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July 19, 2013

Comments

Jim

A short study of the history of the 20th century would quickly conclude that one side of the Left/Right political spectrum was indeed evil, when judged by the pile of corpses it has left behind it.

TACJ

@Jim:

Oooh tell us Jim, which side was it?

Regarding the OP. There is a point where an intellectual error *becomes* a moral error. When the IMF (of all institutions) starts claiming George Osborne cut too hard too fast, then you have to shift from looking at austerity as an intellectual mistake to viewing it as an ongoing moral failure by the government to do the right thing.

william

Capitalism may,indeed,have 'systemic shortcomings',but they are nothing compared to those systems derived from Marx.

Bill Kruse

It may well be we are taught morality so as to make us vulnerable to those who lack it. They'd be the ones instigating the teaching, by the way. Works a treat, doesn't it?

Ralph Musgrave

“Capitalism was ailing well before Osborne became Chancellor”. So where is the socialist workers’ paradise we can learn from: North Korea?

And when East Europe was non-capitalist a few decades ago, I doubt one in ten thousand exploited workers from the capitalist West chose to go and live there.

Keith

Well Jim if we agree that Hitler and his allies were right wing the relative tally of avoidable deaths is not very different. When you have millions dead or displaced by war and Genocide it is a little pointless to quibble about numbers.

Capitalism kills people all the time from under pay over work and deprivation. The development of science technology and a welfare state ameliorate this effect. Austerity weakens the protective effect of development by cutting the welfare state and reducing public services. The negative effects of cuts is not made any less by the crimes of Stalin pol pot or any one else.

Metatone

Well, I think you articulate the choices correctly.

Austerity - stupid or evil.

But neither the LibDems nor Tories are able to confront that reality.

Alex N

AFAIK, the Tories' idea of Austerity is just a fiscal variant of 'living within your means'. Intellectual error implies Osborne isn't aware of the composition fallacy, which is hardly the case as he's an Oxford PPE graduate.

Magpie

Come on, Ralph!

I've seen you jump to Golden Dawn's defense against those evil - evil! I tells ya - Anarchists, Syriza and commies trying to protect migrants in Greece.

And now you forget your history, too: from the Bhopal disaster to Deep Horizon and Dhaka; from John Law and the Mississippi Bubble to Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff and "The Fab" Fab Teurré; from the Great Depression, to the stagflation crisis to the Savings & Loans scandal, to the Latin American debt crisis, and the Asian crisis and Enron, to the United Fruit wars in Central America and the Caribbean; Cuba as the U.S. Mafia-owned brothel, the pre-emptive strike on Irak, and the invasion of Afghanistan, to thalidomide, from the Opium Wars to the Colombian and Mexican drug wars; Monowitz (aka Auschwitz III) with those wunderbar IG Farben and Siemens factories; from Al Capone "doing business" in NYC, to Henry Ford ordering the Dearborn, MI, Police Department to open fire on striking workers, to Coca Cola Co. sending Colombian paramilitaries to kill trade unionists and Royal Dutch Shell's involvement in the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Nigeria; from the Battle of Blair Mountain, WV, to the repression of the Paris Commune.

Now, let's be clear, I can't say you don't mention this because you are evil: I don't know you (and frankly, I'd rather pass). It could be as well that these things didn't happen to you or to people you care about, so you don't much care to learn about them and they don't much matter to you.

Indeed, as Dillow would probably agree, in reality it's irrelevant.

Does this list (off the top of my head!) cover for North Korea, or the Gulag, or Stasi/NKVD/KGB, or the caves of Slovenia, Pol Pot or a whole lot of other things? It's hard to tell, but, boy!, one thing's for sure: it doesn't make me prefer capitalism. But, hey, that's me!

I'm sure you have plenty good reasons to prefer it.

=======

PS: with a few adjustments, the same reply goes to Jim and William.

Chris

I wouldn't usually describe right-wingers as "evil" but Daily Mail readers are Nazis.

pablopatito

Chris wrote "First, they are not pursuing austerity because they want to hurt people, but because they believe it will do good; this is an intellectual error, not a moral failing."

Good for whom? Austerity has winners and losers. You can judge the morality of it on who the winners are and who the losers are.

Dipper

Excellent post. Much less excellent comments.

fake

*then you have to shift from looking at austerity as an intellectual mistake to viewing it as an ongoing moral failure by the government to do the right thing.*

What a lovely black and white world you live in.

In the real one, there are many arguments for and against austerity, if it was so obviously wrong, you wouldn't have lots of smart people arguing for it.

