Beginning to respond to DK

Left Outside may think that I write “utter bilge” but then that is because he is insane.

A brilliant start to a blog post I’m sure you’ll agree. But unfortunately DK is taking aim at the wrong guy.

I just don’t think what he thinks I think, and I think there’s little too no evidence on this blog to suggest I think what he thinks I think, so I don’t know where he thinks he got the evidence to make his accusation about what I think (phew).

DK think’s I’m insane…

…because [Left Outside] is one of those who think that the ridiculous socialist democratic experiment that continues to be wrought upon this country can, in any way, carry on.

Which just isn’t true.

Firstly, you’ll find precious little evidence on this blog for me supporting Brown. Likewise no matter who is elected very little will change when compared to the great changes the country saw in, say, 1919, 1945-51 or the early 1980s. Labour will be the least shit in my view, but only because I have a very low opinion of the Tories. [1]

Accusing me of being someone who wants this “ridiculous socialist democratic experiment” to continue makes little sense in this context.

There’s also a series of errors before DK comes to New Zealand which I will now address.

This is what gets me about those on the “decent” left [I am not of the decent left – LO]: they somehow seem to think—in a way that is almost comically deluded—that our government can keep on spending nearly £200 billion more than it takes in tax…

Deficit spending in times of recession is nothing controversial but it seems DK is suggesting that I think deficit spending should be constant and always.

Not so, I’ve written that I think that the budget deficit was too large entering the recession. A lesser man would call Carter-Fuck.

…they continue to think that, somehow, yet more money can be squeezed out of the very tiny number of very rich people to prop up the left’s ailing socialist state…

I agree that squeezing someone until the pip’s squeak isn’t a great way to raise money. But there are entirely mainstream reasons to think that higher taxes on the wealthy increase revenue.

…to these morons, the state can just happily carry on spending vast amounts of money and employing huge numbers of pointless bureaucrats without there being any bad consequences.

You’ll have notice that “I” have long since become plural and that “I” think some odd things when subsumed into DK’s caricature of the left.

There is a problem with the size of the state, or rather some parts of the state are too big.

A large deal of this is an obsession with managerialism over workplace democracy and outsourcing which New Labour have taken to with gay abandon. LEA and PFI are not particularly welcome, but the NHS most definitely is (I think I need to join Acronym’s Anonymous).

Worse still are those on the left who think that all of this can continue and for us to see an increase in civil liberties. They are, to a man and woman, absolutely barking.

Sigh.

From 1950 to 1980 State spending (but not state consumption, which is something different all together) rose from around 35% of GDP to 45%.

In this period homosexuality was legalised, the pill became widely available as did abortion, women and men gained more control over their bodies than they had ever before.

A series of at times unpopular but precious freedoms were instituted. Not only did many things about our society get more liberal as the state grew, but society became more liberal while the state grew when we were faced with a true existential threat in the shape of the Soviet Union.

The size of Labour’s state has not led to authoritarianism, it is not that simple (Likewise the link between state action and the growth of racism is not straight forward as some on the right pretend).

So what made DK pour forth such tired clichés which in no way describe my politics?

Being a charitable Devil, I like to imagine—in my more sanguine moments—that all of the above occurs simply because they cannot see another way through. Which is why I like to link to articles like this one by ex-New Zealand minister Maurice P. McTigue. The whole thing is so good that I would love to quote it in full—instead, I shall simply highlight some particularly striking passages, starting with McTigue’s illustration of the plight that led to New Zealand’s wholesale rehabilitation.

Oh… He’s trying to educate me!

He goes on to discuss a very interesting article on New Zealand. This is a country I was planning on writing on anyway so I’ll give it more time at a later date.

The second half of DK’s post (admittedly mostly written by ex-New Zealand minister Maurice P. McTigue) is far better and quite interesting, so do read his original post, just skip the beginning.

[1] Ideally I’d like to see Brown ousted as part of a Labour/LibDem Coalition government who repeal a whole raft of laws and usher in a glorious new Jerusalem, while balancing spending decreases with tax code simplification and kittens for all. Oh, and the Tories further implode. I am not holding my breath.

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10 thoughts on “Beginning to respond to DK

  1. First up I’m not sure it’s worth the effort responding to people who try to pick fights, as they’re just seeking attention. However as DK responded in an earlier thread I think it is worth picking him up here.

