The Left Must Reject the Regressive Left

It used to be the case that left were the champions of freedom and equality. The desire to achieve social equality was to enhance the freedoms of people who have faced centuries of discrimination and bigotry, ensuring they remained fodder to be enslaved, hated and segregated. Political correctness was meant to be a weapon that eroded people’s sensibilities to think it is acceptable to behave in deplorable ways to certain people within society. It was meant to educate and enlighten everyone to be aware that our human beings aren’t always, if at all, treat with the same respect as others. These differences in how we treat others are systematic and need combatting to ensure our society becomes inclusive, political correctness was meant to highlight this in our discourses.

Alas, an aberration has been born from this desire to achieve social equality. It’s born out of the influence of postmodernism, specifically the school of post-structuralism, has had on left-wing thinking since the 1960s. The ideals of the enlightenment that defined the original left back in the 19th century have been utterly abandoned in favour of reducing all notions of truth and validity to being associated with the mere context we live in. The most radical proposition of postmodernism is that all our knowledge is derived from the socio-cultural context that we live in, rationality and reason are themselves social constructions designed to promote the interests of certain groups within society. We can only understand the “truth” relative to the social context it lives within. Objectivity is replaced by relativism. This is not a critique of reason, but an outright rejection of it.

The home of postmodernist left lies within university departments who just love the influence that critical studies has had in the humanities and social sciences. The analysis of these “critical theorists” will inevitably conclude that the subject of analysis is yet another example of social constructions that undermine the identities of certain groups within society, whether they be racial minorities, women or LGBT folk. The subtlest case scenarios are microaggression’s; the sort of action, thought process or utterance that by itself seems perfectly innocent but when looked at on a larger scale is just an example of one section of society putting another one down.

For example, asking “Where are you from?” at first seems like an innocent question. When that question is repeatedly asked to an UK born Asian living in the UK on a frequent enough basis by different people, it is implied the UK citizen is in fact an alien within their own country. Microaggressions act as evidence of structures existing in society that are discriminatory to certain identities, the evidence is derived from interpreting language so that assumptions are discovered that point to the existence of structures. In the example above the assumption underlying the language is that Asians aren’t native to the UK.

Here comes the insidious postmodern influence. You don’t need to be influenced by postmodernism to recognise that those assumptions may be held by some. By renouncing reason, however, you renounce the idea that we ought to attempt to measure how prevalent the assumption is held in society. Postmodernism essentially allows critical theorists to define the context they write in as the actual reality we live in, without any need to verify if it is actual reality based on objective criteria. Postmodernism essentially rejects the notion that there can be objective criteria to define reality by, as those criteria are themselves a product of some existing construct which is only true for the context it lives in.

Postmodernism, therefore, allows zealous supporters of the social justice movement to, potentially, exaggerate the extent of the discrimination certain groups face. Efforts to denounce such zealousness by the appeal to rationality can be dismissed as those people themselves acting as a product of the discriminatory forces which try to deny the fact certain groups face discrimination. When zealousness and morality collide, authoritarian tendencies form. When authoritarianism and a total disregard for objective rationality fuse together, we get totalitarianism.

We begin to see the poison of postmodern thought. When truth is relativised to the socio-cultural context it exists in, the malleability of the context plays a large role in shaping what is true in a given society. Truth ends up being derived from the manipulation of context, the ability to reinterpret is the ability to manipulate context. The difference between a social construct and propaganda becomes negligible.

Significantly if truth is relative to social context, what reason do we have to take the values of social equality as being universally true?

How do you police microaggression’s though? They can be so subtle that the only effective way would be to enforce a set of stringent social regulations that forces people to behave certain ways to people. The stringent regulations would exist to force people to acknowledge the hidden assumptions lurking behind their speech and actions. Every aspect of one’s activities would have to be monitored and regulated in order that society could be reorganised to combat the discriminatory structures in society.

Anyone who has headed the lesson of George Orwell’s 1984 will know that I’m not merely describing authoritarianism, itself a belief system that contradicts systems that value liberty and freedom as a virtue. Making truth relative to context allows language to be manipulated and transformed so words end up taking their contradictory meanings, like war is peace or prosperity is destitution. The regressive left who are heavily influenced by postmodern concepts such as relativism and post-structuralism are the apostles of totalitarianism. Even if they explicitly oppose totalitarianism, they infuse totalitarian thought patterns into the public sphere making society vulnerable to authoritarians willing to exploit the disorientation that results.

Those on the liberal left who are influenced by postmodernism are also apostles of totalitarianism. They are supportive of regulations to police speech based upon postmodern justifications of the validity and extent of the assumptions in society. The extremities of totalitarianism will appal them; they are not advocates of totalitarianism and they would oppose an actual totalitarian coming to power to enforce a far more rigorous and radical set of regulations to tackle the injustices. As Owen Jones is beginning to discover though, the liberal left can create their own subculture in which their constructs of social justice are held to be true and valid. Such a subculture will alienate the mainstream left from the concerns of those who don’t want to be part of the subculture. The left will stop being inclusive and the possibility of a socially equal society becomes non-existent, particularly when the values of the left face an existential threat from the populist right.

