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April 25, 2018


Handy Mike

"The danger in Owen’s campaigning is that he meets too many people who agree with him which reduces his self-doubt".

Level with us here Chris - You chuckled to yourself after typing that right, but then thought 'Nah, fuck it, I'll leave it in."

The War for Truth in Owen's soul aside, you seem to have missed Aaronovitch's point here by quite some way. Which is not that of Owen Jones hangs out with the vicious rabble of Momentum too often to be able to abstract himself from groupthink; it's that his job and the mainspring of his life is activism in Corbynist cause.

In addition to the all the motivated reasoning this must put him at risk of, it probably also inclines him to suppose that everyone else in journalism is at the same game, and so, when disagreeing with him, playing for the other side. In all likelihood there's a cognitive bias or kink covering this that I could link to by way of irrefutable demonstration.

So you're right that "the notion of dispassionate centrists facing unreflective leftists is surely simplistic." which must be among the reasons Arronovitch didn't put it forward.

As for the mysterious unpopularity of Marxism, have you considered the possibility that people have examined the theory and practice, including the theory of ideology, and arrived at the conclusion that it is inadequate, false or even absurd?


How many of the masses have actually analysed marxist thoery lets be honest.

The weekend is quite a popular bit of marxism.

Luis Enrique

I see from the footnote I can stop leaving my usual comment!


I think this is excellent.

Liberal Centrism seems to be incapable of self-reflection and self-critique at the moment.

It fails to comprehend that many of its policy positions are anything but 'moderate' - wanting the removal of Assad so much that they end up supporting murderous Al-Qaeda/ISIS linked opposition in Syria. Supporting the sale of arms to the Saudis to commit atrocities in Yemen. Supporting the shit show of Western intervention in Libya. Turning a blind eye to the extremist atrocities committed by Netanyahu's regime in Israel. Supporting the ideological 'war on the poor' that is austerity because, hey, balancing the books is more important. Doing nothing to tackle inequality etc. etc.

It also conflates this supposed 'moderation' in policy terms with a personality which is even-handed and balanced.

As Chris says, you don't need to be a goggle-eyed fanatic to want to end inequality, end poverty, end Western interventionism, and tackle climate change but it seems as though the centre has completely lost the argument to the left on tackling these challenges. All Liberal Centrists have now is personality politics because they don't seem to have any actual policies that answer the pressing questions of our time.

One might ask, "What's left of Liberal Centrism?"
Answer - Nothing, its just a cult of personality now.


Merely some observations;

Technocracy is like Communism, it's never been tried, claiming politicians impose technocratic solutions is like saying the USSR was an actual Communist state.

The fact that you call the folks at the IMF technocrats when they couldn't discern the impact of austerity, trade agreements, etc when there were mainstream economists who could is absurd.

You say the voice of the people counts for something, does that mean if the masses yearned for WWIII it should be taken under consideration? It's fascinating to me that we accept the necessity of regulations concerning who can practice various trades, yet this does not apply to politicians or voters given how important government is to society.

Changing peoples living conditions may change their minds, and there are other ways to change their minds even if their living conditions don't change, am I to believe that Marxists think culture doesn't matter?

Inequality is not a problem, are you suggesting that individual differences must be eliminated? That absolute leveling must occur? However the cognitive fusion and group think surrounding the subject is.

Noah Carl

How would you have hoped to achieve "interstitial transformation" towards socialism from inside the EU?

Dave Timoney

@Handy Mike,

"the vicious rabble of Momentum", "groupthink"

Marvellous stuff.

Dave Timoney


"Technocracy is like Communism, it's never been tried".

Systems of rule are defined by tendencies, not by certification. What matters is what a government does, not what "team" it claims to support. For example, most postwar European governments implemented a mix of socialist and capitalist policies. The political struggle was over the balance between the two.

Technocracy is less about the substance of policy (should it be pro-social or pro-market?) and more about style: who should have authority and how should policy be formulated and implemented? (On the former, technocracy often blends into epistocracy - the rule of the qualified expert - which you yourself seem to be suggesting.)

In that regard, all states are technocratic to a degree. That technocratic governance is often ineffective because of incompetence or vested interests does not make it any less technocratic. For example, what matters about the IMF is its authority, not its success rate.


