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A cross-party group of Green, Labour and progressive Conservative MPs have finally seen the light and are demanding deficit reduction

I thought this day would never come!

New laws should be checked against a “compassion threshold”, to ensure they will not harm future generations or the most vulnerable in society, a cross-party group of MPs will argue this week.

At last “progressives” have acknowledged that to run up the UK deficit by reckless government spending is to bribe the present electorate at the expense of ruinous consequences for future generations. I do not know what caused the likes of the Green Party’s only MP Caroline Lucas, the Labour MP Thangham Debonnaire, or the famously wet Tory MP Tracey Crouch to belatedly see the wisdom of the US Tea Party movement and Senator Rand Paul’s Balanced Budget Amendment, but whatever caused this Damascene conversion, it is most welcome.

Naturally these generally left-wing MPs see the proposed “Compassion Threshold” that would bind this and all future Parliaments in what laws they can pass as primarily affecting issues of more traditional concern to the Left:

From rising levels of rough sleeping to the rollout of universal credit, there are a growing number of issues that campaigners believe underline the unintended consequences of policymaking on the most vulnerable in society.

Backers of the idea of the compassion bill say they hope it would allow those affected to bring legal action, as they can when they believe their human rights are being breached, for example.

But since it should obvious to anyone how readily this proposed law could be used to enforce stringent budget responsibility on future governments, including what may very well be our next Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, let us wish the sponsors of the Bill every success.

18 comments to A cross-party group of Green, Labour and progressive Conservative MPs have finally seen the light and are demanding deficit reduction

  • bobby b

    It took me a second to recognize that vaunted English subtle sarcasm.

    “At a roundtable this week, they will discuss a new bill that would aim to ensure any legislation that came after it “cannot leave the most vulnerable in society worse off” and “does not benefit the current generation at the expense of future generations”.”

    Can UK legislation bind future UK legislation? Here in the USA, you would need a constitutional amendment to bind future legislators. Anything that can be voted in today can be voted out tomorrow.

    “Compassion.” I do not think that word means what they think it means.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    bobby b asks, “Can UK legislation bind future UK legislation?”

    Nope. Parliamentary Sovereignty means that “no Parliament may bind another”. Although the doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty was weakened by the Parliament Act 1911 and later by some aspects of EU law, it is still in force.

  • neonsnake

    Took me a second as well, bobby b, so don’t fret. And I’m not just English, I’m an Essex boy, so sarcasm is my first language, understatement my second, Estuary my third, and Queen’s English a very distant fourth.

    I mean…any bill that limits the amount of future laws has its attraction, at first glance…

    Mucking about aside:

    From rising levels of rough sleeping to the rollout of universal credit

    I think we can agree, can we not, that concerns for these things can be held by the left, the right, and the far north? We just disagree on the solutions…

  • Eric

    If this sort of thing were actually wired into the workings of government it would turn the UK into North Venezuela within ten years or so.

  • Nico

    @bobby b: well, entitlements are not constitutional law, but they definitely bind future Congresses…

  • Eric

    Nico, that’s not true, and people planning to retire on Social Security are going to discover that good and hard.

  • Nico

    Eric: the speed at which a country can become Venezuela is a function of its institutions, its level of financialization, and whether it has enough of something like oil to furnish the hard currency needed to import the food needed to keep the people from so completely starving that they revolt.

    It took Venezuela too many years to get to where they are, which means they were able to cook the frog slowly. If they’d not had oil, then the collapse would have been very fast, and the Chavistas would have been out of power soon after. The ~20 or so years it took Venezuela to descend to hell was useful to undermine all the institutions it had (which weren’t very many, nor very strong).

    The U.S. and the UK would take much longer to collapse into Venezuela, except for the financialization issue: because they are so leveraged, a collapse might accelerate much faster than in Venezuela. So I wouldn’t hazard a prediction as to how fast we can get there!

    Regarding institutions, the UK seems to have just three constitutional institutions: Parliament, the Useless Monarch, and the courts (which have become somewhat independent from Parliament), to which we must add non-constitutional institutions like the bureaucracy, higher education, and so on (the Anglican church is now nothing, so we discount that one). The U.S. has Congress, the Executive, the courts and the Supreme Court, the 50 States with their own three branches of power, and the jury trial with its nullification power (which the UK must no longer have??). And obviously the U.S. has larger social institutions than the UK, just by dint of being larger. Also the U.S. has the 50 national guards, and Texas has its own military completely independent of the national guard and the federal armed forces.

