Tag Archives: classical liberalism

Libertarians and nostalgia

Libertarians. Don’t you find them ridiculous? For all their talk of freedom and liberty, they’re nothing more than wannabe feudal overlords. They’re fond of telling us how their idea of a minimal or ‘night watchman’ state will lead to a better world for all of us. Yet, whenever they open their mouths to speak, they inadvertently betray their true thoughts.

The other night I was listening to The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4. On the programme were two self-described libertarians discussing the floods. One of them was Telegraph columnist, Peter Oborne and I didn’t catch the other person’s name. The unnamed libertarian whined about the state and described it very much in the same terms as a teenage boy would describe his parents. “I hate my parents”, was more or less the what he was saying. “Why can’t they leave me alone to pull the legs off this fly”? Oborne told listeners that in the 19th century people would have dealt with the flooding themselves. This almost casual remark about 19th century Britain revealed the inner workings of the mind of the ‘libertarian’: they are not forward-looking, rather they are backward-looking romantics who are only capable of viewing history through the distorted lens of nostalgia.

In a libertarian world, the rich would be much richer than they are now and the rest would live as serfs. For the libertarian, the 19th century was a period of almost unparalleled ‘freedom’ when the bourgeoisie was more or less free to do as it pleased and the working classes knew their place in the hierarchy. It should come as no surprise that the term ‘social mobility’ does not appear in the lexicon of apparent libertarian freedoms.

So what is so great about the 19th century? True, there were scientific advances but there was a great deal of ignorance. Poverty and disease were rampant and most people were kept in the dark about their own body. Colonialism may have brought many riches to the aristocracy and the newly embourgeoisised middle classes alike, but the poor remained resolutely poor. Some libertarian once tried to tell me that the poor were “richer” at the end of the 19th century than at the beginning. The word “poor” means exactly that and the idea that the poor were somehow better off by 1900 is not only laughable, but fundamentally dishonest.

The libertarian right uses all the means it has at its disposal to hoodwink the gullible into signing away its rights for what it calls “freedom”. Yet in a libertarian world, only those who already possess material wealth and the privilege that comes with being members of the middle and upper classes will enjoy any kind of freedom. They’ll tell you that they hate war and that they stand for equality. But many of them would happily invade another country to ensure their bogus concept of ‘free trade’. This is why a good number of them have degrees in War Studies.

One of the favourite themes of the right libertarian is so-called ‘flat taxes’ which they claim are fair and that everyone – the low waged included – will benefit from them.  This is, of course, nothing more than a delusion.  If everyone pays the same rate of income tax, then those who are on meagre incomes will suffer, while the rich carry on as normal. The last time the UK had a flat tax was in the late 80s and early 90s, it was called The Poll Tax and it was seen as ‘fair’ by the Thatcher government. It cost millions to implement and cost even more to pursue the defaulters through the courts.

Right libertarians are accomplished liars who believe in the logic of their own lies. The very idea of social progress is anathema; it sounds too much like real fairness and being closeted social Darwinists, in their eyes, only the strong (in this case, the rich) should survive. If you don’t have the money to pay for the treatment of a chronic illness, then that’s too bad. You die.

Libertarians aren’t capable of looking forward. Their idea of the future – and they won’t admit to this – is to create a dystopian world from highly-selectivized memories of the 19th century. It may well be a technologically advanced world but it would have the feel of the Middle Ages to it, where knowledge is concentrated in the hands of the ruling elite and, even then, only certain kinds of knowledge would be considered valid.

Right libertarians are fantasists who want you to share their dream of a ‘better’ world by signing over your human rights and accepting the marketization of all social relations. Remember, in the world of the right libertarian, the police exist solely to protect the rich and oppress anyone who disagrees or steps out of line. – just as it was in the 19th century.

In the 19th century, Britain was a police state in all but name. No wonder right libertarians view the epoch with such affection.

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Hugo Chavez versus neoliberalism

Hugo Chavez

The BBC reported Hugo Chavez’s death in customary style. Their correspondent, Caroline Hawley, referred to him as a “divisive figure” adding “he alienated the middle classes and business”. That last sentence is perhaps the most revealing of all, for it opens a window on the mindset of neoliberals, oligarchs and security operatives. Chavez, who was elected four times as Venezuela’s president, worked to improve the lives of the poor and if you work to build schools, clinics and improve the literacy rates in your country, you are seen as a tyrant and a dictator by moneyed interests. You are painted as a demon by the Western media, who  can’t quite fathom why anyone would reject the so-called free market. Why on earth would someone want to enfranchise the poor? Surely it’s better to exploit them… which is how the neoliberals and self-styled classical liberals see things. Trickle-down only works in the imagination of the oppressor. But tell them that and they’ll call you a “commie”.

I remember well the failed coup of 2002, when Venezuela’s oligarchs and their friends in the Western media, who claimed that Chavez supporters had fired on ‘innocent’ opposition demonstrators. But the oligarchs and their friends got the shock of their lives when footage shot by an Irish film crew revealed that news footage  shown on Venezuela’s oligarch-controlled television, that had been sold to media companies around the world, had been doctored.

You can watch the video of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised here.

I remember cheering when the coup collapsed and Chavez was reinstalled as president. The coup plotters fled to Miami, thus proving that the coup had the support of the United States. After all, this is where you will find Castro’s would-be assassins and an assortment of failed saboteurs.

