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July 25, 2019



You say “it is possible that a centrism will emerge that does learn from the past and have robust answers to stagnation” . I agree, but for a while yet, this will continue to be called 'a hard left agenda.'

Kevin Carson

The centrist "evidence not ideology" claim is laughable when the centerpiece of their ideology is the assumption that the present state of affairs is some inevitable fact of nature that "just happened," rather than the result of a massive record of historical robbery and violence. And they cling to this ideological assumption in defiance of the evidence, not only of that historical record, but of the plan FACTS that the majority of billionaire wealth and corporate profit today results from economic rent extraction or subsidy.

Centrism is one of the most ideological, least "evidence-based" belief systems in history.

Some Guy

To be fair the state has become very involved in the majority of companies in China recently, (which make up a significant portion of the worlds productive capacity) with party members being consulted on strategic decisions so we should have an interesting comparison in another 10 or 20 years. China is so big we may get a natural experiment in comparing the differences between regions.

Centrism seems like a weird philosophy anyway as it is a moving target. Todays centrists would have been considered far right thatcherites 30 years ago and will likely be far from the centre ground of opinion in another 30 years while still claiming to represent centrist views.

Jo Swinson is an interesting case where a lot of what she says is directly contradicted by her voting record and time in the coalition government during the last 10 years.


"This is powerful evidence that, left to itself, capitalism generates recession and stagnation. To fight these tendencies, the state must do more than merely provide a stable policy framework and light regulation"

stagnation in the UK and western europe is far more connected with EU dreams of top-down technocratic regulation. If you regulate your current state in detail and prevent deviation from it, you don't have to be Maynard Keynes to realise that you will experience zero economic and productivity growth.


@ Kevin Carlson "rather than the result of a massive record of historical robbery and violence. "

it would come as something of a surprise to my ancestors earning a crust in rural Devon to realise they were engaged in a massive effort of robbery and violence and storing up White Privilege for the punishment of their offspring.


Kind of true by definition, no?


Well of course if you reduce everything to economic determinism, as per Marx, you would see things that way.

But I suggest that your perspective has its own blind spots, chief among them the alternative analysis of technological determinism. The Left seems oddly relaxed about mass surveillance so long as those responsible pay their taxes.

The world isn't as you wish it to be. There is not a simple class-based economic divide in ideologies. There are also liberal-authoritarian, communitarian-individualistic and tech-optimistic/pessimistic axes. Not all of these fall neatly into Left and Right.

Urbanisation is as much a driver of the Leave/Remain divide as the winners and losers narrative beloved of economic determinists.

And you could have a very interesting conversation with some Uyghurs about the trade-offs between liberty and prosperity.

When I started following this blog a few years ago I was attracted by the interplay of a broad range of ideas. Lately, I fear you've narrowed your perspective in favour of economic determinism, and your analysis is the poorer for it.

I'd love, for example, to read your view on the cultural acceptability of austerity among 'green' people (willing to consume less, and pay more for less/worse) versus the Left's attitude to Tory austerity. In a fantasy world where the Greens ran everything, would you be opposing their version of austerity or supporting it? After all, the planet doesn't care how poor you are. It just needs you to consume less...

nicholas ford

Its not centrists who are against evidence, its leftist such as Chris.
Centrists believe the evidence of the last 100 years is that the market economy is fundamentally more effective at delivering prosperity than a state directed economy; further, they believe the economic freedoms of the market economy also help promote individual liberties and freedoms. The 'big' evidence is the systematic failure of state directed socialism and Marxist policies in the Soviet Union, China and virtually every other country in which it was applied, compared to the relative prosperity of market economies.

Chris repeatedly identifies inefficiencies or injustices in our society which are relatively minor in any objective sense (by which I mean compared outcomes in state directed economies) and cites these as evidence there is a fundamental problem with our organisation of society, and we should adopt some failed socialist model. To adopt Chris type language, this is bollocks. All the evidence Chris ever produces merely demonstrates there is scope for incremental improvement. It does not demonstrate the centrists are wrong in their support for the market economy.


All change is selective and, if it continues long enough, ultimately elitist and will lead a society to extremes, progressive change is no different. The elite who benefit most from that change are likely to have disproportionate power and influence in such a society and will constitute the political centre ground with a vested interest in the continuance and the further intensification of that change even when it conflicts with the interests of the majority.

Progressive change is not a neutral or impartial state it is the result of the adaptation to the improved material condition produced by capitalist economic development and since we cannot be impartial about that in which we believe, progressives by definition cannot be impartial about progressive change and so are oblivious or indifferent to its negative effects and of its extreme nature. In such a society centrism is the extreme and the left and right may then be seen as tempering influences on the extreme economic and cultural consequences of late stage capitalism.

But such is the dependency of progressive societies on further progressive change and so deeply imbued is that progressive bias that it has corrupted its social and economic analysis to the extent that its concept of evidence is no more than a rationalisation of further progressive change.

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