An excerpt from Tim Montgomerie's assessment of the impact made by Michael Schluter, untiring advocate of an alternative to the materialism of Left and Right.
The Jubilee Centre and its leader – Michal Schluter – offered something different. Something that found comprehensive expression in the book he co-wrote with David Lee in 1993; “The R Factor”. Inspired by the Bible, Schluter found evidences for private enterprise (in God as Creator and man made in his image, for example) and for state action (in, eg, rendering to Caesar) but – most of all – he found evidence for a philosophy of valuing relationships. Noting, for example, the Bible’s repeated calls to care for the widow, the orphan and the alien (migrant), his “Relationships Foundation” recommended what it called a “triple test” for all of public policy:
“We want all parties to subscribe to this basic premise: that policy development, proposals for legislation, and government action should all be subject to a triple test – economic, environmental and social. The economic test has long dominated political debate.
Recently, however, policymakers have begun to move towards a second test by recognising the importance of the environment and seeking the tools necessary to address that vital sphere of life in their assessments. We now need to go further and add to this double test the neglected third element – the social test…
The social aspect of ‘The Triple Test’ is fundamentally about relationships… Public policy is never neutral and we believe that policy makers and implementers should always test their proposals not only to ensure, as far as is possible, that these do not damage existing relational links, but also to see if ways can be found to encourage people increasingly to connect with each other in the public sphere. Strong communities and extended families can build financial and social capital, increasing wellbeing and reducing long-term pressures on public spending.”
I can’t do justice to the wealth of research and policy tools that Michael Schluter and his institutional creations have produced over the years (and wouldn’t defend or subscribe to all of them either)… but in projects like its “index” measuring the cost of family breakdown; the family test; Keep Time for Children; promotion of relational justice; and the promotion of better relationships in the workplace – Schluter has stood apart from the almost absolute materialism that has not only dominated the political left and right but which has too often captured the church and other institutions that should have known (and should know) better.
Like the work of one of my other intellectual heroes – Michael Novak1I’m not sure there’s yet much evidence from the public policy world that Schluter-ian relationism is on the rise. But free minds are still free minds even if they’re not victorious in what they argue for. And in Putnam, Murray, Brooks, Hilton and others – his ideas’ time may be finally edging closer, at least in the intellectual arena. I hope so.
Excerpt courtesy of Unherd.com
Photo by Johnny Green / PA
Full article can be found here.