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January 21, 2013



For what it's worth, I endorse Chris's view


Doesn't it rather depend on what your definition of "some good" is?

Ralph Musgrave

Chris, You’ve crossed the line from your usual very realistic take on the world to the Marxist dreamer’s take on the world.

For example, re your claim that “capitalism is inconsistent with full employment”, are you really suggesting that the communist economies of Russia and Eastern Europe DID ACHIEVE full employment? Of course the latter is the message you get from Marxist dreamers. The reality, at least according to the books I read about communist labour markets was that there was plenty of unemployment: it was just given weazel word names like “waiting for work”.

And apparantly we pro-free market or pro-capitalist types are blind to the merits of a “genuine jobs guarantee”. No we’re not. At least speaking for myself, I’m all ears. I want to know how this “genuine jobs guarantee” is going to work. I’m sure there are dozens labour market economists out there who are similarly intrigued.

Having read several million words on labour markets, I’m 99% certain I’ll be able to pick holes in this “guarantee”. But never mind: I’m all ears.


@ Ralph - I really don't know where you get the idea that I endorse the USSR from.
By "genuine" jobs guarantee I meant the sort of employment schemes financed either by public spending or (as you've suggested) by a strictly time-limited subsidy, rather than the apparently open-ended subsidy Labour favours (which might merely displace the job creation that would have occurred anyway).
It could be that no economic system would have full employment, of course - but at least this would be more tolerable if the economy were more egalitarian.

Luis Enrique

things that were once unthinkable become normal. Should the numbers add up (which I doubt), I don't see why a citizens basic income, for example, should be thought unattainable via politics under a capital society.

Mick Beaman

What stops me dreaming is memory of having the same debate forty years ago when I was trying to see mileage in Tony Benn's industrial policy. Things seem to have gone backwards in Britain since although the 'third world' has come on a bit, which is interesting in itself...


@ Mick, Luis - industrial policy might be an example of Luis's unthinkable becoming normal. UK deindustrialization and the success of industrial policy in Asian tigers should have increased interest in industrial policy; see (eg) Ha-Joon Chang.
@ Luis - a big way in which the unthinkable becomes normal is that some people do shift the Overton window (eg free market think tanks in the 70s). A problem with the centre-left is that it kowtows to the present consensus and so doesn't shift the Overton window.
Insofar as my blog has a purpose, it is to try and move that damned window. Which is why I come across as a troll and eccentric.


You come across as conventional, especially when you try to achieve balance. Your view on immigration reflects that of politians.

Re: Higher wages, do you expect any system to not leak or experience hysteresis. Debt was used as a substitute for wages.

A high wage economy is the unconventional policy, compared to neo-liberalism.

Higher wages are not on the two Ed's agenda, they wish to maintain the public sector pay freeze.

Nobody thinks the current Labour leadership, are anything but empty suits and psuedo Tories.

The Job Guarantee scheme is extremely limited in scope. (And was not designed by Ed Balls). I am happy to discuss the subject.

The problem is not polititians lack power but thier poverty of aspiration. All the propoganda including economics mitigates against change.

I am a non-person.


Chris, in my view you're not moving the Overton window. I know it's unwelcome news - and I'm hardly a credible bearer - but at least I care enough to bring my view of the situation to you.

Learned helplessness is the major weapon of the Right in holding the Overton window static - the entire post Hayekian edifice is built on persuading people that beneficial change isn't possible.

If you want Marxian alternatives to be the window shifter you need to talk about them a lot more. As it is, you spend most of your time repeating the message that beneficial isn't possible.

I don't expect you to agree, but please at least consider the evidence you post about how people's minds change.


Politics is the art of the possible; Labour politicians are pessimistic about what's possible, and of course they don't suffer materially from their failures (unlike union members for example).

Of course, the right aren't happy about Cameron's lack of progress towards us becoming the next Hong Kong or whatever.

I wonder if the Overton window would be further to the left if the Americans didn't speak English?

A Facebook User

What I don't see from you is any particular extremism. I wonder what you mean by it, seeing as how hardly any of your positions or remarks seem particularly "extreme" to me.

Maybe it's because my own views seem perfectly sensible to me but are well to the "left" of the putative window, though I do not see myself as "Marxist".


@ A Facebook User. I'd have thought the following quite extreme: support for a high unconditional citizens basic income; the belief that CEOs are conmen; the belief that full employment is impossible under capitalism; support for huge inheritance tax; support for open borders; advocacy of workers ownership; a recognition that capitalism generates systematically pro-capitalist ideology and thus that parliamentary means cannot lead to socialism. And so on.
I try to write about other things too, but that's coz - as the tagline says - I'm not a fanatic.

A Facebook User

-support for a high unconditional citizens basic income;

Well if you put Milton Friedman in the "extremist" camp. I would, but on the right, not the left. Many other mainstream (at least in their time) economists have suggested it.

- the belief that CEOs are conmen;

That's not "extreme" that's just straightforward observation of reality. Although it does seem that that kind of observation can seem pretty extreme to some.

- the belief that full employment is impossible under capitalism;

Most neoclassical economists seem believe just that, especially if you look at how they act. It seems to be mainstream economic theory in the U.S.A.

I would think I am more extremist for believing that this orthodoxy ain't true, and "full employment" in the technical sense, is fairly easily attainable within a recognizably "capitalist" system.

- support for huge inheritance tax;

Was economic orthodoxy for a large part of the previous century. I'd say it's benefits are so obvious that those who oppose it are extremists, now, alas, in the ascendency.

- support for open borders;

That's just garden variety Liberalism. And it rules the policy space in Canada, for example. Of course if you mean *completely* open borders then I would agree that this is an idea that resides on the extremes. And I guess that makes me an extremist along with you. But I haven't seen you support that position so far as I can tell.

- advocacy of workers ownership;

Once again common in Canada and the US, and even orthodoxy in parts of Europe. Now "ownership of the means of production by the people", that's "extreme". Haven't heard that around here, but maybe I haven't been listening hard enough.

- a recognition that capitalism generates systematically pro-capitalist ideology and thus that parliamentary means cannot lead to socialism.

Depends what you mean by "socialism" I suppose, and "extremist" as idea would agree. But I haven't seen this said explicitly here lately.

I do understand the difference between "extremist" and "fanatic" as you explained it. And it makes a nice tagline - wish I'd thought of this before.

A Facebook User

Oh, and I'm sorry about not posting my name. "A Facebook User" is rather silly, isn't it? The name is Ed Seedhouse and I'm a Canadian living out on the large Island just off the left hand coast.


Mr A Facebook User


I think you may be vastly overestimating the degree to which real politics agrees with the left, or vastly underestimating the degree to which certain words matter. "Open borders" means, for example, the same border controls between New York and Mexico City as there are between Liverpool and Manchester - none at all. That's not "garden variety liberalism" no matter how big your garden is.

And advocacy of worker's ownership is common in the USA and orthodoxy in Europe? Where?

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