British Tory leader David CameronI am by no means an unalloyed admirer of British Conservative Party leader David Cameron, who seems rather too much of a trimmer, in my view, and whose self-description as a "modern compassionate conservative" is a remarkably tin-eared characterization and confirms the impression that he is dedicated more to gaining power than to pressing any classical-liberal or modern-conservative principles.

Particularly off-putting are his support for the UK’s inept National Health Service, legal recognition of homosexual "marriage," the fictional concern over catastrophic manmade global warming, unlimited immigration, nation-building in foreign countries, and his excessive willingness to allow the EU to run roughshod over British sovereignty.

Nonetheless, Cameron is better than his Labour counterparts, as his statements about economic policy have been oriented strongly toward freer markets and lower taxes. In addition, he opposes the nation’s absurd and unjustifiable fox-hunting ban.

Also very sensible are Cameron’s recent comments on the social responsibilities of the media, and what should or should not be done about toxic cultural outpourings. Our friend Bill Evans, a U.S. recording industry figure currently studying in the UK, saw Cameron speak on the subject yesterday and was suitably impressed:

I was at the annual BPI convention yesterday in London, and UK Conservative Party leader David Cameron spoke to us. I can’t judge a politician from one speech, but I really liked what he had to say.

"You, the recording industry, have asked Parliament to pass a law on your behalf. We will. Here’s what I want in exchange: stop producing music that promotes a broken society, especially for young people." 

He then described our cultural and moral failings from the compassionate perspective of a liberal, and the bottom-line fix-it attitude of a conservative. I realize that sounds very generic, but we all follow politics, and we all know the BS talking points buzzwords that politicians use. This guy was very specific, and very real about what he thought the problems were, what the solutions were, and how we (the music industry) should play a part in fixing it. He thoughtfully addressed the arguments against this thinking, adding that government control and censorship were not the solution.

I only hope that we, the industry, listen.

I’m not pleased with Cameron’s proposal to extend copyright terms even further, as far too much material is unavailable today because the people who own copyright don’t think it worth publishing but will charge absurd, impossible rates for anyone wanting to distribute old books, movies, TV shows, music, etc. That turns on its head the very premise behind copyright, which was meant to ensure that such works were widely distributed, not held off the market by greedy green-eyeshade types.

On the other hand, Cameron’s comments about the nature of the current UK culture—which apply equally well to contemporary American culture—are quite accurate:

We’ve got a real cultural problem in our country; and it’s affecting the way young people grow up.

It’s an anti-learning culture where it’s cool to bunk off, it’s cool to be bad, it’s cool not to try.

This affects what’s happening on our streets and with our kids.

Educational achievement and aspiration is pushed aside by the dream of instant material gain.

Cameron called on the industry to take responsibility for their wares. Government censorship, he said, is not the solution, but personal and corporate responsibility can heal the nation’s culture:

Put simply, we have to acknowledge that all of us—as politicians, as teachers, as parents, as television producers, video game manufacturers and yes, as record industry executives—need to understand our specific responsibility in not promoting a culture of low academic aspiration or violence but instead to inspire young kids with a positive vision of how to lead their life.

That’s why I am not calling for censorship, legislation or the banning of content.

I am calling on you to show leadership, exercise your power responsibly and to use your judgement.

Of course, such a "call" has no teeth whatsoever, but Cameron is correct to observe that the national government is not the proper sphere for remedying cultural ills. Parents, communities, and people in the culture business are the ones who have the right and responsibility to regulate what comes into our homes. Yelling "freedom of speech" solves nothing, and national-government intervention usually does more harm than good (and is largely unconstitutional in the United States).

It is incumbent upon the "little platoons" and the invisible hand to step up the hard work of remedying our cultural ills.

Cameron’s speech is available online here