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Moderation is often not the best policy

“It’s a crowded space, this search for the so called moderate centre ground. It is defined as going back to Brussels, saying we are sorry for ever thinking of leaving, and accepting the full swathe of laws, taxes, budgets and common policies that characterise the modern EU. What ever is either moderate or democratic about such an agenda? How is it democratic for more and more laws to be made behind closed doors, drafted by officials we cannot sack or make accountable, and approved by Ministers from 27 countries under pressure not to rock the boat? What is liberal about the austerity policies of the EU’s budget controls, requiring higher taxes, lower spending and lower deficits from countries mired in unemployment in the south and west of the EU? How is the EU’s policy of helping pay for Turkey’s heavily defended borders with the Middle East moderate? What is green about the fishing discard policy or the dash for diesel and the reliance on coal for power by Germany? Why does everything proposed by the EU get through without a whisper of criticism? When will they apologise for the huge damage the Exchange Rate Mechanism did to the livelihoods and businesses of many in the UK, or for the revenge the Euro crisis visited on Cyprus, Greece, Ireland and Spain?”

John Redwood.

A very good article, even if you might not agree with all of Mr Redwood’s politics. His observation that “moderate” Labour MPs (they still want to seize private property, tax us up to the neck and so on) are caught between understandable loathing of Mr Corbyn, and their own foolish Europhilia, is very well made.

As Mr Redwood said, there’s nothing “moderate” about defending a creaking customs union, unaccountable bureaucracy, etc. But then what really does this sort of “moderation” really mean? I’m reminded of Ayn Rand’s excellent essay, The Wreckage of the Consensus, where she pointed to the foolishness of imagining that wisdom is to be found in some sort of “middle” between some sort of polar opposites.

Take another case: We are sometimes told to take “a moderate amount of exercise” when, in fact, what we might want to do for better health is high intensity interval training, for instance, or heavy lifting with barbells, rather than messing around by jogging a short distance (and buggering up one’s knees and back, by the way). Sometimes the “moderate” course isn’t really a course at all, but a sort of cop-out.

Back to the subject of Mr Redwood’s post, it reminds me that the voice of genuine political liberalism, to use that fine old word, has been quiet for a very long time in the UK. There appears zero chance of it being encouraged by the current Liberal Democrat Party, which even before its demise, was scarcely connected to the great traditions of Cobden, Gladstone or, even in a more recent example, the late Jo Grimmond.

9 comments to Moderation is often not the best policy

  • Mr Ed

    ‘Aren’t you a Right-Wing, paleo-free-market extremist?’.

    ‘Well, I’m actually a Moderate. I believe, like all good people, in moderating taxation and regulation.’

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so Mr Ed.

    As for Mrs May – the first thought of Mrs May was to incorporate all existing European Union regulations into British law – not “I like some E.U. regulations so we will keep them when we leave the European Union” (which would have been bad enough), but “we will keep ALL the European Union regulations”.

    Now we are told that their will be a future “Common Rule Book” for all FUTURE regulations made by the European Union. So Mrs May’s repeated promises (made over and over again) to restore the independence of this country have been exposed as a LIE.

    Mrs May lied and is continuing to lie – her promises that we will leave the European Union have been exposed as false by the “incorporation” of existing European Union regulations into British law and by her “Common Rule Book” suggestion all FUTURE European Union regulations should also be the law of this land – governing our internal affairs.

    The idea that this is about trade is another lie. In truth Mrs May is a “Remainer” and has always been a “Remainer” – Mrs May is determined to keep the United Kingdom under the rule of the European Union. Mrs May must go.

  • Jay Thomas

    In the perverse jargon employed by the British media, ‘moderate’ and ‘extreme’ are not measured in relation to what the average person thinks. Instead, the internal consensus at the BBC is defined as the moderate center point, a sort of ideological Greenwich from which everybody else can be measured. Any political view is ‘moderate’ to the extent that it reflects the BBC view and extreme to the extent that it departs from it. Note that the BBC can’t depart the centre ground. The centre ground is whatever the BBC believes, by definition. It is the moral sun around which the British political opinion must orbit.

  • Ken Mitchell

    “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

  • Eric Tavenner

    I read this somewhere.
    Conservatives want to take away your rights.
    Leftists want to take your money and property.
    Moderates want to do both.
    The ones who want to neither are called extremists.

  • Note that the BBC can’t depart the centre ground. The centre ground is whatever the BBC believes, by definition. It is the moral sun around which the British political opinion must orbit.

    Not to defend the BBC, but this really comes down to the UK’s idiotic rules on media neutrality, which applies to Sky News in the same manner as it does to the BBC.

    The BBC is so blinkered by the all pervasive influence of the Left among its staff that what it sees as a neutral Question Time panel the rest of the country sees as irredeemably biased towards the Left.

