Category Archives: economic illiteracy

How Much Will It Cost? (Revisited)

The questions of “how much will it cost?” or “How will you pay for it?” are always posed by the media’s journalists to the planned spending proposals of Labour and all the other parties, bar the Tories. That the Tories have dominated the economic discourse since the 1980s cannot be denied.  Indeed, political journalists have accepted the economic orthodoxy uncritically in the decades that have followed and there are, in my mind, two reasons why they do this. First, they’re not economists and second, they’re lazy. Even the economics editors of the major news organizations tend to be drawn from the Thatcherite School of Household Management Economics, and will base their analyses and their questions on its flawed logic.

Now, I’m not an economist but my instincts regarding national finances are correct: household analogies are nonsense and journalists who repeat them are foolish. The reductivist economic dogma of the Tories and UKIP has dragged this country into recessions (there were three during the Thatcher years) and have forced people into ever greater poverty, while the rich have seen a manifold increase in their incomes.

In an article by Richard Murphy of Tax Research (two days after my piece), he puts to bed the myths that have passed for economic competence and credibility for over 30 years.  He opens by saying:

The most dangerous question in political debate in the UK is the one always rolled out by every journalist, on air or in other media, which is to ask a politician ‘How are you going to pay for it?’ where ‘it’ is whatever the politicians has just proposed to do.

He then provides three reasons why this question is a dangerous one and provides handy replies to the clueless hacks who insist on asking the question.

You can read the rest here.

All governments borrow and spend money. That’s how national finances work. In seven years, the Tories have racked up more debt than the previous Labour government did in 13 years. Moreover, Labour has a better record of paying off debt. In 1976, the Wilson government was forced to take out a loan from the International Monetary Fund to pay for the Sterling Crisis, which was caused by the Heath government’s economic mismanagement. It was paid off by 1979. Thatcher’s Tories continued to use the IMF loan as a stick to beat the Labour Party even though the loan had been repaid. Yet Kinnock refused to counter these lies. Finally, the Corbyn-led party has awakened to the need to counter the Tories’ myths and lies about the national economy and borrowing/spending. And about time too.

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Filed under economic illiteracy, Economics, General Election 2017, neoliberalism

Let’s Talk About: Economic Growth

Images like this mean nothing to Dan Hannan. who prefers to deal with fictional characters than real people and their complicated lives.

Economic growth or just ‘growth’ is the holy grail of career politicians, neoliberal economists and their hangers on in the media. We’re often told how important it is to have ‘growth’ in our economy and it is only then that everyone will see the benefit. The trouble with this notion is that those who continually spout this rubbish aren’t the ones who need to worry. They’re already comfortable. The ones for whom these pronouncements mean little, if nothing at all, are the poor and the low waged. They continue to see their income squeezed, while the cost of living continues to rise. But the media and the government will have none of it.

A few weeks ago, the BBC’s economic editor, Robert Peston, was crowing over low oil prices. He told the nation’s viewers that “everyone” would now feel “richer” because of the continued fall in petrol prices. This is not only misleading; it’s also dishonest. The only people who can feel “richer”, by definition, are the rich themselves. If you are poor, you cannot be “rich”, it’s an absurdity. Yet this does not stop the likes of Daniel Hannan repeating this meaningless tosh. In Thursday’s blog for CapX, he repeated Peston’s bogus claim that “The rich are getting richer and the poor are… getting richer”. This is a measure of how out-of-touch our media and politicians are in relation to the people they purport to serve. We can also draw the conclusion that the mainstream media, the Westminster politicians and economic cults like the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs are in a cosy conspiratorial relationship with one another. The relationship between these institutions and ordinary people themselves is one of power. They consider themselves to be the voices of authority and we must listen and obey… or so they think. So when they tell us that “things are getting better” we are expected to believe them. But I no more believe them than I believe in the existence of God, the tooth fairy or Father Christmas. I see no improvement and neither do millions of other people.