The desire to regulate social activity, even for a sound motivation, is an authoritarian tendency. Students want educational institutions to be safe spaces for those who feel vulnerable about the state of their identity, how these spaces are conceived have a clear authoritarian line to it. Educational institutions are slowly becoming places were ideas aren’t tossed around and debated with rationality acting as a corrosive acid to the bad ones. Rationality involves confronting appalling ideas, rather than protecting people from them. Safe spaces are yet another example of a mechanism designed to manipulate context to define truth.

The danger of safe spaces is the role they play in defining what is considered truth on a university campus, that is a role they shouldn’t play. The purpose of safe spaces is to protect students from abuse, particularly fostered by discriminatory forces. Nothing special should be required though as educational institutions should be concerned with the welfare of their students. Special measures only need to be taken when some forms of abuse aren’t acknowledged as abuse, but having to confront ideas which imply a rejection of your identity, whether partially or wholly, in an academic setting isn’t abuse. Again, safe spaces act as a mechanism to segregate the left from the rest of society, the discriminated segregate themselves.

Safe spaces also encourage another danger for those fighting for social equality. With the rise of right-wing populism, it may very well be necessary for another civil rights movement to assert itself, such a movement will involve confronting the forces of bigotry head on with violent repercussions entirely possible. Encouraging university campuses to act as safe spaces doesn’t provide a safe environment for confrontation to occur, the first encounter of confrontation discriminated groups will face will be in the real world full of dangers. Campuses’ should be safe areas for confrontation to occur for it is here that the discriminated will sharpen their teeth to try kill the monolith of bigotry. Safe spaces encourage students to wrap themselves in cotton wool, but cotton wool is not good protection from the spears of bigots.

Perhaps now is a good time to define what the regressive left is. The regressive left aren’t those on the left who support political correctness and identity politics. It is those which incorporate postmodern thinking and influences to define what political correctness and identity politics is about. In concrete terms, this definition ends up being close to the definition provided by Maajid Nawiz. The regressive left end up supporting reactionary thinking and values in promoting social equality, whether by supporting postmodernism or defending homophobic and misogynistic tendencies among specific religious groups in the name of cultural relativism. This is significant for the task of the left, at least in the social sphere, is to divorce political correctness and identity politics from the influences of post-structuralism and relativism.

Certain terms in languages are derogatory epithets towards certain groups, these terms can be known to be discriminatory. Educating the population of the connotations of these words is the role political correctness ought to play in political discourse. Political correctness is a pedagogical tool the left should be using to ensure that language, and any subsequent behaviour that follows from using language a certain way, does not cause systemic harm to the welfare of groups in society. Colloquially political correctness simply means encouraging people to be respectful of others who differ from themselves in some way by breeding tolerance and encouraging empathy to be developed towards discriminated groups. Political correctness counters bigotry by humanising the dehumanised.

For the sake of clarification, political correctness is not a tool that enforces people to be respectful to others. There can be very good reasons why people ought to ridicule and disrespect others. Such ridicule may be levied against discriminated groups. The Qur’an is no doubt a homophobic and misogynistic document, detesting those bigotries will inevitably lead to harsh criticisms of Islam. Denouncing all Muslims as being backward, though, is bigotry considering some Muslims will hold liberal values. Affirming Christian values simultaneously is downright hypocritical considering the “tolerance” it has shown to women and homosexuals down the years.

Harshly criticising and offending discriminated groups isn’t necessarily pandering to bigotry. Such criticisms are pandering to bigotry if done in such a manner to appeal to people’s ignorance and prejudices about Muslims, in other words the criticisms are the result of irrational and illogical views about the group. Bigotry may be fostered by criticism even if the critic had no intention to exploit bigotry, again political correctness can be a useful tool to educate speakers that they must be wary that a poor choice of words could have unintended toxic consequences. Criticism of those who ignore advice when it turns out the advice is correct is a perfectly legitimate use of free speech.

The use of Islam in this piece is deliberate. Criticising mainstream currents within Islam is exactly the sort of thing the left should be doing, just like the left should be criticising conservative Christian values on a consistent basis. Rejecting the influences of post-structuralism and cultural relativism is integral to allowing the left to do this.

By rejecting cultural relativism, the left has no reason to accept Islamic values on their own terms, but on the lefts. The process of rational thought is the insurance policy the left has to ensure they remain fair to whatever is the subject of analysis. Rational thought requires checks to exist to ensure that the biases of the thinker do not determine the truth of a proposition. That is not to say the biases does not exist nor that they have no influence on discovering truth. All intellectual activity has a subjective element to it; the key is that the subjective element exists simply because we are human. Subjectivity does not determine truth; objective truth emerges from subjective processes.

Poststructuralism challenges us by highlighting assumptions we either do not see or do not want to see. The trouble with post-structuralism is that it cannot establish the truth, in the objective sense, of the assumptions lurking behind our criticism and appraisal of Islam. Ultimately what is the source of truth that harshly criticising Islamic cultural tendencies represents an oppression of their way of life? Is it grounded in a reality that can be measured using empirical methods, or constructed by zealous academics looking for societal institutions to overturn? Rejecting post-structuralism allows the left to ignore those concerns, we will try to empirically verify that injustice happens. Even though the probability of tolerating prejudice increases, so the totalitarian thought processes being infused into our discourse start becoming minimised. Likewise, it will be harder for reactionary forces to oppose the existence of such discrimination when solid evidence points heavily towards it rather than postmodern social constructs. They won’t be opposing social constructs that could be imagined by over enthusiastic academics, but hard evidence. Rationality lacks value in politics currently, but that’s because reasoned discourse is not granting hope that stagnated incomes in the Western world will begin to rise.