Hugo Chavez is dead. He died from cancer. But little is known about what kind of cancer he had. However it is a weird coincidence that Fidel Castro has stomach cancer, Evo Morales is also suffering from cancer and Yasser Arafat died from cancer, possibly caused by polonium poisoning. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a conspiracist, but the CIA must be rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of a Venezuela without Chavez at the helm.

Now that Chavez is dead, fresh presidential elections will be called. I suspect that the CIA will try and rig the election to ensure an oligarch wins. They did it in Italy in 1945 and they’ve done it throughout Latin America and the Caribbean for the best part of 60 years. Remember Nicaragua’s 1990 General Election? The popular Sandinista government was ousted in an election in which their opponents were supported with CIA cash. A compliant Violetta Chamorra won that election.

Chavez’s detractors will always complain about “human rights violations” that took place under his rule. Yet the same people who complain about such alleged violations, turned a blind eye to the West’s courting of brutal dictators like Pinochet and Suharto. Where were they when thousands of people were being rounded up, tortured and killed under Franco? Where were they when Uzbekistan’s President Karimov boiled his opponents alive? They were nowhere to be seen. They were strangely silent.

So,  RIP Hugo Chavez. You stood up to neoliberalism and US aggression. Without you, Venezuela would still be run for the rich, while the poor would still be illiterate.The oligarchs want to undo all of that and return Venezuela to a state run by the rich for the benefit of the rich.

The eyes of the world are watching Venezuela.

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The myths of laissez-faire capitalism

The Right likes to make bold claims about free trade and laissez faire capitalism but these claims rest entirely on false premises. Below are some of the frequently-used defences of laissez-faire capitalism.

Free markets create more wealth than any other system.  

This is one of the biggest myths of all. The simple truth is that wealth is concentrated in a small number of hands. I had one free marketeer tell me that workers in the 19th century were “richer” (that was the word he used) in the 1890’s than they were at the beginning of the century. What he was trying to prove by this statement is unclear and I don’t think he’d even thought about it for a moment. Rising costs meant that, in real terms, the working classes were no better off than they were in the 18th century. Working class people could not hope to move up the social ladder in the 19th century. They were stuck where they were. The idea was that wealth will ‘trickle down’ to those below. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now but the Right continue to repeat the lie.

The free exchange of goods between nation will lead to world peace

Classical liberals like Adam Smith and Richard Cobden believed that free trade would magically lead to the abolition of war. However in order for the British Empire and other similar free trade empires like the French Empire, there was a constant need to invade other countries, enslave their peoples and cart the resources (booty) back to the home country – without resources in the form of raw materials, they would have nothing to manufacture and therefore have nothing to trade. Local rebellions against colonial rule were crushed with extreme brutality and the colonizers divided the people according to ‘ethnicity’ and would  install one group as the political elite, often with dire consequences. This is what the Belgians did in Rwanda when it created artificial divisions between the Tutsis and the Hutus.  The tensions between these groups came to a head in the late 1990’s when Western news media reported it as a recent phenomenon. Belgium was a free trade nation.

Free trade nations don’t go to war with each other.

Another lie. Britain went to war against the US (a free market country) in 1812. It also went to war against Germany in 1914. German military power had been on the rise since the creation of the German Empire in 1871. This worried Britain who had been the pre-eminent military power in the world. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 provided the perfect pretext to challenge German power.

Things work best when the state doesn’t intervene.

Between 1845 and 1852, the Irish Potato Famine devastated the country. Lord John Russell’s  Whig government, which was committed to laissez-faire capitalism, refused to intervene to relieve the suffering. As a result over 1 million people lost their lives through starvation and disease. Many more emigrated. Ireland was part of Britain, it had been forced into union in 1801 and yet, it was left to its own devices when the famine struck. The Whigs further justified their inaction by using Biblical interpretations drawn from Deuteronomy. Laissez faire capitalism is barbarism.

It’s better for all of us when nations open up their markets

The First Opium War (1839 – 42) is instructive because this is how self-described free market nations behave when they don’t get what they want. Opium had been a social problem in China for a number of years and the Empress wanted to stamp it out. But the British wanted to pay for Chinese silk in opium rather than silver. The Chinese refused and destroyed the opium, so Britain attacked China on the pretext that it was seeking compensation for the opium that had been destroyed.

The Second Opium War  (1856 – 60) saw the British and French Empires uniting to attack China. With opium as a convenient pretext, the British and French sought to open up China’s markets through the use of military force.  The subsequent British and French victory over the Chinese opened the way for other nations to follow and soon, the US, Russia and even Germany moved in to China to claim their share of the country’s resources. This war also led in the indentured servitude of millions of Chinese (Coolies)who were carried in British ships to the US and elsewhere to work on the railroads and the plantations of the Caribbean.

Free trade is a the guarantor of liberty.

History tells us that it is only those who enjoy great economic power who will also enjoy greater liberty. All one has to do is examine the social history of Britain, the US and other so-called free trade nations to see this. Workers in the 19th century were often forced to buy their necessities from the company they worked for. If workers organized themselves into unions and took industrial action, they were set upon by the state’s thugs.

Free trade means freedom for the rich and powerful and servitude for the rest of us.

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Touchy Gardiner tries to remove all references to his connection with the Moonies

Gardiner - is he ashamed of his Moonie connections?

Nile Gardiner seems a little sensitive about his past. So much so, that he’s removed any reference of his connection to the Unification Church from his Wikipedia entry. He’s even managed to get the owners of this website to close the page of a book on which he is quoted as having cleaned up anti-Moon graffiti from the campus before Moon’s visit to Yale. No matter.  People like Gardiner leave trails on the Internet and he can’t close down all the sites that mention his connection to the Moonies.