    I’m not a Labour supporter, nor do I describe myself as ‘on the left’, yet (or possibly, therefore) I recognise the need for flexibility in treasury policy – for the simple reason that the UK is not in direct control of markets beyond our borders.

    In fact I find it perverse for a so-called ‘libertarian’ to maintain dogmatic adherence to one fundamental principle of libertarianism (here of fiscal conservatism) where it so obviously contradicts another (economic sovereignty of polities and individuals).

    It simply isn’t a matter of dogma.

    I fully accept his point that continued growth of the state at current levels is unsustainable and I find it easy to reconcile this with your point that state policy priorities have become unbalanced. Indeed I think each side of the equation potentially provides effective resolution to the argument, so the real debate is more about specific details where the causality between means and ends are addressed: consciously recognising that the means determine the ends represents a massive shift in way the issues are considered.

    Because tax revenues are not an bottomless slush fund to be raided for political purpose whenever the urge strikes, but also because it is irresponsible to view the state as either necessarily malignant or preferably neutral, DK is hopelessly shortsighted in his analysis. For whatever the optimum size it may be decided government should be, it must be a force for good or it will shed legitimacy by the bucketload.

    Clearly for DK a tipping point has been passed where legitimacy has fallen to below any acceptable levels, but I would argue that is because the current party of government has lost its claim to moral purpose (I argue it lost it in 1999). However it is patently prejudiced (as well as naive) to think the machinery of state is systemically and permanently biased in such a negative manner, even it it weren’t demonstrably shown to be untrue (though I don’t think that’s possible given Brown’s record).

    So I step back and view the LPUK as just another splintering of the established duopoly of political forces which does not herald any new dawn and can safely be looked at as a fringe group flaming up under the particular combination of events, just as UKIP did around the Maastricht negotiations and the Greens did around the Greenham Common protests etc.

    The longer term electoral progression of those and other parties inevitably hinges on the ability to make acceptable compromises, but that means each is forced to lose their distinctive ideological foundation as they are swamped by reality.

    Just as Thatcher and Foot both eventually failed by not having a broad enough and open enough grip on reality, so too will anyone who just covets their own corner of the playground.

    And by aligning himself as an anti-Labour force, from a strategic perspective DK’s LPUK will be reduced to silence if a Cameron government sweeps to power, which would unfortunately reduce the plurality of voices in the democratic sphere to hold to account whoever happens to be in office.

    If anyone doesn’t know who their enemy is, it’s DK!

  2. Bizarre. DK has ostensibly written a response to your post on his attitude to Michael Foot’s death, and then goes off on a tangent. However, it is instructive in that it shows us how he can feel justified in calling Foot “evil” (as if we didn’t know already); it’s because his view of “the left” is based upon an enormous straw man of his own construct, informed apparently by the ZaNuLieBore-type comments on the Daily Mail and by missing the point of some of the Daily Mash’s satire.

    So, as you say, the writings of McTigue are interesting, but even if we take what he says at face value (Just how many of those tens-of-thousands of sacked state employees ended up in the private sector earning three times their old wage? I thought all public sector workers were overpaid? etc.) I don’t see that he has said anything that anyone on the left need necessarily oppose. Those on the left may have less blind faith in the free market and have a generally more positive view of the benefits of government, but that needn’t translate into opposing a simplified and as-low-as-possible tax structure, streamlined and efficient regulation, decentralisation or even school vouchers. On the other hand McTigue’s prescription seems at odds with Libertarianism, with his talk of a progressive tax system and burdensome regulation such as the surely unnecessary 348 page Resource Management Act (unnecessary because the free market will sort everything out, won’t it?)

    In summary, DK is a witless oaf, and while your humouring of him has been impressive and admirable I wouldn’t waste my time if I were you. Not only are his own opinions a nonsense but his view of differing ideologies is a nonsense based upon his own prejudices, assumptions and wild imaginings. Debate with him if you like but I doubt it’s worth it; you’ll never get him to see you point of view because he’s too busy arguing with shadows.

  3. Why bother? Are you just one of these people who enjoys winding himself up?

    I’m a bit like that sometimes. I occasionally go & read some blogs that strongly disagree with my views, as venomously as possible, because some compulsion drove me on. I used to read Old Holborn, for example.

