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LeftishBrit

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Gender: Female
Hometown: Oxford
Home country: England
Member since: Thu Jun 24, 2004, 07:32 AM
Number of posts: 31,736

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I think the real issue is...

that many right-wingers spread the view that civil libertarianism and economic libertarianism go together. As one of their sayings goes, 'the freer the markets, the freer the people'.

In the UK in the past, the two were not equated, and indeed different terms were used. 'Libertarianism' generally meant 'civil libertarianism' and economic libertarianism was called 'laissez faire economics'. But with increasing collaboration between British and American right-wingers, the term libertarian is now used in the same way here.

The danger of that is that right-wingers can use it as propaganda to persuade people that 'free market' right-wing economic policies are essential for people's freedom. And this can have negative effects at all levels. Centrists and even centre-leftists may be persuaded that it is possible and desirable to be 'socially liberal but economically conservative' - in fact, this is not even IMO truly possible, let alone desirable, as the threat of destitution is just as coercive as the threat of legal punishment. Anti-establishment leftists may be persuaded that collaboration with anti-establishment right-libertarians is acceptable. Etc. More generally speaking, even people who are not highly political can be affected by the discourse. In the UK, surveys suggest that younger adults are more socially liberal than their elders, but are more right-wing and anti-welfare-state economically - the propaganda seems to have had some effect.

In my view, social and economic progressivism; civil liberties and the social safety net; are really indivisible, and the attempts on the right to divide them have been very pernicious.

In the UK, a lot of the obsession with 'official secrets' and anti-civil-libertarian policies such as the 'sus laws' actually began or worsened under the free-marketeering Thatcher government.

Civil libertarianism is great and has been undermined too much. Economic libertarianism is not and has been promoted too much.

And the real danger of Republicans and other right-wingers calling themselves 'libertarians' is that it's a way of persuading some people that economic right-wing policies are necessary for our freedom.

ETA: Being an economic libertarian or even a Republican or Thatcherite is very regrettable, but is not a criminal offence or an aggravating circumstance in criminal law. The fact that a whistleblower is a libertarian or Paul supporter is a good reason for voting against them if they stand for political office, but does not justify putting them in prison. And I have been arguing vehemently on this board since at least 2007 against right-libertarianism and any political collaboration of lefties with right-libertarians!

I think it goes even beyond the attractiveness of Labour or any particular party...

Part of the problem is that a large number of policymakers, politicians, journalists, and sadly, as a result of all this, members of the public, have swallowed the idea that the public sector is inferior to the private sector at best, totally unnecessary at worst. There has always been a bit of this, especially perhaps as regards education where Private is often automatically seen as Better, but it's become much worse in recent years.

What is needed is people prepared to support the public sector robustly; to take the attitude that the provision of public services is a Good Thing, and that if there are problem with public services, they should be corrected and improved, not de-funded or privatized.

Even in the Labour Party, at least the New part of it, there is a tendency to be somewhat ashamed of the public sector, and to treat it as a weakness, rather than one of our country's great strengths. (And of course such an attitude inevitably means that the public sector will not work as well, thus leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy). New Labour too often act as though the public sector is a necessary evil, while the Tories act as though it were an unnecessary evil.

Personally, even if I had no ideological leanings in that direction, my experiences have convinced me that private organizations, e.g. banks and businesses, are often more confused, inefficient, and generally of worse value than even indifferent public services. I am the proud denizen of one of the worst county councils in the country IMO; nevertheless, the well-reputed firms that I've dealt with have generally been no better than county services, and the average ones have generally been worse.

Which leads back into another of the current problems. There is a popular attitude, both in the public and the private sectors, that the problem with most organizations is 'overmanning'; that there are loads of people being paid just to sit on their bums and drink tea; and that reducing staff as much as possible will make services more 'efficient'. Maybe overmanning was a problem in some areas in the past; I don't know. But nowadays it's just the opposite. Most organizations are understaffed, which may cut immediate costs, but makes them much LESS efficient for the consumer- and no, computers can never quite compensate

+1000

She may be dead, but her policies are sadly very much alive.

