Ed Miliband’s new year message demonstrates that the Labour leadership still has an unreflective managerialist ideology.
He starts by saying, rightly, that “many people feel politics cannot answer their problems.” He continues: “My party's mission in 2012 is to show politics can make a difference. To demonstrate that optimism can defeat despair.”
But this raises the obvious question: if Labour can show that “optimism can defeat despair”, why has it so far failed to do so?
Miliband seems unaware of this problem. And there are some obvious cognitive biases which allow him to suppress such dissonance. One is the optimism bias: “we can do better.” There‘s also the egocentric bias: “it’s me who’ll find the solution.” And there‘s also base rate neglect: “let’s ignore the fact that we’ve failed in the past”. As Dan Hodges taunts, Miliband is simply pretending that 2011 never happened.
This belief that one can reach a happy future even though you have failed to do so in the past is a characteristic feature of managerialist ideology. As I wrote in my book:
To the managerialist, the past is irrelevant. All that matters is the future. Management is always “moving forward”, “striving”, “progressing”. To managerialists, the best is always yet to come.
In writing that, I was, of course, echoing Alasdair MacIntyre’s line that the managerialist state is “always about to, but never actually does, give its clients value for money.”
Herein lies my fear. Just a a fish cannot see that water is wet, so Miliband cannot see that he is taking a profoundly ideological position here - the idea that centralized leadership can find solutions even though it hasn‘t done so in the past. And if you can’t see that your position is ideological, you’ve no hope of considering that it might be wrong.