Quotulatiousness

February 22, 2014

Venezuela’s crisis

Filed under: Americas, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:10

With all the attention being on Ukraine’s political upheaval, there’s another political crisis happening in South America:

How is Venezuela doing? Well, tens of thousands of protesters are in the streets, the army’s been sent to crush revolt, an opposition leader has been arrested and supporters of the government just shot dead a former beauty queen. It’s going to hell in a handcart, that’s how it’s doing.

After Hugo Chavez died he was replaced by Nicolas Maduro, a man of considerably less talent who bears a striking resemblance to an obese Burt Reynolds. A Venezuelan friend explains that Chavez’s titanic personality held his revolution together, reconciling its various contradictions with his charismatic nationalism. By contrast, “Maduro has let the worst people take over” — surrendering authority to radical mobs and corrupt officials in a bid to keep them all on side. The result? Bad economic management, inflation at 56 per cent, rising unemployment, food shortages, shocking levels of crime and an increasing reliance on government control of the press.

The Left always insisted under Chavez that some meddling in the media was necessary because it was otherwise controlled by dark, foreign forces (read: people who disagreed with Chavez). But Maduro is now threatening to expel CNN, which is about the fairest and most balanced news source on the planet. CNN’s crime was to report on the recent protests that have engulfed the capital. And good for CNN. Coverage on what’s happening in Venezuela has been eclipsed by events in Ukraine, so for those who don’t know here’s what’s happening on the ground.

  • On February 12, the opposition held a massive rally that resulted in bloodshed. Three people were killed, including two opposition protesters and one pro-government activist. The National Guard was dispatched to prevent further rallies.
  • Violence quickly spread out across the country. Some 3,000 troops were sent to pacify the city of San Cristobal, where the government also cut off transport links and the internet.
  • Opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, was forced to hand himself over to the National Guard on charges of inciting violence.
  • The President blamed America for starting the conflict and has expelled US officials.
  • Local TV stations have gone into lockdown and simply aren’t reporting the fighting. Venezuelans are relying on social media, which includes some false reporting. The opposition lack a single national TV outlet to be heard on.

December 26, 2013

Socialism and science fiction

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:01

Todd Seavey declares that science fiction is inherently socialistic:

Tim Kreider called for visionary — and anti-capitalist — science fiction in a recent article in New Yorker. Tyler Cowen replied that we may be safer if plans to remake society, sometimes in violent fashion, remain the stuff of fiction, and he wonders if any sci-fi captures that point.

I suspect Kreider would reply that he’s not calling for the immediate remaking of society so much as a tentative effort to understand it in all its complexity — but any social conservative who has watched deconstructionists ignore the lessons of tradition, and any free-marketeer who has heard intellectuals’ warmed-over Marxist attempts to understand economics, can tell you where overconfident explanations of society often lead.

[...]

Since Kreider appreciates the science of ecology (central to Kim Stanley Robinson’s books), he might think of the problem of overly-simple models as comparable to the dangers of creating a terrarium and expecting it to replicate all the nuances of an entire rain forest. Such an experiment might well be worth a try but probably only if done with its drastic limitations in mind — perhaps even with the primary purpose of illustrating those shortcomings. Frank Herbert, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Kim Stanley Robinson just barely begin to gesture feebly at the rich complexity of real societies – which have subtle, often unnoticed, subsidiary systems — and all three writers notoriously had to put a hell of a lot of work into it even to get that far.

Most writers, understandably, are still struggling to capture accurately what something as simple as, say, an awkward Christmas dinner feels like. They struggle even when drawing heavily from their own family experiences. We probably ought to admire the humility of their ambitions.

Coincidentally and tragically, as I write this, word reaches me that Ned Vizzini, one of my fellow New York Press veterans and the young author of the sci-fi novel Be More Chill, about the difficulty of fitting in in high school, has committed suicide, despite much of his short writing career having been devoted to trying to understand depression. His very life depended on figuring out one phenomenon with which he had direct experience, and he still couldn’t quite master it. Should the rest of us pretend to have figured out civilization?

November 30, 2013

Shock, horror – the National Socialists were socialists!