As I posted in the UK forum, with many apologies to Alfred Hayes and the subject of his song, Joe Hill, neither of whom would have cared for Thatcher!:


I dreamt that Thatcher stood right here,
Alive as you and me.
I said, ‘I heard that you were dead!’
‘I never died’, said she.

‘As Osborne cuts the welfare state
And cuts rich people’s tax.
As Hunt sells off the NHS,
You see me with my axe!

Whenever you reward success
By punishing the poor;
When Duncan-Smith strikes at the sick,
You see me even more!

In Cyprus, Greece and Portugal,
In Europe far and wide,
Poor people groan beneath the cuts.
You see I haven’t died!

Obama once had liberal plans.
The Congress told him, ‘No!’
So old age pensions must go down!;
You see – I’ll never go!

From Blair and Bush to Cameron;
From London to D.C.;
Where governments still crush the poor,
You’ll there find Maggie T.!’

Attlee versus Thatcher: We need to pick better heroes.

'The selection of our heroes says more about us than it does the men and women of our history books. Clement Attlee was the reserved, collegiate Prime Minister who brought us the Post War consensus. Margaret Thatcher was the bullish, one woman army Prime Minister who brought us the neoliberal consensus. The latter is in the process of elevation to level of deity, the former all but forgotten....

On the death of Thatcher in April this year, Parliament was recalled and twelve hours of tributes were delivered in the House of Commons and House of Lords. Today was the day of her state funeral in all but name. The funeral received full military honours and was attended by the great and the good from around the world, with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh playing their role in the deification.

On his death of Attlee in October 1967, parliament was not recalled. Instead a few small tributes were made in Parliament a fortnight later, with this small column in the Guardian at the time to attest to it. His family held a small funeral and his ashes were quietly interred in Westminster Abbey. A humble end for a humble man....


...We need to pick better heroes. We must not allow ourselves to fall into a state of national mourning which not only deifies the woman, but elevates her consensus above its human value. The abandonment of the Post War consensus has cost Britain dearly. We are a less equal, less compassionate, more inward looking nation for it.

(Much more at link):

http://scriptonitedaily.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/attlee-versus-thatcher-we-need-to-pick-better-heroes/

Well...

this may be. However, I am somewhat sceptical. Admittedly, I am biased, because I do consider that the willingness to care for and help people who are in need is one of the most important moral virtues in the world (second only to avoiding active harm to others); and the attitude that perhaps upsets me the most is ideological harshness toward vulnerable people; the idea that people ought to be forced to 'stand on their own feet'; that there is a large number of 'undeserving poor'; and that denying them help is a moral good. Fundamentally, I do not so much disapprove of such harshness because I'm a left-winger; I am a left-winger because I disapprove of such harshness.

Of course, I am to some extent accepting the right-wing framing of the argument, by even using the term 'vulnerable people'. The world is not divided into the vulnerable and the invulnerable. Everybody is vulnerable at certain times and on certain issues. Everybody needs help at times. Some people need it more often than others, and/or have fewer resources. But the issue is not one of being charitable to some specific group of the Truly Vulnerable, but of acknowledging that everyone needs help sometimes, and that helping people is a good thing, not a bad thing. In particular, the current Right are inclined to regard the need for government benefits as some form of addiction from which people should be required to go 'cold turkey' (I;ve seen this metaphor used explicitly), rather than as a consequence of unemployment which in its turn is usually due to a reduction in the number of jobs.

Now: there are two issues here. One is whether people who are poor or disabled or ill or unemployed or in a vulnerable position (e.g. currently those affected by the storms) should be helped or whether in most cases it is a moral good to treat them harshly. The other is whether the government is the best source of help. I disagree strongly with people who think that private enterprise is usually better than government in providing help and services - even if I had no previous ideological tendencies that way, my experience has shown me that private enterprise is often very inefficient compared even with indifferent government services - and charitable organizations are great but rarely sufficient. But I do not have the same moral condemnation for people who consider government intrinsically inefficient in providing services, or even who are paranoid about government, as I do for those who think that so-called 'tough love' is good for people in a vulnerable position, and/or that they should be automatically suspected of being fraudulent or undeserving.

