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Snapshots of Labour collapse

If you are an anti-Corbynite Labourite, things are looking pretty grim just now:

By his disastrous widening of the franchise for electing the party leader, Ed Miliband has handed control of it to what a previous leader, Hugh Gaitskell, memorably denounced as “pacifists, unilateralists and fellow travellers” – people not only antipathetic to ordinary voters but anathema even to most ordinary Labour MPs. It will be hard, it may even be impossible, to get the institution back. …

Quite so, except that the people to whom the Labour Party has just been handed are not pacifists. They favour violence provided that it is inflicted upon Britain and upon civilisation by Britain’s and by civilisation’s enemies.

This is Robert Harris, in today’s Sunday Times, and dragged out from behind its paywall here.

Such chaos cannot go on much longer.. Those MPs who either defy a three-line whip to vote for military action against Isis, or who are permitted to follow their consciences in a free vote, may well prove to be the nucleus of a new party.

If that sounds apocalyptic then so is the mood of many Labour MPs: obliged to watch at close quarters day in, day out, the incompetent antics of a leadership that has no hope of ever winning a general election but which is nonetheless impossible to dislodge.

But if you are a Corbynite Labourite, things are looking pretty good:

Formed as a successor to the Corbyn campaign, Momentum is in the process of setting up governance arrangements to represent its supporters amongst the Labour Party membership as well as the wider social movement which is springing up. As it grows, Momentum will develop democratic governance structures at every level of the network.

That being from the Momentum website. However, I prefer this piece of Momentum propaganda, which I spotted recently in the tube:

Momentum

Who knew that political feuding could be so glamorous?

Here is another Labour Party related picture which I took, when walking beside a disconnected and unnavigable canal (a certain creek springs to mind) in north London earlier this year. Did the person who threw this sign into the water know something that the rest of us did not, about the future of the Labour Party?

VoteLabour

To be more serious, I am content to see the Labour Party reduced to a state of ruin.

All my adult life I have wanted to see the connection between, on the one hand, what you might call Underdogism – sticking up for the poor and powerless against the rich and powerful whenever those interests clash, and on the other hand, the belief that the only way to improve the world is by increasing the amount of political compulsion that flails about in it. This connection is at the core of the Labour Party. Labour was founded to use state power to impose political solutions that were supposedly going to help the poor and powerless. The world was going to be damn well forced to be better.

This certainly did some good for some good people. But it did a hell of a lot more good for a lot of bad people, and it did a hell of a lot of harm to a lot more good people. So, for all that the Labour Party may now, still, be one of our Great National Institutions, blah blah, I rejoice that it now seems to be toppling towards permanent insignificance. Much as I loath Momentum and just about everything that it stands for, I approve of what it is actually doing, which is wrecking the Labour Party.

Quite a while back now, there was one of those Labour’s collapse is bad for the country because the country needs a capable opposition pieces in the Daily Mail. David Gillies, an occasional commenter here, attached to this piece a comment that I copied and pasted into my hard disc at the time, but I then did nothing with it. Here, now, is that comment:

This is begging the question that opposition to the Conservatives has to come from Labour. There’s nothing intrinsic in the make-up of the UK electorate that makes that the case. It is entirely possible that Labour has simply run its course as a credible party of government, like Asquith’s and Lloyd-George’s Liberals did a hundred years ago. Opposition could equally well come from a libertarian party focussing on sound finance, low taxation, a diminution of the state, less hectoring from busybodies and an end to transnational progressivism. That party may or may not be in existence at the moment, but I see no reason why some version of it should not come about.

My sentiments, approximately. Not exactly, because I fear that there is a rather big reason why such a party will not come about any time soon, in a form big enough to be Her Majesty’s Opposition. Not enough British people now believe in such a thing. But such a Party might now start getting itself together, and it might eventually get somewhere. I entirely agree with David Gillies in hoping so.

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65 comments to Snapshots of Labour collapse

  • Fred Z

    “I am content to see the Labour Party reduced to a state of ruin.”

    There is always the argument about preferring the devil you know, but I don’t buy it, I’m with you: Labour delenda est.

  • Paul Marks

    There is a terrible logic behind the socialism of Mr Corbyn and co.

    If capitalism is “exploitation” and if large scale property in the means of production is “theft” then the property must be taken from the “thief” capitalists and the exploiters (those capitalists again) must be punished.

    It is not just “capitalist” Israel that must be exterminated (so that the proletarian “Palestinians” be freed from exploitation) it is evil capitalist Britain and the United States also.

    Also why hide one’s socialism as Barack Obama does (or at least used to) – why not, if it is morally right, proclaim it from the roof tops – so that the capitalist exploiters (and their “henchmen” – such as me) know that their day of extermination is soon to be at hand!

    Accept the principles of Mr Corbyn, which after-all are the basic principles taught in the schools and universities and pushed in popular entertainment (evil “the rich” and evil “corporations” that must be destroyed) and everything else logically follows from them.

    It is the Keynesianism and Social Democracy of the Labour “moderates” (and or Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne) that does not logically follow from any principles.

    As Ludwig Von Mises pointed out a century ago – it one really believes the principles taught in the schools and universities (and in popular entertainment – and “intellectual” novels also) then one will become a total collectivist – not a half hearted one.

    That is why the most intelligent students (not the least intelligent – the most intelligent) will side with Mr Corbyn and co.

    And the general population?

    This form of extremism, logical though it is (if one accepts its starting principles) is unlikely to appeal to the general public.

    “So Brian is correct Labour is finished?”

    Perhaps – unless…..

    Unless the Credit bubble economy finally collapses.

    If that happens (and YES I know I have predicted it so many times – and it has NOT happened) then there is a alternative to socialism in the United States.

    In the United States there are still well known people, such as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who teach that the government is massively too big and undermines civil society.

