Tag Archives: small state

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.

2 Comments

Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics

The myth of a smaller state.

Right wing libertarians, Tories and the more free-market oriented Lib Dems make me laugh every time they say they want to make the state ‘smaller’; how they want the state to interfere less in the lives of people and how they want to devolve power to the individual. The thing is, they don’t have the guts to dismantle the state.  They are, after all, part of the state. They are statists but they are dishonest about their love for the state. They accept salaries from the state and without the state, they wouldn’t have jobs. There is an obvious cognitive dissonance here.

A smaller state, in the mind of the anarcho-capitalists, Objectivists and other libertarian types,  means no welfare, no public services and so on and would also suggest an explicitly socially Darwinian approach to life that is supported by a hyper-capitalist system in which libertarians are free to exploit others and pollute the planet.  So if you don’t have the money, it’s kind of tough…this is natural selection! If Thatcher’s deregulation of the nationalised industries produced capital flight and the wholesale destruction of Britain’s industrial base, think what a libertarian world might look like.

But a smaller state should also include the wholesale excision of the  other parts of the state, leaving only those parts that Althusser referred to as the “Repressive State Apparatus”. In other words, the police or the military. Yet they’re part of the state and they take up a lot of the state’s budget. Odd how you never hear these soi-disant libertarians (with the possible exception of the Randists and others) talk about reducing war spending – let’s face it, it isn’t defence that we’re talking about here, it’s the capacity for war-making – the very thing that drives the consumer economy and vice versa.

You can’t talk about wanting a smaller state when you take your salary from it. Who is going to pay for you to sit in the Commons? Sandline? Glaxo-SmithKlein? Diageo? Nor can you claim to want a smaller state when you ring fence certain functions of the state like the military or by keeping Trident. Those who call for a smaller state only want to create a system where those who have money can continue to enslave those who don’t have money.

In the States, some right-wing  libertarians talk about wanting a “smaller government” when they actually mean a smaller state. I don’t think the likes of Republicans Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich are anarchists but, at the same time, they aren’t clear in their thinking either: do they really understand what it is they’re actually saying or do they just churn out this rhetoric in order to woo voters over to their ‘vision” of a world where everyone is materially wealthy? You can’t have smaller government, what would those elected politicians do? Sit around playing Mah Jong or strip poker? What would the president do? Play golf all day? The point of electing someone to office is for them to either serve in a government or form the opposition to the elected government. No government means anarchism, is this really what they want? Or is it really the case that their obsession with trickle down economics leads them to use the cover of ‘smaller government’ to justify their wealth-making activities and their continued exploitation of those below them?

I guess there’s an upside to this if you’re one of those ‘self-help gurus’ or ‘motivational speakers’: there will plenty of people practically killing themselves to hand over heir hard-earned wedge to sign up to their empty promise of “I did it and so can you”.  Money for old rope.

Leave a comment

Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics, Ideologies