I found this interesting article, from the ‘horse’s mouth’ so-to-speak, which I am going to quote for posterity.

One of the Unificationist graduate students in history at Yale, Nile Gardiner, and a Christian friend, took mops and buckets and proceeded to clean it all off. This of course started allegations concerning free speech, and many articles in the Yale newspapers covered this. They became quiet famous in the Yale conservative circles as “The Moppers.” Literally cleaning up Yale!

In spite of Gardiner’s attempts to expunge all Moonie references from the Internet, the above quote actually comes from the Unification Church. I’d like to see how long that stays on the Web before he orders it to be removed. At any rate, there is no way I’ll be taking it down – even if he tries to put pressure on me.

Without a sympathetic president in the White House, the Moonies – through Gardiner – have been fighting a rearguard action to smear Obama. There isn’t a week that goes by where Gardiner isn’t attacking Obama on his blog or in his columns. Sometimes the attacks on Obama look rather personal. This is from a conservative blog in the States called “The Last Tradition”. Here’s one of the more hackneyed distortions,

Barack Obama has made it clear that he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism, and has made apologising for his country into an art form. In a speech to the United Nations last September he stated that “no one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold.” It is difficult to see how a US president who holds these views and does not even accept America’s greatness in history can actually lead the world’s only superpower with force and conviction.

Sometimes, when I look at stuff like this, it’s as if I’m reading something that was written in the 19th century. To be honest, I don’t even know if Gardiner is a US citizen. As far as I know, he’s still British. So why does he get so aeriated about the US and its standing as a world superpower? Is it because he’s nostalgic for empire and is vicariously living the experience of empire (and by extension, classical liberalism) by banging the drum for US imperialism and Pax Americana?

Gardiner’s silence on his connection with the Moonies is strange. In purely psychoanalytical terms, it is this silence that says everything.

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Why right libertarians take semantic refuge in classical liberalism

Classical liberalism in action – Victorian workhouses were prisons for the poor

Recently, I’ve noticed the numbers of right libertarians who have suddenly started claiming that they’re really “classical liberals”. Like cockroaches when they’re exposed to the light, vigorous scrutiny of their soi-disant libertarianism sends them scurrying into the gap between the skirting board and the floor of discourse. There, in the darkness, they feel safe. There they can claim that they are “classical liberals”. But their new-found old position relies entirely on the mass ignorance of the term “classical liberalism” and the historical materialism of the 19th century when classical liberalism (then called liberalism) was first applied as an economic doctrine.

These born-again classical liberals will apply the same narratives that exponents of neoliberalism will use as a defence of their doctrine: that wealth can only be created for all  if the state is “smaller” and business is freed from “bureaucracy” and “red tape” and that wealth will consequently trickle down to those below. This, they argue, will bring forth ‘freedom’ but the freedom that they speak of only applies to a small section of the population: the factory owners and the rentier capitalists. Trickle down doesn’t work, yet these born again classical liberals will claim that it does – though none of them can point to examples of where trickle down has succeeded.

So what are the key defining features of classical liberalism and how does it differ, if at all, from right libertarianism?

Classical liberalism’s key features are

  • Individual liberty
  • smaller state/limited government
  • Laissez faire capitalism/free markets
  • Freedom of speech, religion, press and assembly
  • Disregard for the poor and the needy
  • Social Darwinism
  • Utilitarianism

Right libertarians

  • Individual liberty
  • Laissez faire capitalism/free markets
  • Smaller state/limited or no government
  • Freedom of speech. religion, press and assembly
  • Disregard for the poor and needy
  • Social Darwinism

As you can see, there isn’t much difference between either of them and when right libertarians suddenly proclaim that they are “classical liberals”, they are dishonest in making this largely artificial distinction. The real reason for declaring themselves as classical liberals has more to do with romanticism, nostalgia and outright dishonesty than anything else. They want to go back to a time when people knew their place and stayed there. Social mobility did not exist; the working class stayed in their place. They were denied access to higher education and were tied to their places of work. Knowledge was reserved for the privileged and the powerful. In the eyes of the dominant political hegemony, knowledge in the hands of the subaltern classes was considered dangerous (think of William Tyndale’s struggle to publish the Bible in English). Because with knowledge and ideas came the possibility that authority could be questioned, which could lead, in turn, to civil disobedience and insurrection…even though this happened anyway and was met with considerable force.

The neoliberals and those right libertarians who subscribe to the small state notion are actually the  descendants of classical liberals. They can no more return to the past, then I can become the King of Tonga. They have selectivized the past by appropriating certain memories of the classical liberal period, which always seem to orbit the sun-like narrative of the British Empire. When one puts the point to them that Adam Smith’s assertion that “free markets will lead to world peace” is fallacious proposition, they will respond by asking, “did free market states go to war against each other”? It’s a red herring. There were plenty of wars, many of them waged by free market states against other nations. Free trade relied on wars and the colonization of other countries. It also meant outdoing the competition from other free market nations. Presumably, for our apologists, the Opium Wars were not waged in the name of free trade but were waged to punish the Chinese for not accepting opium rather than silver as payment for silk? It’s a fatuous argument but it’s the sort of defence right libertarians would use.  In the 19th century, the British Empire was the biggest drug pusher on the planet- there is no getting away from it.  It was because of this idea of  “free trade” that countries like China were forced to “open” their markets and thus open themselves to decades of foreign domination.