The problem with those who constantly talk about ‘growth’ is that they can only speak the language of statistics and mathematics, and can only view the world through the lens of their social status. They are incapable of relating their nutty ideas about economics to the average person because what they’re saying bears no relation to everyday life. Trickle down, for example, is one economic fallacy that is repeated ad infinitum by economic cultists and held up as a model for ‘growth’ and economic well-being. But not even right-wingers like George HW Bush believed it and derided trickle down as “voodoo economics”. Yet the Hannans and Osbornes of this world cleave so tightly to it like men at sea clinging to any bit of flotsam that comes their way.

A couple of months ago, the Labour leadership claimed that if the Tories were re-elected, they would take public spending back to the levels of the 1930s. This was enough to get all manner of right-wing economic cultists into a lather. Hannan was one of those. In this blog, he does his best to claim how the 1930s was a “time of growth”. It’s a risible misrepresentation of a decade that’s become synonymous with economic hardship.

Well, here’s a fact that may surprise you. The 1930s saw more economic growth than any other decade in British history. It’s true that there were patches of deprivation. As in all times of economic transition, some industries declined while others rose. The poverty of the Jarrow Marchers was genuine: theirs had been a ship-building town, devastated by the collapse of international orders.

Sophistry, damned sophistry. For the millions of working class people who struggled to survive the decade, this is an insult to their memory. My mum’s family was Liverpool working class and I can remember her telling me what life was like in the Thirties: if you were poor or low-waged, you had no access to affordable or decent healthcare, because there was no National Health Service (the Tories will abolish it if they are re-elected). There was very little work on Merseyside in the 1930s, so people lived a hand-to-mouth existence.

Hannan continues his fantasy tour of his romanticized past:

Yet these were golden years for new industries such as electrical appliances and aviation and cars, the years when Morris, Humber and Austin became household names. The 1930s also saw an unprecedented boom in construction, as the comfortable suburbs of Betjeman’s Metroland spread across England. The Battersea Power Station raised its minarets over the capital, a symbol of self-confidence in architecture.

Here, Hannan waxes floridly about a world that only those with the economic means could take part. The appliances and cars that he talks about were beyond the means of my family and many others. No working class people owned cars, let alone possessed household appliances. My grandmother was still using a boiler and a mangle well into the 1970s. As for Metroland, the houses that were built there were for sale. Only those with nice, middle class incomes could afford a mortgage.

Here, Hannan slaps more gloss onto his fantasy.

 Britain responded to the 1929 crash by cutting spending drastically and, in consequence, soon saw a return to growth. The United States, by contrast, expanded government activity unprecedentedly under the New Deal, and so prolonged the recession by seven years. Yes, seven years. Here is the conclusion of a major study published in 2004 by two economists at the UCLA, Harold L Cole and Lee A Ohanian:

Cole and Ohanian are comprehensively defenestrated in this blog. Hannan isn’t interested in reality and like all right-wingers of his ilk, he exists in the hermetically-sealed space of privilege. The material of history is bent and twisted to shrink-fit a weak narrative. Like many of his fellow Tea Partiers, he makes the same feeble argument for cuts.

Contrasting the American and British experiences, we are left with an inescapable conclusion. Cuts work, and trying to spend your way out of recession doesn’t.

Let’s put it this way, if a company doesn’t borrow or spend money to invest when it is doing badly, it will go under. Cuts only work for the already wealthy. They are also a means by which the powerful punish the poor for being poor. Hannan makes clear his hatred of FDR and the New Deal. This is the same position held by the economic cultists at the Ludwig von Mises Institute as well as his fellow Randists.

This is perhaps the greatest fallacy of all:

Still, if only for the record, let me set down the real lesson of the 1930. The best way to recover from a crash, not least for low earners, is to bring spending back under control. Growth follows, jobs are created, and the people taking those jobs thereby gain the most secure route out of poverty.

It’s easy for those who have never personally experienced poverty to claim that “the most secure route out of  poverty” is work. Low-paid and zero hours contract jobs actually lock people into poverty. Hannan is not only a fool, he’s a dangerous fool. Leaving people to fend for themselves without a safety net will lead to greater social problems. Hannan is unmoved by such concerns. Yet he would be the first to complain that shanty towns are an “eyesore”. This is the man who calls himself a “Whig”.

