Tag Archives: Minarchism

Tories, Ayn Rand and Other Things

The current Tory regime – known at Nowhere Towers as the Simulated Thatcher Government (STG) – is fixated with shrinking the state. They don’t even try to deny it. If Thatcher herself “believed” in Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty, then today’s Tory government is inspired by Ayn Rand’s terrible prose. By the way, it’s widely believed that Thatcher hadn’t actually read any Hayek and her knowledge of his ideas were mediated to her by the child abuser, Sir Keith Joseph and former communist, Sir Alfred Sherman.

Four years ago, I spotted, what I’d considered to be, traces of Rand’s ‘philosophy’, “Objectivism”, contained in the 2010 Conservative election manifesto.  Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell (now a UKIP MP) wrote a book called The Plan: Twelve Months To Renew Britain. According to the pair, their book was inspired by Objectivism. They gleefully told their readers that some of their ideas had been adopted by Cameron and co. The book itself offers unsourced graphs and a lot of badly thought out remedies for a series of problems that the authors claim are caused by the state. One stand out line from the book is “the state is running at capacity” (Carswell and Hannan, 2008: 18). Does the state have a capacity? Is there a stated “capacity” for the state or is that just an empty rhetorical device? It’s a curious line to be sure. The Plan is essentially a manifesto for a nightwatchman state. Think of a land with no infrastructure, rampant crime and endemic corruption and you’re halfway there.

Rand’s influence can be heard in the language of government ministers: the insistence on “hard work” and the frequent mention of the somewhat vague concept of the “wealth creator” versus the scroungers and layabouts, resonates with the language in any one of Rand’s turgid novels, which cast the rich as downtrodden heroes and pits them against their nemesis: the moochers and looters – the latter being a shorthand for the enemies of unbridled cupidity. A couple of years ago, Bozza wrote an article for The Torygraph which claimed the rich were an “oppressed minority”.

But there is one minority that I still behold with a benign bewilderment, and that is the very, very rich. I mean people who have so much money they can fly by private jet, and who have gin palaces moored in Puerto Banus, and who give their kids McLaren supercars for their 18th birthdays and scour the pages of the FT’s “How to Spend It” magazine for jewel-encrusted Cartier collars for their dogs.

I am thinking of the type of people who never wear the same shirt twice, even though they shop in Jermyn Street, and who have other people almost everywhere to do their bidding: people to drive their cars and people to pick up their socks and people to rub their temples with eau de cologne and people to bid for the Munch etching at Christie’s.

From this rambling mess it’s possible to deduce that Bozza has at least been exposed to Rand’s trashy philosophy and has internalised its central premise that anyone who doesn’t create “wealth” is a leech. We must slap the rich on the backs, admire the size of their enormous wads and tell them how marvellous they are! What! According to this 2014 Guardian article by Martin Kettle, Sajid Javid (aka Uncle Fester) is also a Rand admirer. Well, blow me down! Peter Hoskin on Conservative Home writes:

Javid explained that this isn’t his favourite movie, but it is the most important to him. He first watched it on television in 1981, aged 12, and even then it struck him as “a film that was articulating what I felt”. From there, he soon read the book, wore out a VHS copy of the film, and brought his enthusiasm for all things Fountainhead with him to university. He even admitted, with a self-deprecating grin, that “I read the courtroom scene to my future wife!”

Uncle Fester’s lack of humanity certainly comes across very strongly in his media appearances, so it comes as no surprise that he would read Rand’s dull prose to his future wife. If I were his other half, I’d be thinking “Why are you reading me this shit? Do you hate me that much”?

The continued destruction of the welfare state; the attacks on the poor and disabled and the emphasis on the slippery concept of “aspiration” are clear examples of Rand’s influence on the STG’s social and economic policies. We can add to this, the compulsion to control all forms of discourse, and their tendency to render all facets of everyday life into neoliberal economisms. This can be seen in the way in which the STG and its allies in the press insist that the main opposition party adheres to the government’s doctrine of presumed fiscal rectitude, thus serving to illustrate not just their desire to shrink the state but to create an authoritarian one-party state as well. Why? Because the Tories despise opposition even if they claim otherwise. If they must deal with an opposition, it is better to deal with one that goes on the defensive every time false accusations are levelled at them.

If the Labour leadership’s rhetoric and policy positions look little different to those of the government, then you’re not really being offered a proper choice at the ballot box. You’re being offered a choice between Coke and Pepsi. Life’s a bitch. Now shut up and eat your shit sandwich.

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Right wing nutter in spittle-laced rage over opposition to his vanity project

In today’s Telegraph, the Hon Tobes  produces a wonderful piece of sensationalist drivel. In a piece of blatant trolling, he titles his blog “Left wing nutters go bonkers over West London Free School”.  The subject of his spittle-laced outrage is the Local Schools Network, whom he decides to smear and not engage in a serious discussion.  Tobes says,

Meanwhile, someone called Ken Muller has circulated a letter this afternoon to various national newspapers in which he falsely accuses me of being a homophobe. His “evidence” for this is a piece I wrote for the Spectator the week before last – odd that he didn’t notice it until now – in which I teased the Chair of Governors at Stoke Newington School, one Henry Stewart, for writing a lachrymose piece on the Local Schools Network about how touching it was to see the school’s 12-13-year-olds celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Week. It was so over-the-top – such a classic example of political correctness – I thought it read like a parody written by a brilliant Right-wing satirist. The gag in my Spectator piece is that I pretended it had been written by the Education Secretary himself.

