Category Archives: Late capitalism

Mediating freedom: the role of the libertarian think-tanks

Madsen Pirie: the architect  of Thatcher's privatization programme

Madsen Pirie: the architect of Thatcher’s privatization programme

How does one define the word “freedom”? There is a group of people who believe they know exactly what the word “freedom” means. “Freedom” and its cousin “liberty” are abstract nouns, there is no hard and fast definition for either of them and any attempt to give them some kind of single meaning or, indeed, a list of meanings is utterly futile and is most likely going to be dishonest. Moreover, it could take you a very long time to compile such a list.You can no more easily define “freedom” than you can words like “happiness” or “love”, because these words mean different things to different people at different times.

There are people who believe that they have knowledge of the true nature of freedom. They form themselves into ‘non-partisan’ think-tanks’ and discussion groups and refer to themselves collectively as “libertarians”. It’s as if as libertarians, they and only they have found the true meaning of freedom. It is as though they had heard the word of G*d Himself who spoke unto them and revealed the secret of liberty.  He said unto them, “It is not Communism”.

And lo, it became the everlasting Truth… until the collapse of the Wall of Berlin, when the disciples of The Truth believed unto themselves that freedom had triumphed over the tyranny of Communism, which they declared to be “unfreedom”.

After some soul-searching and not an inconsiderable amount of hand-wringing, they decided among themselves that unfreedom was to be represented by so-called radical Islam. They had found their antithesis! Lazy thinkers are attracted to binaries because they can only define themselves against their opposite. They are not Communists/Socialists/Lefties/Islamists, therefore they love freedom!

Those who call themselves “libertarians” deny that they are of a right-wing disposition and will gather at the feet of some economic guru or high priest, where they receive The Word directly from the master’s mouth. They may also deny that they are ideological and claim that they are “non-partisan” or “neither right nor left” but this is dishonest for when you press them on certain matters, they will produce a reply that contains the usual messages of “responsibility” and a “small state”. They speak in maths. Society is merely an afterthought.

Classical liberalism, as a term, has become both a touchstone for nostalgists and means by which to reorder language. Even neologisms are subjected to this transformation. The term “neoliberalism” is resented by the Right because they did not coin it. In its stead came “classical liberalism”, a term made seemingly older by the prefix “classical”. It is still neoliberalism in form and in substance. We cannot return to the past, no matter how hard the Tories try to recreate the past in the present. Therefore they revive old terminologies and long for the days before they were born.

The economic theories embraced by the Adam Smith Institute (ASI), for example, are most definitely on political right and are therefore ideological. There’s no escaping it. In the 1980s, the ASI was very close to the Thatcher government. To whit, ASI’s president/high priest, Dr Madsen Pirie was  the architect of privatization. His freedom is that which steals food from the mouths of babes and condemns the poor to lives of never-ending serfdom.

Right libertarians believe themselves to be the arbiters of the freedom ideal. Their idea of freedom is a mediated one. That is to say, it comes from someone else or is produced by a body of people like ASI who make a deterministic argument of freedom, based more or less on the notion of economic liberty, which they assert is the fount of all freedoms. Such thinking is absurd when one considers the tyranny exerted on the poor and working poor by states that have operated this model.

For neoliberalism or classical liberalism to work, it must be imposed on the citizenry. These economic ideologies can only benefit the rich and any claim that they will “liberate” the poor is patently absurd and is not supported by the evidence. “Trickle-down” is a lie.

The ASI, like so many other libertarian think-tanks have convinced themselves that they know the True meaning of the words “liberty” and “freedom” but it doesn’t and to claim that it has a form of superior knowledge that leads them to a position where they can provide a definitive meaning for these words is arrogant, mendacious and self-delusional. Have a look at this pamphlet from the ASI, from which I shall quote a portion,

Liberty can be defined as not being interfered with, or not being
imposed on, by others (non-invasive liberty). Not being attacked
or robbed is part of liberty; attacking or robbing people is not part of liberty.

