No state can ever be successful until it resolves the tension between family and state. The meritocratic state is a possible solution, providing the family buys into the concept of merit - that it's ultimately in everyone's best interests, including the family's - for everyone to promote the interests of the most meritorious individuals in society, regardless of which families and backgrounds they come from.
The Family: Dog Eat Dog
When David Cameron exhorts families to do their best for their children, what does he mean? What does he really mean? In a world of limited resources, anything that one person has is denied to another. There is cut-throat competition for the best jobs, houses, partners, schools, medical treatment. Who sponsors this dog-eat-dog world? Why, families, of course. When you do the best for your family, you are ensuring that another family fails in this zero sum game. You win: they lose. It's a simple as that. As Gore Vidal said, 'It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.' That is the motto of the average family.
To do the best for your children is to do your worst for someone else's. People should bear that in mind next time they hear one of Cameron's simple family homilies. Do you really want to live in a society where other families are actively out to harm yours, to metaphorically slit your throat so that their children can prosper at the expense of yours?
Families should be doing what is best for the state, and that will also be precisely what is best for the family, assuming that the state is run by the most meritorious individuals: the best people the state has to offer.
A very simple question arises. What is the best conceivable state? Some might take the anarchists' stance and claim that we shouldn't have states at all, but anarchists run don't run any country on earth. We all live in states, and therefore we have to return to the question.
Can any state be better than the one run by its best people? Is it better for a state to be run by its richest citizens, or its poorest, or its most average? Quite simply, if the best people do not govern the state then it cannot be the best state. The rich would run the state to enhance their own wealth, and to hell with the poor. The poor wouldn't have a clue how to run a state. As for the most average, what do they know about anything except how to infect it with mediocrity? Their motto, that of cowards and sheep is: "It is better to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally." (Keynes).
We're crying out for those who know how to succeed unconventionally: the leaders of men, the best.
Community: An Alternative to the Nuclear Family
When a family fails, society often pays the penalty. The children are likely to end up poorly educated, with mental health issues, low self-esteem, and behavioural difficulties. They frequently become unemployable and prison fodder. Society pays out vast amounts on benefits to single parent families. Those children from disadvantaged homes who end up in state care usually have negative life outcomes.
The usual 'solution' proposed by politicians (especially Conservatives), is to promote 'family values', and to try to provide incentives to prop up the family via special treatment, including tax breaks. A ludicrous attempt to defend a failing institution, of course.
The age of the family is coming to an end. Family life is incompatible with the modern age. With so many choices available, with religious and social prohibitions regarding 'alternative' lifestyles no longer taken seriously, with women increasingly financially independent, all the main pillars that supported the nuclear family are collapsing. Nothing can be done to rebuild them. The way forward is to find a replacement for the family. The obvious choice is the community: groups of fifty to a hundred like-minded people with mutual respect for each other, a lot in common, a desire to help each other - to provide friendship, companionship, and a secure, loving, nurturing, supportive environment for every member of the community.
The Israeli Kibbutz provides a plausible starting point for the UK communal family model. Social isolation, millions living on their own, millions of struggling one-parent families, millions of conventional families doing their utmost to protect their own selfish interests is the shape of modern Britain. The community model would revolutionise the country and help solve many of our most glaring social ills.
Marriage will be an endangered institution in a meritocratic society. The emphasis switches away from couples, families and groups to the individual: the new functional unit of the state. Marriage would then become simply a private arrangement between individuals. It wouldn't be acknowledged by the state, and certainly wouldn't attract any tax privileges or preferential treatment. The state must define itself as an entity populated by citizens, not by couples and families.
The state should feel no compunction about removing children, or even adults, from unhealthy family environments. The individual's interests are paramount. The state has a duty to the individual, and none to the institution of marriage. The state cannot stand by and let families raise children badly so that they become a liability to the state.
The under class exists precisely because the state adopted a hands-off approach to the family and let it churn out poorly-educated, disruptive, unemployable individuals, sure to be a constant drain on the resources of the state. The state should apologise to those individuals for allowing their parents to ruin their lives, and should take all necessary measures to stop any more children being damaged in this way.
Religion: the Worst Form of Child Abuse?
Just as the family is fundamentally at odds with the state (since it seeks to put its own interests above those of the state), so is religion. Religion aims to promote its own inflexible agenda, which is not that of the state (unless the state happens to be a theocracy).
There are religious communities in Britain in which children are compelled to wear a certain style of clothes, eat certain foods and avoid others, shun children who do not belong to their religion, go to their own segregated schools, be taught material that is entirely contrary to science, and so on. They end up dysfunctional relative to the state and their neighbours. They are frequently hostile to the state, and resent and oppose any state interference. They are isolationist, anti-social, intolerant. Children brought up in these communities are marked for life. They will never recover from their upbringing. What right do parents have to destroy their children's lives in the name of their own personal religious beliefs?