In my opinion, anyone who considers that the Right 'offer the most satisfying moral cuisine' either does not really know what the Right proposes; is influenced by paranoia e.g. about government wanting to herd them into death camps, etc.; or, if they really consider the Right's harsh philosophy as in line with theirs, is corrupted by true evil.

To be fair: not everyone who takes a harsh attitude to people in need of help is right-wing, and vice versa. The nastiest person whom I knew personally, who seemed actively to enjoy creating problems for people in vulnerable positions, especially those with illnesses or disabilities, was in fact generally a left-wing voter. But the two do go together more than would be expected by chance.

FWIW, I'm not sure this actually means that Boris will get real power when it comes to it

Boris, Nick Clegg and George Galloway - strange people to mention in the same breath? Or maybe not. All of them have traded on British frustration with the status quo and the existing establishment. 'Cleggmania', which did not even survive to the election, was based on the desire for something new and untainted. Galloway won his elections due to frustration with post-Blair mainstream Labour leadership. Boris, too, reflects a desire for something different and more straightforward. Ironically, all of these people are probably even less straightforward, and more pandering, manipulative and weathercock-ish, than the average politician.

At present, Boris can play to both sides: as Mayor of London, he has been on the whole to the left of the average current Tory, as this is the only way that a Tory can be elected in London; simultaneously, he has been playing for the support of the Tory Right who are frustrated with Cameron and his supposed concessions to the LibDems. But he cannot do both forever. Sooner or later, he will be be forced to choose between the Nadine Dorries Right and apolitical or swing-vote Londoners, or his failure to choose will become clear - and his popularity will go down.

Yes, yes, that awful word rings in my ear: 'Romney'. Replace the word 'Boris' with 'Mitt' and 'London' with 'Massachusetts', and much of the last paragraph would remain applicable. And there is still a chance that Romney will get to be president, though I bloody hope not. But I think it's a bit different: Romney was never able to trade like Boris on being something new and straightforward and personally lovable and out of 'politics as usual'. I think that once Boris has to deal with the realities of trying to become a party leader, much of this will collapse. Who knows - I didn't think he'd be Mayor of London either - but I think he will not make it to be a successful party leader or Prime Minister.

Clegg and Galloway both ended up ruining their own political parties - let's hope that Boris might do the same to his!!!


But more generally one does worry about celebrity-worship and the cult of Personality rather than even real personality, and what this is doing to our electoral system. In 1945 the British were faced with a crucial choice between a heroic, charismatic individual who had led his country to military victory, and a taciturn, not specially charismatic individual who just happened to be the best person for the purpose of peacetime leadership at that time. The fact that our grandparents chose Attlee over Churchill made a huge difference to the future of this country. Would Britain make the same choice now? I fear not. Actually many probably wouldn't choose Churchill either nowadays: too old and not handsome enough. Some good-looking youngish twit might have been faced with the task of defeating Hitler, and the question of postwar reforms might never even have arisen, so to speak.....

This is a cliche, and one that is only partially correct

It is true that people could do more to protest and rebel than they (we) do; but this is oversimplification. I'm not a believer in 'national character'. I'm a believer in policies and circumstances and strategies. A lot of the problem started with Thatcher. Not that things were ever perfect; but Thatcher turned things into something much worse than it had been. And on the way, she weakened the unions so badly as to make it much more difficult to rebel. (Of course that's largely why she did it.) In the process of so doing, she also badly weakened British industry, leading to greater dependence on the financial industry. And the effects have continued. Did the Brits have themselves to blame for voting for Thatcher and accepting her outlook? - yes, certainly. But that is done, and the question is where to go from here.

Then enter globalism. Many of the people who run British institutions are not British (including both Murdoch and Diamond). Many who are British by birth and citizenship choose not to live in Britain (including several tax-haven-dwelling media bosses). My view is that if you are going to have substantial media and business power in the UK, you should be a voting, taxpaying citizen of the UK. You could not be a Cabinet minister if you weren't a British citizen, or lived outside the UK - though Blair would obviously have liked to be an exception to this! - and similarly you should not own a British newspaper or bank if you aren't a resident citizen.