The use of post-structuralism in feminist discourse has been deeply troubling. The fusion of it with the demands and aims of identity politics has created a section of the feminist movement that contradicts the desire for inclusivity, an essential characteristic of a socially equal environment. A common characteristic of some feminists is to insist that men can have little valuable input in the affairs of women, some radical feminists even go so far to deny that men can be feminists. Of course, on sensitive matters a man will never be able to fully empathise with the concerns women face, likewise men have no right to make decisions for women. Men would be foolish to think they know better than women on matters relating to women, that doesn’t imply men can’t have any valuable contribution. It also shouldn’t be implied that men attempting to help women is part of a social structure that just reinforces the privileges men have over women.

Such thought patterns undermine the entire feminist movement because the negativity of some feminists towards the role men can play in the movement is exclusionary. Men aren’t encouraged to empathise with the concerns with women because those attempts can be construed as men asserting their privilege. The rejection some men face is likely to foster resentment towards the whole feminist movement including the parts that are open to the men taking part. Ironically this resentment is likely to lead to forces that enhance male privilege, because men have less reason to sympathise with the concerns women face. Making unnecessary enemies is never a good strategy to achieving a worthwhile goal.

Likewise, similar thought patterns exist when talking about racial and cultural matters. We get a scenario where identity politics focusses less on trying to solve the difficulties certain groups in society face. Instead identity party ends up focussing on who exclusively has the right to claim what issues their group faces. Alternative perspectives from outsiders end up getting rejected out of hand since they have not had to face the discrimination that others have, even though outsiders may be able to point to similarities with problems other faces. This approach to identity politics enforces the idea that the concerns a group faces is unique to that group; the postmodern way of thinking can easily turn this uniqueness into a social construct. The fact the troubles are unique isn’t problematic, it is the fact that only those affected by the unique troubles are qualified to tackle them. Social equality emerges from tolerance; this corrupt form of identity politics encourages social fragmentation instead.

Some of these criticisms in this piece have been aired by the right already, but they’ve seized this as an opportunity to undermine the entire motivation lurking behind these troublesome concerns. The left desire social equality simply because it should be an inalienable right that everyone should have the same access to the rights and liberties granted to everyone else; which is not the case when LGBT partners cannot marry one another on legal grounds, or black people must sit at the back of the bus, or minority groups cannot vote due to efforts making it incredibly difficult for them to get to polling booths. The right sense that confusing the problems caused by postmodernism with the desire to achieve social equality is a successful strategy to undermine the latter. The emergence of the alt-right and the populist right in the Western world reflects that they are successfully exploiting a weakness, a weakness that shouldn’t exist if the left stuck true to its roots.

The left need to take aim at the real culprit for all this nonsense, postmodernism. The left need to reject postmodernism outright as a philosophy because its sole purpose is to act as a left-wing reactionary force fighting against the virtue of reason. Postmodernism is the reason why the values of the left in the social sphere are losing their influence, it is the reason why certain sections of our young population are becoming increasingly authoritarian. It is the reason why we can’t distinguish between offensive, but valid, criticism and discrimination. It is the reason why the left is becoming socially exclusive to those who don’t share its social constructs, undermining the very aim of achieving social equality. It is also the reason the left is being self-indulgent in other areas; the left has a “sophisticated” set of tools to justify taking the blind approach to other people’s concerns. There’s nothing like alienation to make you feel special. It’s time the left began to assert the values of reason, liberty and equality.

What will Donald Trump be like as President of the United States?

Many are worried that an authoritarian, with racist and homophobic tendencies, is the most powerful man in the world. He exhibits all the properties of being a proto-fascist, given the right influences his presidency could turn America into a fascist democracy. Anyone who is a liberal, libertarian, centrist and conservative who is deemed worthy of being supporters of those ideologies should be opposed to a Trump presidency partisanly. His radical and extremist tendencies mean that an ultra-conservative agenda being thrown on America is the best we can hope for.

When Ronald Reagan became president, many overreacted thinking this was a disaster in the waiting. Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency has drawn comparisons to Reagan. The fundamental difference between the two is that, though, both were on the right one was a conservative while the other is an authoritarian. The authoritarian will pretend to be a Republican conservative, but this is merely to woo gullible conservatives who are looking for their next Reagan.

Trump has also been wooing the far-right into supporting him, he’ll be delighted the support alt-right “news” agency Breitbart has shown to him. He has already rewarded Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon, a white supremacist, with the position of being his Chief Strategist. This should be highly concerning to Republicans as he as avowed to destroy Paul Ryan, the leader of the Republican Party in Congress, who represents what the fiscal and social conservatism that the party is renowned for. He’s interested in turning the Republican party into a right-wing European-like nationalist party, this isn’t someone interested in preserving either the Constitution or small government.

