Sir Roger Scruton, one of Britain’s foremost philosophers, and the author of over 40 books, spoke to a packed room at the Legatum Institute on the importance of Britain’s institutions at a time of great change in the wake of Brexit.
Powerful institutions are the backbone of a successful society, Sir Roger stressed. But he distinguished between the institutions that grow organically, raised as if by an invisible hand; and those that are imposed upon society -- as was the case with the EU. Only the former will engage people’s deep allegiances. The latter by contrast risks alienating them. The ethos of good institutions is rooted in the doctrine of the common good, rather than that of individual selfish gain.
Britain’s institutional system is based on the principle of accountability. Today we need to acknowledge however that some of our most important institutions, such as Westminster, banking and the media, have failed to be accountable to the common good, and have become embroiled in scandal. As a result they have lost a great deal of the public’s respect and loyalty. Unless they can reclaim the people’s trust, these institutions will be hollowed out -- and crumble.
But we should not be pessimistic, Sir Roger concluded. The people of this country have a long tradition of association: they link one to the other through even the smallest groups with mutual causes or interests, from tango classes to hunting meets. Once forged, these bonds make for a trusting community, where individuals tolerate one another’s differences because their common purpose is clear.
The Legatum Institute’s Cultural Transformation programme of high-level events invites thought leaders in all sectors of society to examine how our age-old values system is needed to build and restore a healthy culture to our top institutions and industries. Through our events and follow-up discussions we hope to generate creative and credible solutions to promote the advancement of good citizenship and civic responsibility.