It follows that liberty means being able to do what you like with
your own body (the principle of self-ownership) and your own
property, as long as you are not thereby imposing on the body or
property of others. You are free to harm yourself, for example by
taking dangerous drugs, but if you harm someone else or damage
their property without their consent, you are violating their liberty.

This sense of liberty is what libertarians, or classical liberals,
mean when they advocate liberty. It is also the dominant idea of
liberty within Western history and it applies to any society that is
described as generally ‘liberal’.

This is a mainly Hobbesian formulation of liberty that has been infused with neoliberal discourse (Hobbes was a supporter of absolute monarchy). But to characterize liberty in purely Western terms is misleading and rather vague since it presumes that freedom does not exists outside Western ‘liberal’ discourse. It also suggests that “liberty” was conceived by Westerners, ergo they are the arbiters and owners of the “freedom” concept. Furthermore the essentialistic arguments on the nature of freedom put forward by the ASI is only one set of definitions and can never represent a totality of freedom, because there will always be limits or disagreements.

The Freedom Association (TFA) is a right-wing pressure group, whose idea of freedom is narrow. Indeed, its name is Orwellian. I can think of no group that calls itself The Love Association or UK Happiness League.  No one can tell you what constitutes  love or happiness. If I were to ask you to sum up what the word “love”  in a few words, you would tell me one thing. If I were  to come back to you in a couple of months and asked the same question, you may have a different answer for me. No one can tell you or I what love is; it is dependent upon one’s individual perception of that word at a particular moment in time.  You could say that love is not hate. But then, what is hate?

The idea of freedom put forward by ASI or TFA is a spectacular one, precisely because it has been mediated. These groups have set themselves up not only as arbiters of liberty but have hijacked the discourse on the subject. It stands to reason that those who accept the ASI’s and TFA’s definition of freedom as Truth, do so because it emphasizes their relationship to capital. If you do not accept their kind of freedom, then you are a supporter of unfreedom; a totalitarian. It’s as simple as that.

When the government announced it was going to “measure” the nation’s “happiness”, I was suspicious and rightly so, you cannot measure, let alone define, happiness. It was a government attempt to manipulate people’s emotions. Nothing more. Nothing less.

In George Orwell’s satire, 1984, he created a dystopian world in which ignorance was a virtue and in which the state created ministries with names like the Ministries of Truth and Love. He was onto something.

There was some  Situationist graffiti that once said, “Don’t liberate me, I’ll take care of that”. That is my motto.

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Filed under Cultism, economic illiteracy, Economics, laissez faire capitalism, Late capitalism, neoliberalism, Philosophical musings, robber baron capitalism, Spiv capitalism, Taxpayers Alliance, Think Tanks

Memo to Dissembling Dan and his rich chums

Today in the Torygraph, Dan Hannan has written some pure drivel about #OccupyLSX. Apparently he went down to St Pauls Cathedral to have a “chat” with the camp and to try and convince them that he is right and they were wrong (he’d tell you otherwise). Today he’s produced what he’s called his “Memo to the Occupy protesters: here are ten things we evil capitalists really think”.  Here’s what he says.

1. Free-marketeers resent the bank bailouts. This might seem obvious: we are, after all, opposed to state subsidies and nationalisations. Yet it often surprises commentators, who mistake our support for open competition and free trade for a belief in plutocracy. There is a world of difference between being pro-market and being pro-business. Sometimes, the two positions happen to coincide; often they don’t.

Well, that may be the case but it’s your version of capitalism that’s destroying us. By the way, there is no such thing as free trade.

2. What has happened since 2008 is not capitalism. In a capitalist system, bad banks would have been allowed to fail, their profitable operations bought by more efficient competitors. Shareholders, bondholders and some depositors would have lost money, but taxpayers would not have contributed a penny (see here).

Wrong, Dan, it is capitalism. You certainly can’t describe it as ‘socialism’.