    That is not the case in Britain.

    In Britain “free market” means the credit bubble monetary policy and the wild government spending of Mr David Cameron and Mr G. Osborne.

    So if the economy collapses the only alternative will be socialism.

    Real socialism – heaps of dead bodies.

  • Patrick Crozier

    The depressing thing is that, according to a recent poll and despite all we now know about Corbyn et al, 27% of the population are still prepared to vote Labour. That’s within striking distance.

  • Cal

    Labour splitting into two would be the best possible outcome for us, as it would split the left-wing vote.

    But I worry that Labour will get a new leadership team before too long and come back into contention. (Yeah, I know it’s hard for Labour to change leaders, and the party base is happy with Corbyn. Corbyn staying is the second-nest option).

    One thing that I don’t agree with is all the right-wing commentators who say ‘It’s terrible that Labour is losing credibility because parliament needs a strong opposition”. Even if it is true that a strong opposition is a good thing that opposition doesn’t have to be Labour, does it? It could be UKIP. Two opposed sort-of-right-wing parties would be greatly preferable to having Labour in opposition.

    And claims that without a credible opposition the Tories would shift to the right have turned out not to be true — if anything they are moving towards the centre to consolidate their support amongst centrist New Labour types (thanks to ol’ jellyback, ie. George Osborne).

  • Shlomo Maistre

    What we are witnessing in the United Kingdom’s Labour Party is one of the main ways in which the Overton Window is shifted leftwards, as it has been doing for centuries in the Western world.

    According to Overton’s description, his window includes a range of policies considered politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion, which a politician can recommend without being considered too extreme to gain or keep public office.

    Jeremy Corbyn is probably unelectable in today’s United Kingdom, but by controlling a major political party the Corbyn gang are presenting dissenting Labourites with a simple offer they can rarely refuse: get with the (leftwing) program (or face the consequences, which can vary). Ultimately those who do not accept said offer will almost certainly be eventually rendered irrelevant to the Labour Party.

    Many (probably most) of President Obama’s policies would be considered politically unacceptable by the climate of public opinion that prevailed in the United States circa 1980, for instance.

    Like the leftists who have preceded him, Corbyn will lose the battle but win the war. Time degrades all things, after all.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    And claims that without a credible opposition the Tories would shift to the right have turned out not to be true — if anything they are moving towards the centre to consolidate their support amongst centrist New Labour types (thanks to ol’ jellyback, ie. George Osborne).

    Exactly.

    This is what democracy looks like: the Left is shifted left by leaders and the Right’s politicians compete to acquire the support of those the Left abandoned in the center.

    Rinse. Repeat.

    Because it is war by other means, democracy generally empowers political movements insofar as they deteriorate order by breaking the bonds that form a cohesive social fabric. The Left does precisely that by definition.

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    In a way, British Labour is lucky. It is possible for them to change their leader before the next election. Australian Labor has to wait until after a General Election. Thanks to Rudd, who put in rules making it hard for leaders to be replaced (his one lasting legacy), the ALP is stuck with Bill Shorten, who is very unpopular with the electorate. This only occurred when the Libs replaced Abbott with Turnbull. Still, they are stuck with Shorten until then.

  • John Bayley

    @ Nicholas:
    Yes, Australian Labor is stuck with Bill Shorten, but the “conservative” (don’t laugh!) government now has Mr Turnbull in the PM’s chair.
    Just like the UK, we in Australia now have the choice between “left-wing” (Labor) and “left-wing” (Liberal – also known as “Labor Lite”).
    I think this just validates the thesis presented above by Shlomo Maistre.

  • tranquil

    We have “competency tests” for a wide range of things (e.g. driving a vehicle). Qualifications can also be seen as a measure of competency.

    However, there are no competency tests for candidates standing for parliament (or for voters). I believe there should be tests for *both*.

    Democracy as it stands is hugely flawed. There will *always* be more mouth-breathing bludging boofheads (who thinks that socialism works) than there will be educated people who realise the benefit of “small government”.

    There should be a test for both candidates and voters (and both should be required to get at least 90% correct answers to pass). This would have the very positive effect of moving the “Overton window” to the right.
    (I’m sure that it is doing that in Europe anyway as right-wing parties enjoy rising support while the left-wing tries to keep pushing the electoral poison of “keep the immigration floodgates open”).

  • thefrollickingmole

    Still, they are stuck with Shorten until then.

    “In breaking news today Mr Shorten passed away after a brief illness and with considerable kicking and struggling. Its the 2nd case of ‘brutally stabbed to death-itis” to hit Australian politics in as many months”….

  • Australian Labor has to wait until after a General Election.

    Unless they happen to be in power, in which case backroom plotters in either party are free to engineer the removal of a sitting PM without bothering to consult the electorate, and replace him/her with one of their number. How many recent Australian PMs have not been able to see out their term?

  • Cal

    (I initially missed the ‘Continue reading’ link on this piece, which is why my comment about how UKIP could be the opposition seemed not to acknowledge that Brian had already quoted David Gillies as saying the same thing. Good point, David.)

  • pete

    Labour is not in a state of ruin.

    It has become the plaything of its moderately affluent, largely professional public sector middle class membership, nearly all of whom are not going to suffer too much from Tory austerity measures.

    I suspect this membership is thoroughly enjoying the Corbyn’s leadership and is unconcerned about the party’s unelectability.

    The working class need to find another party to vote for.

  • Mr Ed

    The relative moderation and cautiousness of the Labour Party over its history has always rather surprised me. Kipling referred to the Labour Party of the 1930s as ‘Bolshevism without bullets’. The party came into its own during WW2, with the massive invasion of the State into the economy and everyday life, and with rationing continued and getting stricter long after the last U-boat had surrendered, and thereafter it strove to collectivise as much as it could of the UK economy.

