Persistently incorrect right wing shibboleths

I’m sure there are left wing ones too, but there are some right wing beliefs that just won’t die, no matter how the empirical evidence stacks up.

For example, was Enoch right?

Well he made empirically verifiable predictions about the future which we can test against events as they happened. 42 years since his “Rivers of Blood” speech is more than enough time to see whether he was on to something or not.

A week or two ago I fell into conversation with a constituent, a middle-aged, quite ordinary working man employed in one of our nationalised industries.

After a sentence or two about the weather, he suddenly said: “If I had the money to go, I wouldn’t stay in this country.” I made some deprecatory reply to the effect that even this government wouldn’t last for ever; but he took no notice, and continued: “I have three children, all of them been through grammar school and two of them married now, with family. I shan’t be satisfied till I have seen them all settled overseas. In this country in 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.”

I can already hear the chorus of execration. How dare I say such a horrible thing? How dare I stir up trouble and inflame feelings by repeating such a conversation?

The answer is that I do not have the right not to do so. Here is a decent, ordinary fellow Englishman, who in broad daylight in my own town says to me, his Member of Parliament, that his country will not be worth living in for his children.

As Douglas Clark says, “I have checked my back for scars, but they are sorely lacking.”

The allegedly insurmountable problems of migration have been surmounted and will remain surmounted for some time, Enoch was wrong, plain and simple, yet he is still intermittently trotted out when a rightist wants to be a little risqué.

Secondly, we of course have Hayek.

Apparently the postwar settlement across Europe was putting us all on the Road to Serfdom. This is a serf.

That is not me.

Yet people still claim that Hayek had an incredible prescience about the future of Western Civilisation. He didn’t, he had useful insights on the diffusion of knowledge in a market, and very little to offer on avoiding fascism.

So, any other shibboleths spring to anyone’s mind?


8 thoughts on “Persistently incorrect right wing shibboleths

  1. Oh come on, Russia and China are far freer than they were 40 years ago. Suicides in Chinese factories are bad, but they pale into insignificance compared with the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Of course, neither have either really seen free markets, both have very statey markets. Your examples are bad, but your general point is good, to an extent.

    I think Chris has another one to add here:

    “The claim that “people are unemployed because they don’t want to work“ could, I suspect, often be reversed: people don’t want to work because they are unemployed.”

  2. “The allegedly insurmountable problems of migration have been surmounted and will remain surmounted for some time”

    A slightly optimistic view of the situation, I think?

    You don’t have to think “Enoch was right”, still less “The man Enoch was quoting his real of hypothetical conversation with was right” to worry that our ability to deal with the consequences of large-scale migration has fallen some way behind the political willingness to accept it – most notably in the three areas of integration and acceptance, housing supply, and employment rights.

    1. First of all, I’m quite confident in saying Enoch was quoting enoch, no evidence of any of the figures quoted in that speech has ever been presented or dug up. He was a great orator, and he knew the value in putting controversial things in other people’s mouths.

      Migration, both modern and historic, hasn’t ever been without problems, of course. However, that subsequent governments have underbuilt housing (or imposed onerous planning laws, depending on your flavour) and encroughed on employment law is only tangental to migration.

      The point remains that the problems this country has faced because of migration (and of course there have been some) has been negligible compared to what was predicted and negligible compared to the net increase in welfare for those involved.

      1. I’m sure you’re right about the speech, hence my raising the possibility that it was a hypothetical conversation – although equally I suspect that an afternoon’s canvassing in 1960s Birmingham would probably have conjured up at least one person expressing views close to those.

        I worry a bit about concepts like “net increase in welfare”. Obviously if people want to move countries it is, all else being equal, better that they should be able to than that they shouldn’t – my father has done to twice, first to England, then to Germany as a migrant worker during the 1990s recession (and, happily, back afterwards).

        However, there’s clearly disutility as well and public policy needs to recognise that and address it – whether by sorting out the underlying problems, restricting gross or net immigration to a level at which they can be managed, or some combination of the two.

        Subjective measures of happiness suggest that the UK is the 41st happiest country in the world – on the basis that the areas to which immigrants come are not, on average, more pleasant to live in than the average, nor are their jobs more rewarding, there’s a broad brush argument that suggests a net personal benefit exists on average only to migrants from countries 42 to 178, and not to those from countries 1 to 40.

        The utility to the country they’re leaving depends, I suppose, on whether it’s got a skills and labour shortage and is suffering a brain drain, or is low-income and relies on remittances.

        Accuse me of coming over all green-hippy, but I wouldn’t necessarily measure the welfare created by a form of housing by its cash cost, nor that created by a job by its pay rate. Apart from anything else If that were true the Welsh would be miserable and Londoners constantly joyful! Some people may have been encouraged to the UK on a false prospectus.

  3. It’s important to recall that Powell’s comments were delivered on the eve of the Commons debate on the ‘beefing up’ of the 1965 Race Relations Act, a development that Powell vehemently opposed.

    Given the subsequent mutation of the RRA into the multirole instrument of state repression that it since has become – there’s a political show-trial underway at the moment in the High Court, instigated by a black man – Enoch’s remarks about the changes in the whip hand seem quite apposite.

    On more mundane matters, such as the likely numbers of coloured immigrants and their descendants in Britain in 2000, he was of course right on the money.

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