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May 06, 2020


Dave Timoney

You're being generous (or perhaps ironic) in attributing cenrists' delusions to naivety. Cohen knows perfectly well that the problem is one of systems rather than character, but he has a well-paid gig promoting the opposite belief.

Moran has no intention of constraining capitalism, rather she sees UBI as a means of reproducing labour on the cheap while "simplifying" the welfare state, hence she frames it as "a catch-all safety net".

The problem with centrists is less their utopianism (though that certainly exists) than their cynicism.


Yes. Well done. It's all about power and what, therefore, you can make happen. Or not.

Centrists are supporters of the status quo in systems terms, they just disagree on who should be steering the ship of state; they think it should be them rather than anyone else and then everything would be alright.

Because they don't or won't understand that it's only power which changes things from how they currently stand they are doomed to be second-best in all fights.

Luis Enrique

I wonder if one could write a similar-but-different case for why attempts socialism will also fail to be the force for good its proponents think, thanks to - say - the inevitable shittiness of people - so we could ask why so many very intelligent people make the mistake of overlooking that too?

In which case we are left with a choice between a giant douche and a turd sandwich

Unless ... unless there is a third way?

** ducks and runs **


"Granted, he was wrong for 30 years after writing that."
LOL are you kidding?
In the same essay he spelled out exactly how they would try to eliminate unemployment and exactly why it wouldn't work, predicting zirp/nirp 70 years before they happen.

2. In current discussions of these problems there emerges time and again the conception of counteracting the slump by stimulating private investment. This may be done by lowering the rate of interest, by the reduction of income tax, or by subsidizing private investment directly in this or another form. That such a scheme should be attractive to business is not surprising. The entrepreneur remains the medium through which the intervention is conducted. If he does not feel confidence in the political situation, he will not be bribed into investment. And the intervention does not involve the government either in ‘playing with’ (public) investment or ‘wasting money’ on subsidizing consumption.

It may be shown, however, that the stimulation of private investment does not provide an adequate method for preventing mass unemployment. There are two alternatives to be considered here. (i) The rate of interest or income tax (or both) is reduced sharply in the slump and increased in the boom. In this case, both the period and the amplitude of the business cycle will be reduced, but employment not only in the slump but even in the boom may be far from full, i.e. the average unemployment may be considerable, although its fluctuations will be less marked. (ii) The rate of interest or income tax is reduced in a slump but not increased in the subsequent boom. In this case the boom will last longer, but it must end in a new slump: one reduction in the rate of interest or income tax does not, of course, eliminate the forces which cause cyclical fluctuations in a capitalist economy. In the new slump it will be necessary to reduce the rate of interest or income tax again and so on. Thus in the not too remote future, the rate of interest would have to be negative and income tax would have to be replaced by an income subsidy. The same would arise if it were attempted to maintain full employment by stimulating private investment: the rate of interest and income tax would have to be reduced continuously.4

In addition to this fundamental weakness of combating unemployment by stimulating private investment, there is a practical difficulty. The reaction of the entrepreneurs to the measures described is uncertain. If the downswing is sharp, they may take a very pessimistic view of the future, and the reduction of the rate of interest or income tax may then for a long time have little or no effect upon investment, and thus upon the level of output and employment.


The Right has worked out that people are loss-averse. Once people have something, they don't like it taken away. Hence the way they frame inheritance tax as taxing the wealth of the elderly rather than taxing the unearned income of heirs.

The Left can only win that fight with numbers. That is: a large majority of people must feel they have little to lose through redistribution - no house, low income etc. But that's not where we are. Very large numbers of people own property and have decent lifestyles. They won't vote for the hard Left, which is why there have been so few Labour election victories - and most of those weren't hard Left.

Centrists acknowledge the systemic issues with capitalism while recognising the vast progress the world has made over the last century or so in terms of global poverty reduction, health improvements and innovation. None of which has been matched by communist regimes.

So the smart question to ask is "How do we reform mixed market systems without triggering loss aversion biases in voters?"

You can complain all you like about false consciousness, but treating people as if they're deluded isn't a good look.

The Left's chronic failure, particularly in the UK, stems from its inability to recognise the need to build a broad church. The Corbynistas' small-but-pure ideological steamroller failed miserably, and here we are today with a panel show host saying "Piffle-wiffle" while our grandparents die alone.

But glad you took the time to dump on centrists again, Chris. Perhaps if people like yourself keep insulting them, they'll be more likely to become allies, yes?


@ staberinde
A broad church requires a breadth of legitimate voices to function as advertised. You short selling Labour centrists with your characterisations intentionally? And while those yet to feel their losses are mollify do reckon there's a plan to appease the rest of us?


"...health improvements and innovation. None of which has been matched by communist regimes."
Always makes me smile this. Comparing capitalism with North Korea or Soviet Union. Otherwise known as the 'there can only be one winner" argument. Straw man and all that. :)



Well if you compare capitalism with, say Nordic or other European mixed market models then... it's still capitalism. And indeed, what most centrists would like to see in the UK.