Talking about economic growth when people are struggling to survive is deeply offensive. Talking about GDP is meaningless because not only is it a poor way of measuring economic performance, it means nothing to ordinary people. For all his claims of how cutting public spending will improve economic performance, Hannan has never had to suffer the privations of working in a low-paid job. Like all of his pals in Westminster and beyond, he is a bully, who talks a good talk but when his words are unpacked, they reveal the true horrors of the current political system.

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Filed under 20th century, Conservative Party, Cultism, economic illiteracy, Economics, Government & politics, Growth, History, History & Memory, laissez faire capitalism, Let's Talk About, Media, Neoliberalism, propaganda, Spiv capitalism, Tory press

The A&E Crisis: A Letter From West London Save Our Hospitals Campaign

I received this email from Merril Hammer, the chair of the West London Save Our Hospital campaign. There is an A&E crisis that has been created by the socially dangerous policies of the current Tory-led coalition government, which is hell-bent on destroying the NHS. There is a familiar pattern to this: in the 1980s and 1990s, nationalized industries were run into the ground through a combination of chronic under-investment and incompetent management. British Rail, for example, was treated appallingly by the Thatcher government. The Tories, through their denial of investment to BR claimed that the private sector could run the railways more efficiently. Nothing could be further from the truth. Over 20 years later and we have the highest fares anywhere in Europe and possibly the world. Trains are over-crowded and the Train Operating Companies cream off the profits, while accepting state largesse. The same is happening to the National Health Service. I urge you to sign the petition.

Dear Friends,

The A&E crisis deteriorates week by week, yet health authorities and the Secretary of State seem to be in denial about the consequences of their policies and determined to press on with closures and reorganisations across the country.

Here, in NW London, the situation just seems to get worse. The two key hospital trusts which have each closed an A&E have dropped to the bottom of the national league table for A&E waiting times. The CQC inspection for Imperial has deemed St Mary’s A&E ‘inadequate’ (which follows the failure of Northwick Park), yet Imperial want to keep this A&E and close the one at Charing Cross which has been rated as ‘good’.

The reorganisation in NW London is the largest so far proposed and is undoubted a trial for wider closures across the country. We are to lose not just 4 of 9 A&Es but are also to see key acute hospitals turned into mini-hospitals with limited services – all at a time when hospitals across the country are under severe stress and out of hospital care just isn’t there.

Thank you for signing our petition. Could you help spread the word by forwarding the link below to your friends?

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/moratorium-on-a-e-closures-and-hospital-reorganisations

Thanks

Merril Hammer

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Filed under Conservative Party, economic illiteracy, Government & politics, healthcare

The Bedroom Tax Is A Tax, No Matter What The Tories Say

Like many people, I’ve always thought the Tories were monumentally stupid. Many of them have the most expensive education money can buy and yet they trot out the most absurd and intellectually-enfeebled statements with nary a thought. A couple of years ago, David Cameron appeared on the David Letterman Show and couldn’t even tell his interlocutor what the Magna Carta was.

He went to Eton and Oxford, for chrissakes. But let’s be blunt: the offspring of this country’s wealthy and powerful don’t have to do well at school because they don’t need to. They know that they will land a plum job no matter how brain dead they are. Cameron is but one example. Osborne is another.

The Tories’ solution for dealing with the housing crisis was indicative of, not only their ignorance of the gravity of the situation, but also of their mindless cruelty towards those without the means to fight back. The so-called Spare Room Subsidy, which is more accurately termed “The Bedroom Tax”, is an example of this cruelty. However the term “Spare Room Subsidy” itself is indicative of their ignorance. Since when was a charge for something considered a ‘subsidy’?

The Oxford English Dictionary describes a subsidy as:

A sum of money granted by the state or a public body to help an industry or business keep the price of a commodity or service low.

An example of this would be

a farm subsidy

Does the Bedroom Tax sound like a “subsidy” to you? No, it doesn’t sound like one to me either.