Elsewhere he has appointed figures you’d associate with being more friendly to the establishment Republican party. Most of the factions within the are represented. At first this may seem like an attempt by Trump to act as the unifier of the party, the person who can unify the right so that they can shape America in their image. Conventional wisdom would say this suggests Donald Trump is open to moderating influences, that the far-right of the Republican party wont get its whole way.

Such thinking is dangerous, primarily because it underestimates how much of an influence the alt-right will have over policy. The alt-right and Steve Bannon will not play the political game in a conventional manner, their approach will be very aggressive using bully tactics to force more timid members of Trump’s team to fall in line. This aggressiveness will play off Trump who’ll feel he’ll have to be the person who lays down the law in his administration, this will encourage Trump to become radical and extreme as he asserts his authority over those beneath him. It will also ensure a highly competitive element exists between those representing the factions of the Republican party to gain influence over Trump. The competition will encourage more extremist policies to be proposed as each group tries to demonstrate to Trump that their policies will ensure Trump is a strong leader reshaping America dramatically, this will only play into hands of the alt-right though.

Trump isn’t an experienced political leader who is in the know about how the US governs itself. This increases the likelihood that he will be more open to be influenced, even manipulated, by subordinates who see Trump as a vessel to enforce their interpretation of conservatism or nationalism on the country. Trump being the narcissistic he is will play on to anything that appears to strengthen and consolidates his own power and interests, even if at the expense of the common good for the country.

Some key areas will influence how Trump governs. First, we have Breitbart factor. If Trump shows signs of becoming cozy with the establishment Republican party, Breitbart will certainly play up which will undermine Trump significantly. The presence of Steve Bannon as Trump’s political strategist indicates this scenario will not occur. The scenario to really worry about is Breitbart undermining Trump for not being radical enough. Breitbart can quite simply escalate the extremity of their stances forcing Trump further and further to the right.

There are limitations to Breitbart’s influence. Congress could oppose Trump if he became more extreme without due consideration to the conditions facing the country. Conservatives who start getting weary that Trump is the sort of President that will seek to undermine the Constitution when it becomes an obstacle can not only obstruct the extreme proposals, but become obstructionist against the use of any proposals by the executive. Trump must keep Congress and the Senate on side, which will moderate Breitbart’s influence as long as those in Congress and the Senate aren’t pressurred by the far-right.

Suppose a terror attack were to occur on American soil, suppose further than it is on par with 9/11. Such an attack will encourage extremist elements to pursue more radical proposals to deal with Muslims and immigrants. Islamaphobia and xenophobia in particular will be stoked up which could provide the necessary pressure on establishment Republican to be seen as Strong on Defence. Daesh know this would further help their cause making the possibility of an attack under Trump’s presidency more probable. Even successive minor terrorist attacks could be used to raise the fear gauge of the American public, with Breitbart ready at hand to exploit it for political gain.

Second, we have the authoritarian factor which is closely related to the first. Conservatism has always been about law and order, but the Trump administration will essentially give the police free rein to abuse their power. Given the vindictiveness of Trump himself, it’s entirely possible the police and other domestic security agencies, including the FBI, could be used to settle grievances. Such events would be a clear abuse of power, the question would be whether Congress and the Senate felt they were powerful enough to challenge the administration.

If such abuse of power were to lead to indications that Republicans could lose a significant amount of seats in 2018, it is plausible to think Republicans will fight Trump on this. Republicans may tolerate such abuse if it occurs against useful enemies, such as the Democrats and institutions associated with liberalism. Despite all the rhetoric, Republicans are not on principle adherents to the Constitution. They are quite happy to gerrymandering Congress districts to give them power by default. Could they go further if they thought it could aid their electoral chances?

Going back to our scenario of a major terrorist attack occurring in the US, would it be possible that Trump would try implement emergency measures which further enhance the power of the executive. Again Republicans weren’t opposed to expansions of executive power during the reign of George W. Bush, now a Republican is president would their opposition to the expansion of executive power cease? It would convenient, to say the least, if Republicans opposed expanding the powers of the President simply because the President was a black Democrat. A major terrorist attack would give more incentives for Republicans to ignore their previous criticisms of Obama in the “interests of national security”.

Even without a terrorist attack, Barack Obama has overseen the expansion of the surveillance state in the fight against Daesh and Islamic extremism. This is something I have been very critical of over the years, libertarians and liberals who have rightly protested the growing influence of the NSA will now feel vindicated with Trump as President. The Home of Liberty may have no sense of privacy by the time the 2020 Presidential Election comes around. Worse the surveillance of citizens could be used to identify political enemies who have tried to damage Trump, or those in his administration.

After all this, we have Mike Pence who has shown willingness to torture gay people in order to covert them into straight people. We have his promises to deport 3 million illegal immigrants, which will involve a large expansion in police activity. Whether the mysterious exclusion of Trump’s promise to ban all Muslims entering the US from his website on election day is indicating a change of tact is questionable, but we should expect measures being put in place to tackle extremism from Daesh.