The concentration on left vs right as the principal axis of political opinions is misleading. This posting shows that it is only a secondary axis:


What is significant is that Owen Jones writes for The Guardian and, as you can see from the slides, Guardian readers are at the internationalist end of what is called the Axis of UKIP. Guardian readers are not significantly more right or left economically than the general population.

This work dates back to 2005 when Labour was New Labour, so I would expect to see some differences now, but the Brexit result shows that the Axis of UKIP is still strong.


«if my ideas are so good, why are they unpopular? We leftists have two replies to this.
One lies in economic conditions. Capitalist stagnation has made people more illiberal and intolerant. ... Secondly, we have a theory of ideology. Many leftists tend to blame the media.»

Ah the usual "centrist" thesises including "austerity" :-).
Looking instead at material conditions I see many millions of people who have had booming living standards; for a large chunk of the voters economic conditions have been simply fabulous for nearly 40 yuears, one example here from a commenter on "The Guardian":

“I inherited two properties in 1995 [ ... ] and the value has gone from £95,000 to £1,100,000”

That's on average £43,000 per year of profit, work-free and probably mostly tax-free. For millions of voters (and their greedy heirs) in the south-east and London thatcherism has delivered their elevation to the propertied gentry.
Looks like to me they have a strong material interest in more thatcherism.


«This work dates back to 2005 when Labour was New Labour, so I would expect to see some differences now»

Left-right on the social and economic dimensions has been a theme of this site and they have produced a helpful chart of the electoral positioning of the 3 major UK parties since 1972:



Or Electoral Calculus' 2-D political mapping


which gives totally different results. Neither methodology is properly transparent, unlike the approach I referenced where, if you follow the links, you can find the questions and the data.


«economic conditions have been simply fabulous for nearly 40 yuears, one example here from a commenter on "The Guardian":

“I inherited two properties in 1995 [ ... ] and the value has gone from £95,000 to £1,100,000”

That's on average £43,000 per year of profit, work-free and probably mostly tax-free.»

So not “ideology” nor “Capitalist stagnation”, which has simply not existed for millions of voters, who however also tend to be the most intolerant and rightwing.

It is amazing to me the ability of "centrist" writers to completely ignore the major fact of english politics and political economy for the past 40, the colossal (2-3 trillion pounds) upward redistribution which has so enormously enriched tory voters.

As to that, I have come up with two fantastic proposals for the Conservative or the new "centrist" party who “champion” the “aspirational voters who shop at John Lewis and Waitrose”:

* De-tax house payments -- allow them to be deducted from taxable income (this is already possible to some extent by putting property in a SIPP).

* Even better: share-invested pension mortgages, also tax-free.

Pension account mortgages explanation:

* Currently to get to a target pension pot of £300,000 a tory voter has to buy stock shares every year, for example for a 40 year working career, and that means that shares bought in later years can only zoom in price for a shorter time than shares bought in earlier years.

* It would be much better for the tory voter to get a share mortgage of £300,000 upfront, buy £300,000 of shares first thing so that they can all zoom up in price for 40 years.

* The scheme probably would be a 5% deposit from the future pensioner, for example £15,000 on a £300,000 investment, 20% from a government "Help to Invest" scheme, or £60,000, and £225,000 borrowed from a bank with the stock as security

This is already what happens with real estate, and I think that stock-based pension mortgages would really rocket up the stock market.
There are plenty of academic papers that "prove" that in the long run the stock market is risk-free.

What could possibly go wrong? :-)


Still a big increase but UK average house prices are up 4x since 1995. In London 5x. Not 11x.
Obviously only (max)one of the houses would be free of tax if sold.


«but UK average house prices are up 4x since 1995. In London 5x.»

In nominal terms £95,000 to £1,100,000 is fairly typical for London.
That 4x BTW is for the UK *including London*.
The general rule is doubling in "real" terms every 10-12 years for the south-east, and in London every 7-9 years. All 100% redistributive, as the same asset simply changes prices, with the higher price being 100% a transfer from the (as a rule poorer) buyer to the (as a rule richer) seller.

While wages, especially median and below-median wages, have grown rather slowly or fallen in real terms (and often in nominal terms).


Look it up - London is not up 11x since 1995.

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