The Left must not be allowed to blame Neo-Liberalism for a crisis of Social Democracy
The Right is being much too complacent in allowing an entirely dishonest analysis of the financial and economic crisis to dominate the public debate
The politics of blame is central to the success or failure of parties, ideologies and, of course, politicians. If incumbent leaders can get sufficient numbers of people to believe that a given problem was caused by the policies of their predecessor they may, if the issue is significant enough, get a second term of office.
If an opponent can persuade people of the opposite, that it’s mainly down to the incumbents' mismanagement or incompetence, the advantage moves in the other direction.
Today, we see this process in action on both sides of the Atlantic. In Britain, the Conservative-led government endlessly (and justifiably) attempts to pin the bulk of the blame for the depth of the economic crisis on the appalling mismanagement and recklessness of its Labour predecessor.
Labour cannot argue that its record is a good one, but it attempts to shift the blame for the extent of the country’s economic woes on the alleged folly of current policies.
It also hopes that people have short memories, that they will forget who got us in to this mess, and that they will tire of hearing the same old “excuses“ as they continue to feel the effects of economic decline in their daily lives.
Such is the business of politics. But surrounding the politics, there is a battle of ideas raging that may set the policy agenda for years or decades to come.
In Britain, at least, only the ideological Left has fully internalised this reality, and, as a consequence, their narrative on the causes of the global economic crisis is dominating the debate.
Partly that’s a product of the fact that the country’s (very low level) political intelligentsia is still dominated by Left-leaning ideas, despite the counter-offensive launched by the likes of Margaret Thatcher’s intellectual guru Keith Joseph in the 1970s.
But partly, it’s also due to a set of confusions at the heart of much Right-leaning thinking which may well have been caused through unconscious absorption of conventional wisdoms established by the Left.
As food for thought, and in the hope of kick-starting a serious debate, here are two of the most politically significant of those conventional wisdoms with some explanation of their flaws:
** Western societies are run according to market-economic, capitalist principles.
That is simply false. By far the biggest players in any Western economy (including the United States) are the institutions of state. Government spending consumes 40-50 percent of gross domestic product practically across the board, with a few exceptions either side of those parameters depending on the time frame you are looking at and the country in question.
Along with regulation, the overwhelming dominance of the state, in one way or another, affects every single decision of every individual, entrepreneur, banker or corporate executive in every economy where such a state of affairs applies.
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