The third factor will be the economy. Trump’s economic policies involve introducing massive tax cuts particularly for the wealthy that will dwarf the Bush tax cuts, introduce a stimulus bill by building infrastructure and introducing protectionist measures regards trade and immigration. If the stimulus is an euphemism for building the wall along Mexico’s border and not an sign that we will see widespread improvement in the building of houses, apartments and office buildings in areas that have been hurt particularly bad by the 2008 financial crisis; it will be clear his economic policies will be disastrous. The tax cuts will see a severe increase in both the budget and trade deficit of the US, even with excessive spending cuts proposed by the likes of Paul Ryan. The wall will create jobs but investors and entrepreneurs will lose confidence in setting up businesses in America.

Which brings us to his protectionist policies, which we fundamentally damage the US economy. Silicon Valley will be hit hard as they’ll see a dearth of talented developers immigrating to California to work for companies like Apple and Google. As I said in the previous paragraph, entrepreneurs will less keen of setting up startups. Multinational companies will be hit hard as their internal costs will definitely rise. The introduction of tariffs will increase inflation, which will hit the poor hardest, and likely cause similar tariffs to be imposed on exported goods, which will hinder America’s industrial prospects and resultant job growth.

Trump has indicated that measures within Obamacare that make sure insurance companies can’t deny insurance to sick people is a positive indication and consistent with his utterance during the Presidential Nomination Debates that he’d be opposed to seeing people die on the streets due to lack of insurance. Despite that, it’s likely that Congressional Republicans will have a large say in ensuring many do get their insurance taken away from them. Republicans have been vehemently opposed to any measure that promotes “socialised medicine”, even when Republicans initially proposed it.

The most dangerous part of his economic policies would be the introduction of tariffs. It would most likely start a set of trade wars hailing in a new era of global protectionism, which will make a significant proportion of the globe poorer. This is worrying because it will further promote the conditions for rises in political extremism throughout Europe, the Middle East and even the East. The last time trade wars were initiated was during the 1930s, which helped set up the conditions for the Second World War.

Looking at events and trends now, there is a scary parallel to the 1930s. The rise of nativism, nationalism and higher levels of support for protectionism are very similar to the rise of Nazism and the far-right in certain parts of Europe during the 30s. The world would be a much more dangerous world after Trump introduces tariffs. The struggles the European Union is having staying united, particularly after the Brexit result, could destabilise and deteriorate the world sufficiently that the fires of hell could upon us.

Fourth we have his foreign policy. Trump has emphasised that he wants friendlier relations with Russia. The two countries have had tense relations for a while which has destabilised the global order. In theory friendlier relations should be a good thing, it would indicate that the two most major military powers on the planet were willing to collaborate to tackle threats like Daesh.

In practice Putin’s aim as President of Russia is to increase Russia’s global standing with particular focus on its military power, given the Russian economy is neither performing well, nor has major opportunities to see Chinese levels of growth. Putin’s strategy is to weaken NATO by encouraging factions to emerge within it that are more complimentary to Russia. The rise of the alt-right in the western world fits into Putin’s strategy perfectly, many leaders of the movement from Trump, Nigel Farage and Marie Le Pen have admitted their admiration for Putin.

Given the closer relations between a Trump administration and Putin, it will allow Putin more security against a growing superpower it does deem a threat. The rise of China has been remarkable, its growth rates are enormous and it has a massive population allowing it to produce en masse on a scale no country, other than India, can conceive of. China and Russia are next door neighbours, given Russia’s economic struggles it makes sense for it to try ally itself with an economic superpower.

Key for Putin, though, is that America would be there for him. Putin will woo Trump to implement policy that will hinder the Chinese, such as introducing trade tariffs. Closer ties between America and Russia will also offer Putin to spread his own philosophy of governance, which is incompatible with liberal democracy. The West’s insistence of the superiority of the model of liberal democracy has been one of the areas that has encouraged a divergence between the Wests interests and Russia’s, alongside the fact the west is troubled with the idea of being reliant on Russia for its energy demands.

Essentially Putin isn’t interested in the US because he wants to reconcile with liberal democracy, instead it is about expanding Russia’s sphere of influence to counter America’s and China’s. If Putin’s strategy works, it will hinder the United States geopolitical power base due to the facts is natural allies own power base will have been undermined. The European Union is facing an existential threat which will hurt the US and NATO, while giving impetus for Russia to gain allies in the south of Europe, who’ll be very unhappy with the manner the Northern European states, particularly Germany, has dealt with them during the Eurozone crisis.

Russia may just get enough help from the Trump administration to give Russia the chance to get a spurt of growth, while damaging a Chinese economy that is increasingly limping along nowadays.

Trump, therefore, will be a disastrous President because his foreign and economic policies will only enable Russia to take advantage of the chaos caused as a result. The national interests of the US and their natural allies in the West will be severely undermined in both the short and long-term. His tendencies of being gullible, potentially even baited, could undermine his ability to project strength internationally which will thrill Putin. Without realising it, he may find himself a pawn in a larger chess game which he lacks the sophistication to compete in.

Finally, we have the Republican party itself. The party was split only earlier this year because of the rise of Trump. There will be a large proportion of Republicans who are uncomfortable with the President-elect, that leaves room for his presidency to be undermined or even impeachment procedures being passed if Trump finds himself in a scandal. The Republicans still have to cater to their voters as well, they will not want to support a Trump administration that goes of the rails.