Classical liberals denied the right of workers to organize. It was only when the last of the Combination Acts was repealed that workers were able to organize in any meaningful way.  Socially, classical liberals were very much against the idea of the relief of poverty and sought to contain it within the Poor Laws. The workhouse, which had been around since the 14th century, saw an expansion in the 19th century after the passing of the Poor Law of 1834. Today’s born again classical liberals have similar ideas with regards to the poor and the unemployed, for whom they have resurrected the artificial distinctions of “deserving” and “undeserving”. Any money spent on the relief of poverty was seen as another impediment to the freedoms of the rich and powerful. One ‘argument’ that I encountered was “The working class were richer (sic) in 1899 than they were in 1801”. But this is another red herring: the working class were never “rich” and lived in overcrowded rented accommodation. Few of them moved up the social ladder. Those that did became the petite bourgeoisie: the shopkeepers, market traders or were otherwise recruited as instruments of oppression, nor did they buy their own properties in leafy districts of the industrial cities nor did any of them become industrialists. There was a glass ceiling preventing those at the bottom from becoming say, MPs, because of the property qualification.

The right libertarian is a dishonest creature that substitutes myths and tropes for facts. They extrapolate their arguments from sets of numbers in the hope that no one will spot the flaws in their thesis – which always overlooks society in favour of cold economic statistics. This decontextualization of numbers from the societal whole is their only defence and it’s a weak one. But the worst offence is to claim that they are “classical liberals” when they are really right libertarians looking for a way to divert attention away from their very postmodern interpretations of  selfishness and greed by hiding in the darkness of the past.

The use of the phrase “classical liberalism” by right libertarians is therefore an exercise in semantic subterfuge and should be laughed off as such.

UPDATE 11/5/11 @ 1213

I found this interesting blog written by an anarchist. Right libertarians don’t live in the real world.

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Filed under 19th century, Economics, History, History & Memory, Ideologies, Labour history, Language, Society & culture, Trade Unions, workers rights

Life on Hannan World (Part 2)

That Littlejohn fella. He was right!

A couple of weeks ago, I had the misfortune of reading a blog in which Dear Dan cited the repugnant Richard Littlejohn. If you cite Littlejohn to support your argument, you’re at the top of a slippery slope.

First he says,

The grimly efficient Chris Grayling aims to rescue millions from this wretched state. Pilot tests run under the last government yielded astonishing results. When claimants were reassessed in Aberdeen and Burnley, 30 per cent of them were passed fit for work, and another 30 per cent classified as capable of some work.

Then he links to Littlejohn, Britain’s version of Rush Limbaugh.

To understand the magnitude of the task he faces, though, the minister should read this article by Richard Littlejohn (you have to scroll down to the penultimate entry). A woman from Essex was shifted from Jobseekers’ Allowance to Incapacity Benefit three years ago because she is allergic to rubber. The Department of Work and Pensions argued that such a condition needn’t preclude all forms of employment. According to the DWP lawyer: “Her allergy, although inconvenient, has not prevented her from leading a relatively normal life — shopping, socialising, travelling on public transport.” The judges, however, ruled in favour of the claimant: a decision that may encourage others to challenge their reassessment in court.

You can read the original Littlejohn article here but you need to scroll down the page to find the actual article titled “Our amazing India rubber benefit rules”.  If you look at the first article, you can see that it harks back to the 1980’s and the “Loony Left council” articles that filled the pages of the Tory tabloid press. These days, a few Torygraph bloggers use the same style. Plus ça change.

The title of Hannan’s blog is dishonest “Can 2.6 million people be too ill to work”?  Where does he get this figure from? You get the feeling Hannan is the sort of person who sees clinical depression as the ‘blues’ and a little ‘hard work’ will cure that. All they need to do is “snap out of it”. But it isn’t that easy if you suffer from depression.   Here’s the crux of the blog

Between 1971, when Invalidity Benefit was introduced, and the mid-1980s, there were typically around 700,000 claimants. Today, there are 2.6 million (the name was changed to Incapacity Benefit in 1995). We have, tragically, encouraged some people to arrange their affairs around qualifying for the allowance.

There’s only one problem with that figure. It’s wrong. But in order to ram the point home, he includes an image of Wayne and Waynetta Slob. Cheap.

This article from FullFact.org debunks the myth of 2.6 million.  It also does so here. Here’s a snippet,

The Department for Work and Pensions estimates that when they have completed the 1.5 million assessments 23 per cent of these people will be fit for work – not 94 per cent, or even 75 per cent. This demonstrates how misguided it is to apply a statistic related to ESA applicants across the board to all Incapacity Benefit claimants.

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Eh?

In another blog, Hannan apologizes for the Empire and gets in some praise for his hero, Enoch Powell. The blog has the title “In all the coverage of the atrocities in Kenya, two words are missing”. And which words are those, Dear Dan?

The British Empire was a surprisingly peaceable place. There were sporadic insurgencies, of course, and brutal wars in Ireland, India, Cyprus and Palestine; but many colonies were brought to independence without a shot being fired in anger.

This narrative of the Empire skips over many inconvenient truths to promote the idea that the British Empire – as opposed to the other empires – was, in spite of its evident failures,  a force for good. The rest of the paragraph gets a little confused.

The Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya was the exception. The mutineers were uncommonly ruthless, perpetrating monstrous atrocities against loyalist and neutral Kenyans, of whom nearly 3,000 were murdered. The response was commensurately severe: 1,090 terrorists were hanged and as many as 71,000 detained without due process.