Let’s have a look at that Spectator piece. Here’s the opening paragraph,

You have to take your hat off to Michael Gove. In spite of the Herculean task he has saddled himself with — saving the state education system of this country — he has managed to find time to produce a brilliant piece of satire. I’m referring to a blog on the Local Schools Network entitled ‘Celebrating diversity at Stoke Newington School’.

“Saving the state education system”? How is he doing that, Tobes? By creating more class divisions within the education system? Someone’s logic is flawed. Let’s read on,

The Local Schools Network is a website that exists primarily to disseminate smears and lies about free schools. It boasts the patronage of Fiona Millar and Melissa Benn, but by far its most energetic contributor is Francis Gilbert, a media studies teacher in Bethnal Green. Gilbert has devoted himself, body and soul, to frustrating the efforts of parents and teachers to set up schools.

Ah, so the Local Schools Network exists solely to give you and Gove a hard time? It is interesting how Hon Tobes doesn’t tell us exactly what he means by “smears and lies”. Presumably criticisms of Gove’s education policy and Tobes’s frothing-at-the-mouth zealotry is “smears and lies”? Someone is being paranoid.

There’s more

Last week, a post appeared on the site that purported to be by someone called ‘Henry Stewart’, but I’m almost certain this is a pseudonym. The real author, I’m convinced, is none other than the Secretary of State for Education. His aim, clearly, is to point up the extent to which state education has been hijacked by the loony left.

What’s he saying here? That Gove is sockpuppeting? It’s entirely possible but unlikely. Tobes falls back on his beloved 80’s phrase “loony left”. Remember, this is a man who lives in the past. His aim is to create a school that offers a “classical liberal” education.

After a little trolling on the Local Schools Network site, he tells us that,

Satire is supposed to cut like a scalpel, not a butcher’s knife. This is too over the top to be effective. All I can say, dear reader, is that you are clearly unfamiliar with the crazy excesses of contemporary state education. Believe me, it is all too plausible.

This is the classic defence of one who uses ‘humour’ as a fig-leaf to cover his inherent prejudices and class disgust.  It’s a little like the old defence offered by the tellers of racist jokes in the 1960s and 1970s “It’s a joke. What’s the matter? Can’t you take a joke”? It’s the Jim Davidson defence. In other words, it isn’t much of a defence.

Anyway, back to the Tobes’s blog,

It really is quite extraordinary that anyone who questions the wisdom of asking young children to spend their time in school celebrating “LGBT Week” should immediately be branded “evil”. I yield to no one in my support for minority rights – and have written several articles on this site attacking various Islamic countries for failing to uphold them. As a classical liberal who regards J.S. Mill’s On Liberty as something close to a sacred text, I would defend everyone’s right to pursue their own happiness in their own way provided it doesn’t impinge on the rights of others to pursue theirs.

There are a couple of things here. First, we see that Young only regards minority rights as viewed through the prism of a hated Other. The Other, in this case, being so-called “Islamic” countries (that, in itself is revealing). Second, he offers J S Mill’s On Liberty as a “sacred text”.  While there is much to applaud Mill for, it is likely that there is a degree of selectivity involved. We see here  someone who is a tireless defender of rights but only insofar as those folk who share his ideas on  Enlightenment-inspired wisdom.

Here’s the rest of the paragraph,

Indeed, it’s because I believe that the state’s role in people’s lives should be kept to an absolute minimum that I support free schools – and, indeed, greater freedom for all schools.

Minarchist drivel; this is merely a justification for furthering and deepening class divisions.  The “the state should stay out of people’s lives” has been used by the ruling class to support their narrative of liberty. What they refuse to tell us, is how this liberty is likely enslave those who are not members of the same class. Was the 19th century factory or mill worker free? No. And those who were forced to go to the workhouses? No. Someone hasn’t read and understood their history.

The Victorian era is viewed with nostalgia by many Tories. For them, it was a golden age when people knew their place and the rich could get on with the business of exploiting the poor. On his website in 2007, Gove said,

For some of us Victorian costume dramas are not merely agreeable ways to while away Sunday evening but enactments of our inner fantasies.

The title to his blog is most revealing and offers an insight into the workings of the Tory mind. But there is a problematic in this romanticized view of the past: it ignores historical materialism for the sake of ideology. Nostalgia, as I have always said, is history with all the bad bits removed. The grinding poverty, high rates of infant mortality, high rates of maternal deaths resulting from childbirth, rampant disease, superstition, Social Darwinism and ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor are all conveniently forgotten aspects of the Victorian era.

In their rose-tinted yearning for the past, the Tories have failed to grasp one salient fact: they did poorly at the ballot box for much of the 19th century. The party that dominated most the of the late Victorian era was Gladstone’s Liberals. It was only when Disraeli embraced social reforms did the party’s fortunes change. Young and Gove would do well to remember that.

This Guardian article by Timothy Stanley sums it up. He says,

And this is a subtle point that government Victoriaphiles miss about our public services: the welfare state was the 20th century’s answer to the social problems created in the 19th. Owen and Rowntree started out as private philanthropists, but they dreamed that one day free schools and hospitals funded by taxation would become national policy. The 19th century closed with the birth of the Labour party – the political summation of the era’s reforming spirit. The Victorian revolution enriched and enfranchised the people and what did they do with their newfound money and power? They built the very welfare state the government is now intent on dismantling.

I’ve actually read Francis Gilbert’s blog on the LSN site and I have to say that Tobes has bitten off more than he can chew – which is why he wrote a load of drivel in response. Therefore, I would like to offer Hon Tobes a piece of advice. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen – as the hoary auld cliché goes.

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Filed under Education, Journalism, Media, propaganda, social engineering, Society & culture