    In recent times, though, I’ve not been doing it because life’s just too short. I no longer get the same pleasure from getting myself worked up, so I ignore the usual blowhards. Mind you, I’ve still got my list of them just in case I’m in that weird frame of mind :)

    1. Agree with Asquith, visiting places that you disagree with on a regular basis is pointless and time consuming, something many right-wing commentators seem to ignore at Lib Con but clearly, them fools got time on their hands.

      1. Aye. I don’t mind a bit of disagreement or people of somewhat different perspectives (for example, I read a right-wing US Catholic blog quite a bit), I just don’t waste my time trolling on the Telegraph, Spectator, Fail etc. websites. I wonder why the traffic always seems to be one-way.

  4. Left Outside,

    “Firstly, you’ll find precious little evidence on this blog for me supporting Brown. Likewise no matter who is elected very little will change when compared to the great changes the country saw in, say, 1919, 1945-51 or the early 1980s. Labour will be the least shit in my view, but only because I have a very low opinion of the Tories. [1]”

    As you will know, so utterly “extreme” are my politics that I view both the Tories and Labour (at least in the last century or so) as being socialist. Even the sainted Thatcher—whom some might venerate—centralised a lot of state power.

    I have, for what it’s worth, a very low opinion of the Tories (as you will know from winding yourself up over at The Kitchen) but a far lower opinion of Labour.

    “This is what gets me about those on the “decent” left [I am not of the decent left – LO]:…”

    Maybe you are of the indecent left? But, seriously, would you not describe yourself as of the left—your blog title at least implies it, no? As, of course, does your about page, in which you describe yourself as having a reputation for debating with “even with the most out there rightist”.

    The “decent” left do, I’ll admit, usually self-describe—usually opposing the Iraq War and not actively being Communists. But, whatever, you are of the left, decent or not.

    But really only the first paragraph was a dig at you in particular: much of the rest of the post was a dig at the left in general—which is why I expanded it to “the ‘decent’ left”. Although you got a mention later on for the same reason that I kicked off with you—because you maintained that I could never change the world in the way that I wanted to.

    “Deficit spending in times of recession is nothing controversial but it seems DK is suggesting that I think deficit spending should be constant and always.”

    No, because I had expanded it to “the left” by this point. And there do seem to be an awful lot of them—every one who screams about the Tories cutting spending—who seem to think that we can continue to spend, spend, spend.

    Labour was massively overspending before the recession hit. The structural deficit—that bit which will still be with us after the recession has ended—is about 10% of GDP, i.e. getting on for £150 billion. No government can carry on spending £150 billion per year more than it raises in taxes—it’s insanity.

    “The size of Labour’s state has not led to authoritarianism, it is not that simple “

    This, I concede, is true. However, as you also point out, there was an external threat—the Soviet Union. I would also argue that the totalitarian nature of this threat was partially what drove society towards greater liberality.

    I also accept your point about PFI—I have long maintained that it manages to combine the worst of the state and the private sector. But it should also be remembered that the PFI spending does not appear on the government’s books either—so state spending is considerably higher than advertised.

    DK

  5. Thinking about it, mind you, I admit that using “left” as a political designation is a lazy thing to do—and one that I have denounced often myself.

    I do, of course, describe myself as a “collectivist”—its just that I insist on inserting “voluntary” before it. It may be that you are of the same mind…

    DK

  6. As you will know, so utterly “extreme” are my politics that I view both the Tories and Labour (at least in the last century or so) as being socialist.

    And you view socialists as being morons and nazis. Given that the Tories and Labour (and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to exclude the LDs) between them manage to attract the votes of a significant majority of Brits, that would imply that you see all British politicians, and a large majority of the british public as morons and nazis. Which rather flies against the libertarian project, since if true a powerful state which restricts the freedoms of the psychopathic citizenry would seem to be a pretty essential requirement.

  7. This is where I don’t think using ‘left’ and ‘right’ as the terms of measurement are helpful – we need something more concrete.

    As politics is the fight for civilisation it seems fitting to use the old measure that the standard of a civilisation is how it treats those who disagree or don’t conform with the social norms, but I would expand it to say the measure of a civilised person is how they treat those those who disagree or don’t conform with individual expectations.

    On which I think DK has regularly exceeds acceptability.

    He may well uphold the highest standards, but his suffocating negativity represents a fight against politics and against civilisation which diminishes any trust one has in his words.

    So I’m interested to read how he engages on a thread where he is the issue at hand.

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