The Republican in Congress and the Senate don’t have as much power as they’d like to oppose Trump. First the base of the Republican party voters for Trump for the nomination. The manner and tactics used in winning has also granted the base to exercise racism, sexism and homophobia more openly. This increases the likelihood that the more extreme elements who support supremacist policies could have greater sway over Republicans.

Essentially if the Republican party is getting more radicalised, then Republican congressman and senators who have to appeal to such demographics, that are getting radicalised, which will only encourage more radicalisation among Republicans. Inevitably it will be Breitbart and other radical right news outlets that will encourage this radicalisation.

If the base starts to turn against Trump, realising he is in fact a fascist and not the next Ronald Reagan then that will give a great impetus for Republicans in Washington to act as the necessary check on Trump to make sure he doesn’t abuse his power. Not only that but it will undermine the alt-right’s hold over the Republican party and further may lead conservatives within the party to question how someone like Trump could even become President. There’s a chance Trump will end up being a lame duck President with substantial opposition from Republicans and Democrats.

However Republicans in the senate do in fact have to thank Trump for their performances, except for Marco Rubio who outperformed Trump anyway. This gives Trump leverage over some senators, which could very well last given the proneness for the use of intimidation tactics among certain members of his choice of staff.

In the early days of his presidency, expect him to accomplish a lot as there will be a fear among Republicans that opposing Trump could be seen as being disloyal, and not a principled protest. How long Trump can keep that fear instilled among Republicans will be key to determining whether Trump, and the nativist-populist right, sets the agenda in Washington, or whether Trump ends up legislating policies traditionally associated with the current Republican party while lambasting the “corruption” of his Republican congressman and senators.

The key for sensible Republicans is to win the battle of influence over Trump, play to his narcissism by demonstrating to him that merely following a traditional Republican platform will be sufficient to him being seen as a great president. Alienating Trump from Bannon will be key to the political survival of Paul Ryan and his supporters. Who wins these, and many other, battles in the competitive game his staff, Congress and te Senate will be playing will determine what type of president Trump will be. The alt-right are better prepared for this battle compared to establishment Republicans, worryingly, but the establishment currently just about holds the keys to power.

Conclusion

Without a shadow of a doubt Donald Trump will be a blight on America. Many considered George W. Bush to be a moronic president, we are about to find out that he may have been a more thoughtful person than he let on with a very poor sense of judgement. Trump is a national and international disgrace who’ll only encourage the rise of the far right throughout Western Europe.

In the Land of Liberty, authoritarianism will reign. The Presidency of Trump will be a big test on whether the Constitution does in fact have the necessary checks to ensure people’s inalienable rights are secured. It will also test whether American conservatives are truly motivated by preserving the Constitution, or whether it is a front to hide a sinister agenda.

In my opinion Trump will either be an incompetent proto-fascist president who is heavily restricted in his ability to enforce his agenda, while using demonising and abusive tactics to compensate for his lack of authority and to be vindictive to Republicans who are brave enough to take the heat. He’ll get his victories as some Republicans cowardly support Trump.

Alternatively the Republican party will move further to the right ensuring that the projection of power Trump will want to show both domestically and internationally will have a highly authoritarian base with a tendency to adopt more extremist policies the longer his reign as President continues.

It’s incredibly likely that he will end up being a pawn to Vladimir Putin, even signals of strength will be coaxed by Putin to appeal to Trump’s narcisstic desire to appear as the World’s Most Powerful Man while in fact furthering Putin’s own agenda.

Ultimately sensible people all around the world can only hope he ends up being a lame duck President with little power whose vindictive streak will ultimately leave a sour enough taste in the minds of voters to vote the distasteful President out of office.

At worse, America becomes a fascist democracy in which conservatives, liberals, centrists and even libertarians (hopefully) unite to oppose and undo the damage he will inflict domestically and globally. Hopefully his policies don’t lead up to a repeat of the 1930s, that it is just scare-mongering drawn about by the parallel events. But with a fragmented Europe which could break apart politically and economically in a sudden and violent fashion, pray that Trump’s bombastic tendencies have been seasoned out of him by then. Escalation may result in a hell no one would want to witness.

Trump is a proto-fascist who has decided to appoint a fascist and white supremacist as his chief political strategist. Those close to Trump will influence him greatly, given his lack of political knowhow. Trump’s appointment, plus the chance Breitbart will increase their ever-growing influence, suggests that Trump will have far-right elements to his policies at the very least.

Will there be a middle ground? Most likely not, then again his victory at the election was also unexpected. Maybe, just maybe, he might surprise us all while still being an appalling President.

Donald Trump: The Next President of the United States

Americans have recklessly decided to elect a misogynistic, racist, narcisstic, and demagogic psychopath as their next Commander in Chief. Americans want change and that is most certainly what they’ll get. The concern one must acknowledge is whether they’ll get more change than they bargained for.

His campaign for the Presidency and the Republican nomination was blighted by conspiracy theories, paranoia, bullying, bigotry, narcissism and psychopathy. This wasn’t under the cuff either, he’s explicitly made racist utterances and explicitly called into the question the result of a democractic election that was unfavourable to him. His temperant for the Presidency is non-existent and the campaign trail did little to make us believe he’s capable of tempering it. During the Presidential debates, he was easily baited by Hillary Clinton and he’s got to tackle with Vladimir Putin who’ll find it even easier.