 3. If you want the rich to pay more, create a flatter and simpler tax system. This is partly a question of closing loopholes (mansions put in company names to avoid stamp duty, capital gains tax exemption for non-doms etc). Mainly, though, it is a question of bringing the tax rate down to a level where evasion becomes pointless. As Art Laffer keeps telling anyone who’ll listen, it works every time. Between 1980 and 2007, the US cut taxes at all income levels. Result? The top one per cent went from paying 19.5 per cent of all taxes to 40 per cent. In Britain, since the top rate of income tax was lowered to 40 per cent in 1988, the share of income tax collected from the wealthiest percentile has risen from 14 to 27 per cent.

Simpler tax system? Yes. Progressive tax system? Yes. Flat tax? No, they only benefit the rich. The Poll Tax was a flat tax. Those on lower incomes had to pay the same amount of tax as those people drawing down 6 figure salaries. This is dishonesty but then, this is what I have come to expect from Dissembling Dan. Another thing that Dan doesn’t mention about Art Laffer and Reaganomics is that millions of Americans lost their jobs and many more suffered as a result of the new tax system. Far from reducing overall debt, Reagan actually managed to create more debt. As for “closing loopholes”, the Tories will make the right noises but will fail to act. They don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.

4. Those of us who believe in small government are not motivated by the desire to make the rich richer. We’re really not. We are, in most cases, nowhere near having to pay top rate tax ourselves; our most eloquent champions over the years have been modestly-paid academics. We believe that economic freedom will enrich the country as a whole. Yes, the wealthy might become wealthier still, but we don’t see that as an argument against raising living standards for the majority.

The motivation behind the movement to create a “smaller” government is to protect the interests of capital, thereby making the rich richer. Night watchman governments will exist only to rubber stamp the diktats of corporate interests and to use force against those who act against those interests. Just have a look at Chile, then magnify that by 2.  By the way, Dan’s rich.

5. We are not against equality. We generally recognise the benefits in Scandinavian-style homogeneity: crime tends to be lower, people are less stressed etc. Our objection is not that egalitarianism is undesirable in itself, but that the policies required to enforce in involve a disproportionate loss of liberty and prosperity.

This is contradictory. Here, Dan says that he is not “against equality” but then ends by saying that egalitarianism will result in a ” disproportionate loss of liberty and prosperity”. What he doesn’t say is that he’s worried that his class – the ruling class – is scared of losing its privileges; the privileges that it assumed for itself as a result of exploiting others who are less privileged.

6. Nor, by the way, does state intervention seem to be an effective way to promote equality. On the most elemental indicators – height, calorie intake, infant mortality, literacy, longevity – Britain has been becoming a steadily more equal society since the calamity of 1066. It’s true that, around half a century ago, this approximation halted and, on some measures, went into reverse. There are competing theories as to why, but one thing is undeniable: the recent widening of the wealth gap has taken place at a time when the state controls a far greater share of national wealth than ever before.

Here, Dissembling Dan seems a bit confused. He’s mistaken his hat stand for a hat. Comparing the present day to 1066 is like comparing apples with oranges. When he says, “Britain has been becoming a steadily more equal society since the calamity of 1066″, I wouldn’t expect to be struggling under the same brutal feudal system that the Normans imposed on the country but, at the same time, the last vestiges of feudalism remain – particularly with regards to property and common ownership of the land. He could have easily said that “Britain has been becoming a steadily more equal society since 43” or since the so-called “Glorious Revolution”. Utter nonsense.

