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April 02, 2016



You could have gone further and spoken about Thatcher's love of the 'moderate' Khmer Rouge and American support of Ceaușescu.

However, we must be careful here to differentiate Communism (i.e. communist states as they actually exist/existed) and Marxism, which is very suspicious of 'top down' scenarios and is very much in favour of 'empowering all the people'.

 Adam Glass

Your point about Tories and centralisation of power is particularly relevant in the Brexit debate. Ceding sovereignty to the EU is a form of decentralisation or deconcentration of power, which is precisely why so many Tories hate it. It is also precisely why they are more bothered about negotiating to secure vetos and opt outs rather than trying to reform Europe to become more democratic. And why they support the 'strong governments' provided by fptp.

Matt Moore

Left-right is primarily about disagreement over economic inequality.

I think you have correctly identified that the more important type of inequality is that of power.

The reason that there is no similar political divde on this issue is that the vast majority of politicians naturally support centralised power. Labour, Conservatives are far more aligned on this issue than almost any other.


Yes, this highlights the Authoritarian-libertarian ideological axis, which runs perpendicular to the left-right axis.

The website politicalcompass.org will plot the location of varoius political parties on this 2D plane, and also your own position if you answer a questionnaire.

I believe this the Authoritarian-libertarian axis is definitely under-recognised in public discourse, and this blogger is right to point out the similarities between Authoritarian-right and Authoritarian-left governments.


Great post



(See also: American conservatives strengthening Islamism by illegally invading a sovereign country and removing a bastion of secularism, etc. etc).

Dave Timoney

One small wrinkle ... Conservatives are supporters of central planning beyond the boundary of the individual company, so long as control of planning is limited to the class of company owners. That was Adam Smith's point: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices".

What conservatives object to is not central planning per se but planning that is under democratic control, and thus not in the interests of elites. Hayek's critique of central planning found few takers in 1944 precisely because the benefits of democratic control were felt to outweigh the problems of information aggregation, which consequently led Conservatives to amend their critique to one that side-stepped democracy: the incompetence of "the men from the ministry".

As Adam Glass notes in respect of the EU, what the current Tory administration is revealing, in its mania for Whitehall control of education and Osborne's proconsular attitude towards the North, is not so much their hypocrisy in respect of central planning as their contempt for democracy.


I agree but...

There are many Communists who would argue that the emergence of libertarian/autonomous communism can only be a cumulative historical process.

In short: abolishing capitalism will not involve the instant establishment of a decentralised, self-governing and self-producing communist mode of production. There must be a transitionary process in which the state 'dictates' (on the basis of a democratic mandate) the end of capital and the initiation of new forms of production relationships - sometimes imposing them in the interests of the broader political economy.

Statist communism is very likely to be the precursor to autonomous communism. What matters is that the statist stage has as its explicit aim the autonomous stage.


It's funny how the ideals of Marxism, and any other ism, for that matter, are transformed by power dynamics in the real world. Of course Marx thought those same dynamics and economics would go on the other direction.

He was wrong in theory - there is no reason to believe there should be declining marginal return on capital - and obviously wrong in practice.

At least that's how it appears to me.


I would love a post on what Chris thinks are the factors in a society that lead to a more or less authoritarian system evolving.


Endrew, would you mind translating your comments into human so we can properly respond.


"Statist communism is very likely to be the precursor to autonomous communism. What matters is that the statist stage has as its explicit aim the autonomous stage."

Good luck with that.


Good luck indeed.

I also find it ironic that Chris thinks economists shouldn't be in the business of prediction, yet Marx made one of the boldest, and wrongest predictions, in the dismal science.

But Chris obviously isn't stupid. Is there somewhere he critiques Marx so I can see what I'm missing?



what you are missing is the ability to reason, coupled with staggering ignorance.

I am sad to say that digging up a critique will not cure your issues.

The Tory-Communist link is really a link between the wealthy and/or powerful. One link not mentioned above is the penchant for putting your unearned loot in exotic tax havens. Marginalism and other subjective apologetic economic theories cannot explain this phenomenon!


In the 1980s/90s as education was taken from local government to central government I used to refer the creation of Edplan (from Gosplan). I observed at the time that Stalinism was acting as a good role model for the Conservative party.

This was then considered the opinion of an oddball. It is nice to see that the opinion has gained wider credence.


Commentator "Adam Glass" this is ridiculous

"Ceding sovereignty to the EU is a form of decentralisation or deconcentration of power"

It is not. It is centralisation of power at the European level.

Igor Belanov

@ Bob

Think about it.

The EU is substantially less powerful than the nation-state. It has a much smaller civil service, a far weaker ability to raise revenue, no independent army or security forces, wider separation of powers and a more complicated and convoluted decision-making process. 'Sovereignty' is a more debatable concept, but the transfer of certain fields of responsibility to EU oversight has not led to 'centralisation' of power but its diffusion, if not dispersal.


There is always a dynamic balance between the central and local governments. The problem is that either one can be horribly destructive to the typical citizen. A tyrannical central government can be terrifying, but a tyrannical local government can be just as terrifying in its own way. The trick is to have some mechanism for the little guy to play them off against each other.

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