On the one hand he condemns the actions of the so-called Mau Mau and on the other, he tells us that the response to the rebels (whom he refers to as mutineers) was severe. But this was always the response when native people were yoked to a greater, colonizing nation. They fight to wrest control of their land from the invader and will kill anyone who is seen as a collaborator. Presumably the resistance movements of World War II cut no ice?

In the second paragraph, he uses the atrocities committed at the Hola Camp to have a pop at the Guardian.

Abuses took place in the internment centres, culminating in the beating to death of eleven detainees by security guards at the Hola camp. Guardianistas, of course, slot the episode neatly into their evil-imperialists-versus-nice-natives narrative.

Mmmm, hmmm, Let’s read the rest,

But the point about the Hola killings is that they led to an outcry in the House of Commons, a wave of revulsion in the country, and a hastening of the independence process.

What he doesn’t mention is how long it took for anyone to complain.

Linking to this blog, he says,

I’m not a great fan of empires – we would have done far better to have carried on with our unofficial protectorates and trading outposts than to assume responsibility for large tracts of land – but there is little doubt that, as empires go, ours was relatively benign. Niall Ferguson makes the obvious but rarely remarked point that, for most of the countries under British dominion, the alternative was not unmolested evolution towards modernity, but conquest by someone else: France, Germany, Turkey, Russia, Japan or – worst of all – Belgium.

Yes, that’s the same Niall Ferguson who teaches what he and Carswell describe as “proper history”.  Are protectorates any less wrong that colonies? Not really, but this piece of lazy thinking implies that “if we hadn’t have colonized them,  some other power would have done so and the situation would have been much worse”. Belgium, as he rightly points out, was one of the worst colonizers. King Leopold II treated the Congo as his own personal property and subjected the natives to horrific and barbaric treatment. But the Congo was called  a “Free State”, that is to say, a country where the normal rule of law and civil and human rights are suspended in order to pursue a tidy profit.  It is an idea that gets most Randists moist. This site promotes the idea of a free state. But it’s a vision that exists outside of history and reality.  The BBC reports on the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Nigeria and tells us that other African countires are following suit. Is this another Scramble for Africa? Recently the government announced its intention to create so-called Enterprise Zones. Guess what that means for workers? The only people who get excited about these zones are parasites.

Ironically, the MP who brought the Hola Camp abuses to the attention of the Commons was the mercurial Enoch Powell, who would later go on to deliver his infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech. Powell was a fervent free-marketeer and like those who give unquestioning devotion to the classical liberal model, he promoted that idea in isolation from the historical facts. This blog is, as much as anything else, an effort to rehabilitate the reputation of Powell by constructing a new, kinder memory of him outside of the materialism of history. Thatcher appropriated the memory of Churchill and isolated his wartime premiership from the rest of his inglorious past. It was a mistake and it came back to haunt her.

On to today’s blog and Hannan claims that the money that this country (sic) has given to the Portuguese bailout could have been spent on

254,150 nurses (there are around 390,000 nurses in the NHS)

114,109 NHS doctors (more than the actual total of 110,000)

180,575 police constables (there are 170,000 police officers in the UK)

194,553 teachers (out of 450,000)

246,856 Army privates (as against 106,550 actual regulars, of all ranks)

What’s so ironic about his figures for doctors and nurses is that, not so long ago, he appeared on Fox News to tell the American people that the “NHS was a 60 year old mistake”.

This blog is a mix of anti-EU sensationalism and snide attacks on his political enemies.

He takes a cheap swipe at the March of the Alternative

So where is the “March for the Alternative”? Where are all the students, Socialist Workers and trade union activists who thronged through London just a couple of weeks ago?

At the end he adds this,

So where is the TUC? Where is UK Uncut? Where are all those who asserted last month that a much smaller sum meant the end of social security in Britain? Are they missing something? Or am I?

There are none so deaf as those that refuse to hear, Dan. Tell you what, if you’re so fired up about the bailout, why don’t you organize your own march? There’s nothing stopping you. Or maybe the Rally Against Debt, which has so far attracted little support and that he supported on his blog, is more his thing? I understand, that like Hon Tobes, he’s chickened out of appearing at the rally. The fact of the matter is that the bailout of Portugal is part of a series of mistakes made by countries who adopted the neoliberal economic model in an attempt to play with the big boys of the G20 nations. This is the same economic model that was forced onto this country by the Thatcher government in the 1980’s.

Naturally, such facts are always met with silence. I wonder why?

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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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Jamie’s Dream School/Toby’s Free School – Pie in the sky and vanity

Celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver thinks that by rounding up a few famous faces and putting in them in front of a class, that this is the recipe for successful teaching and learning. There is an obvious problematic to this idea: there are not enough celebrities to go around. But the most obvious problem with this way of thinking is that celebrities can magically transform learning by mere dint of their personality. None of the famous faces that Oliver has chosen actually has had any teaching experience in a school (Alistair Campbell????). This leads some people to think that anyone can teach and that teaching doesn’t necessarily require any training.

Last night’s programme saw David Starkey verbally abusing a pupil. Rolf Harris and the others didn’t fare any better either.  These aren’t the sort of people that I’d have teaching a class of disaffected youngsters. Many of these kids had been excluded and found themselves in Pupil Referral Units (PRU). The problems range from having a difficult time at home to being bullied at school and responding aggressively to verbal and physical attacks. None of this seemed to matter to the programme makers who simply saw this as another great television opportunity. But telly isn’t real life;  it only forms representations of life. Engaging these pupils will take more than a few celebrities posing as pedagogues. The idea may be a noble one but it is one that is full of flaws.

