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April 03, 2012



Addendum to the more Marxian answer would be Galbraith's Culture of Contentment argument. Politicos are constrained by the vested interests of the people who make up the majority of the electorate. Who for example would oppose further taxation of residential property.

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I think this may relate to another of your favourite subjects, managerialism.

Clearly an Oxford PPE degree is partly sought as a leg-up to various metropolitan elites, and thus becomes a token of a person's fitness for a job in political management.

The shibboleths this implies were once centred on consensus-building and the ability to see both sides of an argument. This included respect for expertise across many fields, such as social science and engineering, as well as economics and history.

Over the last 25 years this has changed to a deference to a much narrower range of experts, notably bankers, lawyers, and "successful business people". I think it would be fair to say the political class is now mainly informed by people who understand price but not value.

The coincidental rise of management consultancy has, I suspect, played a major part in this. At a personal level, it is hard to distinguish a parliamentary researcher from a junior at PwC or KPMG. Both spout bollocks about matters they have little experience of.

The irony is that a quarter of a century of management consultancy has given rise to "real world" business people (and politicos) who rely on decidely unrigorous theory and eschew practice and empiricism altogether.


Why are the political class out of touch with their public?

Simple. All the real decisions are made in Brussels and merely implemented by whoever happens to be the national party of government.

Hence you get VAT on pasties (EU ruling) and spying on all our emails etc (EU policy) etc etc. You can vote for who you like, red, blue or yellow, but the policies are the same, as they don't originate here.

Is anyone surprised people are alienated when nothing changes whoever you vote for? And not only that, parties who espouse one thing in opposition suddenly do a volte face once in power. We have an illusion of democracy, when in reality we live in an oligarchy.


Let me prod and poke a little ... why is it all these people who bluff their way so successfully in government trend to be Oxford PPE grads (or, dare I say it, modern history grads) rather than Cambridge Economics grads? Let me offer a hypothesis - I suspect that PPE is often about teaching just enough economics to be an artful bullshitter, wheareas us Cambridge economics grads actually learn some proper economics, but with the side effect that it makes us less effective politicians. Of course, I could be wrong ....

Chris Purnell

This blog offers a very useful insight into the point of Mao's 'attack' on the bourgeisie. Forcing them into the countryside to work in shit in pig-sties etc., certainly blew apart their elitist entitlements. The institutional egalitarianism of Mao's China resonates with the new leadership- the so called princelings- many of whom wept bitter tears. Smooth faced people who have parents who know how to game the system cannot avoid 'groupthink' and other intellectual perils. Great Stuff Chris.


Isn't the problem here that it is assumed that as politician spout economic nonsense, they mustn't understand economics? Isn't it just as likely that they do understand, but fear the results will be unpopular? To use one of this blog's themes - politicians pretend to be able to influence growth etc.

never you mind

Wait mr Purnell you're saying that the Chinese elite is "better" because the Cultural Revolution put them through is really facile any problem of alienation, regulatory capture, inequality, corruption etc that we face in Britain is magnified in China, the difference is that the Chinese elite are effectively keynesians because Tiananmen and China's catch-up growth is faster than our technological frontier growth.

Also as someone doing a History and Economics Degree at Oxford presently I'll say that it in itself is not the problem here we do the basic Keynesian canon IS-LM etc, fical policy blah, blah, blah. Its quite clear our PPE alumni just forgot all of it (or chose to ignore/disbelieve it).


"Why are the political class out of touch with their public? Simple. All the real decisions are made in Brussels and merely implemented by whoever happens to be the national party of government."

The problem with this explanation is the very wide variation in rates of political disenchantment from one EU member country to another. In (say) Sweden, belief in democracy as the best system of government is consistently around 15 percentage points higher than in the UK, and turnout in general elections is around 20 percentage points higher - i.e. of every 100 citizens in Sweden, 20 more bother to vote than in the UK. Yet Sweden is an EU country and hamstrung by all the EU regulations just as much as the UK.

George Carty

"Yet Sweden is an EU country and hamstrung by all the EU regulations just as much as the UK."

Unless Britain is different from Continental countries in such a way that magnifies the harmful effects of Brussels's edicts.

(One could compare with the French "Loi de la laïcité" which though it claims to be religiously neutral, in practice hits Muslims harder than Christians, because Islam is orthopraxic while Christianity is orthodoxic.)


The left wing answer to your questions I think is that all the politicos believe in "Neo liberalism" so democracy is a fake. The word neo liberal is interpreted in different ways so care is needed when using it. I will define it thus: neo liberal is a far right economic and political idea and movement that is not in fact liberal in the traditional sense at all. It involves the creation of an increasingly authoritarian state which is however run for corporate interests. So the state exists not to do good but make profits for a small economic aristocracy. This requires in fact that traditional civil liberties be abolished so no one can oppose the corporate plutocrats; while private property rights are made stronger so more rent seeking is facilitated. The agenda is in origin derived from the US far right and links in to Imperialism via people like dick "torture them hard" Cheney. Rights for corporations and the super rich but not for people.

People in sweeden presumably still think they live in a parliamentary democracy where the representatives rule for the many and the nation. I hope they are right!

While euro skepticism as a political movement is right wing, and tories/ libertarians like Jim thus represent it; it looks more and more as if the euro project has transformed into a european neo liberal coup d'état. A "strike (against the) state" ( see wikepedia ) so there seems no reason why the left should go along with it any more.

Since Keynes aimed at the public good his ideas are irrelevant to corporate Kleptocracy and can be ignored.

Maybe never you mind can add this insight to his degree course.


I'm actually a red dpeiar baby, I imbibed Marxism with my mother's milk, and it has always been clear to me that iit is insulting to proper communists to call the modern new left Marxist. a0Not only do these kids know nothing, their teachers never bothered actually learning any Marxist theory. Marxist thought in this country has been dead since 1968-9, when it was replaced by the bastard ideology of moral relativism, deconstruction, and retrograde romanticist worship of primitive cultures that was the self hating product of the westerna0bourgeoisie.They know nothing and they don't give a shit about the proletariat, which probably explains why the real proletariat now votes Republican. a0Anti Technology and anti universal rights is the opposite of communism. a0A proper communist would look at Al Qaeda and sees a group who wants to overturn the Renaissance, He wouldn't bother trying to understand them. a0Real communists believe in technological betterment and conquering the cosmos, they may have been murderous but the Soviets and even Mao believed in industry, they were not superstitious nature worshippers, they left that to the Pagan Nazis, the romantic fascists and the reactionary falangists. a0Actually they didn't leave that to them, they wanted to exterminate them. a0These New Left hippy reactionaries aren't Marxists, they have no ideology except entitlement for themselves and hatred for those not like them. a0But if they have to choose they hate those closest to them, the people who gave them the luxury of being entitled brats, and that hatred makes them defend medieval religious fanatics who mutilate women to preserve their patriarchal privilege, third world exploiters who starve their own people and enslave them in order to buy houses in Mayfair with aid money.The hippies killed the left with their self indulgence, and yet like a zombie it keeps flinging its feces. a0Glenn Beck is a better Marxist than almost anyone in Academia.

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