    The Labour Prime Minister Mr Atlee was so concerned about the influence of Communists in his Cabinet (not merely his party) that he restricted defence briefings to avoid letting the more extreme Cabinet in on matters that he wished to keep from the Soviets, and Labour permitted the Soviets access to Rolls-Royce Nene jet engine technology to give the world the curse of the Mig-15.

    In the run-up to the 1997 General Election, the Sunday Telegraph ran a front-page article headed ‘Labour – the party that hates England‘. And that sums them up, everything good about England, they hate and seek to destroy. They are just more open about it now. They are also a bit miffed and probably puzzled that the Scots have gone and found their own Dear Leaders.

    As I have said previously, anyone who votes Labour is rejecting a rational economic existence, and in terms of actions having natural consequences, does not deserve not to starve to death, as they are asking for economic death. At least voting for Mr Cameron you could say that he only destroyed the economy by negligence, not intent.

  • Oddly appropriate that the film Momentum , despite the presence of the glamorous Miss Kurylenko on its posters, “is set to be one of the year’s biggest flops after taking just £46 in the UK on its opening weekend”.

  • Rob

    The Labour membership is like an alien species compared to the electorate as a whole, but with regard to Corbyn and his party, he is the mainstream and the Labour MPs are the outliers. The Labour membership voted for him by a big majority. He isn’t going anywhere soon.

    Thank goodness.

  • Fraser Orr

    I think a fair comparison might well be with 1983 and Michael Foot, who was a similarly loony leftie that get elevated in light of the widespread hatred of Thatcher, on the belief that “anyone can beat Thatcher, therefore we can manage to sneak in an extremist.” Of course we all know what happened here, helped, no doubt by General Galtieri.

    My point is that the labor party did not fold up and die, rather it moved on to Kinnock, who was considerably less extreme, and frankly who would probably won were it not for the fact he was such a tosser. And they ultimately recovered with Blair.

    However, there is a major difference this time around, and that would be Scotland. The fact the Corbyn can’t win could well finish off the union and push Scotland to be independent. Without Scotland Labor will never win again and some sort of major realignment would have to take place.

    Though, come to that, “New Labour” was really exactly that realignment, where they absorbed many of the policies of Thatcherism that just ten years before were considered the worst excesses of capitalism, as if they were axiomatic.

    Needless to say though, Cameron is no Thatcher.

  • llamas

    Labour Party self-immolates (again) over the perennial conflict between an electorate with broad center-Left views and a Party machine dominated by a motley crue ranging from the extra-hard Left to the insanely-extreme Left.

    What a shame. No, really. I mean it. Such a pity (spoken in the accents of Helena Bonham Carter).

    You could dust off all the headlines and opinion pieces from the ’70s and ’80s (SWP/Militant Tendency), change a few names, and everything old would be new again. Or any one of the half-a-dozen prior, identical episodes.

    Because, in truth, this is the perennial story of the British Labour Party since its founding – the delicate dance required to maintain a party that’s run and dominated by hardcore ‘intellectual’ socialists, Marxists, Maoists and Stalinists (depending upon the era) but dependent for electoral success upon working- and lower-middle-class voters coming out of a strong tradition of guild-style trade-unionism, nationalism, isolationism and protectionism. One of these things is very-definitely not like the other.

    The voters have their roots in things like the Friendly Societies and the Miner’s Aid Funds and the Mass Trespass movement. The leaders have their roots in the more-liberal universities and the long British tradition of intellectual socialism preached by those almost-always possessed of a comfortable private income. Viscount Stansgate, H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Lord and Lady Passfield, And So Forth.

    It’s always been the case that there’s a huge divide between what the Party apparatus stands for and what the people who vote for it think it stands for. But several Labour leaders have been quite good at maintaining the Januarian deception that is at the core of the Party’s history. Only in the UK is it unremarkable to observe a leading politician, born to privilege and educated at the finest schools and universities that money can buy, dropping his aitches and affecting the regional accents of the working classes. They all vocally-support the flagships of the UK socialist legacy, like the NHS and the public education system, but they all send their children to private schools and get their healthcare in the private system.

    But every now and then, a true-believer hair-shirt-wearing socialist like Corbyn comes along (Ken Livingstone was the prior one that I recall) and upsets the applecart by revealing what the party is really about. And we get another of these crises, as the Labour MPs try desperately to get the party leaders to shut the hell up. The MPs really don’t give a toss what the leaders and the Party machine believes, as long as they don’t expose their beliefs to the voters – as we see here.

    Such a pity. Shame. It really is Too Bad.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Runcie Balspune

    The major concern about the Corbynist Labour Party is not its drive towards proto-communist socialism, but its dalliance with the theocratic fascists that give it voting power, something that is increasing every day. Foot may have been decidedly left wing and genuinely pacifist, but he had no truck with fascists or the appeasement of them, and was no friend of deities unseen. Labour, whether in power or not, will continue to groom the new religious order, under the guise of progressivism and diversity, and although the British public is sick to death of PC and the false premises of multi-culturalism, they wont oppose it whilst the stigma of racism hangs in the air, it was enough to put a splint on UKIP’s ambitions, even when they complained about it and got widespread support, but that support did not translate to votes.

    Corbyn knows where his power base lies, the “anti-war” and “anti-west” rhetoric is heard by a lot of groups, not just the social justice mob and the hippie greens, I don’t think they need the British worker any more, especially once the gates open to the “refugees”.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    tranquil ,

    There should be a test for both candidates and voters (and both should be required to get at least 90% correct answers to pass). This would have the very positive effect of moving the “Overton window” to the right.

    Perhaps temporarily the window would shift right if by some magic such exams were implemented. Very quickly, though, the tests would be done away with in the name of “civil rights” or “democratic rights” or “diversity” or some such nonsense.