7. Let’s tackle the idea that being on the Left means being on the side of ordinary people, while being on the Right means defending privileged elites. It’s hard to think of a single tax, or a single regulation, that doesn’t end up privileging some vested interest at the expense of the general population. The reason governments keep growing is because of what economists call ‘dispersed costs and concentrated gains’: people are generally more aware the benefits we receive than of the taxes they pay

In this paragraph, he tries to deflect attention away from the way the right (the Tories) protect their interests through the use of legislative mechanisms. Not content with hammering the low and medium waged by demanding that they work more hours for less money, the Right also attacks their culture. There are many examples of this: The Six Acts, The Licensing Act (1737), The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. Since the Tories came to power in 2010, they have moved swiftly to carve up the rest of the welfare state (in spite of having no mandate to do so). Top of their list is the NHS, an institution that is despised by our Dissembler-in-Chief and which they want to privatize. Remember this?

8. Capitalism, with all its imperfections, is the fairest scheme yet tried. In a system based on property rights and free contract, people succeed by providing an honest service to others. Bill Gates became rich by enriching hundreds of millions of us: I am typing these words using one of his programmes. He gained from the exchange (adding fractionally to his net worth), and so did I (adding to my convenience). In a state-run system, by contrast, third parties get to hand out the goodies.

This has come straight from Ayn Rand’s dead mouth. She said that capitalism was the “only moral system”. When Dan says that capitalism (or rather his variety of capitalism) is “the fairest scheme yet tried”, he does not mention other “schemes”. Doubtless, he has in mind the economic system of the USSR, which was not socialism at all but a bureaucratic form of capitalism. Furthermore, Bill Gates has not “enriched” me or anyone else. That’s bullshit. He enriched himself and then turned into a present-day Victorian philanthropist. Was it a sense of guilt on Gates’s part? Maybe. If it was guilt then some of this nation’s rich could do with a dose of that guilt and start paying higher taxes.

9. Talking of fairness, let’s remember that the word doesn’t belong to any faction. How about parity between public and private sector pay? How about being fair to our children, whom we have freighted with a debt unprecedented in peacetime? How about being fair to the boy who leaves school at 16 and starts paying taxes to subsidise the one who goes to university? How about being fair to the unemployed, whom firms cannot afford to hire because of the social protection enjoyed by existing employees?

What on earth is he talking about? Fairness “doesn’t belong to any faction”… what does that mean? Nothing. Here it would appear that he was running out of ideas to fill up his list of ten. These examples of ‘unfairness’ are nothing more than diversions. Riding in the slipstream of these thoughts are education vouchers and a two-tier health service.

10. Let’s not forget ethics, either. There is virtue in deciding to do the right thing, but there is no virtue in being compelled. Choosing to give your money to charity is meritorious; paying tax is morally neutral (seehere). Evidence suggests that, as taxes rise, and the state squeezes out civic society, people give less to good causes.

More Randian drivel. The subtext here is that charities won’t be able to do good works if we have a more egalitarian economic system.

Well, there you go, comrades. I don’t expect the tents outside St Paul’s to fold overnight. But perhaps we might at least engage honestly on some of these issues rather than talking past each other. ¡Hasta la victoria siempre!

I’m not your comrade and you have signally failed to engage honestly.

Hannan would claim that the occupiers don’t have any ideas or that they don’t have an argument. What Hannan isn’t going to do is listen and take on board ideas, especially if those ideas don’t intersect with his barmy brand of  neoliberalism. For him, a Randian world of unfettered capitalism and shrunken states is the path to ‘freedom’.  Yet, history shows us that when capitalism is unregulated it leads authoritarianism because the state acts only to protect the interests of the capitalists, many of whom enjoy exceptional privileges under the iron rule of the caudillo.

Dissembling Dan’s preferred version of capitalism has already been imposed on the people of  Chile and now his government want to complete the neoliberal project that was started under Thatcher.

Far from having no ideas, the Occupy movement has shown that it has more ideas than our current government (and Dan Hannan), who want more of the same.

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it

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

Behind the rhetoric (Part 1)

The Right says

“We want to create wealth”.

The bit they left out,

“For ourselves”.

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Filed under laissez faire capitalism, Late capitalism, neoliberalism, Spiv capitalism

The real road to serfdom

So the credit rating agency, Standard & Poor (great name) has downgraded the US’s credit rating from AAA to AA+. Do you know what this means? No? Because I don’t either. Does it mean that the US will have its credit card taken away and sent to the naughty step?