Filed under: Europe, History, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:43

Daniel Hannan on the remarkable — but somehow unknown to many — fact that the NSDAP (the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, aka Nazi party) were actually socialists:

‘I am a Socialist,’ Hitler told Otto Strasser in 1930, ‘and a very different kind of Socialist from your rich friend, Count Reventlow’.

No one at the time would have regarded it as a controversial statement. The Nazis could hardly have been more open in their socialism, describing themselves with the same terminology as our own SWP: National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

Almost everyone in those days accepted that fascism had emerged from the revolutionary Left. Its militants marched on May Day under red flags. Its leaders stood for collectivism, state control of industry, high tariffs, workers’ councils. Around Europe, fascists were convinced that, as Hitler told an enthusiastic Mussolini in 1934, ‘capitalism has run its course’.

One of the most stunning achievements of the modern Left is to have created a cultural climate where simply to recite these facts is jarring. History is reinterpreted, and it is taken as axiomatic that fascism must have been Right-wing, the logic seemingly being that Left-wing means compassionate and Right-wing means nasty and fascists were nasty. You expect this level of analysis from Twitter mobs; you shouldn’t expect it from mainstream commentators.

September 22, 2013

The lasting influence of the Frankfurt School

Filed under: History, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:00

Lee Stranahan talks about the Frankfurt School’s continuing importance in modern liberal thought:

For a decade, the Southern Poverty Law Center and others on the left have been trying to hide and distract from one of the main origins of both radical academia and media hostility towards capitalism: the ideology of cultural Marxism and Critical Theory that arose from the Frankfurt School.

The SPLC and others dismiss the facts about the German think-tank and its subsequent influence in America as a conspiracy theory. Understanding these attacks is an object lesson in how the left creates self-sustaining mythology by demonizing the people who dare expose their ideology while misdirecting their own followers as to the real story behind liberal ideas.

Organizations on the institutional left such as the Southern Poverty Law Center didn’t just appear out of nowhere or in an ideological vacuum. The SPLC in particular has a specific role of designating organizations as ‘hate groups’, often smearing mainstream conservatism by falsely tying it to tiny, violent and racist organizations.

The SLPC’s designation of what does and doesn’t constitute a hate group has clear foundations in the world of academic political correctness and censoring of speech it considers ‘racist, sexist and homophobic’; all terms that it defines in leftist terms and very selectively. For example, in the wake of last year’s shooting at the headquarters of the Family Research Council, the SLPC went out of their way to double down on it’s claim that the FRC is a ‘hate group.’

Even political correctness, however, didn’t just suddenly pop up out of thin air; it has its basis in a group of academic Marxist philosophers that came together in Germany between World War I and World War II called the Frankfurt School. Their cultural Marxist approach would go on to have a profound influence in the United States after many in the Frankfurt school fled Germany and came to America in the 1930s.

April 14, 2013

An alternative Britain would be “Cuba without the sunshine”

Filed under: Britain, History, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:06

Dominic Sandbrook recounts the history of a slightly different Britain: one where Margaret Thatcher lost to Jim Callaghan in 1978:

As historians now agree, Mrs Thatcher never really stood a chance: Britain was not ready for a woman prime minister. As she herself had remarked only eight years earlier: ‘There will not be a woman prime minister in my lifetime — the male population is too prejudiced.’

In her place, the Tories turned to the bumbling figure of Willie Whitelaw, an old-fashioned patrician Wet whom they decided would connect better with the British electorate.

In the meantime, the country was reeling from crisis to crisis. Scarcely had Callaghan returned to No 10 than his premiership was consumed in the notorious Winter of Discontent. As one group of workers after another — lorry drivers, railwaymen, bus drivers, ambulance drivers, caretakers, cleaners, even grave-diggers — walked out on strike for higher wages, the country ground to a halt.

Buoyed by his election victory, Callaghan was in no mood to compromise. Rather than break his declared 5 per cent national pay limit and risk higher inflation, he declared a State of Emergency and summoned the Army to drive Britain’s petrol tankers.

It was a catastrophic mistake. On February 12, 1979, a date that has gone down in history as Black Monday, fighting broke out between pickets and soldiers at one depot outside Hull.