Torquil Macneil

Brilliant, and if you could get this part through Ed Balls' skull:

'austerity ... is an intellectual error, not a moral failing'

and persuade him to make that case, Labour would be looking a lot happier in the polls I reckon. But let's not talk about that when we can keep shouting 'Lynton "Who He" Crosby' at the increasingly baffled British public.

Adrian

Iraq and Afghanistan happened because of Capitalism Magpie?

People were invading each others countries before Capitalism, no doubt they still would be without Capitalism.

Adrian

I don't recall anybody claiming "we want to bring free markets and private ownership of the means of production to the people of Afghanistan".

Blissex

«First, they are not pursuing austerity because they want to hurt people, but because they believe it will do good; this is an intellectual error, not a moral failing.»

This seems like optimistic hand-waving to me.

The impression I get is that conservatives pursue austerity with disregard as to the people it will hurt, as long as it does good to the people that they think are deserving, that is property owners.

The goal of austerity seems to me purely to keep wages and interest rates down to enable debt-fueled asset price bubbles, to reward striving property owners while punishing shirking workers.

The story is not intellectual, it is moral: that aspirational older, propertied voters are more deserving than greedy, lazy younger, working and unemployed voters and non-voters.

Or perhaps it is that the most precious and assiduous swing voters are the property owning middle aged and retired women voters who benefit a lot from higher NHS spending, higher welfare for pensioners, higher house prices and rents, and lower wages for those who work and social insurance for those who cannot find work.

Blissex

If there is a case for austerity, and I believe there is, it is not a case for austerity doing good by improving growth and being expansionary, but precisely the opposite: that the UK economy needs austerity to cut growth by being contractionary via a sustained cut in living standards, because:

* In the 5 years since the UK have become a net oil importer the cost of imported oil has dramatically increased, and the pound has become weaker because of the impact on the balance of payments. Continued contraction and low consumption are vital to avoid a collapse in the pound, causing a spiral in the cost of imported oil.

* After 20-30 years of a gigantic debt bubble, the government, the financial sector and people have an enormous debt load, perhaps one of the highest in the world relative to income. It is vital to keep interest rates low by reducing imports, and by keeping demand and wages low to keep inflation from blowing up (but moderately high so it erodes the value of the debt).

At least in the short and medium term I think that if the UK grows that can bring it to a sudden Mexican or Argentinian style collapse, because it is hard to generate growth from an economy addicted to rewarding investing in debt and punishing investment in industry.

If interest rates go up, debt becomes unaffordable, asset prices collapse, mortgages go underwater, the whole financial system blows up, including nearly all pension funds; nobody seems to remember that just a few years ago the biggest UK banks went bankrupt, there was a run on a substantial high street bank, the pound collapsed by 30% and the government has spent since hundreds of billions in their industrial policy of saving the bonuses and jobs and pensions of bank traders and executives.

The vital question is whose austerity it is: whether it is the austerity punishing the many striving, aspirational rentiers (mostly from the South-East and female and older) who want massive tax-free capital gains, or state-guaranteed jobs, bonuses and pensions in the finance sector, or the few, lazy, shirking workers and unemployed (mostly from the North, Scotland, and other poor regions of Europe, male and younger) who want just safe jobs and decent wages.

The tories of both parties, the majority of voters whose book is long property and short jobs, and are almost all the voters for the Tories and a large chunk of the voters for New Labour, are clear: punish the improductive, parasitical workers and unemployed, and reward the striving, productive rentiers including financial sector traders and executives.

The current government hopes to not lose the 2015 elections to the UKIP with the grossest and most transparent pandering to their South-East rentier base, hoping that a short-lived boost to North Sea oil production will help.

But eventually a Mexican or Argentinian moment will happen, because there is no way to generate real growth from riskier value added industries when the government all but guarantees higher profits from asset prices bubbles, and the latter cannot be fueled by debt forever.

SteveH

"First, they are not pursuing austerity because they want to hurt people"

I strongly disagree with this statement.

Of course we can debate the merits of austerity, but I would look at those at the top first. Let us take away the swimming pools and helicopters of the rich first and work our way down from there. If after decimating the excesses of the rich we still don't have enough money then maybe we will have to look at cutting disabled care etc. But in these austere, we are all in it together times, let the motto be "The rich are a luxury we cannot afford"

Blissex

To illustrate how stupid it is to invest in improductive, parasitical activities like industry, and how rewarding it is instead to invest in ever-rising property here are some estimates by the National Housing Federation duly echoed by the Guardian:

«By 2020 the price of a first-time buyer's home will increase by 42% to £245,165. [ ... ] private rents are likely to be broadly stable through 2013, but could increase sharply, by about 6% a year, between 2015 and 2020 as interest rates and house prices rise. In 2020, rents are expected to be 46% higher than today. But when the new flood of young adults born in the noughties starts university or a new job, they could push rents even higher in a country already chronically short of decent housing.»

