Tag Archives: sophistry

The Problem With Matthew Goodwin

Politics expert Matthew Goodwin eats his book live on Sky News ...

You may have seen Professor Matthew Goodwin (above eating pages from his book) on television or heard him speak on the radio. Perhaps you may have read his tweets or articles on the internet. Goodwin, professor of Politics at the University of Kent, is one of the media’s go-to experts on all issues political, including citizenship, nationality and identity, and the discourses which stem from those issues.

That Prof. Goodwin is an expert in his field isn’t in doubt. He’s a visiting fellow at Chatham House, after all. According to their website, his…

…work focuses on British and European politics, extremism, immigration and Euroscepticism.

So far, so good.

He’s a pretty telegenic fellow, who always appears so plausible, even on controversial issues like race and racism. It is on these issues that the Cat takes issue with the Prof.

Since the brutal killing of George Floyd, captured on camera and sent around the world in a split second, the United States and the rest of the world has been outraged by what they see as, not just a simple clear-cut case of police brutality on an unarmed civilian, but yet another example of the systemic racism that’s stained civil society in the USA for centuries. Such matters don’t appear to have concerned the Prof, who believes that, even in the UK, racism is, apparently, on a downward spiral to its imminent demise. What’s more, he says he has the statistics to support his claim, but all is not what it seems.

A few days ago, I found this tweet, which asserts:

The first sentence of his tweet uses the terrible construction “woke-ism”, which is utilised as a linguistic weapon to diminish the demands for justice following the killing of George Floyd. The tone has been set and the tweet follows the, by now, familiar pattern of Goodwin’s “racial” tweets. The discourse behind this tweet is unequivocal: he neither approves of Black Lives Matters, nor does he approve the removal of controversial memorials to slavers. However, he patently lacks the courage to say so directly, and instead, conceals himself beneath a carpet of numbers.

Given his Goodwin’s fondness for surveys, I thought that I’d have a look and see for myself the reasons for his jubilation. I found that the YouGov survey that he links to doesn’t provide a breakdown of which social groups – that is to say, ethnicities, rather than the usual demographics (age, gender, region and so on) – were surveyed. For all we know, YouGov could have polled an entirely white cohort of respondents. The questions themselves are also problematic, because they appear to steer the respondent towards the “correct” reply. The relevant questions appear as part of what’s called an omnibus survey in the polling business. I previously discussed the problems with polling companies in this 2016 article.

That Goodwin seizes on this survey, which was commissioned by The S*n on Sunday, a Murdoch paper with a poor reputation on matters of race and equality, with such unabashed glee, reveals more about him and his motives than he actually realises.

Goodwin always seems at pains to dismiss the level of racism in Britain. The question is why does he seem so eager to diminish the actual experience of, not just people of colour, but the experiences of other minority groups, like Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, whom Goodwin appears to have ignored in his analysis.

Last August, Goodwin tweeted the following with an accompanying graph, which is itself flaunted like a magic amulet to ward off awkward questions about the integrity of his claims.

In January, he was questioned about his use of statistics by Dr Christine Cheng. Goodwin was pretty dismissive.

For a man with probably no direct experience of racism, Goodwin tells Dr Cheng, a woman who has probably experienced racism firsthand, that he would be happy to ‘debate racism’ with her. I find that, not just insulting, but patronising as well. His reply is unbelievably smug and condescending, but it’s mixed with a cold and clinical detachment of the subject of racism, which is in his claim that “evidence” points to a ‘long-term decline in racial prejudice’. Perhaps, he’d like to present his “evidence” to the victims of racially-aggravated assaults, like K, in Bristol, who was hit by a car carrying three white youths, who shouted racist epithets as they fled the scene.

Then, there’s the story of a black family who came home to find a swastika daubed on their front door. There are plenty more examples, here, here and here. Today, a Black senior civil servant was accused by police of car theft while out jogging. She was clearly profiled. Yet, Goodwin ignores the real life experiences, like these, of everyday racism to advance a pretty shaky thesis of racism-in-retreat. He’s not interested in people’s stories; he only wants spreadsheets and statistics. He’s a political scientist, and perhaps he sees himself as a “real” scientist in relation to those effete social scientists. Yet, as any social science and humanities researcher will tell you, numbers don’t tell the whole story, but Goodwin thinks otherwise. Political Science and its allied fields are just as much as social science as Sociology or Anthropology. It is therefore not as pure (sic) a science as some of its adherents may claim.