I’ve had Tories seize on a Tweet that I wrote a few months ago in which I provided the dictionary definition of a subsidy. Yesterday, this numpty even linked to his blog in an attempt to prove me wrong. He even tried to support his claim by repeating the lie that council housing is “subsidized”. If they aren’t trotting out wilfully ignorant statements, then they’re peddling myths. Council housing is not “subsidized”. The majority of council housing stock was built decades ago and the rents paid to local authorities have paid for the building of these properties many times over. Council rents bring in millions of pounds for local authorities. This evidence is completely ignored by the Tories who whine and complain that people are paying below the inflated market rents charged by their rentier brethren. They won’t be happy till we’re all (apart from them) living in abject squalor in shanty towns, which they will bulldoze because they’re “an eyesore”.

The person who replied to my Tweet claims, according to his Twitter profile, that he’s socially liberal and economically conservative. Oh, how I laughed. His complaint against the phrase ‘Bedroom Tax’ rests entirely on this weak premise:

Amazingly the left call this system a “tax”, which it definitely isn’t. There can only be two possible reasons that they are doing this. The first is because, as they have proven repeatedly, they don’t understand economics. The second is because they could possibly be lying again and trying to mislead the British public for political reasons, which is strange when it is their idea.

This fool believes himself to be intellectually superior to everyone else, yet he displays a distinct lack of critical thinking and is quite keen to recirculate the Tories’ myths and lies. But he claims the left (whoever they are) “don’t understand economics”. It’s quite clear to me and many others, that the Tories are utterly clueless when it comes to economics. Have a look at Osborne’s Autumn Statement if you don’t believe me.

To top off his arrogance, the numpty tells us:

Abusers will be muted. Tedious fools also.

The word generally used on Twitter is “blocked” and I blocked this idiot.

The first Tory who took issue with my Tweet even quoted part of the definition for the word ‘tax’.

A compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government on workers’income and businessprofits, or added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions:

But what about protection racketeers who refer to the charges they impose on people as a ‘tax’, are they going to tell them to stop using the word and use the word ‘subsidy’ instead? The word ‘tax’ is not limited to money paid to a state, it is used to describe any kind of deduction or a drain on one’s powers.

The Free Dictionary says:

Tax (tæks)

n

1. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) a compulsory financial contributionimposed by a government to raise revenue, levied on the income or property ofpersons or organizations, on the production costs or sales prices of goods andservices, etc
2. a heavy demand on something; strain: a tax on our resources.

vb (tr)

3. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) to levy a tax on (persons, companies,etc, or their incomes, etc)
4. to make heavy demands on; strain: to tax one’s intellect.
5. to accuse, charge, or blame: he was taxed with the crime.
6. (Law) to determine (the amount legally chargeable or allowable to a party to alegal action), as by examining the solicitor’s bill of costs: to tax costs.
7. to steal
You will notice that I have put point 7 in bold. Britain or, rather, HMP United Kingdom has some of the most regressive taxes in the world and these amount to little more than theft and/or the abuse of power. The Poll Tax or Community Charge was but one example of the kinds of regressive taxes imposed on people by the Tories because they’re seen as ‘fair’.
If Tories and right-wing numpties want to play games with semantics, then they will have to do much better than dispute definitions by using such narrow terms.
The Tories: ignorance is strength.

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Filed under ConDem Budget 2010, Conservative Party, economic illiteracy, Economics

Let’s call it what it is: a depression

Are we about to witness the revival of Hoovervilles?

Are we about to witness the revival of Hoovervilles?

So, place your bets, readers.  How long will it be before some economic guru has the guts to admit that we’re living in the midst of an economic depression? Or is it the case that we’re just hanging around waiting for the next recession to come along, like the London bus of legend: three arrive at the same time and then we can call it a “depression”. So we’ve had two recessions, when’s the next one due [looks at watch]? I’m freezing my arse off!

Recessions, depressions, panics, slumps, credit crunches, call them what you will but they all amount to a failure of the capitalist system. The problem is that no one in authority (and I use that word loosely) wants to stand up and say that “This is a depression”. An economic depression apparently is determined by a sequence and length of recessions but no one wants to agree on the number. That’s because there is no set figure but there was an alleged benchmark to which all future depressions are supposed to aim. We are also told that in order for a recession to be classified as a depression, there needs to be a contraction in economic activity. This is happening now with banks refusing to lend to small businesses.

