Monday, 21 October 2013

Trafalgar Night reminds us . . .

When a parliamentary candidate the blogger was pleased to partake in the local Conservative Association’s annual Trafalgar Night dinner.  It is understandable that Plymouth Conservatives in particular should want to keep alive the immortal memory.  In Plymouth the memory of our Naval history is very strong.

Admiral Horatio Nelson’s defeat of the Franco-Spanish fleet was a story both of superior Naval discipline and daring tactics.  Indeed the national celebrity that the one-eyed, one-armed admiral was becoming had a history of daring risk taking and ignoring orders since his teenage years as a midshipman when he allegedly attempted to hunt a polar bear.

The Royal Navy’s victory at Trafalgar, which confirmed Great Britain as the supreme naval power in the world, was part of a pattern and should remind us of that pattern.  Throughout history it has generally been the free societies that have won wars.  Whether it be the Ancient Greeks defeating the despotic Persian Empire or the British defeating Napoleon’s republican empire, the free polities win.  It seems generally societies less militaristic and less organised defeat their more ruthless and apparently more organised enemies.  In the early Nineteenth Century Great Britain, an old and free country governed by unplanned institutions that had evolved almost accidentally, defeated republican and imperial France – organised and planned on a war footing, where the whole society was galvanised to achieve an overriding ideological goal. 

Whatever people might assume, chaotic democracies do better than centrally-planned regimes.  Often voices in democratic societies have asserted we need to become more like the planned societies of the East, whether it be the Soviet Union in the Cold War or the Persian Empire.  In fact, history and the empirical evidence teaches us that free countries survive their despotic opponents and they survive, this blogger believes, precisely because they are not restricted by planning.

Let the dictator in the bunker micro-manage the war and his own flawed and limited understanding will lead to disaster.  Whether it was Napoleon or Hitler, hubris led them to attack Russia too early.  Because they were dictatorships, there was no alternative view.  The centralised planning in those regimes eventually led to their downfall.

Much as centrally-planned economies lead to disasters, where thousands of toothbrushes might be delivered when there is an overwhelming need for bread or other ridiculous situations arise, so dictatorial regimes cannot adapt in the flexible way they need to, to survive.

True democracies can seem to be bickering and short-sighted places – one thinks of the recent crisis in the politics of the United States, with a dictatorial China looking on as American government shut down.  However, for all their bickering, free societies ensure an alternative view can be put, which might have been overlooked.  Free societies allow individuals who think in a different way from the norm to succeed and bring their genius to the situation. 

Trafalgar Night should remind us; there would have been no room for someone like Nelson in the regime of the Little Corsican – and that is precisely why we rather than France won!   

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