His policy utterances have been vague. All we do know is that we can expect mass deportations of immigrants, the repeal of Obamacare, a wall near Mexico being built, large tax cuts for the wealthy, infrastructure projects and a protectionist trade policy. A lot of these policies are Republican orthodoxy, other than his protectionist trade policy.

The desire for Amercians to want change is legitimate, the person to offer that change as president should have been Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders would have made America again, without having to use racism and misogyny to enthuse his vote base. If Americans wanted protectionism, he’d have given it to them. Want cheap college education for your child, Sanders would be your man. Given the resources of the Democratic National Convention, he’d have a great chance of building a coalition that appeals to white blue-collar workers and minority groups.

Sadly that option wasn’t available to Americans on the ballot. They had to choose between Trump or Hillary Clinton, who was the personification of the establishment. Hillary Clinton has to be the second most controversial candidate to run in an election, after Donald Trump himself. She was the typical technocrat who expertly knew the operations of Washington, she didn’t know how to transform America. Her policies were hacks of the current system rather than grand redesigns attempting the solve certain problems head on. This, her personality and the email scandal that plagued most of her presidential campaign undermined her capacity to touch the sentiment of a key demographic that she needed to win a few more votes from. Ultimately she was hated by a large segment of the population, if a candidate stood against him with favourable ratings they would have destroyed Donald Trump.

The troubles associated with Hillary Clinton do not justify a vote for Trump. Donald Trump’s sins far outweigh Clinmton’s in seriousness, Hillary Clinton also has the right temperant unlike Trump. Donald Trump, moreover, has told conspiracy theories about how the election was rigged if he were to lose and has shown willingness to abandon a key principle of the American political system: the rule of law. His narcisstic and antisocial behavioural tendencies make him a demagogue, yet he is gullible to new suggestions and fueled by bigotry. It’s feasible to think of Trump radicalising his already extreme proposals over his tenure as president to fuel his dark personality traits.

Ultimately the electorate should voted Hillary Clinton, not as an indication of support for the direction she wanted to take the US down, but rather because Donald Trump shouldn’t get anywhere near the White House. I don’t normally advocate negative voting, i.e. when you vote against a candidate rather than voting because you agree with their agenda, but in this election it was a must. The Americans ultimately didn’t have the sense to do it in the key battleground states, despite it becoming clearer Clinton will have won the popular vote.

He’s most certainly the worst candidate to run for the Presidency in American history, yet he has the potential to shape American politics for a generation due to the need to make appointments on the Supreme Court. He now has the opportunity to ensure the Supreme Court has a conservative edge to it for a generation, which will make it much harder for liberals to influence the social agenda of the country.

His demagogic and racist tendencies ensure that Trump (and quite a few of his followers) are not conservatives, but authoritarians. He has shown willingness to ignore international diplomatic conventions as well as the very constitution of his country. He is a proto-fascist. Given the right conditions he could develop further behavioural traits that you’d associate with fascists.

Donald Trump is a threat to the interests of the US, it is up to him to prove otherwise.

This is my first blog post in a while. Please forgive me if the quality of the post isn’t up to scratch.

Explaining “Who Should Lead the Labour Party?” article

“That which cannot be said must be passed over in silence” is a aphorism that demonstrates the wisdom of the twentieth century’s greatest philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. In 21st century politics silence is yet another utterance open to misinterpretation. This is my post to ensure my previous silence isn’t laced with ambiguity.

My silence is an indication that Labour lacks any sort of figure capable of leading it. No one has shown their capable of grabbing the national agenda by the scruff of the neck and then defining it how they want it defining, the hallmark of a great political leader. The party has effectively split, obviously not formally, and in troubling times like this leaders announce themselves. They don’t wait in hiding, waiting for the opportune moment. They make the opportune moment. The dearth of leadership in Labour has meant only one thing, that the left have demonstrated the resolve to reclaim the Labour party. The left doesn’t contain leaders, but opportunists.

I’m not a supporter of any factions within the Labour party currently. All bring shame to what they’re supposed to promote. Hence the silence of my last blog post, it’s a silence not of ignorance, nor of despair, but of contempt towards the current state of Labour.

Who should lead the Labour Party?

Libertarians and Climate Denial

Dogmatic libertarians are predominately climate deniers, they are willing to deny that human beings are directly causing an increasing of the global average temperature through greenhouse gas emissions. The evidence in favour of climate change is clear. Multiple readings of temperatures all over the world show a trend that temperatures are increasing when taking as a global average. The vast majority of those who deny anthropogenic global warming acknowledge that the global climate is warming. When we analyse the principles of what could cause such an increase, the only satisfactory explanation is that it is caused by human endeavour. Alternative explanations, such as our location in the one of the arms of the Milky Way leads to increase in stellar particles bombarding our atmosphere and a more active Sun, just aren’t consistent with the observable evidence we would expect to see if those explanations were in fact true.

Now why are libertarians all too willing to deny climate change? One obvious reason is that many partisan bodies that promote libertarians are reliant on funding from companies and families, in particular the Koch brothers, who have vested interested in promoting denial of climate change. The Koch Brothers are in the oil and gas industries. If our economies are to become carbon-free, then the oil and gas industries are going to have to either find ways to dig for oil, extract gas and modify other production methods used so greenhouse gases aren’t emitted at all; or they will have to go out of business. The latter is an obvious threat to the business interests and it is also the most likely to be one that has to occur to ensure our economies become carbon-free.

