Posts Tagged ‘golf’

Jesse Norman offers utopian conservatism, but the big society is the left’s for the taking

26/11/2010, 03:00:53 PM

by Anthony Painter

Two golfers shuffle up to the first tee. The first pulls out a shiny new, technologically engineered driver and pings a 250 yard shot straight down the centre of the fairway. He strokes his designer cap and steps back so that the second can settle into her stance. She lifts her single club- a six iron- and swings at the ball, just clipping it as she loses her balance in the effort of it all. The ball bounces a few yards forward, coming to an embarrassing stop 65 yards and 45 degrees off to the right. She daren’t take another shot such is her shame.

How can these golfers compete?

A fabian – as Jesse Norman caricatures the entire left in his new handbook for Cameronism, Big Society – would reach for the handicap system right away. The caricature is fair neither to fabianism or the left but let’s run with it.

They could play together for a while but really it wouldn’t be a competition. The first player surges ahead, wins, the scores would be narrowed at the end and both players would be left angry, frustrated, or both.

If I’ve understood Jesse Norman’s argument right, I suspect we’d have a similar analysis of a better way to proceed than that. As it happens, despite her humiliation the second golfer showed some instinctive talent for the pastime. She takes some lessons, practices intensely for a few years, and when the two players end up on the same tee once again they have a good, competitive game. They even get on rather well. We forget the result. In philosophical terms, this is the capabilities approach associated with Amartya Sen in contrast to outcomes-oriented philosophy of John Rawls.

But our lady golfer has to work long hours at minimum wage, she has a family to feed, and a husband who is not sympathetic to her taking up a pastime. She lacks time, resource, support, and consequently esteem. The rematch never happens. Quite simply, she doesn’t have the power to nurture her talents so that she can at least compete and gain some form of parity of esteem.

It is on the question of whether the second match happens or not that Norman and I diverge. I suspect it probably wouldn’t. Norman is more optimistic that it would. It’s important to understand why we would disagree. (more…)

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