Discipline made me free

As you know, I’m a libertarian. And I know that some of you have problems with this. You see the libertarian philosophy as tending too far either towards libertinism or total anarchy. But I think when you read this piece I’ve just written for Bogpaper, you’ll appreciate I’m much closer to mainstream conservatism than you might have feared.

It was inspired by the week I’ve just spent as a teacher at my alma mater, Malvern College. (Maybe I’ll talk about this another time. I loved it!) I wish you could send your own kids there because it seems to me to be the model of what the perfect education system should be. And that includes a daily, morning church service, by the way. “Chapel” we call it at English public schools. (Which, of course, translated into American means “private school”)

Anyway, enjoy! And as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  1. Peter Norman

    James I found your article quite good and I am in agreement with you on your self assesment.  I consider myself a Conservative with Libertarian sympathies.  I do believe in, for the most part, live and let live.  I also believe that structure is a good thing because without it we wouldn’t have a natural barrier to create limits to which anarchy cannot get past no mater how hard it tries.  So as with kids I believe mankind needs and wants structure and boundaries and rules so when we do rebel, whether we know it or not, there is a safe zone that we will get to before it gets out of hand.  So if we coddle man and start people off with a very low threshold of limits than I believe anarchy will ensue because there will be no real or imagined barrier to create a safe zone.  Plus with out strong limits what would we have to expend our natural urges of rebellious behavior on?  Where would we put it?

  2. Al Sparks

    Your link seems to be bad.

  3. James Delingpole
    Al Sparks: Your link seems to be bad. · 5 minutes ago

    Sorry about that: link now mended.

  4. Nanda Panjandrum

    Very enlightening, enjoyable, and familiar (even to one who is Catholic but attended a 1970s, small-town public school.)  Thank you!  

  5. Frederick Key

    Very much enjoyed the piece and agree, although I am was a slovenly product of the New York City school system. I am not sure Libertarianism as you see it is much different from Conservatism as I see it; I would say that for a lot of young types here, Libertarianism = pot. They need a strong dose of Delingpole.

  6. Indaba

    I have not read it yet but bog paper had a meaning in my boarding school similar to loo paper.

    I was at boarding school in the colonies and loved the African one, but the Canadian one was poor despite having a Scottish principal.

  7. Robert Lux

    Got to love the English traditions and how they persist across the globe – I went to an Episcopalian kindergarten/grammar school in Pacific Palisades for nine years and we too had “chapel.”  Three times a week.  We all thought our priest was cool because he drove a beautifully restored 1950s era white Porsch convertible; license plate, “Padre.”  

  8. Indaba

    Great article. I went to chapel twice a day in African boarding school and enjoyed the music, sermons and ritual.

    Sadly, the Canadian church never captured me because of their strong socialist message and negative, pressed lips message against aspiring to work hard and get on.

    i was up for 6:30 am prep and at night too. These patterns were great for my life and ability to work and enjoy it.

    let’s hope for the Catholics that it is not the Quebec Cardinal who becomes Pope.

  9. Chris Campion

    It was naughty, and therefore required spanking.

    Al Sparks: Your link seems to be bad. · 2 hours ago

  10. Severely Ltd.

    I think that much of the appeal of the Harry Potter series was the atmosphere of Hogwarts with it’s aura of structure and tradition. Of course Potter was always breaking the rules, but with the ultimate imprimatur of the authorities; an inspired way to have the thrill of rule-breaking and have your hero serving the good.

  11. doulalady

    I attended a convent school so strict that the day girls were afraid to take off their woolen gloves on the way home, for fear of undefined yet dreaded retribution from the head mistress. Consequently I ran a pretty tight ship whilst homeschooling my own children. However I did think briefly that I might have taken things too far when I heard the children plotting revenge for some unpopular schoolwork by changing all the disks in the CD player to Shostakovich, how naughty…not. Good grief, even I, the most pious of children could have thought of a million naughtier things to do! It was really difficult to keep a straight face as I pretended to be disturbed by this odd turn of events, and to look suspicious of their po faces before they escaped outside in fits of giggles.At the same time it was better to give the children the gift of easy rebellion far short of the seriously self destructive behaviors which their peers needed to indulge in to get the attention off their overly permissive parents.

  12. Al Sparks

    I heard this second hand, and googled around for an actual quote, but couldn’t find it.  My understanding is that Justice Antonin Scalia, who with his wife, raised nine kids, said that you have to have strict rules. When kids grow up to be teenagers they will rebel.  Better to have something in place to rebel against, so they’re not rebelling against something important.

  13. Crow
    James Delingpole: 

    As I had to explain to one or two of the brighter kids who picked me up on this, the thing that stops libertarianism descending into anarchism is a belief in structure, tradition, hierarchy and authority. Libertarianism isn’t a self-gratifying free-for-all: that’s libertinism. True liberty, I believe, can only exist within a framework of discipline and order…..

    The kids I taught responded intelligently and enthusiastically to my message of rebellion. But they would never have been able to do so in an establishment where rebellion was a normal state of affairs.

    There’s hope for you yet, James :)

    Now if we could only get you to reflect upon what the cultural preconditions must be for the founding and maintenance of such a school and such a society, keeping in mind that aphorism: “whomever is a true teacher takes all things seriously only in relation to his students–even himself.”

  14. Merina Smith

    Maggie asks a good question, James.  You have a fondness for the forms and trappings of religion without valuing the founding principles.  Aren’t the forms rather meaningless without the belief that traditionally gave rise to them and currently sustains them?  You are apparently an exception, but for most people, if they have no belief, they do not retain the forms and the benefits thereof. 

  15. Gretchen

    James, you are right that there is no freedom without discipline. As a people loses its culture of self-control it becomes necessarily subject to tyranny. (Which is why we pessimists are so…pessimistic.)

    If structure , tradition,  etc., are necessary, but God is not, then from where do structure and tradition and the framework of discipline and order come?

  16. James Delingpole
    Merina Smith: Maggie asks a good question, James.  You have a fondness for the forms and trappings of religion without valuing the founding principles.  Aren’t the forms rather meaningless without the belief that traditionally gave rise to them and currently sustains them?  You are apparently an exception, but for most people, if they have no belief, they do not retain the forms and the benefits thereof.  · 1 hour ago

    I think post-The-Enlightenment our relationship with organized religion is always going to be complicated and I don’t see how people can be forced to believe in the way, say, they were in Elizabethan times and before when church attendance was compulsory. But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep the structures. Regular churchgoing through my life has not made me pious but has given me a stability, a sense of tradition and a moral underpinning sadly missing from so much of our godless culture.

  17. Merina Smith

    That’s interesting, James.  I’m glad that you respect what religion gives us, and I would suspect that you are at least agnostic.  But I still think that for most people belief is central to regular churchgoing and the benefits of religion and the discipline it demands. 

    Of course, you are right that you can’t force belief.  Christians know that forcing belief would invalidate it anyway.  Still, have you never wondered, C.S. Lewis style, why religion is so good for people?  Why it gives us something we can get in no other way?  Why it has the power to help us overcome some of our worst inclinations?  Why Christianity is so counter-intuitive and yet so effective?  It just doesn’t seem like something humans would have dreamed up.  I for one think the world would be better off if more people thought so, anyway.   

    OK–sermon over!