Unsurprisingly, Goodwin has also written for the contrarian website, Spiked. In this article, he plugs his book, co-authored with Roger Eatwell, which seeks to explain the rise of so-called “populism” (read neo-fascism). Daniel Trilling does an excellent job at taking apart their claims in this article for the London Review of Books, as does Martin Shaw in this article for Politics.co.uk.

One of Eatwell and Goodwin’s key moves is to define ‘racism’ so narrowly that the populists mostly escape. It should be confined, they say, “to the erroneous and dangerous belief that the world is divided into hierarchically ordered races, to anti-Semitism which plays more on conspiracy theory, and to violence and aggressive attitudes towards others based on their ethnicity”. But that’s it. “Where the disparagement and fear of different cultural groups is not linked to this form of systematic thinking” they prefer the term ‘xenophobia’.

Goodwin, in common with his associates in the Continuity Revolutionary Communist Party (CRCP), refuses to acknowledge the existence of structural and institutional forms of racism. Unsurprisingly, he’s pleased at Boris Johnson’s appointment of CRCP alumna, Munira Mirza, to head the government’s racial inequality commission.

The smugness, the arrogance, the boastful claims, the dismissal of critical race theory as a purely emotional pursuit. This kind of discourse is as deeply unpleasant as it is worrying.

In this tweet, he claims to be above ideology, and appears to suggest that research can be conducted in an ideological vacuum and yet, if you look at his tweets and articles, there is a discourse there. I saw this kind of thing nearly 20 years ago on US internet forums, like Delphi Forums, which are populated by right-wing zealots, many of whom claimed to be “above ideology”.

So where does Goodwin really stand politically? He’s never one to declare, upfront, his political biases. Perhaps, he believes he’s above such things or that he’s truly objective and unbiased. But no one is free of bias or discourse. Maybe this article on the right-wing site UnHerd can shed some light. Goodwin reports on a recent Policy Studies (there are significant links between them and the Continuity RCP) report that claims universities “shut out” conservative academics. Here’s an excerpt from Goodwin’s article.

Fast forward to today, however, and you do not need to look hard to find a growing sense of public alarm about how these ancient and much-cherished freedoms are under serious threat. This concern over the surveillance of speech, the dismissal of controversial or problematic speakers and anxieties over a new “cancel culture” perhaps explain why, only last week, one of Britain’s leading pollsters found that nearly one in every two of us believe that “people these days are less free to say what they think”.

But most worrying of all is how these freedoms seem to be under attack in the one place where people are supposed to feel completely free to say what they think: higher education. Universities, in theory at least, are meant to be the purest example of the marketplace of ideas — institutions where we debate and discuss the pursuit of truth from different perspectives and where, along the way, we develop well-rounded, critical thinkers who go on to become the leaders of tomorrow.

But something, somewhere has gone fundamentally wrong. At least that’s the conclusion one draws after reading an important new Policy Exchange report, Academic Freedom in the UK: Protecting Viewpoint Diversity, co-authored by Remi Adekoya, Eric Kaufmann and Thomas Simpson. It paints a depressing picture of what is unfolding in our universities. Based on the largest survey of academics that has been carried out in years, it suggests that many of our higher education institutions are failing to protect and promote the “viewpoint diversity” that has long been one of their core strengths.

In recent years British universities have drifted way to the Left. Three-quarters of academics who were surveyed support Left-wing parties; fewer than one in five support parties of the Right. Just 9% of academics in the social sciences and humanities voted to Leave the European Union and just 7% identify as “right of centre”. It also points to how those who do deviate from the orthodoxy experience a tough time. Only 54%of academics would feel comfortable sitting next to a Leave supporter over lunch, and just 37% would feel comfortable sitting next to somebody who holds gender-critical views.

If British universities have “drifted way to the Left”, then I haven’t noticed it. What I’ve actually witnessed is the way in which universities have been corporatized and subjected to market logic, and have come under increased attack from the Right, which sees them as hotbeds of leftist plots to overthrow “civilization”. Jonathan Portes of Kings College London has written an excellent riposte to Goodwin’s screed here.

This notion that universities subject students to “left-wing indoctrination” is a charge which has been levelled at them for decades, and has recently gained more traction in the right-wing media. More recently, campus “free speech” has been taken up as a cause by the likes of Spiked, who claim, inter alia, that “free speech” is being “no platformed” at universities. Indeed, it is easy to dismiss such claims by simply stating that universities are places of discussion, argumentation, analysis and debate; they are not schools, nor should they be regarded as such.

