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August 21, 2017


Matthew Moore

'For me, the load-bearing facts are that actually-existing capitalism give us too much inequality, oppression and stagnation.'

Compared to what? To something we can imagine, or something possible with incentive-compatible institutional changes?

Generally, I agree with your values (we have similar social welfare functions). But I'm skeptical of the efficacy of your policy solutions

Luis Enrique

"Just as actually-existing socialism doesn’t discredit other notions of socialism, so the flaws in actually-existing centrism don’t discredit other conceptions of centrism."

Unless for some reason attempts to implement other notions of socialism inevitably descend into something that resembles actually existing socialism.

Same point could apply to centrism - I may favour policies that I'd consider both centrist yet more radical than anything centre-Labour put forward, but perhaps attempts to be centrist somehow inevitably fall into status quo managerialism. Not sure I'm convinced but it's possible.

Also, if you think that hard left and right are meaningful terms, then I don't think that defining centrism by what it is not makes it a meaningless buzzword. I don't think this self-image of centrists as less ideological and more pragmatic is entirely a delusion - there are those on left and right where the flame of ideological fervour burns bright. Not everyone is like that.


@ Luis Enrique
And centrists without a flame, not everyone is like that; because... Thank goodness we have democratic politics to help us conclude an agreement for a period of time at least.
But oh dear, centrists determine there is only so much fiscal space to work within. Is this an ideological position, a fact, or a delusion? Or just a long held agreement, of a type that goes unquestioned by entrenched interest.

Luis Enrique

e - every government has to set some limits on what it can afford to do, and that's always an estimate, never a fact. imo the fiscal constraints cited by Osbourne were probably never sincere, but if sincere then delusional. Evidently Labour centrists felt they had to accept those constraints but this is one of those differences between actually existing and other centrisms Chris writes about - for example, perfectly mainstream economics would suggest much more scope for fiscal expansion, higher public investment etc. See Simon Wren Lewis on that.


@ Louis Enrique
But not arbitrary limits and arguing this is what 'we' can afford (regardless of consequences to you). This is selling political choice as economic fact, which is political vandalism. It negates policy discussion. What's the point of engaging with an fiscally challenged centrists when you know either way, lying or delusional, they have little to no room to manoeuvrer for change.

Tynnie Todgers

Centrism in practice means perpetual drift to the right. Jeremy Corbyn would have been a centrist during the post-war boom decades. The right's craftiest trick has been to push the spectrum ever further right. Thus is Gordon Brown a "loony leftie" whose views are "counterbalanced" in the media by some twat from a rightwing think tank. Yer average punter is a reflexive centrist, uninterested in policy minutiae, who assumes common sense must be somewhere in the middle.


«selling political choice as economic fact, which is political vandalism.»

And here implicitly there is an important point about "actually existing centrism": there is no difference between "centrism" and "actually existing centrism", that difference exists entirely in our blogger's speculation.
The ideologues of "centrism"/"third way" were also its practitioners, and defined it by their own practice (and ignorable meaningless platitudes).
There is no higher/potential "centrism" than that practiced by Clinton/Bush/Obama or Blair/Cameron/May.

That for anglo-american "godless" centrism.

There is another and completely distinct form of centrism practiced by the (centre-left or centre-right) christian-democrat parties of continental Europe, which is based on a well developed ideology and indeed theology.
because of that it is possible to compare the ideological promise with the actually existing variants, and the actually existing christian-democrat variants are rather short of the ideological promise, usually devolving into petty clericalism and consensus management via widespread bribery and subsidies. The irish way to centrism has some aspects of that too.


Where is the real Chris Dillow who wrote "The End of Politics: New Labour and the Folly of Managerialism" book?

Who replaced him and wrote this blog post where there is a discussion of an imaginary "centrism" that is based on high-minded principles and ideology rather than the practice of managerialism to achieve neoliberal aims?


"And perhaps above all, my working class background – retained in my accent – puts a barrier between me and even the most generous centrists."

I'm glad you said that, because a real bugbear of mine is these columnists and commentators who brag about being from Manchester (or wherever) to boost their working class credentials but who sound like they're from Surrey or Kent.


Owen Jones sounds like he's from Stockport - trust me on this. Greater Manchester's a big place, and Stretford*'s only one part of it.

Anyway, I just wanted to endorse the Humean point and back it up with the study referred to in this piece


in which students were given two contrasting personality profiles, each assigned to a fictitious male or female job applicant, and then asked to choose between the applicants and justify their choice by reference to the profiles.

"Ironically, the people who were most convinced of their own objectivity discriminated the most. Although self-reported endorsement of sexist attitudes didn’t predict hiring bias, self-reported objectivity in decision making did."

It figures that you aren't going to keep watch on your own sexist or racist tendencies if you don't think you have any, but that last sentence is still a bit startling.

*where Terry Christian comes from


It wasn't those two I was thinking of (and definitely not Terry Christian, who has a superb accent). I live in Greater Manchester and work in Manchester myself.


" ..... the claim that centrists base their views on evidence rather than ideology .... "

Actually existing centrism is a swamp of spin, lack of critical thinking, sloppy analysis and unexamined assumptions. A lot of it is ideological, but if a commentator or politician claims that they occupy the centre ground they can get away with claiming that it is based on evidence and logic.

A better kind of centrism would be firmly rooted in evidence and logic. It might, though, begin to question some of those cherished centrist myths.


I'm glad you said that, because a real bugbear of mine is these columnists and commentators who brag about being from Manchester (or wherever) to boost their working class credentials but who sound like they're from Surrey or Kent.

But this is surely a matter of personal choice, isn't it? You can choose, like Chris, to avoid a reasonably painless shift that will gain much and cost nothing because of your personal beliefs, or you can go RP because you'll suddenly dodge all discriminatory tarrifs that the UK features.

My grandparents all grew up poor speaking dog-rough regional accents; a combination of National Service and Attlee's work ensured that they ended up speaking RP with mild regional tinges. Chris made a different choice and that's also respectable.


Damn, forgot Chris blocked tags. First para is a quote of Tom's really nasty comment at August 22, 2017 at 10:33 AM.

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