    In this first place, however, implementing qualification exams is not a viable plan given the current stage of democracy plaguing the West. Democracy is virtually never “rolled back” or made more limited while governance remains democratic – at least not permanently. Proposals to achieve such an end, such as raising the voting age or instituting qualification exams to vote or stand for office fail with virtually no exception because democracy becomes more democratic overtime by nature; this is endemic to its process, which is the erosion of social order. You can’t put toothpaste back into its container for the same reason.

    Qualification exams appear in democracies that are at earlier stages in the degradation process than we are experiencing.

    Democracy ends in tyranny and/or chaos.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Runcie Balspune,

    Labour, whether in power or not, will continue to groom the new religious order, under the guise of progressivism and diversity, and although the British public is sick to death of PC and the false premises of multi-culturalism, they wont oppose it whilst the stigma of racism hangs in the air

    Apt. And an important point.

  • Stuck-Record

    Llamas: What an excellent summation. I’m going to save that somewhere. Thank you.

    Runcie: You nailed it about the fig-leaf of racism. There is a ‘witchfinder general’ sense of terror in the West at the moment as we move into show trial phase of political correctness. Quite ordinary people are terrified to speak their mind. And anyone whose life or work intersects with one of the Corbynite classes; social services, law, media, science, academia etc… is especially reticent.

    But there is going to come a time when the public sees the witch-burning for what it is. (We are starting to see in inkling of what that might look like with the BLM and University hysterics in the US). At that point the fig-leaf will disappear and the left might just find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion.

    THen we’ll have a decade or two of them trying to get people to forget how nasty they really are.

  • We have “competency tests” for a wide range of things (e.g. driving a vehicle). Qualifications can also be seen as a measure of competency.

    However, there are no competency tests for candidates standing for parliament (or for voters). I believe there should be tests for *both*.

    That is profoundly illiberal. There are two reasons for this, The first is who sets the test? The second is more subtle. Driving, to use tranquil’s example, is a technical skill which is absolutely not the same thing as having an opinion.

  • Laird

    “That is profoundly illiberal.”

    Did you intend that as a criticism? Illiberality is a feature, not a bug.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Did you intend that as a criticism? Illiberality is a feature, not a bug.

    I wish I’d written that. Perfect reply.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Laird
    > Did you intend that as a criticism? Illiberality is a feature, not a bug.

    Notwithstanding the word “liberal”, his point is an excellent one. Were we to offer tests to qualify candidates and voters, the tests would quickly become a political football. One can easily imagine questions like “Do you accept that action must be taken to alleviate global warming” and “do you accept the need for the poor to have a safety net” and “healthcare is a basic human right, yes or no?”

    Politically controlled qualifications to be a politician or a voter is a terrifying idea.

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    ‘Liberalism’ has two meanings. The British one tends to mean that appointments should be by merit. The American one seems to mean that Governments should expand to be able to enforce equality.
    Here in Australia, we had the British interpretation in mind when we called our major right-wing party the Liberals, and they started off being the party of states’ rights.
    So to which Liberalism are you counter-reacting?

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    Natalie, is that correct? The movie only made 46 pounds? (No pound sign on my keyboard.) Or did you lop off a million sign? 46 Mega-pounds seems more likely.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Were we to offer tests to qualify candidates and voters, the tests would quickly become a political football. One can easily imagine questions like “Do you accept that action must be taken to alleviate global warming” and “do you accept the need for the poor to have a safety net” and “healthcare is a basic human right, yes or no?”

    There’s much that can be said about this. I’ll bring up one point for now.

    Could you spell out exactly why this would be a bad thing?

    To my mind this would merely make official what is de facto already true: right-wing voters are superfluous to the process of democratic governance.

    Revealing the system for what it is might carry sufficient benefits to outweigh the supposed drawbacks – depending, of course, on what one wishes to achieve.

  • bobby b

    Only in the UK is it unremarkable to observe a leading politician, born to privilege and educated at the finest schools and universities that money can buy, dropping his aitches and affecting the regional accents of the working classes.

    Dissent.

    Both Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama alter their accents to fit their venues.

  • I meant “liberal” in the classical sense as I have done many times on this very blog.

    Ultimately though the idea of institutionally creating a meta-context that Laird wants is doing functionally the same thing as those on “the left” want to do. And I disagree with that and I would disagree even if it was NickM writing the rules for who could vote and who could be elected. That is not what a libertarian should be.

  • Mary Contrary

    Well received wisdom is that Corbyn is a disaster for the Labour party and Leftists both. Are we all quite so sure? Specifically, Brian are you quite so sure?

    The Libertarian Alliance was predicated on two core tactical ideas: that battle for ideas matters more than the battle for votes, and the notion (sometimes known as the “Overton Window”) that by taking a radical position you shift the centre-ground; making the “unsayable” sayable makes the merely “fringe belief” a policy option. These may actually be restatements of the same idea.

    With that background, are you really so comfortable with Corbyn leading from the front on dyed-in-the-wool Maoism? Even if he never wins power, and all the bien pensants call him a failure, won’t he have shifted the debate in the long run? (Or indeed, the short run: Osborne seems to be adopting some policies Blair might have balked at, for fear of scaring off the home counties set, and he’s doing it in the name of triangulation).

    Now I can understand an argument that says that the near term is all-important, that we cannot wait to see if these battles-of-ideas really do play out in our favour. But that’s not the argument of someone who spent two decades as the Editorial Director of the LA, is it?

    So should we really see Corbyn as an utterly failed never-to-be Prime Minister who will lead the Labour Party to its utter destruction? Or as John the Baptist for a future new European-style social-democratic consensus that apparently renounces his views, but in which the aberration of Thatcherite/Josephite radicalism is finally and utterly abandoned?

