We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

An unintentionally honest headline to an unintentionally honest article

“Labour’s plan to tackle inequality can revive the ailing development sector”, writes Nick Dearden in the Guardian.

Clicking on Mr Dearden’s name took me to a link that said, in true Grauniad style, “Nick Dearden is director of the Global Justice Now (formerly World Development Movement)” The faltering fortunes of “the Global Justice Now” and similar organizations in what is called the aid “sector” (as if were part of the economy rather than a drain on it) distress Mr Dearden for understandable reasons. No man likes to see his prospects of a secure and comfortable living imperilled. I do not see why the rest of us should care. I would be quite happy to issue the development sector with a one way ticket to Switzerland.

Mr Dearden writes,

At the height of New Labour’s power, Peter Mandelson famously said: “We are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.” To be fair, he added, “as long as they pay their taxes”. But New Labour never had a burning ambition to reduce inequality. They could live with inequality as long as no one was really poor.

Extreme poverty was the focus of New Labour’s international development policy. The wanted to make global capitalism work for the poor – better markets and voluntary codes of conduct to encourage the private sector to “do the right thing”.

And the problem with this was…?

It wasn’t without its achievements, coming as it did after an era in which the poor were regarded as responsible for their own poverty. But it continued to allow the real drivers of poverty, western corporate and foreign policies, to go unchecked, while offering a charitable contribution to clean up the mess they created.

Emphasis added. Libertarians and similarly inclined folk often see the Guardian commentariat as being no less daft than the Guardian writers. That is not always true. Nearly all the most popular comments to this piece make pretty good sense and I am going to quote several of them. For instance take this one from someone called ‘Humza’, who says,

No, fighting poverty is much more important than fighting inequality. Trust Labour to come out with a policy that would punish the person who makes $5 a day and scream injustices because his neighbour can only manage $1 a day.

Absolute/extreme poverty has dramatically declined over the past couple of centuries and quelle surprise, that coincides when most of the world began to transition to world trade and free markets.


Mr Dearden continues,

On Monday, Labour announces a new development policy which takes a radically different approach. In essence, you can’t solve the problem of poverty without tackling inequality. And you can’t tackle inequality without dramatically changing how the global economy works.

In other words, Labour’s policy is unworkable.

Concretely, Labour proposes a new law, ensuring that all aid money must be spent fighting inequality as well as poverty.

Neocolonialism! British interference in the policies of sovereign African nations! (Hat tip to commenter ‘daveg861’ for that point.)

Fighting inequality requires huge changes to the way the global economy works.

In other words, Labour’s policy is unworkable. Wait, didn’t I say that only a minute ago? Yes, I did, but if Mr Dearden is going to repeatedly state that reducing inequality cannot be done unless the Labour party conquers the world I am just going to have to repeatedly point out that it ain’t gonna happen.

Labour proposes a range of policies that will require further clarity in office

Those policies require further clarity in office the way a fish requires further water on the deck of a trawler.

but include changing the way we trade with southern countries, clamping down on tax dodging, reforming the debt system, transforming institutions like the IMF and World Bank, introducing a financial transactions tax, changing the way we measure wellbeing, and providing “global leadership on the refugee crisis”.

As ‘FatherChewyLouie’ says in the most recommended comment, “What exactly do Labour mean by providing “global leadership” on the refugee crisis? If it’s what I think it means then I can guarantee it won’t be a vote winner.”

Meanwhile, back in the The Global Justice Now! universe:

Countries like Britain grew rich on the turbocharged exploitation of Africa

Countries like Britain might have, but Britain grew rich because of the Industrial Revolution before it had African colonies. When it got them it turned out they were a net cost to the British government and were unpopular thereby. The original “Little Englanders” were opposed to expansion of the British Empire for that reason. (I swear, I had already written that when I saw a comment by ‘YEverKnot’ saying the very same thing. Of course it is a fairly obvious point to make.)

– and still today Africa bleeds wealth to rapacious corporations. Aid, which should be a form of reparation or, at least, redistribution of wealth akin to taxation, becomes largesse: a gift which should be cut in the bad times, and given to our current government’s pet projects in good times.

Reparations? That might not go down well with voters. However, the point about aid being largesse which can be cut off on a whim is true. And thus Mr Dearden unintentionally makes an excellent argument against government-to-government foreign aid and against the very existence of his beloved “development sector”.

15 comments to An unintentionally honest headline to an unintentionally honest article

  • Pyrthroes

    From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.

    Who but a benighted clerisy, an insufferable Commissariat or nomenklatura, could argue with “abilities” and “needs”?

    Aux armes, citoyens– formez vos batailions! (If you have to ask, you’ll never know.)