This is child abuse of the very worst kind: denying a child any realistic hope of living according to the child's own values and desires. To strip those from a child is to metaphorically strip the child of its very life. And children brought up in this way almost never make a positive contribution to the state.
Why does the state tolerate it? The state cannot make any progress while its efforts are sabotaged by these two most insidious fifth columns: family and religion. Often, the very people who lead the state are family-oriented and profess religious beliefs. Is it any wonder the state doesn't work?
The state must assert its authority if it is ever to achieve the sort of society it wishes to build. It cannot succeed if it allows factions within the state to pursue separate and opposed agendas. In the immortal words of Rousseau, people should be 'forced to be free'.
This phrase often shocks people, but in fact it's the only game in town. Religious parents who brainwash their children are forcing them 'to be free' (in their conception of freedom). Families raising their children in non-state-sanctioned ways are also forcing them to be 'free' (again, according to their peculiar values). Why should they be allowed to do it, and the state denied the right when it's the state that will have to pick up the pieces when things go wrong?
Only the state can impose the uniform 'playing field' that's required to allow meritocracy to flourish. Only the state has the right to force anyone to be free. It has the right for the simple reason that it, and only it, seeks to promote the interests of all of its citizens. Families give their own interests paramount importance, regardless of the needs and merits of other families. Religions give their own beliefs paramount importance, even though they are usually entirely at odds with the beliefs of everyone else. To allow families and religions to dictate how children should be brought up amounts to a form of state suicide. People who are not supportive of the state cannot conceivably make a positive contribution to it, so ought to be excluded from it.
It's time for the state to draw up a formal social contract. You sign up or you don't. If you don't, you must leave the state because you have no right to be there.
The Benefits of the State over the Family
Imagine I could offer you the choice between having your life irrevocably moulded by two average office workers or by hundreds of elite individuals with breathtaking talents. In the first case, of course, I'm referring to a typical family upbringing; in the second, the sort of upbringing a Meritocratic state would offer.
Parents, on the whole, aren't greatly educated. They haven't, for one thing, attended classes on optimal strategies for raising children.
Disgruntled football fans like to chant, 'You don't know what you're doing,' if they think their team's manager isn't up to the job. Shouldn't the state chant the same thing at many parents? Parents, in a host of cases, are a catastrophe for their offspring. It actually amounts to state-sanctioned child abuse to allow such people to bring up children. And, in the end, it's the state that's forced to pick up the bill via crime, prisons, police, the welfare state, social workers, care homes, the judiciary, low productivity etc. Why bother with all of these costs of failure (to use management speak), when we could simply address the root cause and take children away from inept parents who don't know or care what they're doing?
The state can call on the skills of millions of remarkable individuals. It has at its disposal brilliant scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, engineers, economists, teachers, academics, psychologists, sociologists, surgeons, consultants, GPs, nurses, carers, artists, charismatic youth workers, child experts etc. It can use this vast pool of skill to bring children up in the best possible way - as creative, constructive, inspiring individuals who can make a full and dazzling contribution to the state. Why should children instead be condemned to the dreary boxed environment provided by the average family; to be raised by two untalented, bored and boring adults known as parents? It's crazy.
The Meritocratic state would like to send the vast majority of children to boarding schools, where they can escape the parental environment. Parents will have the burden of raising children removed from them, will have much more time to themselves (much more time to develop themselves?), and can be proud that they're doing the best possible thing for their children by turning them over to the experts.
Parents, it has to be admitted, have one vital function that the state can never hope to perform. Parents love their children in a way no one else could. This element has to be protected as far as possible, so children will be encouraged to spend as much time as possible with their families outside term time. They will have the best of both worlds: quality time, quality love with their families during the holidays, and a quality meritocratic education at boarding school away from their families during term time. The perfect formula.
If we could identify the 'most average' family in Britain (the median family) then half of Britain's families would be above this average, and half below. Now, if the 'most average' family were affluent, cultured, highly intelligent, disciplined, hard-working, then even the below average families might be of high calibre. However, if the 'most average' family are in fact poorly educated, ignorant of culture, obsessed with property prices and having multiple cars, dismissive of intellectuals, keen to binge drink at the weekend, keen watchers of soap operas and dumbed-down TV in general, greedy consumers of junk food, eager shoppers etc then what on earth might the below average families be like, especially those near the bottom of the range - the under class?
A simple question - in present-day Britain, does the 'most average' family resemble the former or the latter? Can anyone be in any doubt about the answer?