    Brian, what say you?

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    Sorry, NickM, my question was aimed at Laird. I suspect that he is thinking of American Liberalism.
    And I suspect that he might have been inspired by Starship troopers! Remember, ‘Service Guarantees Citizenship!’

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray, Yup. £46.00. From the link, “The $20m-budget film, about a thief who becomes entangled in a terrorist plot, made just £46 from 10 sites, giving it a screen average of £4.60 per cinema. It screened in various regional locations, including Kidderminster, Hull and Morecambe. It was given a simultaneous digital release.” I cannot say why they went for an opening in “ten regional locations”, which judging from the three examples given, and with apologies to any proud Hullensians out there, weren’t exactly well chosen locations in which to hold a glittering premiere.

  • lucklucky

    Corbyn is a consequence not a cause.

    Consequence of the Guardian, of the Independent, The Telegraph, of The Economist, of a whole profession: Journalism.

    Corbyn will not go away be it in Labour or in another party or be another leader. As with Islamist the hydra has many heads to replace him, because Marxism is a culture that dominates much part of the media narrative.
    Today the world center of Marxism is USA it is not Cuba, North Korea or Beijing. No one cares about theories that come from those communist countries but American Universities have profound influence over Western and not only Western World.

    In short Marxism is here to stay and to continue to destroy the West. As with all totalitariam movements they will end up killing each other. But killing also millions of others in the process.

  • James Strong

    The idea of a qualification test for voters is a truly remarkable one, and not in a good way.

    Simply put, don’t create powers for your own favoured group that could then be used in their own interests by an opposing group.

    Secondly, on a libertarian forum, you are advocating greater powers for the state? Remarkable, again.

  • Alisa

    What lucklucky said.

  • PeterT

    The main thing I can think of that could help slow down or reverse the degradation process is the adoption of direct democracy, which should now be fairly easy to implement, what with the internet and all.

    Of course, this assumes that the populace is generally less left wing than our politicians. I think that is probably true.

  • Runcie Balspune

    … what with the internet and all.

    Wasn’t that the very thing that got Corbyn elected in the first place?

    Voting should be made harder, not easier, and the fact that you’ve bothered to get out of bed and into a polling station on the day is more than enough qualification in itself (medical conditions notwithstanding), you don’t need anything more, especially when you know well in advance when the election is going to be.

    If you want better democracy you need a way of voting _against_ something, and the simplest way of doing this is to allow approval voting, or a similar method.

    (apologies in advance if I hijack the thread into a “which voting system is the best” argument).

  • Cal

    >Natalie, is that correct? The movie only made 46 pounds? (No pound sign on my keyboard.) Or did you lop off a million sign? 46 Mega-pounds seems more likely.

    Apparently it was only £46. Only opened in a few cinemas, and they were mainly empty. (Not that I can be bothered to confirm this.)

  • Mr Ed

    If we are to have a huge tax take, I see no reason why the spending of it should not at least be partly allocated on an individual basis by voters to particular departments, so that if your tax take is calculated as £10,000, you could put £1,000 into defence, £3,000 into Health, £1,000 into waste (sorry, the Arts), £50 into Parliament, £945 into pensions and £5 into other welfare, and £2,000 to local government (schools/roads/police etc.) with perhaps £1,000 mandated to debt interest/repayment (although I would prefer to repudiate it), and let the rest swivel.

    Then we would have taxation that at least let voters determine the direction of their money on a ‘least bad’ basis, and the pacifists* could not moan more than they do about nukes etc. This might have rather serious consequences for overseas aid etc. and leave the politicians with little to do other than to set tax rates, but unable to bribe voters with others and their own money.

    * One who does not believe in those they disapprove of defending themselves.

  • Johnnydub

    “Apparently it was only £46. Only opened in a few cinemas, and they were mainly empty. (Not that I can be bothered to confirm this.)”

    I can well believe this. Having downloaded and watched a hooky copy I can confirm that Momentum, the movie, is unadulterated shite. And most of the reviews say pretty much this, hence the empty cinemas.

  • Laird

    Sorry I’m a little late getting back to this party.

    Yes, NickM, I was indeed using “liberal” in the classical sense, and yes I am in favor of restricting the franchise by establishing voter qualifications. But I’m not talking about opinion testing; I’m interested in seeing the vote limited to those who actually have some skin in the game (property owners and/or tax payers, not takers; we can have a separate debate on precisely how that is defined) and those who can demonstrate some basic knowledge of the political system and fundamental principles of economics. Or at least rudimentary literacy. That position is indeed “illiberal” in the classic sense, and yes I support the concept.

    And I don’t see that as antithetical to libertarian principles. At least as I understand it, at its core libertarianism is about limiting the ability of others to control us, whether through direct physical means (the non-aggression principle) or by political means (through limitations on the lawful power of government, such as the US Constitution [as originally conceived] or the English constitution and common law). If a government is properly limited (in a libertarian sense) it doesn’t much matter who runs it; conversely, if it is not properly limited (as is the case today) its leaders should be selected only by those who actually pay for it. The average layabout or ignoramus should have no more vote than does a corporation.

  • Watchman

    Laird,

    So you are basically concerned to limit voting to vested interests? If you limit the franchise to property owners (to take the first of your ideas – something that the UK did until way into the nineteenth century, and parts of the US much later) you create a system where it is in the interests of the familys of property owners to limit access to property, which they will be able to do because they are the ones who control the state through democracy. And bingo, you create a new aristocracy.