  • Rob Fisher

    “you can’t solve the problem of poverty without tackling inequality” — it is nice to have such a simple statement with which to completely disagree. I’d go so far as to say that “tackling inequality” causes poverty.

    “introducing a financial transactions tax” — if Labour are serious about this, surely this will be the thing that finishes them off in time for the next election.

  • Britain’s African colonies were of very minor importance to the economy of the empire but the empire was of immense importance to the economy of its African colonies. Their increase in wealth was marked – and therefore caused a great decrease in inequality. (The freeing of the many slaves in Africa also reduced inequality.) When a African farmer sold his newly-adopted crop of coffee or cocoa beans to a British business (often via an Indian trader intermediary), he was still a lot poorer than the people in Britain who eventually drank the coffee and ate the chocolate but the difference was significantly less than in the days when he was living in a near store-age society.

    After independence, year-on-year decline in GDP was the norm for many African countries, while leaders and bureaucrats were soon earning 30 times what the peasant farmers did. (This has also caused much conflict in Africa: if Mr Dearden had to earn his bread in the private sector, his reduction in income would be nothing like that facing a typical African bureaucrat who had to return to the exploited ranks of the peasantry because his fairness in vote counting allowed the other party to win an election.)

    The very rare African country (Ivory Coast, for example) whose leader was a businessman instead of a socialist intellectual had a better experience, but in many areas of the continent it was and/or is and or is becoming just a contest to imitate Venezuela.

  • Mr Ecks

    Reparations for Africa?

    Where are the RoP Reparations for the 100 million plus black slaves they took out of Africa?

  • Stonyground

    How did countries in the Far East reduce poverty? A genuine question as I don’t really know much about Far Eastern countries generally. I do have a Korean car and it is very well made.

  • “From each according to ability, to each according to his need?”

    Back during the Hippie Era, I lived for several years in a crafts commune. Trust me on this: ability can grow modestly, but “needs” can grow until they pierce the sky.

  • Paul Marks

    Both approaches (“New Labour” and opposing Comrades) are wrong – and, although they are presented as opposites they are really much the same.

    “Tackling poverty” is New Labour “speak” for more government spending and higher taxes – around the world (the sort of thing the IMF now advises). And Corbyn and co also want higher taxes – in order to “fight inequality”.

    The difference is one of degree – the Corbyn followers (such as this creature in the Guardian) are much more extreme than the Blair people – but the Blair people are no good either.

  • mike

    What have you got against the poor Swiss?

  • Fraser Orr

    If Mr. Dearden really wants to reduce poverty then he is looking at completely the wrong place. The causes of poverty really are pretty well known. Poor legals systems that don’t protect private property, corrupt governments, unenforced contracts, lack of free markets, unstable currencies, and unreliable and corrupt monetary systems. Omit these, and compound that with poor education and that neediness and poor work ethic that come from entitlement societies and you have a recipe for grinding poverty.

    What is needed in these African countries in not aid, but the overthrow of the governments who advocate many of the same policies that people like Dearden and Corbyn tell us are right for Britain.

    As to inequality: if the poor can provide the basics of life, and have the opportunity for growth, then inequality is irrelevant. Nonetheless, although I have done so before, I must post my favorite Thatcher moment on this matter:


  • TomJ

    Or, as it was put a few centuries ago:

    Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.

  • How did countries in the Far East reduce poverty? A genuine question as I don’t really know much about Far Eastern countries generally. I do have a Korean car and it is very well made.

    In your question lies the answer.

    They either make or trade stuff that others want. Where they are successful over the West is they don’t spunk their collective national wealth away on workshy layabouts. Sure, they do have their own boondoggles, but they are nowhere near as expensive as a cradle-to-grave welfare state would cost.

    Thus the subsistence farmer in Malaysia can pay 1 MYR (about 18p / 26¢) and see a doctor to get basic healthcare at one of thousands of clinics throughout Malaysia. I’ve used them myself (although I pay the full ferringhi price which is a few MYR more) and they are basic, but well run and can deal with most basic healthcare needs quickly and without bureaucracy.

    1 ringgit healthcare policy

  • Ducky McDuckface

    “but the difference was significantly less than in the days when he was living in a near store-age society”

    The growth of the out-of-town retail park has a lot to answer for.

  • Fraser Orr

    @TomJ that is precisely the quote I was trying to remember. Thanks for adding it to the discussion. IT is of course attributed to Adam Smith, that seminal economist, who had the advantage over most economists that he was Scottish, and therefore “shy with his money” as my (Scottish) mother used to say.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Fraser: Marvelous! Thanks muchly for the link.

    (And we get all excited if a Congressman so much as raises his voice on the House or Senate floor! 😆 )

  • TomJ

    That and the one about the proper attribution of the expectation of dinner are my go to Smith quotes.