Those fabulous numbers, no other investment can compete with that.

Note that the above is mostly about older, female, South-Eastern landladies and younger, male, Northern etc. workers, as house prices and rents in the North are depressed and many ypung Northerners move to the South-East to get jobs.

While the younger South-Eastern generation is salivating at the prospect of becoming wealthy heirs.

And these endless rewards to striving, aspirational property ownership are essentially government-guaranteed.

Endless as long as there is no Argentine or Mexican tipping point between now and 2020, in which the South East will come to look like Merseyside or Northumberland in the 1980s.

Except for London perhaps as the government plan seems to accept the inevitable eventual demise of the rest of the South-East and to turn London into a laundering offshore centre for wealthy foreign gangsters like Switzerland or Dubai. Which is the UKIP plan too.

Blissex

«look at those at the top first. Let us take away the swimming pools and helicopters of the rich first and work our way down from there. [ ... ] let the motto be "The rich are a luxury we cannot afford"»

That is one of the most naively blind attitudes I have seen in a long time.

Most voters, in particular South-East swing voters (Northern voters are insignificant because they can only vote Labour, so no party cares about them), think they are going to be rich rentiers, in a plantation-style economy, and everybody else their cheap servants.

They see «take away the swimming pools and helicopters of the rich» as an attack on their aspirations, or for very small swimming pools, their present pride and joy, never mind «work our way down from there».

The astute political strategists of property interests have used as they nearly always do a Marxist-Leninist strategy: the "popular front", in this case of small aspirational property owners, allied with big property owners, with the ideology to reward as much as possible incumbency, which has been for a thousand years the most important English value, in particular in the Home Counties, with a brief interval during the 19th century in the North and Scotland.

The popular front of incumbency is not something that is hard to spot: it has ruled the UK for 20-30 years.

Their main policy prescription is very popular, and is exactly the opposite to yours: that the unearned privileges of the parasitical poor, whether working or unemployed, the fabulous mansions, the huge beenfits, the luxury holidays, are something the UK can no longer afford.

The current widely popular policy is to soak the high-living working and unemployed poor, because their reckless conspicuous consumption has become unaffordable.

SteveH

"The current widely popular policy is to soak the high-living working and unemployed poor"

Well, about 30% in the polls the last time I looked, so not exactly widely popular.

I am struggling with the rest of your comment as it makes little sense to me, but I will quote Marx and say "The point is to change the world". I am also not too concerned to win over the so called "popular front of incumbency". All a bit Monty Python if you ask me.

Blissex

«I am also not too concerned to win over the so called "popular front of incumbency"»

Well, both Thatcher and Blair won several elections over a few decades by pandering to that front shamelessly, rewarding incumbency by any means available. As Blair accused Thatcher of doing, and then did himself:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v09/n19/tony-blair/diary

Probably there is a chance to win over the mass end of the "popular front of incumbency", by showing them that their interests are not aligned with those of big property owners, but «work our way down from there» is not going to be a good starting point for that.

But sometimes I think that there is no chance to persuade small property owners that they are being conned and are just blood donors in the "popular front of incumbency", that their dream of being ladies of the manor in the plantation economy is too strong, and that they will be bitter-enders and will only come around when the tipping point is well past and the South East too looks like Merseyside or Tyneside in the 1980s.

Churm Rincewind

"I wouldn't usually describe right-wingers as "evil" but Daily Mail readers are Nazis."

That's just silly. (Godwin's law)

SteveH

I don't think tackling austerity by attacking the excesses of the well to do is going to be a big vote winner in the short term and I think attacking immigrants and those on benefits are populist measures but I would hammer home this point relentlessly anyway.

At the end of the day let them have the choice under which banner they wish to fall. Just don't pander to it, that is all I would say.

Let us use austerity to challenge all wealth, let us not allow austerity to equal punishing the poor. Let us have proper, deep and real austerity. Let the rich tremble at the word austerity!

Stuart

Didn't this blog once argue that Tory policies make no sense from an economic or rational point of view, and that the only explanation left is that they are motivated by class hatred? Isn't impoverishing people because you hate them evil? Genuine question, would be interested in your response!

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