    It would be far better to remove such restraints and let the BBC and Sky News find their own audience with their own viewpoints. I suspect this would lead Sky News to shift slightly to the Centre Right and the BBC to make a sudden lurch to the far Left.

    Only then, by being treated as the caricatures the BBC believes them to be will the Tories stop treating the BBC with kid gloves and instead treat it as the nest of Marxists that it actually is.

    Tory governments will never be able to force the BBC to behave rationally by threatening the purse strings of the TV License tax. Far better to abolish the TV License in its entirety and force the BBC to make its own way in the world through subscription and/or advertising.

    I’m not sure if I’d actually watch a UK version of Fox News, but I feel irritated that the UK media regulations prevents a UK version of Fox News from even existing.

  • William Newman

    I liked the basic take in http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/01/dominic-cummings-brexit-referendum-won/ (though I would quibble with some of the details):

    It doesn’t occur to SW1 and the media that outside London their
    general outlook is seen as extreme. Have an immigration policy that
    guarantees free movement rights even for murderers, so we cannot
    deport them or keep them locked up after they are released? Extreme.
    Have open doors to the EU and don’t build the infrastructure needed?
    Extreme. Take violent thugs who kick women down stairs on CCTV, there
    is no doubt about their identity, and either don’t send them to jail
    or they’re out in a few months? Extreme. Have a set of policies that
    stops you dealing with the likes of ‘the guy with the hook’ for over a
    decade while still giving benefits to his family? Extreme. Ignore
    warnings about the dangers of financial derivatives, including from
    the most successful investor in the history of the world, and just
    keep pocketing the taxes from the banks and spending your time on
    trivia rather than possible disasters? Extreme. Make us – living on
    average wages without all your lucky advantages – pay for your
    bailouts while you keep getting raises and bonuses? Extreme and stupid
    – and contemptible.

    These views are held across educational lines, across party lines, and across class lines. Cameron, Blair, and Evan Davis agree about lots of these things and tell people constantly why they are wrong to think differently but to millions *they* *are* *the* *extremists*.

    (The rest of this comment is not related to the OP about moderation, merely related to my remark earlier about quibbles with this particular quote about moderation.)

    I would particularly quibble with the remark about derivatives. The true problem there seems to me to be the extremely privileged position of official ratings, related regulators, and a menagerie of backstops: government systematic guarantees such as deposit insurance, unsystematic arbitrary bailouts, price controls, barriers to entry, and so on. The politicized mis-rating of complicated derivatives of dysfunctional mortgages as high-quality bank holdings with artificially high values is not very different from the politicized mis-rating of simple old government bonds from dysfunctional governments; instead, it is very similar in an important way.

    I don’t know any great one-stop shopping site for an authoritative overview of this problem, but the problem is at least visible in this quote from
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/12158626/German-bail-in-plan-for-government-bonds-risks-blowing-up-the-euro.html

    The German Council says the “regulatory privileges” of sovereign debt held on bank books should be phased out. It should no longer be treated as “entirely safe and liquid” under the banks’ liquidity coverage ratios, or be exempt from capital requirements. “The greatest risks are for banks in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy,” it said.

    IMNSHO such “regulatory privileges” (backed by, among other things, taxpayers being on the hook to bail out the banks when the “entirely safe and liquid” stuff is not) are obviously the issue, not whether the bogus assets are derivatives or not.)

    Focusing on derivative-ness rather than regulatory-privileged-ness may sometimes be an innocent mistake, but it seems to be such a consistently common mistake that I suspect that there is active deception upstream, so that the only innocent mistake is consistently trusting the wrong important people, rather than somehow innocently independently but consistently making the same classification error. It isn’t hard to imagine an agenda that would motivate important people to dishonestly push this talking point: there are plenty of people and organizations who have a very large financial stake in various aspects of financial dirigisme and in various financial turf wars related to, e.g., their rivalry with “quants” who have succeeded with fairly complicated models, portfolios, and derivatives. (Or indeed, their rivalry with plain old sensible value traders (doing simple things like sensible shorts of insane manipulated prices, which don’t require partial differential equations and Monte Carlo to analyze, but which often can be demonized as “derivatives” as well). A pattern of such interests dishonestly pushing this stupid talking point to support their agenda seems like a likely explanation of how this stupid talking point could have become so common.

    Compare “a gun [isn’t useful for self-defense, it] would just be taken away and used against you”. It’s hard to see how that stupid claim could be common (as it was in the USA somewhat more than a decade ago, before shall-issue concealed carry license law became common enough that we no longer need to get bogged down in complicated debunkings, just point to news items) without some inflential group of people pushing it dishonestly to support a policy agenda, rather than just unbiased people independently making the same innocent mistake.

  • Dudekid

    Hegelian dialectic: no exercise is bad, exercising until your heart explodes is bad, therefore moderate exercise is good.

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