You can only compare capitalism in its variety with not-capitalism. And the only varieties of not-capitalism we've seen in the last century or so tend to be either very small-scale (kibbutz) or accompanied by totalitarianism.

Don't blame me for the paucity of not-capitalist case studies!

Jan Wiklund

Case and Deaton is repeating Verein für Sozialwissenschaften's (or Fabian Society's) program. And it did work - for a time. So why can't it work again?

The snag is of course that it did work because of a lot of social movements forced it. Labour movements were extremely strong in Scandinavia in the 20s and in the US in the 30s, and they were the countries that pioneered this program. In India the strongest national liberation movement of the 20th century was upsetting the colonial system the early 20th century capitalism was footed in. In Russia there had just been a revolution that upset it some more, and in China there was another a little later.

So there HAD to be some sort of accommodation, and the Verein für Sozialwissenschaften supplied one, with the help of J.M. Keynes. But of course without the social movements mentioned above they wouldn't have achieved a jot.

Jan Wiklund

PS concerning the preference of incompetence: This was what George Orwell lamented some 85 years ago. And concerning the regression into finance capitalism: this was what Hilferding and Lenin lamented some 110 years ago. So it seems that we have recurrent cycles rather than a linear development.

Nick Drew

"... spends over £500bn on lobbying ..."

What, half a trillion - per year? month? decade?

Do we believe this?

Seth Edenbaum

Amusing, rilly to use the famous "Decent" Nick Cohen, as if he's on the "left".
And Corbyn might have won if he'd stayed with Brexit. "Take out Greater London—the prosperity of which depends to an uncomfortable degree on a willingness to provide services to oligarchs from the Middle East and the former Soviet Union—and the U.K. is one of the poorest countries in Western Europe." @M_C_Klein
You have a soft spot for The City.

You're a technocrat. 'Socialist Norway" is ruled by technocrats, and it's state capitalism, not socialism, whatever Ryan Cooper may pretend. But don't think I'm defending Deaton, winner of the non-Nobel Prize for "discovering", contra Ricardo and Krugman, that it's a bad idea to put all your eggs in one basket. Pure genius.

We need less barbarism in this world, and less utopianism. Two sides of the same coin.

"A religion is a form of utopia: when it disappears, alternative utopias appear"
Emmanuel Todd

Seth Edenbaum

"There’s also *ideology*. Capitalism (or indeed any social system) endogenously generates *beliefs* which help sustain its power structures, a process reinforced by the media: John Jost calls this system *justification*."

Academia has devolved to scholastic self-justifying garbage. I supposed I should link to the academic Piketty who's "discovered" the "Brahmin left".

I had to add that after reading this blather more closely. I'm done. This sh-t's all pathetic


Chris’s working definition of Capitalism is basically “the whole of observable reality everywhere on the planet from 1500 to the present day”. It’s not the most useful descriptor to use if you actually want to understand anything. I suspect that’s the point.

For instance, the Great Depression was pretty awful, but the statistical evidence shows clearly that Americans’ life expectancy and health actually improved during that period. Their economic situation was worse, but anomie was lower. So what advantage did the poor of the 1930s have over the poor of 2020?

How come America’s Mormons are bucking the trends Deaton and Case note in their book? What’s the Mormon advantage? How does Mormonism protect you from the infinite rapacity of Capitalism?


@Seth Edenbaum

“State Capitalism” makes as much logical sense as “Private Property Communism”.

Marx defined his whole program as the abolition of private property (he meant private citizens owning factories etc, not owning their own toothbrush). In the 20th century Communist governments basically achieved this; at least they went as far towards its full achievement as anyone’s ever likely to get. The result was not Marx’s Utopia. It was more like what Bakunin predicted Marxism would turn out like in practice. Therefore this new form of un-Capitalism got redefined as Capitalism.

See how it’s done?


Well, Luis Enrique, considering "the inevitable shittiness of people", have you considered what percentage of "people" are either sociopathic or psychopathic or both ? And what percentage of such people seek and gain wealth and power because they have no "conscience" .

And have you wondered why so many people pay loyal homage to them ? Like the 44% of Americans that, in one way or another, kowtow to Trump ? And why any nation that would like to call itself civilised puts up with the likes of the Trump yakuza ?

When, if, we can answer these questions meaningfully, we may find a way that can make either capitalism or socialism good for humanity.


Apologies, but quoting Kalecki in support of an argument is not usually a good sign - in my experience his insights are as useful as the quantity theory of money.

Come to think of it, when it comes to debating publicly whether the world is flat or not, choosing to quote anyone is probably not a good sign.


@ KG | May 11, 2020 at 06:53 PM

Yeah, Kalecki the guy who beat Keynes to the general theory, and essentially predicted monetarism and debunked it before it happened is really the mental midget. Get a life.

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