We are told that the last depression, now referred to as the Great (apparently) Depression of 1929 to 1939 was the longest and deepest depression. But there’s nothing “great” about a depression. This depression was preceded by the Depression of 1920 – 21, which was later downgraded to the status of “recession”. There were also 2 recessions during the 1920s. In Britain, the previous Great Depression of 1873 to 1896 was later called the “Long Depression” and was preceded by the Panic of 1872.

The tale of that period has been told innumerable times: a panic on the stock market and a run on the banks that combined with poor harvests to spawn a series of recessions that resulted in extreme hardship for millions, if not, billions of people around the world.

It was a “contagion” that began in Wall Street and spread around the world like some kind of economic plague. Shirts, jobs and homes were lost in short order. It was a tough time but not for the ruling classes, whose social and economic capital exists in perpetuity… much like the inexhaustible body armour cheat in a console kill game (Medal of Hour, etc). They would survive. They would have to get used to having foie gras only twice a week instead of six until the good times returned (on its high horse).

But could there ever be another depression that matches or exceeds the Great One for sheer, uh, depression? Apparently not. We were supposedly inoculated against further outbreaks of widespread panic… until Callaghan discovered monetarism and the genie was released from his bottle, free to wreak havoc.

The Great Depression has been fixed in the public memory as  a sort of golden age of economic depressions. It has supposedly surpassed previous depressions and panics – each and every one of them devastating in their own right, but ignored for ideological reasons – for its near-total effect on all levels of society. The previous depression has become folklore; its mythology has become the model of perfection against which certain economists and their forecaster allies (sic) judge current and future economic catastrophes.  But why?

Is it because our political leaders (that’s another word I use with caution) lack the intellectual courage to admit the truth of the situation, or is it because they have reached their intellectual limits and lack the honesty to admit that they have no plan for the future of civilization? Could it be because they don’t want to “panic” the public with the admission that the current economic situation is, in truth, a depression?

The issue of mass panic has never stopped them before.

Governments have never been afraid to use fear to coerce the public into accepting their version of the truth in order to prosecute pointless wars, as this clip reminds us.

That’s “good” panic. It’s the kind of panic that protects “freedom” and defends “our way of life”. Today William Hague claimed to have seen “some evidence” that the Assad regime in Syria has chemical weapons. There is a school of thought that believes the only way out of an economic crisis is to start a war. But wars are costly.

Depressions and recessions only ever benefit one kind of person and I don’t need to tell you that person isn’t you or I, dear reader. This is a time when the capitalist sees the opportunity to pit worker against worker. We have already seen how this government uses divide and rule in the way tries to create a false conflict between public and private sector.

This is a depression.

The have been dark murmurings of another recession on the horizon and yet, Osborne continues on his reckless course like a blind ship’s captain, who’s full of Dutch courage after drinking his crew’s rum rations.  But he’s fine. He’s got a wallpaper fortune and an Irish baronetcy to look forward to… not that he isn’t loaded already.

Two and a half years of this government’s bungling has done nothing to give people hope. Instead, prices increase year on year and incomes stay the same for average workers. For many people, there is nothing to look forward to. There is no trust in this government or in Her Majesty’s feckless opposition to put things right either, with disciplinarian Liam Byrne claiming that his party didn’t do enough to clamp down on benefit “cheats”. Trust left town on the same train as hope and it isn’t coming back.

There is a solution to this. It’s just that the ruling class and their lackeys in the media and the think-tanks don’t want to hear it. They have much to gain from economic catastrophes but, potentially, so do we.

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Filed under Conservative Party, Cuts, economic illiteracy, Economics, Government & politics, laissez faire capitalism, neoliberalism

Weak ideas, weak voice, simply weak. George Osborne’s Autumn Statement

Osborne

Hands up, who thinks Osborne’s Autumn Statement was the best in living memory? No takers? That’s no surprise. The only people to get excited about Gid’s speech were the usual suspects: the hacks in the Tory press, industrialists, rentier capitalists, Cittie wizards and energy tycoons.

