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December 06, 2016

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From Arse To Elbow

The political problem is that a centrist focus on income redistribution (or even predistribution) only makes sense during a period of decent growth. To adapt Carney's metaphor, it is irrelevant when the tide is out. Beyond the usual bromides about human capital and pump-priming, centrists have no compelling answer to stagnation.

There seems little immediate likelihood that they will commit to the redistribution of wealth (i.e. the partial confiscation of assets, a la Piketty), so they remain a (good times) solution in search of a problem. In that sense, the desertion by voters of centrist parties is entirely rational.

Luis Enrique

IMunpopularO merely avoiding ideological extremes is worth a lot. It's not just about power though, at least if I read all these understanding Trump voters pieces correctly, in a sense those white males turned to Trump aren't just reacting to a loss of power so much as the loss of a good blue collar life and the perception that underdeserving others have taken it from them. redistribution won't fix that, predistribution might have but I have not yet seen anybody explain how to manipulate the pre-tax distribution of income (well, other than unions). Or do you think the loss of the decent pay blue collar job is really a loss of power?

Dave Hansell

The key problem here is that the term is not adequately defined. Indeed, many of those using, utilising and arguing for centre ground politics have a rather narrow and flexible definition which might best be described as Humpty Dumptyish in that it means whatever they want it to mean and that does not necessarily coincide with a common sense literal definition.

Tara Ali's polemic 'The Extreme Centre' looks at the phenomenon of more and more extreme right wing policies and positions being labelled and sold as the "sensible", "moderate" "centre ground". Point being that the term has no practical meaning or value any more because it's been hijacked by extreme right wingers posing as sensible moderates who have taken the original Francis Fukiyama position that history has finished and that their pot pourri neo liberal economics and neo conservative foreign policies are the only legitimate game in town.

Right now they are beavering away in their respective Westminster gangs trying desperately to undermine the legitimacy of any alternative to their version of 'the centre'- painting anyone not part of the clique as populists, extremists, terrorists etc.

gastro george

"It accepts that globalization and free markets (within limits) bring potential benefits, but that these benefits must be spread more evenly via the tax and welfare system."

Would Corbyn disagree with much of that?

"Instead, [New Labour] saw [the minimum wage] as a way of preventing employers from using tax credits to drive down wages"

Didn't exactly work, did it.

Ralph Musgrave

Redistributing the gains from globalisation as advocated by Chris and Carney is all very touchy feely, but it’s a dog’s dinner. For example, how exactly do you identify WHO has lost from globalisation? In the case of a car plant which closes because of competition from abroad obviously there are the car workers. But how about the small shops near the car plant and the plant’s suppliers? They lose out as well. Do they get preferential treatment?

The reality is that we need a social security system that caters properly for ALL those thrown out of work, whether it’s as a result of globalisation or one of the dozens of other factors that influence the creation and destruction of jobs. New Carney type measures (whatever they are) are pie in the sky.

David Friedman

You quote Mark Carney as saying that "trade is not Pareto optimal"

That is not correct. What he means is that the shift to free trade is not a Pareto improvement.

For free trade not to be Pareto optimal, there would have to be some change from free trade which made some people better off and nobody worse off, hence was a Pareto improvement.

People shouldn't use technical language that they do not understand.

Keith

This is a bit of a joke. The centre if it existed does not any more. It used to mean a position mid way between soviet style economic planning and unregulated free markets and economic anarchy. But the collapse in the USSR, the worst event in history according to V Putin, means there is no left extreme. All the centre parties have been colonised by right wing ideas that would have been seen as extreme a few decades ago. What needs reviving is the left not the centre. There needs to be a new or revived collectivism to solve social problems that the market and charities cannot resolve. And I mean democratic and consistent with Liberty collectivism, not the authoritarian codswallop sold as an answer to inequality by new Labour and Cameron tories. There also needs to be a new internationalism based on peace not a second imperialism dressed up as Liberal interventionism. Otherwise we risk collapsing into xenophobic prejudice and endless war.

Andreas Paterson

@Luis Enrique - The way I've always seen it, power is something of an enabler. These people used to have the power to obtain well paid blue collar jobs with relative ease. The decline of their power has meant this the good jobs no longer come so easily.

Bob

No. Instead we need to accept that 'free trade' is a myth, 'globalisation' is a racket that favours the rich at the expense of everybody else, and then go back to nations with strong governments that protect the weak against those with excess power.

Just like after the last great free trade experiment failed in a similar fashion.

"the points I’ve just made suggest that there may be unexpected benefits, even today, to a nation that extracts itself from free trade agreements and puts a well-planned set of trade restrictions in place. There are plenty of factors putting downward pressure on prosperity just now, but the reasoning I’ve just sketched out suggests that the destitution and immiseration so common in the world right now may have been made considerably worse than they would otherwise be by the mania for free trade that’s been so pervasive in recent decades. A country that withdraws from free trade agreements and reorients its economy for the production of goods for domestic consumption might thus expect to see some improvement, not only in the prosperity of its working people, but in rates of return on investment."

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/the-free-trade-fallacy.html

Bob

"The decline of their power has meant this the good jobs no longer come so easily."

They want jobs? The bastards! Power hungry sociopath (FOAMS AT MOUTH) /sarcasm

CecilTheLion

I think public-private compromises, a hallmark of centrism, are generally outperformed by both either purely public or purely private enterprise. Public-private partnerships tend towards capitalists sucking up to the state, being allowed personal favours, sucking up massive amounts of tax dollars or extorting consumers in some way; aka crony capitalism. Hence a failure of centrisms particular brand of redistribution. I'm not a fan of nationalizing private industry, but having state colleges & universities, state utilities and state healthcare seems sensible to me; though it's also sensible to allow these to compete with market alternatives.

I'm also a champion of increasing public arts funding (outside of broadcasting), but getting anyone other than a raging leftist to sign on to that seems thoroughly impossible -- so that seems out of the picture for centrism too. admittedly that's a minor complaint.

In regards to market distributions, as Marx put it production determines distribution, thus exchange. At this point I don't think even the right-wing could put an end to redistribution; even the modern conservative generally agrees to it, though to a lesser extent.

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