Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Tautology of the Minimalist Socialist State

Alex Hilton is in a fairly significant huff having been the subject of an unusual breach of civility from the normally mild Iain Dale. (Ed notes: because Alex is a lefty blogging twat, of course.) Now, normally, I would completely ignore this declaration of all out war from one of nu-Labour's highly trained pygmy attack shrews, even one who is a demiclone of the Millibore.

But, being slightly bored and even more averse to finding some housework to do, I decided to wade into the morass of imbecility that is "Comment is Free" (Ed notes: "of Sense, Substance and Spelling") and see just what had provoked Iain's ire. I found it here.

Now plenty of people have already embarked on pointed critiques of this obviously-still-hungover metro-socialist drivel. I particularly loved richmanchester's comment on the clear priorities of the C19 down-trodden - Alex was quite obviously right in his certainty that the agricultural labourers of Tolpuddle were martyred (although they weren't, exactly, they were transported not hung, but that is the sobriquet that history has bequeathed them) and the Manchester and Salford Trades Council organised the first Trades Union Congress for:
social causes against racism, sexism and homophobia


Still, what actually makes this a work of virulent knobbery is not his assertion (in the best Neil Harding or Kezia Dugdale "Maggie, Maggie, Maggie - out, out - err, oh - still her fault" mode) that Toryism is evil - it is his entirely unwarranted contention that socialist does not imply statist. While I will admit that socialist does, absolutely, not require authoritarian (nagging is enough), the basic underlying socialist principles require a larger and a more interfering state than libertarian or even conservative ones. I would recommend Chris Dillow's excellent book "The End of Politics" to anybody interested in this.

From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need."

Karl Marx, 1875, "Critique of the Gotha Programme"

The basic principles of modern British socialism, because that is what the Milliclone was whittering about - communal ownership (of labour, values and aspirations, as well as capital), redistributive (if not actually punitive) taxation, of equality of outcomes rather than equality of opportunities - these all require state interference. And for the state to effectively interfere, it must set targets and it must measure against them. And that takes people - non-productive, inefficient people and, in Britain at least, relatively highly paid and very well pensioned. And, because of the inefficiency, it is not about raising the standards of my local secondary school until they are the same as Eton - or of the laughably named "Adam Smith College" until it is the same as Edinburgh - regardless of the amount of money thrown at them. Unfortunately it is about dragging down excellence to mediocrity, about ensuring that the pampered child of the doting middle class has no better start in life than drug-dependent child of a serially-engaged benefit junkie.

So the size of the state increases, as does the number of people dependent on its direct beneficence. As the number of people who depend on the state increases, so do the arbitrary ways that it can wield its power. Soon, it will wield the state's ultimate sanction, death, for merely trying to help yourself.

Now, he tries to justify himself by referring to the "free market". This is, of course, making the usual politico's confusion between the political term "free market" - i.e. no interference from government - and the much more important term, as far as economics is concerned, "efficient market". The purpose of an efficient market is to reach the optimum balance of exchange between seller and purchaser. Clearly, governments can interfere with this - for reasons good, arbitrary and bad. There are many other things that also interfere - poor communications (especially for perishable goods), inefficient transportation, criminality of all sorts (although how exactly you differentiate this from political activity, I leave as a matter for the reader) and social or cultural pressures. Pretending that "government involvement" in a market, or the lack of it, is the sole governor of market behaviour is abrogating far more effect to our politicos that they deserve but, then, that's Alex for you.

Ed Clarke
and His Imperial Satanic Majesty both have thoughtful (and, obviously, for DK, somewhat sweary) posts on state centralisation - read them. Ed does slightly miss the point though - it isn't Tesco-isation. Tesco, for all its faults (and, if you happen to be reading this anyone from Tesco in Cumbernauld - you are going downhill fast, especially for fresh fruit and meat - but that may just be location, location, location) is not a bad supermarket - as its profits show. The food is reasonable, there is variety of qualities and quantities, they provide free ATMs and a reasonable invasive snoopery incentive scheme. What you were actually searching for, Sir, is NAAFI-isation. Now, anybody who has ever been in a Naafi shop in the UK, Germany or Iraq knows just how bad they generally are. About the only thing you can say that they generally have a reasonable selection of a trashy CD players and lads magazines. Opening hours are shite and prices are high. British government run, you see - it isn't inevitable - the various US PXs range from the surprisingly nice to the absolutely superb, the Canadian CANEX system is really effective (if never the size of the Yank malls) and the charity ECHOS restaurants are amazing.

You see, all twat's "modern british socialism" boils down to is an endless kiddy's whine of "it's not fair", backed up by all the coercive power of the modern bureaucratic state. I'll answer it the same way I do my son: that's right. Life isn't fair. Grow up and get on with it.

The Tories aren't evil - government is evil. That is why we need to restrict it to the minimum necessary to ensure a viable state.

2 comments:

Ed said...

Just popped in to say I wasn't blaming Tesco for our national uniformity. I was saying that "isn't it nice" when it's not your usual shop. I did word it badly admittedly.

Surreptitious Evil said...

Ed, thanks - I didn't believe that you were blaming Tesco - you were clearly blaming the government (or, at least, the managerialist tendency within uk.gov).

I was merely commenting that if you wanted a supermarket analogy (not a bad idea at all) for the wet dreams of our metro-socialist centralisers, Tesco was probably too efficient and effective a choice. Bland and uniform, yes it manages - but anything government run is going to be far less competent at its basic function - getting food to people - hence my suggestion of Naafi.

 
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