Let’s return to Goodwin’s fondness for cold statistics. It’s fairly obvious to anyone who’s conducted academic research that there are significant drawbacks to relying solely on quantitative methodologies to make determinations of how society sees itself. Perhaps this is the reason why Goodwin cleaves so tightly to numbers: because he believes they’re impersonal and sees them as inherently “unbiased” or “scientific” and are thus beyond criticism. Not true. Although, the collection and analysis of data is much quicker than with qualitative methods, the drawbacks of quantitative methods are straightforward.

  • Numbers alone cannot provide a complete picture.
  • Superficiality
  • It’s difficult to set up a workable research model
  • Can be misleading

By contrast, qualitative research often takes more time and effort to set up. There are question frames to produce, potential interviewees to be identified, interviews to be transcribed and the data has to be analyzed and interpreted. Thus, the data produced is richer than by utilising pure quantitative methodologies. Quantitative research may ask questions, but its aim is to produce raw data in the form of statistics, which are then analyzed and their meaning extrapolated. The only way in which views of whether Britain is racist can be more accurately measured is through the use of a mixed methodology. Surveys, like those produced by polling companies such as YouGov tell us nothing. They are at best a distorted snapshot riven with bias and the commissioner’s ideological intent. Hence their enduring appeal with mental onanists and petty point-scorers alike.

The BBC Radio 4 programme, More or Less, debunks the way in which statistics and numbers are used and misused in politics and in everyday life. It opens with the phrase “numbers aren’t neutral”. Goodwin et al would be wise to tune in.

4 Comments

Filed under Society & culture

Let’s Talk About: Economic Growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannan continues his fantasy tour of his romanticized past:

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

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

Here, Hannan slaps more gloss onto his fantasy.

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

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

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

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

This is perhaps the greatest fallacy of all:

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

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

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

1 Comment

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

Eastleigh, UKIP and the Tories

The Eastleigh by-election has been and gone. The Lib Dems won, UKIP came second and the Tories were pushed into third place. Labour came a distant fourth.

As is the case with by-elections, the nation’s leading psephologists and political cognoscenti will attempt to divine meaning from the election result.

Naturally, Dan Hannan paints this as a straightforward contest between Europhobes and Europhiles.   The blog title says it all.

The Eurosceptic Right wins more than half the vote, the Europhile Left gets in with less than a third

Sophistry. That’s understandable.  But remember that Hannan  sits in the Euro Parliament as an MEP for the Conservative Party but who often makes noises that wouldn’t be out of place in UKIP. He’s previously spoken of how the Tories should make some kind of accommodation with this far-right party. He tells us,

It was precisely because I was worried about such an outcome that I suggested a Conservative/Ukip accomodation a year ago. I had hoped that my party might settle then from a position of relative strength, but the idea didn’t take off. All those clever chaps who do polls for the Tories said that I was being absurd, that UKIP wouldn’t get into double figures, that it was best ignored. Now, the problem is on the other side: for many Ukip supporters, the party has become an end in itself rather than a vehicle to deliver policies, and there is a possibility that, in a paradox of cosmic proportions, Ukip might be the reason that there is no parliamentary majority to deliver an In/Out referendum.

The thought of a Labour politician proposing an alliance with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1983 would have been considered heresy. Nonetheless, Nu Labour did a pretty good impression of the SDP for the better part of 13 years. For example, Adair Turner, a former SDP bod, slotted in quite comfortably with Tony Blair’s new model regime.The SDP, in effect, dragged the Labour Party to the Right. UKIP will drag the Conservative Party even further to the Right than it is already. The Tories are clearly nervous.

But that’s another matter…

What matters is that the results weren’t good for the Tories and the Lib Dems can breathe slightly easier. Their share of the vote was down 14.44%, the Tories’ share dropped by 13.99%, while Labour’s share went up by 0.22%. Wow. But it was UKIP who scored big even though they came second.

But Hannan’s point that the Eurosceptic Right has “triumphed” is based on the presumption that the party, to which he professes to be a member, is united over the issue of the EU. We know that isn’t true. It is entirely possible that, in time, some Tories may flake off and join the Kippers because of their disgust over the vote on equal marriage and what they perceive as Cameron’s ‘leftism’.

One question though…

Where’s the left revival?