Is it me or is this whole process of credit rating  nations a little simplistic? I remember when Thatcher compared Britain’s economy to to a domestic budget. It was silly and reductive then and it’s silly and reductive now. It provides an instant rationalization and a justification for spending cuts and job losses.

Viewing the world in such simplified terms can only lead in one direction: disaster. The global economic meltdown is partly a product of lazy thinking as well as inveterate greed.

The world and its economies are much more complicated than the world’s politicians are prepared to admit. Credit rating agencies are merely an arm of enforcement that works on behalf of the banks and other financial institutions.

The US can thank the sociopaths in the Tea Party for its downgrade. It can also thank them for nearly bringing the world to its knees. I get the feeling that they won’t be happy until we’ve all returned to a feudal formation.

When Hayek wrote The Road To Serfdom, the serfdom that he envisaged was associated with what he saw as the two ‘socialisms’: Nazism and socialism (or communism). But there are fundamental flaws in his understanding of what constitutes serfdom. His knowledge of socialism was also limited to his own narrow ideological understanding of the word. In Hayek’s world, only the free market could protect liberty but, as we have seen in the last thirty years, people are less free because our politicians put the interests of corporations and banks first. The Hayekian praxis of Thatcher and Reagan and those who have followed them has put us all on a path to serfdom. The trouble is, those who support this form of economic libertarianism have little , if nothing, to lose. They won’t become  serfs. But the rest of us will end up as their slaves if we don’t put a stop to this nonsense.

Meanwhile in Israel, people have been on the streets to demand homes and jobs.

We need more of that here in Britain.

Guns or butter?

Here’s a song from a The Gang of Four.

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Filed under Economics, laissez faire capitalism, Late capitalism, neoliberalism, robber baron capitalism

Capitalism on the slide (again)

So, it looks like we’re heading towards another recession. You can bet that the right libertarians will start screaming “We need Ayn Rand more than ever”! Actually, that’s the last thing we need. Adopting Rand’s warped ideas will only lead to a more dystopian world in which we return to a sort of pre-industrial era where right libertarians rule as feudal overlords from their gated communities.

As sure as night follows day, the usual suspects at the Telegraph and elsewhere will blame the recession on the Euro. In doing this, they wilfully ignore the writing on the wall, so to speak. The system is unsustainable. Any economic system that is based almost entirely on the pointless consumption of reified commodities solely for the purpose of impressing others is like the proverbial castle built on sand – eventually it will sink.

It’s time to put neoliberalism out of its misery and adopt a system that isn’t entirely reliant on human fear and panic. Of course, right libertarians and hardline capitalists will try and cling on as long as they can. If they won’t take their hand off the tiller, then we have to break their [metaphorical] fingers.

The party’s over for the City traders and hedge fund managers.

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Who’s behind the Rally Against Debt?

Last week saw the announcement of the forthcoming  Rally Against Debt (which should be called the Rally For Cuts). The event to be held on 14 May was announced in the wake of the massive TUC-organised rally in Hyde Park, which various Tory commentators like Dan Hannan and Hon Tobes used their blogs to attack it for having either no credible alternative or being responsible for a “tsunami of violence”. The Rally, it seems, is supposed to be a peaceful response to the anti-cuts protests. It is more than that, it is an attempt by certain right wing groups to claim the moral high ground. It will be portrayed by its defenders as a grassroots protest but it is anything but.

Here’s their Facebook page.

They appear to have taken their idea from the US , who had this Facebook page.

It shouldn’t surprise any of us to learn that Hannan has been throwing his weight behind the Rally. He says,

Imagine that you were reviewing all your household expenditure: your utility bills, your mortgage, your car, your mobile phone, your annual holiday. What would be the single biggest item? If you are in work, there is no doubt: it would be your consolidated tax bill. According to the ONS, the average household pays 33.5 per cent of its income to the state, not including the taxes which businesses are obliged to pass on to their customers and employees. The average figure, of course, takes account of pensioners, students, benefits claimants and the nearly 40 per cent of the population who pay no income tax. In a working household, the figure would be far higher.