I read on the Hon Tobes’s blog yesterday that his West London Free school had been approved.  Tobes crows,

We received confirmation yesterday that Michael Gove had signed a Funding Agreement with our school, the green light we’d been waiting for. That means the West London Free School will definitely be opening this September. I can’t say we’ll be the first free school to throw open its doors – about a dozen should open this year – but we are the first to sign a Funding Agreement. It’s a significant milestone, the most important one we’ve passed so far. Our enemies may still attempt to obstruct us, but it’s hard to see how they can stop us now. We’ve crossed the Rubicon.

“Crossed the Rubicon”? How dramatic. To be honest, I thought he’d already marched on Hammersmith Town Hall after one of his insiders had opened one of the gates.

We still have a mountain to climb. Once the school is open we have to make sure it can deliver a classical liberal education that’s accessible to all the children in the neighbourhood, no matter what their ability.

Hmmm, this sounds almost like Jamie’s Dream School, only this is actually for real. To be honest, I think Young has a rather rose-tinted view of education. He presumes to understand the inner workings of formative education and even goes so far as to make prescriptive statements about schooling without actually having the teaching experience to support his contentions.  But, I suspect, that this stems from his disdain of the state comprehensive system. The clue is in the phrase “classical liberal education”. Classical liberalism comes to us from Enlightenment thinkers like Locke, Hobbes and Hume. It is the philosophy that talks of ‘freedom’ but shackles large sections of society into bondage; only the aristocrats and wealthy industrialists were truly free. The Enlightenment was a colossal failure. Its thinkers were naive romantics who viewed the world through the prism of their social class. For all their love of classical liberalism and Manchester liberalism, today’s Tories appear to have forgotten their history: Benjamin Disraeli was opposed to classical liberalism and used the phrase “Manchester Liberal” as a pejorative. By the end of the First World War, the Liberal Party had abandoned classical liberalism. Some people refuse to learn the lesson from history and stumble blindly into the abyss while loudly declaring their ignorance.

I have a PGCE, so I understand issues of inclusion, exclusion and disadvantage. I have also had experience of PRUs (not as an end user).  It seems to me that this free school will cream off the children of  pushy upper middle class parents and abandon those who come from less well-off backgrounds.

Of course whether or not his school takes pupils from less advantaged backgrounds remains to be seen. Somehow, I think I will be proved right.

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From Hayek to Rand: a short stroll through neoliberal thinking

Hayek: the Daddy of Neoliberalism

Friedrich von Hayek was the daddy. He was the Thatcher government’s philosophical anchor. He was one of the high priests of neoliberalism.  Hayek was the man whose book Thatcher famously slammed down on a table and declared “This is what we believe in”! The book in  question was Hayek’s second attack on socialism titled The Constitution of Liberty. His first, The Road to Serfdom is given similar veneration by Conservatives and is no less visceral in its straw man critiques of socialism and liberalism. This is an odd position for a man who was wedded to the ideals of classical liberalism but it is the social aspects of liberalism that Hayek rails against, not its economic message.

In the first chapters of the book, Hayek rails against both liberalism and socialism. He holds Britain (or England as he says) as a model economy and it is through Britain’s free trade policies of the 19th century that his notion of liberty is predicated. he says,

The rule of freedom which has been achieved in England seemed destined to spread throughout the world

He ignores the methods by which the British idea of freedom was exported throughout the world: by the barrel of a gun. The Road to Serfdom was published in 1944. Hayek, an Austrian economist had taken a position at the London School of Economics. In Vienna he had been influenced by Ludwig von Mises, the founder of the Austrian School of Economics whose name has gone on to grace the title of a US right wing libertarian think tank. Interstingly enough for a self-confessed ‘liberal’, von Mises gave his support to Englebert Dollfuss’s Austrofascist regime. Von Mises served as economic advisor to Dollfuss until the latter was assassinated by the Nazis.  The Jewish von Mises would have found it difficult to live under a Nazi regime because of its racial purity laws.

The von Mises Institute ‘scholar’, Lew Rockwell has a selective take on fascism here. He completely rewrites history by airbrushing out von Mises involvement in Dollfuss’s regime.  Indeed apologists for von Mises will brush aside any suggestion of  his collaboration with the “it was a lesser evil [than communism]” defence. We can see the start of a pattern here: those who would describe themselves specifically as classical liberals would go on to offer their support for authoritarian regimes. Hayek and Friedman both lent their support to Pinochet’s Chile – Hayek visited there in 1984. The libertarian rhetoric obscures the reactionary and authoritarian tendencies that are present within their strain of classical liberalism. Von Mises left Austria for the United States and together with Hayek and Friedman they founded the Société du Mont-Pèlerin, which became a sort of anti-Kenynesian think-tank; a hothouse for neoliberal thinkers. You can read their Statement of Aims here.

Neoliberalism is essentially a late 20th century variant of classical liberalism. Whereas the the emphasis of classical liberalism was on free trade, limited government and so forth, Hayek and his contemporaries Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman, placed greater emphasis on the notion of the individual as a sovereign being who was unimpeded by regulation or ‘red tape’ and free to act as agents consumers within a ‘liberal democracy’. This, they posited, would move human society along a progressive path because competition, they argued, is the natural human condition and the logic was that competition was therefore good for progress. In other words, system that entirely deregulated economic activity would produce greater wealth and thus greater happiness and provide an outlet for natural competition.  To achieve this, all social relations would become market relations: everything that was once publicly-owned would be bought and sold in a market place (Gilbert, 2008). This included the welfare state, much of which was largely dismantled by Thatcher in the 1980’s. Neoliberalism is classical liberalism that has been taken to an extreme.  Everything and everyone must make a profit. Thatcher once declared that she wanted to see a “nation of entrepreneurs”. Everyone would become an entrepreneur, un petit capitaliste, a shopkeeper, a spiv whether they wanted to be one or not.  The former nationalized companies were expected to make profits for their shareholders, the lessons of history were apparently forgotten as the government sold the public a romanticized image of the age of the great railway companies; it was an image that was intended to restore a lost pride in an underfunded rail network that was now re-branded using, in some cases, the names of the Big 4 rail companies (like GWR).