  • Nico

    Eric: well, yes, I agree, but so far Congress has allowed itself to be bound by past Congresses. IMO every tax and every cent of spending should be explicitly up for a new vote in every Congress — no, this wouldn’t be a complete cure, but it might help.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “The U.S. and the UK would take much longer to collapse into Venezuela, except for the financialization issue: because they are so leveraged, a collapse might accelerate much faster than in Venezuela. So I wouldn’t hazard a prediction as to how fast we can get there!”

    We went pretty fast. In 1945 we voted in a socialist government, who set in the rot. Then in the 1960s-70s the unions were in the process of seizing power and it all went to rats. By the early 1970s we were having general strikes and ‘three day weeks’, power cuts, and rampant inflation.

    We were well on the way to banana republic when Maggie got voted in, and saved us all.

    It would probably take a little longer now, but not by much.

  • George Atkisson

    In the United States, the current estimates of federal revenue vs federal interest payments/social security/Medicare/federal pensions indicates a crossover around 2025 or 2026. At that point all federal revenue will go toward those debts with zero left over for other things like salaries, military, welfare, etc. No one cares.

    The federal government will probably confiscate all IRA’s, 401K’s, and pension funds, giving out IOU’s. Then proceed to inflate the currency through the roof. Or disavow all foreign debt, ending US status of having the $$ as the world’s reserve currency.

    Bad news all around. This would be a catastrophic financial meltdown. I have no idea what would emerge afterwards. Guess I’ll stock up on single malt Scotch and enjoy the show.

  • Stuart Noyes

    There should be surplus so they can start paying it back!

  • “cannot leave the most vulnerable in society worse off”

    They want Rawls’ difference theory to be the law: no change may occur if the most miserable failures in that society would be worse off under it, regardless of what benefits it otherwise offers. The worst-off members of very unjust society might be truth-tellers being ‘re-educated’ by the secret police for not denouncing fellow truth-tellers. The worst-off members of a very just society might by definition be its most idle, greedy, and vicious denizens (but maybe not by their definition 🙂 ).

    Just another way in which the PC guarantee they will not reach their ostensible goals – including of course the claimed goal of not binding future generations, since the desire to give “the most vulnerable” absolute priority over the most productive is not the way to avoid imposing costs on future generations (opportunity costs, but not only those).

  • Derek Buxton

    Nullius in Verba. Unfortunately we no longer have a Lady Thatcher to bail us out, just the worst PM ever in my long life.

  • John B

    ‘But since it should obvious to anyone how readily this proposed law could be used to enforce stringent budget responsibility on future governments, including what may very well be our next Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, let us wish the sponsors of the Bill every success.’

    Clearly it is not obvious to you. You assume reducing budget deficit will be reduced spending, when you should take into account it can be achieved by increased taxation.

    The Greens are on board because they can use deficit reduction as an excuse to tax everything that is destroying the Planet, which is of course nearly everything we do and use. Labour and progressive Conservatives are the same things, and they look forward to taxing evil business owners.

    And how can anyone possibly know what will or will not harm future generations?

  • neonsnake

    …no change may occur if the most miserable failures in that society…

    That’s one hell of a set of mental gymnastics to perform, to conflate “vulnerable” with “miserable failures”, Niall.

    They’re clearly talking about the “can nots”, not the “will nots”.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes British irony often confuses me booby b – and I was born and raised here.

    The “compassion threshold” is, of course, a way of destroying democracy – by binding all future Parliaments (regardless of the votes of the people) to leftist “compassionate” (read Collectivist Tyranny) principles.

    It is an old idea – Professor Harold Laski (Chairman of the Labour Party in the 1940s and the academic who, with the radical “liberal” E.H. Carr, helped write the United Nation declaration of “rights” – written to sound libertarian whilst actually being collectivist) had this idea – that future Conservative Party governments should not be ALLOWED to roll back “social reform” (i.e. collectivist tyranny – liberticide).

    And Professor Pigou of Cambridge (a teacher of Keynes) taught that people ought that people should not even be allowed to SUGGEST reducing government spending on benefits and public services.

    In his “General Theory….” (1936) J. M. Keynes refers to Professor Pigou as a supporter of laissez faire – Keynes was being ironic (as Pigou was a radical interventionist) – but generations of readers have assumed that Keynes was telling the truth, that Cambridge was a place of free market economists before Keynes came along.

  • Paul Marks

    I will make a prediction – most of the “Progressive Conservatives” who support this evil (for EVIL it is) are also “Remainers”.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Indeed, John B. That’s an argument that sensible folk over here have made against a Balanced Budget Amendment, as it has been proposed so far.

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