The problem with this simplistic ‘analysis’ is that it is really a reductive narrative. Household finances cannot be compared with the nation’s finances. The phrase “comparing apples with oranges” springs to mind. Further down the blog, we find the first clue.

Few of us realise it, of course, because the costs are disguised and distributed. Income tax and national insurance are confiscated at source. VAT is built into the advertised price of what we buy. So, in effect, are duties on alcohol, petrol, tobacco and air travel. One of the reasons that council tax arouses so much controversy is that, for many people, it is the only time they feel they are making a direct payment to the state. For a fuller sense of quite how much most of us pay, watch this superb clip from the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

He is disingenuous when he talks about Council Tax. The real reason why people hate the tax has little to do with it feeling like “a direct payment to the state” and has more to do with its regressive nature; it is not a fair tax that takes into consideration a person’s ability to pay.  Did you notice how he mentions the Taxpayers Alliance (TPA) here?  I watched the clip and it tries to rationalize taxation with how you spend your time. Have a look at the photo on the blog.  We’ll return to that in a moment.

It appears that there is considerable input from both the Tory front group, TPA and The Freedom Association (TFA). Last year, Hannan wrote this blog, in which he appeals for a “British Tea Party”. If you’ve ever seen him attack the NHS on Fox News or read The Plan, you will realize that Hannan wants to transform Britain into an American ‘Mini Me’ complete with elected police commissioners and presumably, elected dustmen. After doing a little Googling, I found this page on TFA’s website. Hannan, who is a leading member of TFA can be seen addressing a group of people. Remember that picture on his blog? That’s a picture for TFA’s “Taxed Enough Already” campaign. Here’s a snippet from the page,

The Tea Party Movement in the UK had a massively successful launch on Saturday 27 February 2010 with a talk by Daniel Hannan MEP at the Best Western Brighton Hotel.  Over 300 people packed in to hear a brilliant speech by Daniel.  We apologise to more than fifty others who had to be turned away for lack of space.

That was last year. The British Tea Party, whose numbers are thought to be in their hundreds had help from US-based group Freedom Works. You can find out more about Freedom Works here.

The Libertarian Party UK is also lending its support to the Rally. On its blog, it doesn’t say much but there’s that picture from the US Rally Against Debt page again. The Liberal View website has the same picture and says,

Protest marches are rarely a very effective way to change public opinion. Most look self-serving, some get hi-jacked by violent minorities. They act more as rallying points for the already convinced rather than ‘could be persuaded’.With tongue firmly in cheek to make a serious point then, opponents of ever larger government are organising a “civilised and well mannered” rally against “pointless government initiatives” on 14th May 2011.

It is unlikely the rally will attract the quarter million claimed by the TUC. Cuts make a small number of people very angry, debt reduction benefits everyone largely invisibly by reducing crowding out and other barriers to growth. The balance of emotion is in the other camp.

It should though attract a good crowd and is a thoroughly recommended day-out for fans of liberty and a smaller state. Liberal Vision will be there.

This is a distortion. I wonder what sort of incomes those thinking of joining this rally draw down? I’m willing to bet that none of them will be on £25,000 or less per annum.

So I had to dig some more and I discovered that someone called Harry Aldridge is one of the movers behind it. Here’s his Facebook page. His “inspirations” include FA Hayek and Nigel Farage. So it comes as no surprise to learn that Harry is a member of UKIP and was also the party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Horsham. Aldridge is also a regular contributor to a site called “Independence Home”. Here is a page of his archived writings.

I found this clip of young Harry (he’s 23 or 24) on YouTube.