In the chaos, one soldier — carrying live rounds, in contravention of orders — opened fire and killed five people. It was one of the most shocking moments in modern British history.

Callaghan resigned the next day, the last honourable act of a decent man overwhelmed by events. But contrary to his expectations, the Labour Party did not turn to his Chancellor, the bushy-browed Denis Healey.

Instead, they lurched to the Left and elected as their new Prime Minister Michael Foot, with his flowing white locks, walking stick and impassioned socialist rhetoric. The real power in the land, however, was Foot’s colleague Tony Benn, who replaced the disgruntled Healey as Chancellor. And in the next few years, it was Benn who presided over the most sweeping socialist measures any Western country had seen in living memory.

To the horror of many in industry, Benn insisted that Britain’s declining economy needed a dose of shock therapy. The top rate of income tax went up to 98 per cent, and the government announced a one-off 5 per cent ‘equality levy’ on households with income over £50,000 a year.

As frightened investors began to withdraw their money from the City of London, Benn introduced sweeping exchange controls. He also, in an attempt to shore up Britain’s crumbling manufacturing base, introduced the most stringent import tariffs in the Western world.

The reaction was pandemonium. As inflation shot over 25 per cent and unemployment went above two million, horrified European leaders insisted that Britain’s new policies were incompatible with membership of the Common Market.

But Benn was adamant. ‘You turn if you want to,’ he told his party conference in 1980. ‘Labour’s not for turning.’

The following year, as the economic picture continued to worsen, the Government introduced controls to stop people taking sterling out of the country. As a result, the foreign package holiday market collapsed — although landladies in Blackpool said they had never seen more business.

There were rumours that Foot was planning to move his turbulent Chancellor, but they were blown away when, in April 1982, Argentine forces landed in the Falklands.

H/T to Roger Henry for the link.

April 1, 2013

QotD: The Social Democratic Moment

Filed under: Europe, Government, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

The 1960s saw the apogee of the European state. The relation of the citizen to the state in Western Europe in the course of the previous century had been a shifting compromise between military needs and political claims: the modern rights of newly enfranchised citizens offset by older obligations to defend the realm. But since 1945 that relationship had come increasingly to be characterised by a dense tissue of social benefits and economic strategies in which it was the state that served its subjects, rather than the other way around.

In later years the all-encompassing ambitions of the Western European welfare state would lose some of their appeal — not least because they could no longer fulfill their promise: unemployment, inflation, ageing populations and economic slowdown placed insuperable constraints upon the efforts of states to deliver their half of the bargain. Transformations in international capital markets and modern electronic communications hamstrung governments’ capacity to plan and enforce domestic economic policy. And, most important of all, the very legitimacy of the interventionist state itself was undermined: at home by the rigidities and inefficiencies of public-sector agencies and producers, abroad by the incontrovertible evidence of chronic economic dysfunction and political repression in the Socialist states of the Soviet bloc.

Tony Judt, “The Social Democratic Moment”, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, 2005

February 16, 2013

The socialist origins of Mussolini’s Fascist Italy

Filed under: Europe, History, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:13

Everyone “knows” that Fascism is an ideology of the extreme right, and Communism is an ideology of the extreme left. Benito Mussolini’s fascist state was bankrolled by big business and the Catholic Church to suppress the democratic demands of the workers in the wake of the First World War. Except that isn’t actually true:

… Mussolini was every bit as much as man of the Left as contemporaries such as Eugene V. Debs. He was what would later come to be known as a “red diaper baby” (meaning the child of revolutionary socialist parents). As a young man, Mussolini himself was a Marxist, fervently anticlerical, went to Switzerland to evade compulsory military service, and was arrested and imprisoned for inciting militant strikes. Eventually, he became a leader in Italy’s Socialist Party and he was imprisoned once again in 1911 for his antiwar activities related to Italy’s invasion of Libya. Mussolini was so prominent a socialist at this point in his career that he won the praise of Lenin who considered him to be the rightful head of a future Italian socialist state.

[. . .]