    Wierdly your thinking is very akin to Mr Corbyn’s. You see a problem (here the fact that the democractic system is not libertarian enough for you) and see what looks like a simple solution (here that we limit the franchise to a few people who for some reason you expect to support your views). You even share the same wierd presumption that a group (in this case property owners) will act in the way you want, despite the evidence that property owners tend to act in the interests of themselves, not freedom. Your proposal above would, like implementation of Mr Corbyn’s ideals, basically cement in place a ruling elite – the only difference being his would be an elite by office, yours by property (and both would be pretty well closed – open only to the children of the elite and the favoured few).

    I am a democrat and a liberal before a libertarian (because to impose libertarianism on others would be tyranny), so maybe I am missing the value of your non-democratic and illiberal idea. But to limit the franchise on any grounds other than age seems to me to be to ask for politicians to select the electorate, the dream of tyrants and extremists. And ultimately, to argue that a government can be properly limited by any power other than by the people by whom it is appointed is stupid – a constitution shifts power to the lawyers who interpret it not to the people, common law exists not to limit the power of the government but simply as a system that has evolved. The only true way to limit the power of government is to make it irrelevant – and until that happens, we need to ensure the people have the power.

    At the risk of personal insult to you, what you seem to be saying is that you know best. This is the same as Mr Corbyn and his followers – a belief that they can solve problems because they have the answers. I’d suggest that however the evidence is that the crowd knows best, the market produces the solutions, that from the multitude comes many ideas. You seem to be rejecting the core values of freedom and choice for the illusionary landscape of your own solutions being imposed.

    Ultimately I suppose though that the most worrying similiarity to Mr Corbyn that I see in your veiws is that you somehow belive property owners, those engaged with politics and economics and those who have rudimentary literacy will support your point of view, whilst those who are excluded will not – he kind of believes the opposite, despite the evidence. So you’d abandon the kid already fucked over by the state and left with no skills, but who might agree with you, whilst happily embracing the privileged dickheads who riot in the name of socialism but would be able to pass any test you have suggested (they’re idiots, but they are not stupid). Collectivism and elitism has many faces, and you seem to be carving another one here.

  • Watchman

    Mr Ed,

    Having just recieved my annual tax statement, I can kind of see that idea working. It would make for more entertaining politics anyway if our government departments had to compete for our funds…

    It would also get round the direct democracy lock that California has managed to impose on itself (no raising taxes without popular consent; no reduction in service levels). The downside is that the super-rich would still be able to fund the trendy issue of the moment through their taxes…

    Actually, democratically, every voter should presumably have the same share to allocate (it would be wierdly unfair that my parents, who have retired, could not contribute just because they are allowed a break from working due to their advanced age (I am also hoping they are not readers of this site…)). Maybe those on benefits could be excluded from this (as clearly a vested interest there), but we’d then have to exclude all government employees I suppose (soldiers might want defence spending etc), and contrators etc… But the idea is fun. You just have to decide who to offend and to whom to give unfair power and influence.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . to impose libertarianism on others would be tyranny . . . ”

    I missed it when it was Talk Like A Pirate Day. Guy Fawkes Day was over before I knew it was imminent.

    And now I’ve missed Opposite Day.

    I’m such a social retard.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Watchman,

    And bingo, you create a new aristocracy.

    So on what basis is an aristocracy of land owners “worse” than our current aristocracy? Or are you still operating under the misguided notion that the West is a pure, beautiful meritocracy lacking an aristocracy?

    You even share the same wierd presumption that a group (in this case property owners) will act in the way you want, despite the evidence that property owners tend to act in the interests of themselves, not freedom.

    The evidence and common sense suggest that property owners and net-tax payers favor policies that are more libertarian than those favored by the public at large.

    Your proposal above would, like implementation of Mr Corbyn’s ideals, basically cement in place a ruling elite – the only difference being his would be an elite by office, yours by property (and both would be pretty well closed – open only to the children of the elite and the favoured few)

    Is that so?

    http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2011/4/4/social-mobility-slower-than-in-medieval-engla

    because to impose libertarianism on others would be tyranny

    LOL

    And ultimately, to argue that a government can be properly limited by any power other than by the people by whom it is appointed is stupid

    It’s actually incredible that you think the “people” are capable of “properly limiting” the government. The people are quite capable of convincing themselves that the policies that they were taught by educational institutions, the media, and public figures to support are, in fact, “good” or “right”.

    Man fools himself.

    You seem to be rejecting the core values of freedom and choice for the illusionary landscape of your own solutions being imposed.

    No. Laird is rejecting the absurd notion of universal suffrage in favor of a policy of limiting the franchise to those who have skin in the game. This is what is called common sense.

    At the risk of personal insult to you, what you seem to be saying is that you know best

    Well, I know best. 🙂 But Laird is far closer to the mark than you are.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    If a government is properly limited (in a libertarian sense) it doesn’t much matter who runs it

    This.

    The only thing I’d add is that a libertarian should be concerned about the overall violations of personal liberties – whether committed by the state or by private citizens/other entities. So, I’d rephrase:

    For a libertarian, a government ought to be considered “good” insofar as it limits violations of libertarian rights, whether or not the state commits said violations; it doesn’t much matter who runs it.

  • Laird

    Watchman, Schlomo has already addressed some of your points, but I want to cover a few myself.

    There’s an old saying that “he who pays the piper calls the tune”. That should be true, but in a modern democracy with universal suffrage it isn’t. The truth is that the tune is, to a very large extent, being called by those who don’t pay the piper but nonetheless enjoy all the benefits of his music while forcing others to pay the cost. Universal suffrage is a license for those with no “skin in the game” to use the power of government to steal the money and property of those who do. We call it “pandering” or “buying votes”, but the only means by which politicians are able to buy votes is by promising that which isn’t theirs to those who have no legitimate claim on it.