Here he is on one of UKIP’s  blogs

My name is Harry Aldridge, I’m 23 years old, and I run a telecommunications company. I live in Slinfold and have lived in the Horsham area all my life.Politically I describe myself as a classical liberal and believe in government of the people, by the people, for the people. In the UK government is too big, too costly, too unaccountable, to remote, and too intrusive into the lives of its citizens. We need to decentralise power, first and foremost bringing power back from the European Union and then disperse it among communities and individuals.

Notice how he describes himself as a “classical liberal”. This is just a way of putting some distance between himself and neoliberalism – which is, for all intents and purposes, dishonest. Hayek was also a classical liberal whose vision became known as neoliberalism, which was itself a late 20th century variant of classical liberalism. The sudden revival of interest in classical liberalism is entirely a romantic one. The people who tell us that they are socio-economically inclined towards classical liberalism have a nostalgic view of the past that allows them to ignore the fact that, as an economic model, it was a failure. Exponents of free trade claimed that it would end wars. The opposite has happened. Classical liberalism also led to the colonization of foreign lands and subjugation of those peoples. It also legitimated Social Darwinism, which has been revived in the right’s current thinking towards such things as the welfare state, poverty, housing, education and other social issues.

So who is behind this rally? Well, it is a coalition of TFA, TPA, UKIP and some Tories. Whether or not it  will attract huge numbers remains to be seen. I don’t think numbers will reach anything more than a few thousand. However, this new tendency to graft features of American political culture onto Britain is the beginning of a worrying trend. But it also shows us something else: there is an intellectual and philosophical vacuum at the heart of right-wing thinking.

Importing  ideas from the US right will not fill that void.

UPDATE: 4/4/11 @ 1525

There appears to be something wrong with Harry Aldridge’s page. Too many biscuit crumbs in the UKIP server maybe?

UPDATE: 6/4/11 @2220

Pssssssst! They’ve changed the profile picture on their Facebook page. Don’t tell anyone!

@2224

The very right-wing (if I say “far right” they’ll only threaten me with a law suit. So much for free speech. Eh?) ‘youth’ group Conservative Future (Yorkshire and Humber chapter) is organizing a coach to go down to London. Here’s their Facebook page. Nowhere Towers thinks their name should be “Conservative – What Future”?

UPDATE 11/5/11 @1149

It seems the main instigator of the RAD is UKIP’s Annabelle Fuller, who was once a long-term mistress of leader, Nigel Farage.  Fuller is also working as Farage’s assistant in Brussels.  Fuller had left UKIP in 2008 after being she claims that she received “menacing phone calls” accusing her of being a “whore”. There’s an interesting thread about Fuller and her resignation from UKIP and her subsequent reinstatement on the Democracy Forum here.

I wonder if  Farage will be joining his chums on Saturday?

If this is a rally against debt and credit is a form of debt, is this also a rally against credit?

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Filed under Economics, Ideologies, Late capitalism, social engineering, Society & culture, UKIP

Serco – The most dangerous corporation you’ve never heard of

I found this interesting video about Serco on YouTube. They’re a big corporation that’s getting bigger – all thanks to our governments. Is this what the Tories mean when they tell us that the private sector will pick up the slack left by the evisceration of the public sector? Probably.

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Institute of Directors – Our solution for growth: end collective bargaining

When I saw this story from the BBC, I thought that I had gone to sleep for a year and woke up thousands of miles away in Chile. The Institute of Directors have today called for an end to collective bargaining for public sector workers,

The IoD has put forward 24 “freebie” proposals, which it says would cost the government nothing but would benefit growth, particularly in the private sector.

Among the most controversial would be the call to curb trade union negotiating power in large public sector bodies, said BBC business correspondent Joe Lynam.

The IoD also suggests that workers should pay a deposit of £500 when taking their employers to industrial tribunals to deter what it describes as “vexatious claims”.