So we're in a mess. But I am not sure that we are more 'apathetic' than many other places. Voting turnout, though down on the past, is still considerably higher in general elections than it is in the USA or many other places where voting isn't compulsory. There have been more protests, demos, strikes, etc in the last couple of years than I remember for a long time; and more, I think, than there were in Thatcher'' times except for the directly affected industries (at any rate until the poll tax proved the last straw). And most places, where there have been massive protests and revolts, have been places where people REALLY had been brought to the edge in ways that we haven't yet here. In those Europaean countries where extremes of austerity have been imposed; and in countries where modern communication technology has now made it possible to resist extreme tyranny. And in many cases, the revolts were not successful or the jury is still out. The miners and steelworkers lost, and Britain lost much with them. Greece has not as yet thrown off austerity. The states of the Arab spring may yet find that they are 'meeting the new boss, same as the old boss'. This is NOT an argument or excuse against protesting! Protest is key to a healthy democracy, and this government badly needs as much protest as possible. It is simply saying that one should first and foremost blame the perpetrators of evil, not their victims who didn't rebel quite enough - just as one should blame the school bully, not the victims who didn't fight back enough.




One of my own favourites...

was Maggie Thatcher calling the poll tax that she was trying to introduce (and which proved her downfall) 'the community charge'. As someone pointed out, that sounded like something that an angry herd of elephants might do.

More recently:

'Welfare/benefit dependency' = unemployment.

'Culture of dependency' = too many people being poor.

'Weaning people from benefit dependency' = cutting their benefits.

'Trapped on benefits' = poor.

'Compassionate conservative' = right-winger who claims that it's really good for poor or otherwise disadvantaged people to be stomped on.

'Scroungers' = unemployed and especially sick or disabled people.

'Workshy' (see 'scroungers')

'Welfare reform' = cuts.

'Increasing patient choice' = preparing to sell the NHS to the highest bidders.

'Increasing parent choice' = turning schools into businesses

'School business manager' = person, sometimes without teaching experience, placed in charge of helping to turn a school into a business.

I wrote a song about IDS's views at around that time:

IAIN DUNCAN-SMITH'S SONG OF COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVISM

Oh, poverty’s a dreadful thing,
A sorrow and a shame.
It causes so much misery.
Someone must be to blame!
And who’s to blame is very clear.
Of one thing we are sure:
There never could be poverty,
If ‘twas not for the poor!

Some people choose to earn a lot,
And live in mansions fine.
They always eat the best of food
And drink the best of wine.
We’re glad they made this lifestyle choice.
It should be made by more.
Too many cause their own downfall,
By choosing to be poor!

Just think of Labour’s cruelty,
A model to avoid!
They gave too many benefits
To sick or unemployed.
That only reinforced their sin,
And made them do it more.
You just encourage poverty
When you reward the poor!

Oh, poverty’s a dreadful thing,
A scourge throughout the land.
It’s just like an addictive drug.
As such, it should be banned.
It’s really for poor people’s good,
That we’ve big cuts in store.
A big deterrent’s what they need
To make them not be poor!





Poor kids. Imagine being educated by Rick Santorum!

'Now the lesson for today is about animals. How many animals can we name, that people will start marrying if we tolerate those evil gays? Good, dogs are one. Yes, cats. Elephants - yes, perhaps, but the elephant is a very noble animal; it represents my great party. Turtles, yes, very good. Jellyfish, yes, possibly. No, Mary, we don't talk about dinosaurs; that brings up the whole topic of evolution. No, you don't need to learn about that; it's something very sinful and leftist that a very sinful and leftist man called Darwin invented. It's evil. That's why it's called evil-lution. Penguins? Very good, Peter; penguins are a particularly sinful animal; someone once even wrote a book about gay penguins. That's why God banished them to the South Pole.'
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