    I don’t expect property owners to act in the way I want; I expect them to act in the way which, to them, appears to be in their own best interests. Of course, I expect those to whom I would deny the vote to do the same, and indeed reality demonstrates that to be the case. The difference is that those without property see it as being in their best interest to take (via political means) the property of others, whereas the interest of property owners is primarily in protecting their own assets. Property owners may be grasping and venal, but the propertyless are no different; that’s simply human nature.

    You extol “the market”, claiming that it “produces the solutions”. I agree. But the analogy here in inapt, because a democracy is not a market. The essence of any true market is voluntary exchange, and there is nothing voluntary about a democracy. No one has the ability to opt out of it; all are forced to participate, to “buy” what is on offer at the price demanded. It is no more a “market” than was the old Soviet Union.

    No government should be taking property from some people to give to others. That is fundamentally immoral. It certainly could happen with a limited franchise such as I have suggested. But it is the inevitable outcome of universal suffrage, which at its core rests on the belief that the majority has the right to take property from the minority by the simple expedient of holding a vote. That’s not a solid foundation upon which to build a just society.

  • PeterT

    Runcie, I respectfully disagree, and also slightly with Laird’s last point. At present the political system is hijacked by the political class. It is they who encourage the taking from one to give to another. If we eliminate these ‘professional takers’ from the political system that would be a big improvement.

    Some subtle adjustment, like 55% required to pass a law, 45% required to repeal a law, would also be highly beneficial. Such a rule is more likely to survive in a direct democracy, as in a representative democracy there are too many politicians, who all have a vested interest in being seen as ‘getting things done’.

    And after all, its not like Switzerland is such a terrible place.

  • Laird,
    With the greatest respect you are talking bollocks. All you are suggesting is a limited democracy of you and your mates. Why is that better? Why do you assume that owning property makes for wisdom. You also seem to assume that the “un-propertied” automatically want to take what you want rather than build-up from scratch off their own bats. You, as your screen name implies, seem to want a return to the feudal system. Do you also want droit du seigneur because the proles’ sexuality has to be a matter of property? I also have grave doubts about the “could” you use wrt a limited franchise. It would be robber barons lording (Lairding?) it over use proles.

    Judge people not on what they own but on other things such as intellect, morality and, dare I say, aspiration?

    And might I ask you if you’d be so keen on this set of circumstances if you didn’t think you’d fit the criteria to be the new elite. By your own definition of course.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    All you are suggesting is a limited democracy of you and your mates. Why is that better?

    Because owning property and being a net tax-payer are correlated with favoring smaller government, lower taxes, less spending.

    From a libertarian POV, that’s better.

  • Chester Draws

    “Only in the UK is it unremarkable to observe a leading politician, born to privilege and educated at the finest schools and universities that money can buy, dropping his aitches and affecting the regional accents of the working classes.”

    You really need to get out more.

    Julia Gillard put on the most ridiculous Ocker accent. She wasn’t born there and they way she spoke was partly to cover that fact, since educated Aussies generally have quite mild accents.

    John Key in New Zealand speaks a NuZild accent that most people of his educated class do not share, and quite a few mock. (Although to be fair a few do, I among them.)

    The French have a bit of it too. Marine Le Pen puts on a fake roughness, despite being born in privilege.

  • Laird

    NickM, you read far too much into my screen name. “Laird” is actually my given name. If you want to read something into it you’ll have to take that up with my mother.

    As to the rest of your point, I make no assumption that owning property necessarily “makes for wisdom”. My only assumption is that people will vote in a manner which they perceive as being in their best interests. For property owners, that generally means simply protecting what’s theirs. For the propertyless it generally means taking away the property of others. It’s inherent in the system, and it’s a serious design flaw.

    But if you have a suggestion as to how we could judge people on their “intellect, morality and . . . aspiration” with regard to the franchise, I’m all ears.

  • Watchman

    Shlomo,

    Because owning property and being a net tax-payer are correlated with favoring smaller government, lower taxes, less spending.

    From a libertarian POV, that’s better.

    I think I see the problem here. You and Laird wish to impose your prefered form of government, and to do this you wish to gerrymander the electorate. It wouldn’t work (because I suspect the correlation is actually with the central ground of politics – property ownership and net tax paying tend to discourage radicalism of any sort, so obviously is anti-redistributionism, but is also not likely to want to tear down the current system), but at least it makes sense.

    Obviously I will have to class you with any other bunch of lunatics who think that the greater good overrides the rights of the individual. In this case imposing libertarianism by limiting the right of others to contribute to politics. But just like Franco, Mao and Bin Ladin, you are correct that the end justifies the means…

    Wierdly I probably agree with you on the shape of an ideal government (I’ve never had to agree with those advocating effective totalitarianism before – it’s a worrying feeling), but the methodology you are proposing is something no libertarian should consider – using the tools of government to manipulate individuals. Libertarianism has to be won through pure democracy (or arguably through an actual revolution although I would most likely oppose this personally), not be creaed through manipulating a corrupt system, as otherwise it is simply a manifestation of that system.

  • Watchman

    Laird,

    I think our fundamental disagreement is about the nature of democracy then. I don’t see it as redistributive, especially if government has not crowded out private enterprise and charity (something I will agree is not the case now) – in fact, all else been equal, it will work against redistribution. That is why in countries with functioning democratic markets (so most English-speaking countries other than the US, where the Democracts and Republicans have a Duopoly) and proper democracy (so the elected are voted for by the people, not put on a list by the party) the long-term tendency is against redistribution. Note when it was towards redistribution, this was arguably a reaction to the then-existing vested interests seeking to exploit others – probably the wrong reaction, but universal democracy is only the least inperfect model available, so I’m not going to say it gets everything right.

    I suppose the simple question I would have is can you show me a country in the world which is ruled by less than universal democracy which has better government than the liberal Anglophone democracies? I can’t think of one.

