First quoted here back in 2014 but the mess we are in makes it worth revisiting because what counts as precedent is going global –
But modern Tories have only the dullness of defending situations that they had not the excitement of creating. Revolutionists make a reform, Conservatives only conserve the reform. They never reform the reform, which is often very much wanted. Just as the rivalry of armaments is only a sort of sulky plagiarism, so the rivalry of parties is only a sort of sulky inheritance. Men have votes, so women must soon have votes; poor children are taught by force, so they must soon be fed by force; the police shut public houses by twelve o’clock, so soon they must shut them by eleven o’clock; children stop at school till they are fourteen, so soon they will stop till they are forty. No gleam of reason, no momentary return to first principles, no abstract asking of any obvious question, can interrupt this mad and monotonous gallop of mere progress by precedent. It is a good way to prevent real revolution. By this logic of events, the Radical gets as much into a rut as the Conservative.
G K Chesterton - What's Wrong with the World (1910)
Inevitable that things should be like this perhaps, but Chesterton has left us with a fundamental insight into the core of progressive thinking. Take a suitable precedent, push it a little further and lay claim to the new version as an essential progressive reform.
Hence political correctness. Push decent human tolerance until it becomes both foolishly defenceless and foolishly intolerant. Yet where exactly did it go wrong? It went wrong because there was No gleam of reason, no momentary return to first principles, no abstract asking of any obvious question.
The resultant problem is of course obvious as Chesterton spotted over a century ago - It is a good way to prevent real revolution. Political correctness is retarding progress rather than promoting it. That’s the purpose of it.
Even worse, further progress based on a previously debased precedent is a route towards inevitable decline. It cannot be prevented - the precedents are already corrupted. And that is what we now see. We no longer have the ability to handle practical issues such as the coronavirus debacle. Or even changes in the weather. Or even…