When the Italian Fascist movement was founded in 1919, most of its leaders and theoreticians were, like Mussolini himself, former Marxists and other radical leftists such as proponents of the revolutionary syndicalist doctrines of Georges Sorel. The official programs issued by the Fascists, translations of which are included in Norling’s book, reflected a standard mixture of republican and socialist ideas that would have been common to any European leftist group of the era. If indeed the evidence is overwhelming that Fascism has its roots on the far Left, then from where does Fascism’s reputation as a rightist ideology originate?

[. . .]

During its twenty-three years in power, Mussolini’s regime certainly made considerable concessions to traditionally conservative interests such as the monarchy, big business, and the Catholic Church. These pragmatic accommodations borne of political necessity are among the evidences typically offered by leftists as indications of Fascism’s rightist nature. Yet there is abundant evidence that Mussolini essentially remained a socialist throughout the entirety of his political life. By 1935, thirteen years after Mussolini seized power in the March on Rome, seventy-five percent of Italian industry had either been nationalized outright or brought under intensive state control. Indeed, it was towards the end of both his life and the life of his regime that Mussolini’s economic policies were at their most leftist.

After briefly losing power for a couple of months during the summer of 1943, Mussolini returned as Italy’s head of state with German assistance and set up what came to be called the Italian Social Republic. The regime subsequently nationalized all companies employing more than a hundred workers, redistributed housing that was formerly privately owned to its worker occupants, engaged in land redistribution, and witnessed a number of prominent Marxists joining the Mussolini government, including Nicola Bombacci, the founder of the Italian Communist Party and a personal friend of Lenin. These events are described in considerable detail in Norling’s work.

It would appear that the historic bitter rivalry between Marxists and Fascists is less a conflict between the Left and the Right, and more of a conflict between erstwhile siblings on the Left. This should come as no particular surprise given the penchant of radical leftist groupings for sectarian blood feuds. Indeed, it might be plausibly argued that leftist ”anti-fascism” is rooted in jealously of a more successful relative as much as anything else.

January 11, 2013

The old left, the new left, and the late Howard Zinn

Filed under: History, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 14:13

In Reason, Thaddeus Russell reviews a recent book on the life of historian Howard Zinn:

There was once a radical left in the United States. Back then, it was common to hear on college campuses and in respectable left-wing publications that liberals and the Democratic Party were the enemies of freedom, justice, and the people. Democratic politicians who expanded welfare programs and championed legislation that aided labor unions were nonetheless regarded as racists, totalitarians, and mass murderers for their reluctance to defend the civil rights of African Americans, for their collusion with capitalists, for their use of police powers to repress dissent, and for their imperialist, war-making policies. There was widespread left-wing rejection of the liberal claim that government was good, and many leftists spoke of and stood for a thing they called liberty.

There was no better exemplar of that thoroughgoing, anti-statist left than Howard Zinn, the author of A People’s History of the United States, whose death in 2010 was preceded by a life of activism and scholarship devoted to what could be called libertarian socialism. It is difficult to read Martin Duberman’s sympathetic but thoughtful biography, Howard Zinn: A Life on the Left, without lamenting how different Zinn and his ilk were from what now passes for an alternative political movement in this country. And for those of us with an interest in bridging the left and libertarianism, the book will also serve as a painful reminder of what once seemed possible. Howard Zinn’s life was a repudiation of the politics of the age of Obama.

[. . .]

Zinn was deeply influenced by anarchists, and this anti-statism kept him from doing what most of the left has been doing of late — identifying with the holders of state power. Some of Zinn’s friends, Duberman writes, resented his “never speaking well of any politician.” When many considered John F. Kennedy to be a champion of black civil rights, Zinn declared that the president had done only enough for the movement “to keep his image from collapsing in the eyes of twenty million Negroes.” Going farther, Zinn argued that African Americans should eschew involvement with any state power, and even counseled against a campaign for voting rights. “When Negroes vote, they will achieve as much power as the rest of us have — which is very little.” Instead, they should create “centers of power” outside government agencies from which to pressure authorities.