Nostalgia was a new way of selling government ‘products’. But nostalgia is history that has been purged of those discourses that do not conform to the narrative of the dominant ideological class. Gil Scott-Heron says in his beat poem, B-Movie

The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia. They want to go back as far as they can – even if it’s only as far as last week. Not to face now or tomorrow, but to face backwards.

What the government failed to mention was the fact that all the so-called Big 4 railway companies (Southern, LNER, GWR and LMS) were struggling before they were nationalized in 1945.  LNER never made a profit.  It is impossible for an enterprise that serves the public interest, such as a publicly-owned railway, to turn a profit. They are public enterprises. Such enterprises are necessary for the greater good of the nation because they stimulate the economic growth of which Hayek and his disciples claim to be in favour. Publicly-owned enterprises are therefore  too important to be left to the devices of the market. As we have seen with rail privatization, the situation is chaotic: there are multiple train operating companies, a separate rail infrastructure company and at least 3 different regulators, which includes the Department for Transport.

Material wealth underpinned this notion of the individual and the human being was magically transformed into a rational calculating machine free only to make money and consume commodities. This is best illustrated by Adam Curtis’s examination of Nash’s game theory and its employment in the neoliberal project in his documentary, The Trap – What Happened to our Dream of Freedom? (BBC2, 2007). In the film he says that the theory was employed by the West during the Cold War. It produced the so-called theory of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’, which was a sort of ‘who blinks first gets annihilated” game. Nash’s theory also filtered into the sphere of economic thought and resonated with Hayek.  It was posited that human beings are irrational beings that act only in their own self interest and that people need to be given targets to acheive that will eventually become benchmarks. In Hayek’s grand vision there is no room for altuism. There is no alternative (TINA). One of the cornerstones of neoliberalism is its insistence on personal responsibility

Freedom to order our own conduct in the sphere where material circumstances force a choice upon us, and responsibility for the arrangement of our own life according to our own conscience, is the air in which alone moral sense grows and in which moral values are daily recreated in the free decision of the individual. Responsibility, not to a superior, but to one’s own conscience, the awareness of a duty not exacted by compulsion, the necessity to decide which of the things one values are to be sacrificed to others, and to bear the consequences of one’s own decision, are the very essence of any morals which deserve the name.

Nietzsche would question the use of the word “morality” here. He said “morality is the herd instinct of the individual”. Morality is imposed on others by those who dishonestly claim that they have some form of moral authority or a superior framework of morals to the Other.

The Tories were in the electoral wilderness for 13 years. During this time they had 4 leaders, 3 of whom offered little different to the standard Hayekian formula that had been fused with romanticism (Hague’s Save the Pound campaign slogan). The election of David Cameron in 2007 was portrayed as a break with the past. He was a fresh-faced old Etonian with some blue blood in his veins. In spite of his evident poshness, Cameron was immediately compared to Blair but the comparison relied solely on the fact that they were both relatively young when they became party leaders. Blair had no philosophical anchor unless you count Giddens. Indeed Blair claimed to be “beyond ideology”. He was neither right nor left (sic).

There is no such confusion with the Tories, they are right wing. But Cameron

A is A

had to make some kind of break with the past. Hayek was deemed too old fashioned; too closely associated with the Thatcher years. More importantly, they were swept along by the tide of  libertarian thinking in the United States. These libertarians were searching for a new ‘philosopher’ to help them solve the economic mess that they and their associates in the banking and finance sector had got us into. They looked for a new way of justifying their attacks on the poor. So with nary any hesitation, they turned to Ayn Rand.

Last year, I was watching Newsnight, I don’t remember the exact month but they were running an item on Rand. If I remember correctly, Douglas Carswell,  MP for Clacton, whom I had never heard of at the time, came on to talk about her.

That was the first sign of what was to come.

I also noticed that Rand was being talked about more in the quality press. There was talk of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie making a film based on Atlas Shrugs. Pitt and Jolie are self-confessed fans of Rand. There are others too ranging from Oliver Stone to Ronald Reagan. In April of last year, Carswell penned this blog.

Rand ’s ideas are back.  Or more accutrately, Rand’s ideas never went away.  They were simply ignored by that leftist elite that presides over our culture and our institutions.  But now the internet means all those quangocrats, bogus academics and Guardianistas no longer call the cultural shots like they did.

The left are going to hate it.

Not just the left but anyone with a shred of humanity in their soul, Doug. Carswell talks of a “leftist elite” but what is this “leftist elite”?  He assumes that because the UK hasn’t fully embraced the authoritarian libertarianism of Hayek et al, then the country is dominated by these “leftist elites”. To be sure, this is a phrase that Carswell has borrowed from the lexicon of the US Right where Rand is still very big business. Carswell also ignores the fact that his own party, the Conservatives is a party full of elitists – many of them are millionaires and sit in cabinet (there’s 22, count them).