  • Laird

    Watchman, with respect to your last comment, I think you are correct about our “fundamental disagreement”: In my view democracy is fundamentally, and inherently, redistributive. Not at first, perhaps, and not necessarily by intent, but always and inevitably. As I said, I consider it to be a serious design flaw. You claim that “the long-term tendency is against redistribution”, but I think history has proven that to be incorrect. Show my any country, anywhere in the world, with a democratic system and universal suffrage which has not tended inexorably toward redistribution and I’ll reconsider. It would be different if there were some sort of functional check on the powers of government (and the majority), such as what was intended by the US Constitution. Unfortunately, that has proven impossible to achieve in practice. So if we can’t constrain government itself, we must find some means of constraining those who control government. Limiting suffrage is the most direct route to that end.

    As to your previous post, I find it amusing that you think that limiting the voting power of those who can, and do, by simple majority vote empower politicians to steal the property of a minority for their own benefit, somehow “overrides the rights of the individual”. In fact, the converse is true: in a democracy it is the rights of the individual which are overridden by the whim of the mob. Frankly, I don’t think you’ve really given this much careful thought. (And I would also point out that nowhere in classical liberal thought is the act of voting considered a “right”. We have rights to “life, liberty and property”, but not to vote. Indeed, mob rule [i.e., universal suffrage] is antithetical to all three true “rights”.)

    It is certainly your right to consider me a lunatic. It doesn’t bother me in the least; I simply consider the source.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Watchman,

    You are so thoroughly incorrect on so many things I’m not going to bother with a full reply.

    Just note that I’m a monarchist/reactionary – not a libertarian. I view the extent to which de facto liberty is enjoyed by the people to be – all else equal – a favorable consequence of secure and stable governance.

    In other words, I’m aligned with Lord Vader, the Eye of Sauron, the Sith, Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor and Prince Rupert of the Rhine.

    Best of luck achieving a libertarian society by way of democracy!!

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    Actually, I’ve sometimes thought that you could have an Aristocratic upper chamber, and a libertarian economy, if the upper house was elected in a referendum. Change the title to Champion, and have the members elected for life by referendae with electors writing their choice for Champion every time a Champion dies. And if an idiot gets elected to the upper house- well, why should the lower house have a monopoly?
    And i think Shlomo is right in another thing. Changes rarely happen slowly. We might need to start a revolution to change things, and only a united group would be likely to win- and such unity might stifle the very liberty we want!
    So a challenge to libertarians is this- is there a way to encourage decentralisation without a command center?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Why in the world would anybody think that one must own “real” property (land) in order to “have skin in the game”?

    Every man jack of us lives under the regime (of whatever nation), and is subject to its strictures and privileges.

    Sometimes those are bestowed on the basis that the bestowers like their power, so give privileges to those best able to help them retain it while denying privileges (and even real–so-called “negative”–rights) to others who would undermine it.

    Similarly with celebrity, status, worldly goods, glory, public adoration even (Mao, Obama).

    Some of us, or our parents or grandparents or more distant forebears were lucky enough to live under regimes that put the emphasis on the project of protecting liberty. With varying degrees of success, and for varying but definitely finite periods of time, of course.

    But we all have skin in the game, because our political circumstances do indeed affect our lives, and affect them deeply — whether we understand that, or admit that, or not.

    So voting should certainly, absolutely not be limited to property-owners (land-owners), nor yet should the system involve any such principle as that one gets as many votes as he cares to purchase.

    (For believers in the latter system, whom would you prefer to see as the Supreme Leader: Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Carlos Slim, …, ?)

    Having lots of money doesn’t prevent anyone from being an intelligent and decent human being who understands the value of and need for liberty and is willing to work for it. But neither does having lots of money prevent one from being of the opposite sort. And intelligence by itself is no guarantee of a good outcome either.

    The same goes for landowners.

    Even non-taxpayers have “skin in the game,” but unfortunately the economic (economic) incentive weighs in favor of their electing anti-liberty leaders. So does the incentive of their own overall long-term wellbeing, for most anyway, but as things are now many of them appear not to see that.

    So one would consider that limiting the vote to actual taxpayers (with some discussion about the details for persons who worked, payed income and payroll taxes, and are now retired and living on non-taxable savings–or who, at any rate, do not receive any financial “help” from the State) would ameliorate the situation at least. Lowering tax rates to the point where most people could pay some amount of taxes would also help, by making government more affordable but more to the point, by enfranchising as many people as possible — who deserve enfranchisement, precisely because they DO have financial skin in the game.

    Of course, all that would be an improvement to the present sort of “Western liberal democracy,” for want of a better term. It’s not a cure-all. For that you need a much, much more closely circumscribed government and the greatest possible incentives for the voters to keep it that way; and that involves a sea-change in a polity’s worldview, for one thing.

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    How would you feel about time-share government? In this, each person who wants to be a citizen would do some community service, such as militia duty, or fire-fighting, or street patrols, etc, for 11 months of the year, and get to be a member of the local county government for one month of the year. No parties, no need for election promises which keep expanding governments, and an interest in keeping laws limited, since you’d be enforcing them for eleven months of the year. For levels beyond local governments, you could hire public relations firms, and send them as delegates.

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    And there is one way to democratically decentralise an economy- by emigrating into one! If millions of libertarians emigrated to here, Australia, then your votes for the Liberal Democratic party would give it the decisive numbers in Canberra. This could, then, become a democratic AND libertarian economy!

  • Mr Ed

    The Daily Mail tells us that Mr Corbyn quoted the unlamented Enver Hoxha at the Labour Party’s Christmas bash (without irony, given Hoxha’s Albania was officially atheist).

    In his speech to staff, Mr Corbyn said Hoxha had been a ‘tough ruler’.
    He went on to use the dictator’s phrase that ‘this year will be tougher than last year’

    He’s past caring already, but what if the voters are too?