Cultural, Moral Revolution or the Status Quo
October 25, 2014
Another email exchange with a friend on our current political situation in Britain and a bit about the United States. Enjoy
On Oct 24, 2014, at 3:16 PM, X wrote:
"I really cannot see how spending cuts by themselves are a coherent policy in modern Britain. You have to reduce the demand for spending first, and that is a social and cultural matter, which may cost quiet a lot of money. The entire economy (as economists such as David Blanchflower seem to me to imply) is now so dependent on public spending for survival that large spending cuts, though undoubtedly desirable in principle, will simply kill the patient. He is too ill for any such treatment. You might as well bleed someone who’s suffering from blood loss.
"The levels of spending in this country are the consequence of 50 years of leftist social policy. The family, the church, independent charity and self-reliance have been undermined to the point that they barely exist as forces, while the state, and its quasi-independent agencies, have grown enormously. Manufacturing industry as an employer has shrivelled. The unproductive public sector wobbles on top of the productive economy. Our ability to export has likewise atrophied.
"How on earth an immediate radical spending cut will do good under such circumstances, I honestly don’t know. The government’s tax receipts would plunge, as large numbers of public employees stopped paying income tax because they were unemployed. And its liabilities would increase, as they had to be paid various doles and allowances instead. Result: More borrowing, plus less economic activity, as you would have taken so much purchasing power out of the economy. Aldi and Lidl might benefit. I don’t think anyone else would. We did, sort of, go through this before in the Thatcher-Howe era. But the enormous receipts from North Sea Oil (now over) served as great national cushion.
"If this is wrong, I’d be interested to know why. Serious conservatives, with a practical intent, must recognise that the country can only be weaned slowly off the disastrous welfare dependency it now faces, and cannot instantly recover from the deindustrialisation inflicted on it by market liberals who wrongly insisted that manufacturing didn’t matter. The reconstruction of the family, of proper education able to produce employable people, plus a long campaign to persuade people that debt is bad for them, might take 20 or 30 years to have much of an effect.
"A large cultural and moral revolution, in short, is called for. And that won’t happen until there are what Tony Benn calls teachers, and signposts in national politics (he always says that there are two kinds of politicians, signposts and weathervanes, and I agree with him). Such people need to confront, honestly, the huge size of the problems we face, and recognise our permanently diminished status as a country. They need to be bolstered by serious journalism, which is likewise prepared to kook our crisis in the face, admit that we have been mistaken, and by an academy which is equally thoughtful.
"Such conditions seem to me to be very unlikely, and absolutely impossible while British political discourse is still dominated by two mobs, one of which says ‘thatcher was wrong!’;, and the other of which shouts back ‘Maggie was right!’.
"Hence the need for a political and cultural counter-revolution, for which the undoubted collapse of the Tory Party is an essential precondition. The idea that we can, in the course of a single election, restore Britain to its former state is laughable. It will be a long, long march.
"And during that Long, Long March, we will have to recognise that the current economic crisis is not really a temporary period through which we can pass before the tills start ringing again. It is a process by which we get used to our reduced status, itself largely the result of our long period of unrealistic, utopian folly.
"Much more likely, we will carry on as we are, and be overtaken, in the end, by a great wave of inflation and devaluation which will sweep away almost all we have come to rely on, and leave us savagely reduced, but at least in touch with reality" (http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2012/12/what-if-the-crisis-goes-on-forever-and-that-irish-question-what-was-it-again.html).
Interesting. But why does this person think that the reasons offered for these cuts are the reasons motivating them? He seems to buy into the arguments of those proposing the cuts that they are economically motivated, that is, are understood by the proposers to spur economic growth. And he seems to do this even while recognizing that the real goals are "cultural and moral and political." Why not focus on those "variables" and take on those he is against on those grounds? Could it be because he doesn't really have a cultural, moral, or political agenda that is all that different from his opponents?
"The entire economy (as economists such as David Blanchflower seem to me to imply) is now so dependent on public spending for survival that large spending cuts, though undoubtedly desirable in principle, will simply kill the patient." Hasn't he given the game away here? First, he relies on an economist and, second, he grants that his opponents are "desirable in principle," "undoubtedly" so! I don't know how you start "a large cultural and moral revolution" on this basis. Don't you need alternative "principles" to do this? If so, what would they be? "Don't kill the patient" isn't going to cut it, I think.
And as the goals given for the cuts make little or no sense economically, then they must aim at cultural, moral, and political ends, no? Could it be no more profound than preserving the status quo and reinforcing it by "teaching" people that government cannot or should not - the latter is more dangerous, it seems to me - be responsible for the well-being of the many, while promoting the well-being of the few? "Just as the few take care of themselves, so too should the many take care of themselves. If this means pain for some of the many, so be it."
Now [right now, as I write this] it seems to me that without categories like Aristotle's, viz., oligarchy, democracy, polity, aristocracy, we are compelled to accept, say, oligarchy because it appears to be "necessary" and even "responsible." This is a neat trick, and one I think that Locke, e.g., knew he was promoting. Rousseau saw through it; "Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains." Max Weber too: "the iron cage of rationality." Nietzsche ditto: "The last man."
In this country, the Dems have known for years that a majority of the people agree with them more often than they agree with the Republicans. They also should know by now that talking as they talk, relying irrationally on rationality in their debates and ads, does not work. But they keep doing it. Is this a "mistake" or a "strategy?" Of course, if one buys into the idea that political parties want to win, genuinely want to win, each and every election, this must be a "mistake." If one does not buy into that idea, which is hard to defend given the evidence, then this is a "strategy." To do what? Preserve the status quo because, even though they lose elections often, the Dems in power, for the most part, stay in power. Were they or someone to promote real change, they would lose that power. No Democrat seemed too upset when Russ Feingold lost his Senate seat, just as no Republican seemed too upset when Santorum lost his Senate seat. And I would imagine if that Congressman in Michigan. whose name escapes me now, were to lose, the Republican establishment would not shed many tears. [Justin Amash, I think.]
Any way, it is really early and so I will end. Besides, I have nothing else!! Or if I do, it has disappeared into the fog of my mind!!