Rand, like Hayek, placed the individual at the centre of her philosophy. The Noble Soul was the habitus for her ideas of rational self-interest or, as I would suggest it be called, rationalized  selfishness. This selfishness was further rationalized as ‘freedom’. For Rand, freedom could only be achieved through unbridled laissez-faire capitalism which she described as “the unknown ideal”.

When I say “capitalism,” I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism—with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

The sudden fetishization and appropriation of Rand’s philosophy by some Conservatives is odd. On the surface, there is little to choose between Hayek and Rand. In both cases, the arguments against collectivized activity by Hayek and altruism by Rand ignore the complexities of human existence which reduces humanity to its most bestial level; an unfeeling lump of flesh that only has the capacity for making money . Emotions, community and family ties, empathy, sympathy and kindness are all erased by Rand. If one should show kindness to another, she would argue, then it is done entirely out of self interest. She does not say why.  Regarding emotions, she wrote,

Emotions are the automatic results of man’s value judgments integrated by his subconscious; emotions are estimates of that which furthers man’s values or threatens them, that which is for him or against him—lightning calculators giving him the sum of his profit or loss.

This is a rather strange rationalization of emotions, which are in themselves, hard to pin down.  What this passage certainly reveals to us is Rand’s coldness. Perhaps it is because she thought of relationship with other people as a means to an end. So cold was she that she rationalized emotions as products in a system of exchange, profit and loss. Her coldness is further revealed in her pronouncements on humour.

Humor is the denial of metaphysical importance to that which you laugh at. The classic example: you see a very snooty, very well dressed dowager walking down the street, and then she slips on a banana peel . . . . What’s funny about it? It’s the contrast of the woman’s pretensions to reality. She acted very grand, but reality undercut it with a plain banana peel. That’s the denial of the metaphysical validity or importance of the pretensions of that woman. Therefore, humor is a destructive element—which is quite all right, but its value and its morality depend on what it is that you are laughing at. If what you are laughing at is the evil in the world (provided that you take it seriously, but occasionally you permit yourself to laugh at it), that’s fine. [To] laugh at that which is good, at heroes, at values, and above all at yourself [is] monstrous . . . . The worst evil that you can do, psychologically, is to laugh at yourself. That means spitting in your own face.

It is arguable that Rand had no sense of humour because it does not figure in the calculus of profit and loss.

Ayn Rand has been portrayed as a philosopher. Her philosophy, which she named Objectivism, has become the template for those who are either unfamiliar with Hayek or have been persuaded to read her fiction because it is supposed to be some sort of rite of passage.  It is possible to argue that Rand was deeply misanthropic, seeing only the potential for making money and rejecting human complexities as an almighty inconveniences – which she categorically ignored. She once said,

Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue.

It is not clear what she means by the word “virtue” but she employs the word in the title of her book The Virtue of Selfishness. When Rand died her followers placed a wreath in the shape of a 6 foot high dollar sign beside her grave. It was an oddly pertinent symbol of her cupidity, though her supporters thought otherwise. Here she declares her selfishness

I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

Other people are simply there for their usefulness. Not because there is any desire for companionship or anything like it. Rand had no use for companions. She had disciples. She was a cult leader.

It is easy to see where phrases like “socialized medicine” come from too,

Socialism may be established by force, as in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—or by vote, as in Nazi (National Socialist) Germany. The degree of socialization may be total, as in Russia—or partial, as in England. Theoretically, the differences are superficial; practically, they are only a matter of time. The basic principle, in all cases, is the same.

The alleged goals of socialism were: the abolition of poverty, the achievement of general prosperity, progress, peace and human brotherhood. The results have been a terrifying failure—terrifying, that is, if one’s motive is men’s welfare.

Of course this presupposes that capitalism has never been responsible for countless deaths, the loss of liberties or the imposition of an authoritarian regimes that were wholly supportive of the idea of unfettered capitalism as a ‘cure’ for all ills. I am thinking here of Pinochet’s Chile.

As this article from Mother Jones suggests, the world of Rand is an upside down one. In an deliberate inversion of logic, Rand’s thesis is that the rich and powerful are the oppressed, while the poor, the vulnerable and the low-waged – whom she labelled “looters” and “moochers” – are the oppressors. It is now easier to recognize the source of the coalition’s policies in relation to those on the lowest income scales. Those who receive state welfare benefits (including those on Disability benefits) have been consistently painted as “scroungers” regardless of their circumstances. The Tory press has been at the forefront of this war against the subaltern classes by printing a drip-feed of stories about “chavs”, “dole cheats” and so on. They have acted as the Conservative Party’s unofficial information service. It is arguable that the only reason the Conservatives have adopted Rand’s philosophy is to legitimate selfishness and greed. Rand’s ideas provide and instant justification to the false premise that the poor and the unemployed are stealing money directly from their pockets through taxation.

A better world is out there.

Bibliography

Duggan, L (2003). The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics and the Attack on Democracy. Boston: Beacon Press

Gilbert, J (2008). Anticapitalism and Culture. Oxford: Berg

Hayek, F. A. (1983). The Road to Serfdom, London: Routledge Kegan Paul

Nietzsche, F (2008). Beyond Good and Evil. Cambridge University Press

Rand, A (1975). The Romantic Manifesto. London: Signet

Rand, A (1964). The Virtue of Selfishness. London: Signet

Filmography

Curtis, A (2003). The Trap – What Happened to our Dream of Freedom? (BBC2)

UPDATE: 30/1/11 @ 0102

Tidied up blog and made some clearer connections

UPDATE: 23/2/11 @ 1957

Made some additions to the text and did some further tidying up.

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