July 24, 2012

QotD: The totalitarian tendency

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:09

[...] This illustrates very well the totalitarian tendency which is implicit in the anarchist or pacificist vision of Society. In a Society in which there is no law, and in theory no compulsion, the only arbiter of behaviour is public opinion. But public opinion, because of the tremendous urge to conformity in gregarious animals, is less tolerant than any system of law. When human beings are governed by “thou shalt not”, the individual can practise a certain amount of eccentricity: when they are supposedly governed by “love” or “reason”, he is under continuous pressure to make him behave and think in exactly the same way as everyone else.

George Orwell, “Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels“, Polemic, September-October 1946.

May 26, 2012

Neil Davenport reviews Tony Judt’s final book

Filed under: History, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:13

As I just started reading Judt’s best known work recently (Postwar), I was unaware that Judt had died not long after that book was published. In the sp!ked review of books, Neil Davenport reviews Thinking the Twentieth Century: Intellectuals and Politics in the Twentieth Century, by Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder:

In 2008, Judt discovered that he was suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), an incurable degenerative disease. Over a two-year period, Snyder records and transcribes a series of conversations that cover both Judt’s life and intellectual pursuits by way of the tumultuous events of the last century. Judt died in August 2010, 62 years old, just a few weeks after dictating a final afterword to this book.

The format works surprisingly well. Judt relishes his role as a public intellectual and makes accessible huge swathes of history and ideas throughout the book’s 400 pages. There are never any lapses into impenetrable jargon or academic riddles. The book is tremendously lucid and informed, thoughtful and engaging. Credit must be given to Snyder who, rather than stamping on the coat tails of Judt’s intellect, proffers sharp questions and observations only intermittently. When he does, it serves as a striking reminder that this is a conversation, not an academic monologue. Mostly we are left to marvel at Judt’s command of his material, his knowledge, intellect and insights, as they’re casually reeled off into a digital recorder. The working-class ex-grammar school boy makes attractive and vital something that has been relentlessly and scandalously attacked in recent decades: a liberal, humanities-based education.

[. . .]

Judt gave much of his early career to the history of the French left, but could not buy into their assumption that the Russian Revolution was merely the continuation of 1789. And to his credit, he saw through the cultural studies, Marcuse-era left of 1968, too. As he rightly puts it, ‘my residual socialist-Marxist formation made me instinctively suspicious of the popular notion that students might now be a — the — revolutionary class’. He was also spot on about how the cultural left fragmented history as a discipline into competing ‘narratives’.

These are all sharp, well-observed points. So it’s a pity that, like so many left-leaning academics before him, he retained that most durable of illusions: belief in the credibility of the British Labour Party’s social democracy. For someone so well versed in Marxism and interwar radicalism, it’s surprising that he remained steadfastly quiet about the real purpose of social democracy. And if he was feeling generous about its achievements, he doesn’t nail down social democracy’s strengths during its postwar heyday, either. Although he used the social-democracy banner to describe contemporary politics both in Britain and Europe, there’s no awareness of how ‘parliamentary socialism’ has come to mean something very different in the twenty-first century.

May 9, 2012

Misreading the European electoral tea leaves

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Government, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:19

Brendan O’Neill points out that there’s something lacking in the analyses of all the recent electoral upheavals in Europe:

Great claims are being made in the wake of the local elections in Britain, the presidential elections in France, and the legislative elections in Greece. Britain’s Labour Party may have secured the votes of just 12.5 per cent of the eligible electorate, but it came top in the local elections, and so we’re told that ‘Labour is back’. The victories of Hollande in France (where he won 51.63 per cent of the vote to Nicolas Sarkozy’s 48.37 per cent), and of SYRIZA in Greece (the anti-austerity, radical left coalition which won 16.78 per cent of the vote), are being talked up as a ‘new dawn’ for European social democracy. According to a Guardian editorial, we have witnessed a ‘stunning victory… for the left in Europe’.

These observers urgently need to take a reality check. Because in truth, the most striking thing about the recent elections in Europe has been the utter absence of any matters of doctrine, of principle, of ideological outlook. In England, France, Greece, Italy, no doctrinal matters whatsoever have been raised, far less contested. These elections are best seen, not as a new dawn for social democracy, but as an unfocused emotional reaction against things — against Sarkozy, austerity, Brussels. Actually, it’s worse than that. Where once the left was concerned with creating a new reality, one based on systems and values quite distinct from those of traditionalists, today’s emerging left is obsessed with avoiding reality, with hiding away from the harshness of economic life in 2012 and simply saying: ‘Be gone!’ The problem with the newly successful left movements is not just that they’re attracting shallow protest votes, but that they’re extraordinarily infantile, blinkered outfits.