This morning I awoke to hear The Economist’s Ann McElvoy on the Today programme say how Gid had “come into his own” as a speaker. She must have been listening to a different speech, because I don’t think he’s a natural speaker and besides, he used his speech to further attack the poor, who are paying for this economic crisis by having their benefits cut and being saddled with more debt.

To cap it all, Gid announced that there would be investment in shale gas (fracking) and the Northern Line would be extended to Battersea Power Station and the Tory-controlled borough of Wandsworth. I bet Delingpole’s happy. He probably has shares in petrochemical companies, which would explain his enthusiasm for fracking.

Delingpole isn’t the only one who’s pleased by the announcement of an impending shale gas rush. The Lyin’ King used the occasion to have another bash at the European Union… you know, the body that pays his salary. He says,

One of the reasons that the language in which you’re reading these words is the most widespread on Earth is that Great Britain happened to be rich in coal deposits. There were plenty of other places that might have industrialised first, from the Netherlands to China. The good fortune of our eighteenth century ancestors was that, just when they needed it, they stumbled upon a cheap source of energy. Coal powered the new mills, releasing millions of employees to do different work and creating a massive consumer class. Britain became the greatest nation in the world.

Er, what? So fracking is going to make us “great”? That’s nuts.

Janet Daley praised Gid for cutting corporation tax. Hooray! The rich can continue to get rich at our expense, while the structural deficit remains unchanged.

Iain Martin laid into Ed Balls, whose own solution would be to mimic the Tories’ approach but with warmer words. Let’s not kid ourselves:  Labour would make cuts and impose burdens on the poor too. Millionaire, Liam Byrne, the shadow Works and Pensions secretary is well-known for his attacks on the poor and benefit claimants. He thinks unemployed people are simply idle and would rather live on £69 a week than do a day’s work.

The apparently left-leaning Guardian’s take was characteristically mixed. Martin Kettle only had nice things to say about Osborne’s speech.

In the end, Osborne wants to be able to go to the voters in 2015 and tell them four things: first, that Labour borrowed too much before 2010; second, that the coalition has cut the borrowing back to half of the 2010 figure; third, to claim that the borrowing cut has been achieved by targeting those on welfare and the very well off, rather than the not so squeezed middle, whom the government has tried to protect as far as possible; and, fourth, that Labour would increase borrowing again, spend more on welfare and restart the whole miserable cycle. If he can do this, Osborne seems to believe that he may have an election-winning narrative.

Remember, The Guardian supported the Liberal Democrats at the last election and has historically been a Liberal paper. Its left credentials are only relative to the rest of the press, which leans overwhelmingly to the right.

Perhaps the worst part of yesterday’s Autumn Statement was Balls’s reply or rather, the government’s mocking of his stutter.

The New Statesman called Gid’s borrowing figures into question. It said,

So how did he do it? Well, turn to p. 12 of the Office for Budget Responsibility document and it becomes clear that Osborne has performed an accounting trick worthy of Enron. First, he added the expected £3.5bn receipts from the 4G mobile spectrum auction – even though it’s yet to take place. Second, he included the interest transferred to the Treasury from the Bank of England’s Quantitative Easing programme (worth £11.5bn), despite the Institute for Fiscal Studies warning him that it would call into doubt his credibility. Were it not for these two measures, borrowing would be £15bn higher than stated by Osborne. If we add that £15bn to the £108bn figure provided by Osborne, then total forecast borrowing for this year becomes £123bn, £1.4bn higher than last year. Little wonder that the Chancellor was so keen to bag the 4G receipts early.

Perhaps the worst of yesterday’s “mini-budget” was the announcement that austerity (that’s the same austerity that Dizzy Doug Carswell said “didn’t exist”) will continue for another 6 years.

All in all, the Autumn Statement was weak.  It offered nothing for the poor, the low-waged, the disabled or those on benefits. Instead, it redistributed wealth upwards to those who are already rich. 400,000 more people would pay the top rate of tax, while those who have made use of tax avoidance schemes will carry on as normal.  There was no plan for a sustainable economic recovery. If you’re not rich in today’s Britain, you will be used for target practice by the bullies who run the government or as a source of income by parasitical capitalists.

