hosted by Sir Roger Scruton. With the exception of one Englishman attending the course, the group of twenty, consisting of one Portuguese, one Polish, and two Norwegian participants and a diverse group of Americans, including me, came to discover a veritable “home” in a foreign place, a mental twist with a poetic crescendo.

'As the left surges back, Marxism’s bloody legacy is covered up' Spectator Life - 20 Sept 17

Monuments to the victims of fascism exist everywhere, but communism’s victims are hardly remembered at all. 

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, it is fitting to ask whether we have learned what it tells us about its ideological root. Do we now appreciate that the Marxist ideology destroys legal order, political opposition and human rights? Do we have some idea of the death toll that has in every case followed the triumph of the ‘vanguard party’? Do we have an inkling of the human cost of collectivisation, or of what the gulag meant in terms of the humiliation and destruction of its victims?

Philosophy Bites with Nigel Warburton 29 Aug 17

Are human beings fundamentally different from other animals? Roger Scruton argues that we are, and that we need to think about ourselves in non-biological terms. He explains these ideas in conversation with Nigel Warburton.

Listen to Roger Scruton on Human Nature

Nigel Warburton will be in conversation with Roger Scruton about Human Nature at 11am on Saturday 2nd September in the Philosophy section of Blackwell's bookshop, Oxford. Free event, all welcome.

'The Religion of Rights' BBC Radio 4 - 1 Sept 17

"European society", says Sir Roger Scruton, "is rapidly jettisoning its Christian heritage and has found nothing to put in its place save the religion of human rights".

But, he argues, this new "religion" delivers one-sided solutions since rights favour the person who can claim them - whatever the moral reasons for opposing them.

He says Europe needs to rediscover its Christian roots.

Listen to the podcast HERE

You can download the transcript HERE.

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