The only ‘doctrine’ uniting the various movements against austerity in modern Europe (both the left-wing and right-wing ones) is the doctrine of responsibility aversion, of shirking seriousness in favour of emotionalism. What the cheerleaders of these movements fail to realise is that being anti-austerity without positing an alternative route out of recession, without any serious proposals for stabilising economic life in Europe, is mere gesture politics. In fact it’s an act of irresponsibility, of wilfulness, where the key aim is to insulate oneself and one’s supporters from the harsh realities of our recessionary times rather than face up to those realities and potentially transform them. The new anti-austerity posturing, to quote an old communist, is an infantile disorder.

May 8, 2012

Hayek and Keynes

Filed under: Economics, History, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:32

Brian Lee Crowley recounts some of the interactions between F.A. Hayek and John Maynard Keynes in the National Post:

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Friedrich August Hayek, the Viennese-born Nobel Prize-winning economist and philosopher, who led the intellectual equivalent of the D-Day charge against central planning in the postwar era. His lessons are worth remembering in 2012, especially now that left-wing politicians in France, Greece and elsewhere seem intent on forgetting them.

Hayek’s great adversary was John Maynard Keynes, whose faith in the ability of government economic planners to “correct” the operation of markets inspired generations of disciples in government and academe. In the long run, Hayek got the better of the argument with Keynes. Indeed, his ideas contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and continue to influence economic thought to this day.

Hayek and Keynes were punctilious professional colleagues and scholarly rivals. Yet for all the correctness that characterized their relations — Hayek was, for example, Keynes’s guest when the London School of Economics fled the Nazi bombings to the relative safety of Cambridge — the Austrian could not shake a profound distrust of Keynes.A brilliant economist, captivating teacher, witty conversationalist and bon vivant, Keynes seemed to almost everyone who knew him a Renaissance man and one of his country’s most powerful minds. Hayek found Keynes glib and superficial, but it was Keynes’ intellectual dilettantism that most appalled him. When Keynes wrote A Treatise on Money in 1930, Hayek spent a year carefully analyzing it, and then wrote a devastating review. At their next meeting, Hayek was outraged when Keynes airily said that he now agreed with Hayek, having long since changed his mind. Hayek always regretted that this incident led him to neglect replying to Keynes’ next book. By the time Hayek was alive to the danger, it was too late.

May 1, 2012

The morality of taxation

Filed under: Britain, Economics, Government — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:17

In the Telegraph, Philip Johnston recounts the story of the 10 beer-drinking men and uses it to discuss the morality of taxes. Although the details are British, the story applies equally to Canada or the United States:

No discussion of the morality of taxation can be divorced from what is done with the money. It is not enough to say we must all contribute according to our means without at the same time questioning where it all goes. Tax has become the new immigration: a taboo subject for politicians who fear being derided as friends of the rich or denounced for immoral policies.

Yet, even with the parlous state of the nation’s finances, an argument can be made for low taxation that speaks to both a desire for smaller government and for greater personal freedom. The last Labour government took too much in taxes not merely because it believed that ever-increasing amounts of public spending were the only way to achieve better services. It did so because socialists think they know best how to spend people’s money and should be entrusted to do so. That is the essence of the Left’s worldview; and it is the principal reason why the state has grown so much in the past 50 years.

Where is the morality in taking money from people so that politicians can feel good about themselves? How is it ethical of a government to remove 40 per cent of an individual’s income with the purpose of engineering society the way it sees fit, rather than ensuring that people have the means to get on, by and large, with their own lives? Our system of governance has become characterised by grotesque waste, unfulfilled promises, incompetent delivery and excessive red tape. It has over-reached itself and seems incapable of retrenching, even under a Tory prime minister.