This economic crisis has been made worse by this Tory-led government, who have demonstrated over the past two and a half years, exactly how economically illiterate and incompetent they are. They’ve mismanaged the economy and pitted one group of people against another so that they can rule unchallenged. Do we really have to wait another two years  to vote this shower out of office?

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Filed under Conservative Party, Cuts, economic illiteracy, Economics, Government & politics, Spiv capitalism

More on the Liberty League

No sooner than I’d published this blog than I found myself dealing with three trolls, all of whom claimed to be dedicated to the cause of freedom. I also had three of them respond to me on Twitter, two of whom abused me (typical) and the other, Anton Howes, the League’s head honcho tried to tell me that they “appealed to left-libertarians”, and asked me if

@buddy_hell spiked +IOI not count as “leftwing” anymore? Besides, orgs not same as ppl who attend our conferences. Many left-anarchists, etc

Spiked? IoI? Left-wing? Same sentence? “Good Lord, no”,  I said but just because they call themselves “left-wing”, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are. I have already written about the LM network, their origins and their constituent parts in a blog that was cited on Powerbase. Anyone who takes LM’s left-wing credentials at face value is in for a major disappointment.  In fact, the Revolutionary Communist Tendency (the forerunner of the RCP/LM) was expelled from the SWP for being too “right-wing” (sic).

But what is a “left-anarchist”? Is that an anarchist who is not an anarcho-capitalist? Anarcho-capitalism is an oxymoron. Anarchists despise the capitalist system and no anarchist in their right mind would knowingly associate themselves with a network that includes the likes of The Freedom Association or the Institute for Economic Affairs. I told Howes this but I have yet to receive a reply.

Howes also told me that he was a PhD student but it turns out, according to Spiked’s Patrick West (brother of Ed) that he is, in fact, an undergraduate student at Kings College, London. The article was written in March of this year, so it is entirely possible that Howes skipped the Masters degree and went straight for the doctorate. It has been known to happen. He told me,

@buddy_hell and yes, I’d noticed. Although I’m not ‘rightwing’ at all, it won’t stop me using the terms.

He works for the Adam Smith Institute, you can’t get more right-wing than that. But like so many right libertarians, he presumed me to be stupid. They’re an arrogant bunch.

While not being a fan of Spiked, I found some of West’s article interesting because it shed a little more light onto the Liberty League. West opens in strident fashion.

For decades, university students in Britain who wanted to change the world often had little more than a handful of left-wing groups to sign up to. And, as time has gone on, these radical groups have become more and more outdated and divorced from political reality. Left-wing student associations are now more likely to call for state intervention into people’s lives, embrace the welfare state and demand fewer cuts, rather than fundamentally challenging the state’s role.

Ah, yes, the “left” is “outdated”. So presumptuous and so wrong. if Spiked is left-wing, then this West article puts paid to that notion. The left is marginalized. Yes. The left is divided. That’s true. But these libertarians will not change the world in a way that benefits all of society, they want the same world but with bells, whistles and a fringe on the top. Let’s continue,

Howes recognises this phenomenon. ‘People are sick of seeing tonnes and tonnes of Socialist Workers Party or Marxist groups hounding them on tables outside campus all the time, posting fliers and posters everywhere. They think “well, I don’t agree with this”. Students want to see an alternative group on campus that has pro-liberty ideas.’

“People are sick”, he says, “of seeing tonnes and tonnes of Socialist Workers Party or Marxist groups hounding them on tables outside campus all the time”. Does he ever think students may be genuinely interested in left-wing groups? I mean, it isn’t as if the right doesn’t organize on campuses. It does. They just don’t happen to be popular with a good many students and for very good reasons.  The other thing that is evident in the passage is Howes’ insistence that only his network understands the true nature of “liberty”.

The demand for such a group is coming from a mix of students, says Howes, who place themselves all over the traditional political spectrum, from left-wing anarchists to young conservatives. Liberty League now has 30 active student societies on campuses across the UK and it is rising all the time.