Who says the IoD is not out of touch when they make proposals such as these? What this Tory-led government and its partners in the IoD and Taxpayers Alliance want is for this country to adopt the Chinese economic model with a bit of Chile on top. In essence this is the laziest of lazy thinking: stimulate growth by denying workers their human rights in what is supposed to be a ‘liberal democracy’.  There is nothing democratic about the IoD or its proposals.

A spokesman for the Trades Union Congress said the IoD’s real aim was to make life easy for directors at the expense of their workforce and to lower pay and conditions in the NHS.

Brendan Barber the General Secretary of the TUC said,

“Our economy is not struggling because of the relatively modest platform of rights people have at work,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“Taking these away and taking away collective bargaining from the NHS, that would do nothing to generate growth.

“We need decent fair pay systems, and collective bargaining is the way to deliver that.”

Naturally, the Treasury responded to IoD’s proposals with enthusiasm,

“We are glad the IoD has agreed that our deficit reduction strategy is central to growth.

“We have been clear that the Budget will build on work we have done already as we move towards a new model of economic growth.”

A “new model for economic growth”? This can only mean one thing: a new kind of economic slavery. Hayek argued against centralization in his book The Road to Serfdom. The title says it all.  However in order to fully pursue a Hayekian economic order, civil liberties have to be suppressed and workers are forced to work for peanuts and for longer hours while the rich get richer at the expense of those who work for them. Nothing must interfere with profit.  Ironically, the very things that Hayek argued have the potential to create a new form of serfdom. But Hayek didn’t notice this because, like a spurned lover,  he was too busy formulating an extreme antithesis – a poison penned letter –  to Keynesianism. But Hayek wasn’t really thinking about ordinary workers when he wrote his book, he was thinking about the wealthy.

These people won’t stop until many of us are working 14 to 16 hours a day in workplaces that are surrounded by razor wire and security guards with dogs.

Run them out!

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Filed under Economics, Government & politics, Growth, Late capitalism, Public spending, Spiv capitalism

Adam Curtis’s The Mayfair Set (Part 4)

Here is the final part of The Mayfair Set. I will be posting Curtis’s The Living Dead sometime in the near future.  This episode is appropriately titled “The Twilight of the Dogs”.

4/1

4/2

4/3

4/4

4/5

4/6

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Filed under Economics, Growth, Late capitalism, Spiv capitalism

Meet our new rulers…

…the markets.  Many of the commentators and pundits who have been speaking on television about Thursday’s election have been saying how “the markets might respond” or how “jittery” the markets are, or how the “markets don’t like such and such”. Anyone would think that we are ruled by some abstraction of the financial world.  One phrase that really annoys me is “let the markets decide”. The market(s) are a construction of the capitalist system and have been given a position in society that is unwarranted.  Markets are run by people, not the other way around. The way in which the markets are discussed is in quasi-theistic terms;  that is to say, they are the modern equivalent of the Oracle at Delphi. But the Oracle was a physical entity; the markets are not. The Oracle for all its obvious problems made no demands on the national economy.

But which markets are the pundits talking about? Well, because they refuse to be clear on this matter, I will explain: the markets in question are the financial markets (this includes gilt markets, bond markets and currency markets) and, sadly, not the local market where you pick up your fruit and veg and maybe a counterfeit DVD.  Because our society has been organised around the service of such markets, no one is really free. We all have to serve the greedy who operate in the markets; the very same people who cause the financial crisis in the first place.

So who are out elected politicians working for? The reply given by the great and the good of the world of political journalism will tell you that is is the electorate.  So if that is the case, then why do they have to please what is, in effect, the modern equivalent of an angry god who vents his spleen through weather phenomena or volcanic eruptions. We must make sacrifices to please the angry, vengeful gods.

All that needs to happen for markets to go bad, is for a couple of traders to wake up in a bad mood one morning and the mood spreads like a contagion.  Too much faith is placed in markets and not enough in society, which exists – as the neo-liberals would have us believe – to serve the markets…the angry gods.

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Filed under Economics, Government & politics, Late capitalism