TUSC did shamefully again. A pity. But this is Eastleigh, a conurbation in the South of England. Hampshire, to be precise. It used to vote Tory in General Elections, then it swung to the Lib Dems in… would you believe it? A by-election? Eastleigh, we can safely say, is somewhat middle class and conservative in its electoral habits.  But Eastleigh is also a railway town, so what happened to the working class vote? Did it shift en masse to UKIP? If so, why? UKIP offers nothing to working class voters. They use dog whistle words to coax out the reactionary feelings among voters. “Do you hate immigrants? So do we”!

Perhaps a look at the composition of the borough council will help us. There are 40 Lib Dem councillors to the Tories 4. Labour doesn’t have a single seat on the council. Since 2004, the Labour Party has gone from having 4 councillors to none. Was it ever possible for Labour or, indeed, a left-wing party to do well here? Probably not. That said, my borough council is under the control of the Tories but the local MP is Labour, so perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into that.

There’s no doubt that UKIP’s increased share of the vote has emboldened them. It now allows them to spuriously claim that the “majority” of British voters support their xenophobic, hate-filled, anti-intellectual agenda. Some have said that UKIP is the BNP in suits. There is some truth in this.  Many of the party’s leading figures have been members of the BNP, the National Front and the New Britain Party. But I would also suggest that there’s a closer connection between UKIP and the Conservative Monday Club. Indeed in 2009, Farage addressed a Monday Club meeting. At one time there were even serious suggestions of a merger between UKIP and the  Monday Club.

UKIP describe themselves as a mainstream political party, but they are only mainstream in the sense that they’re attempting to legitimize far-right political discourses and insert them into mainstream discourse. You will often see their members leaving comments on articles and blogs that contain phrases like “racism doesn’t exist” and “racism is a left-wing invention”.

UKIP, like Hannan, their Tory party champion, finds it difficult to be honest and will rewrite definitions to suit their narratives. For example, they share with Hannan the belief that the BNP has “socialist policies”. But they go further: they claim that members of the BNP have joined Labour as this commenter on Alex Andreou’s New Statesman blog claims,

HJ777  Buzz Bumble • 19 days ago

There has been a surprising amount of to-ing and fro-ing between the Labour Party and the BNP. Many of the BNP’s policies are distinctly socialist, which may explain it.

Perhaps it would be better if Labour did have a ban on ex-BNP members joining?

I don’t accuse the Labour party of being racist because of this. It isn’t. That doesn’t mean that a quite a few of its members aren’t. Unfortunately, this is true of all parties.

It’s an attempt to smear the Labour Party and also claim some distance between themselves and their ideological relatives.

Today, Cameron claimed that the Tories would not lurch further to the Right because of UKIP’s good-ish fortune. In a moment reminiscent of Tony Blair, he told the Sunday Telegraph,

“It’s not about being Left-wing or Right-wing – it’s about being where the British people are.

The Tories are already further to the Right than they like to tell us. Their policies on welfare, disability and housing marks them out as a far-right party and as if to prove this is the case, Chris Grayling repeated the call to repeal the Human Rights Act. Remember, like UKIP, the Tories also like to claim that they’re ‘libertarian’.

Dan Hannan may be in denial about where his allegiances lie but according to this article from “London Loves Business”, former Tory, Roger Helmer urged Hannan to join UKIP.

Presented with the example of renowned maverick Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, Helmer responded: “The big question is to ask Dan Hannan what he’s doing because he’s completely out of sympathy with Conservative policy, but he must speak for himself.”

The article also says,

A UKIP spokesman told LondonlovesBusiness.com that Hannan was “definitely an able and bright MEP who is clearly sympathetic to our views”.

“If he did come along and want to talk to us, what’s wrong with that?” she added.

LondonlovesBusiness.com contacted Hannan’s office but no-one was available for comment.

Hannan would deny it, but he is on the far-right and like many of his fellow travellers, he deflects attention from his position by regularly asserting that the BNP is not a far-right party but a “far-left party”. This assertion is not supported by evidence but then, those on the Right don’t like evidence much because it exposes their arguments for what they are: narratives.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2013 Eastleigh by-election, Conservative Party, Government & politics, UKIP

More on the Liberty League

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POSTSCRIPT

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

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

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

Bingo!

2 Comments

Filed under economic illiteracy, Economics, laissez faire capitalism, neoliberalism, Political parties, Spiv capitalism, Think Tanks