I would be interested in seeing exactly how much “demand” there is for “libertarianism” at, say, a post-1992 university like London South Bank for example. These libertarians are top-down, hierarchical types and if you scratch the surface you’ll find an authoritarian underneath. “Left-wing anarchists” that is to say, real anarchists  would have no truck with this kind of “libertarianism”. Further down the article, I found this,

One enthusiastic Liberty League supporter is Gabrielle Shiner, a young American studying at Queen Mary, University of London. Shiner recounts: ‘When I got to the UK I couldn’t really find any student group to join. It was really disheartening for libertarian students. And then Anton, who I’d never heard of, started tweeting asking me if I was looking to get involved in something and I was really excited about that.’

Later we learn that Shiner is involved in Students for Freedom, a US  student libertarian organization that is part of Cato’s “limited government movement”.  We all know what The Cato Institute does but it seems Howes and his buddies don’t or are lying. I think it’s the latter.

So as we can see, part of the League’s job is to undermine what’s left of the rather ineffective Student Unions. There are some universities that have strong SU’s – University of London Union, for example – the rest are little more than providers of student freebies. The process of destroying the SU’s began under Thatcher, who was concerned that the NUS was a hotbed of student radicalism. Instead, we now have a situation where the Right, led by the Liberty League, are attempting to dominate political discourse on campuses around the country.

The Right – the Conservative Party, especially – is against political activity on campus unless it is either right-wing or “libertarian”. This is the reason why the Thatcher government wanted SU’s to disaffiliate; it hated the very idea that students chose left-wing politics over the right. It felt that by eliminating left-wing political discourse on most campuses and confining it only to Oxbridge and other Russell Group universities, it would destroy left-wing politics in Britain for good. It nearly worked.

Pretty disgraceful that @libleague society being discriminated against by Manchester SU in terms of funding, for not backing Demo12

This is pretty typical of the Right. I know how hard it is to set up and run a society but in terms of funding, the SU will only match the membership money and any other monies that the society has raised in its coffers. I get the feeling that the League wanted more than its fair share. But this tells us something else about the Lib League: they support cuts to higher education and regarded Demo12 as something that  only “lefties do”. They are above protest unless it’s to demand more cuts to public services. I wonder how many of them attended the disastrous Rally Against Debt last year?

The one thing that I left out of the original article about the Liberty League was its campus network. If you look at the list, you’ll see one called the LSE Hayek Network. There’s nothing “non-partisan” about Hayek, the great guru of neoliberalism, he is most certainly right-wing and was a supporter of Pinochet’s economic liberalization. You see, economic liberalization can only be forced onto people. If given the choice people would reject it without a second thought.

Right libertarians seek to perpetuate the notion of the importance of the sovereign self over society. Please the self, pamper the self, flatter the self, the self is king. This is the atomized society that Thatcher spoke of; one that is bereft of communities. Our society is in tatters, wrenched apart by the spoilt brat of the sovereign self.

If you inculcate the notion that the individual is more important that the rest of society, before you know it, people will begin to see themselves less members of society but more as consumers at the end of a long supply chain. Individualist anarchists fit in well with Objectivists or Randists, because they place the self at the centre of the universe.

Right libertarians speak movingly about freedom but, as history has shown us, they are more than happy to collaborate with fascists or military strongmen (the  Italian Futurists, for example, described themselves as “anarchists” and joined Mussolini’s fascist government). Anarchists, on the other hand, fight fascism and all forms of authoritarianism. The right libertarian would happily watch as the cops beat the shit out of you for protesting against an authoritarian state.

Cato supported the Pinochet dictatorship. Jose Piñera, the architect of Chile’s private pension system and former Chicago Boy is a “senior fellow” at the Cato Institute. That’s right libertarianism for you.

POSTSCRIPT

Not “right-wing”? The Tories don’t think so.  Last year, Conservative Home heaped praise on the Liberty League.

Here’s a revealing paragraph (I’ve bolded a bit for emphasis),

This work was started by Simon Richards, Director of The Freedom Association, with his vision for ‘Freedom Socs’. There are now five such societies, the first of which launched at York three years ago. In addition to this, there are a large number of libertarian societies, which spontaneously popped up around the country. The Liberty League enables these individual groups to be part of a cohesive network and acts as a gateway for young freedom lovers in the UK.

Bingo!

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