The moral, and Conservative, case for lower taxes is that they allow people to make their own decisions, to save when they wish, to give if they choose and to spend on what matters to them. Tory politicians should not be ashamed to talk about cutting taxes, because high taxation removes the need for individuals to take responsibility for their own lives and heightens cynicism about the ability of the government to deliver.

April 3, 2012

How Galloway’s win in the “Bradford Spring” caught the media completely by surprise

Filed under: Britain, Media, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:05

Mick Hume tries to dissect the actual results of the Bradford by-election, rather than what the London media is trying to say about it:

It was, they tell us, ‘a one-off’. Top pundits have tried to put the shock victory of Respect candidate George Galloway in the Bradford West parliamentary by-election down to the ‘unique’ personal appeal of the new member of parliament, to suggest it has limited relevance for wider UK politics.

[. . .]

In his victory speech the ever-modest Galloway hailed his remarkable triumph as a ‘Bradford Spring’, a popular uprising on the Arab model. What this result really demonstrated was the depth of the autumn-style decay in mainstream British politics, where all of the parliamentary parties have shed their distinctive political foliage and been reduced to a dull, indistinguishable mulch.

[. . .]

Respect ran an ‘Islamicised’ campaign, appealing to the area’s many Muslim voters on the basis of divisive and insular communal politics. This included a remarkable leaflet, signed in Galloway’s name, which assured them ‘God KNOWS who is a Muslim. And he KNOWS who is not… I, George Galloway, do not drink alcohol and never have… I, George Galloway, have fought for the Muslims at home and abroad all my life…And with your support, and if God wills it, I want to give my remaining days in service of all the people — Muslims, Pakistanis, and everyone in Bradford West’, and much more in a similarly ‘socialist’ vein.

[. . .]

At a national level, the most striking thing about the Bradford West result was how it took the political and media elite almost completely by surprise. There they were at Westminster last week, happily musing about how the fuel panic and ‘pastygate’ might damage David Cameron’s Tory-Lib Dem Coalition government, and confidently predicting that Ed Miliband’s opposition Labour Party was ‘well placed’ to clean up in the polls. Then suddenly, on another planet called Bradford West, an alien breed known as ‘ordinary voters’ stunned the entire Westminster village.

It was a graphic illustration of how detached and isolated from the populus the political and media elites have become. The immediate responses to the result rather reinforced the point. According to one neighbouring Labour MP, Galloway’s appearance on Celebrity Big Brother a few years ago had been ‘a very significant factor’ in persuading local people to vote for him rather than the Labour candidate. Leave aside for a moment the small fact that Galloway’s risible appearance on CBB, crawling around the floor in a red catsuit unflattering to the fuller figure, was widely considered to spell the end of his political career. And leave aside also the question of who introduced ‘personality’ and celebrity politics as a substitute for principles. The idea that people are sheeple who will vote for whoever they see on reality TV summed up the mixture of incomprehension and contempt with which the elite views the masses today. They have not got a clue what any of us is thinking.

March 16, 2012

One symptom, but lots of different causes

Filed under: Britain, Economics, History, India — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:41

Tim Worstall responds to a simplistic definition of poverty:

What we then want to know is why do some individuals have a shortage of money? At which point we enter a forest of different explanations.

By far the largest cause of poverty is that people live in societies ruled by people variously ignorant, stupid or evil. N Korean poverty I would ascribe to that last. The early Soviets, I am sure along with Socialists of the time, really did think that planning would be more efficient, create more wealth. The evil came later, it was ignorance at first.

[. . .]

And, yes, really, there is also that culture of poverty that Ms. Ehrenreich wants to insist does not exist. Choices over drugs, booze, delayed gratification, marriage, children, education, all have their effects on poverty or not poverty.

Sure, poverty is indeed the lack of money. But there are different reasons for different people at different times about why they lack money. Given these different reasons therefore different solutions have to be applied. Our Down’s Syndrome lad does simply need a transfer of resources, of wealth, from others in the society to him.

But that is not to say that the cure for all poverty is such a transfer: poverty in India is going to be better alleviated by the continuing destruction of Nehru’s extentions of the Licence Raj, poverty among some others in the UK is going to be best addressed by a change in the behaviour of those individuals.

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