This reason though is unsatisfactory as it portrays the vast majority of libertarians as automatons who lack any will to think for themselves, I doubt many libertarians are in fact like that even though some most certainly are. Instead other reasons must exist. These other reasons are to be found within the ideology of libertarianism itself and also, partly, the psychology of those willing to accept it. There are two main reasons why libertarians don’t accept climate change.

First, those who promote solutions to it press the need for large intervention from the state to influence the market, and individuals, to build technologies that will allow us to become carbon-free but also to manipulate, influence and even coerce people to behave in a manner that makes the reduction of greenhouse emissions plausible. In other words, solving climate change means contradicting the principles of libertarianism. Libertarians are unwilling to acknowledge that their philosophy is either wrong, or needs significant amending to accommodate such action. So instead climate change gets rejected rather than libertarians. This is evidenced by the number of conspiracies stipulating that climate change is a myth used to justify further infringement in the liberties of individuals.

However, a new branch of libertarianism has formed which in fact believe that through libertarian ideals, humans can mitigate global warming to the level necessary to ensure a climate catastrophe doesn’t occur. This branch of libertarianism certainly doesn’t reject climate change, instead it opts for the virtuous approach of trying to show how libertarians means can produce green ends. Green libertarianism is ultimately flawed because its essentially saying that spontaneous order can spontaneously produce an order that will see a carbon-free economy in the time frame that scientists have laid out. The trouble is that if this order is spontaneous, there is no reason to think it will happen in the time frame the scientific community has laid out to mitigate warming to the 2°C target laid out by governments and scientists. Of coarse it could happen, but then again probably not. Mitigating climate change requires planning on such a scale that the apparatus of the state must be used to mobilise resources in sufficient quantity and quality in the specified amount of time, particularly if the private sector is incapable of administering the costs of this.

Second, libertarians are fiercely individualistic to the point that only individual concerns matter. What I mean by this is that everything in life is looked through an individualistic lens for the most part. Moderate libertarians and libertarian socialists will rightfully deny this claim, but they are not the target of this criticism in particular.

Essentially libertarians are adherents to methodological individualism. Methodological individualism analyses events and structures in terms of the individuals that exist within the given events and structure under study. Analysing the climate, on the other hand, ignores any focus on the individual because the actions of any one given individual is irrelevant to the climate system as a whole. Climatologists are increasingly open to treating the climate as an example of a chaotic and complex system, while acknowledging that it’s at the collective level, both nationally and transnationally, that we begin seeing humans exert a significant influence on the climate.

Naturally the scientific study of the climate at the methodological level contradicts the methodology libertarians use to analyse things. This makes libertarianism ill-suited to tackling climate change morally. Methodological individualism treats injustices happening, essentially directly, towards specific individuals. So a libertarian has no problem acknowledging that setting a fire in your garden would be wrong if there was a good risk that the fire would lead to the destruction of another persons property. There is a simple causal link between one set of individuals and another. The causal link is essential in the libertarian analysis to determine who is morally responsible for what, when and how.

In complex systems it is not always clear whether such links exist and if they do it may be very convoluted compared to the example just given. This not only makes it harder to assign responsibility to specific individuals, but it may be impossible to do in a way that would satisfy methodological individualists. In complex systems emergent phenomena can to come to arise, a methodological individualist would ask how can we say an individual is responsible for such occurrences?

This question raises an important issue which gets to the heart of why libertarianism, morally, is simply inadequate. A libertarian should answer this question, however the answer to the question will be no, not as a result of a matter of principle, but because the methodology used by libertarians lacks the power to assign truth values to moral propositions to certain situations. Libertarians become climate deniers, not necessarily as the scientific level, but at the moral level. They ultimately don’t think it is the individuals concern to tackle the issue because you can’t assign responsibility to specific individuals, because they don’t matter as such in the climate models. To avoid confusion, it’s important to distinguish from what I’ve just said and a libertarian saying that individuals don’t have any responsibility to look after the environment. The libertarian may very well say it, but due to the limitations of methodological individualism, they are incapable of expressing what ought to be done to actually ensure the environment is looked after at higher levels of social organisation, i.e. collections of individuals, etc. The libertarian, though, can say that an individual ought to do X to ensure the environment is secure, assuming the act is voluntary of coarse, when we can draw a picture of the causal chain of events to determine who is responsible for what.

The point of the last paragraph is that libertarianism is inadequate as a moral theory because it doesn’t have sufficient explanatory and normative power to determine whether something is right or wrong. Basically everything we’d want a moral philosophy to do, i.e. prescribe normative statements to any scenario that warrants them, libertarianism can’t.

David Cameron: The Verdict

After six years of being Prime Minster, the former leader of the Conservative party has resigned. His resignation was an inevitable consequence of failing to win the EU referendum in favour of Remain, which will be the biggest highlight of his legacy. Whether that highlight will be deemed a positive or negative for the country is something that can only be determined over the next couple of decades at the very least. What is certain is that his failure condemned him to resign his position about four years earlier than he anticipated.

David Cameron promised that his government would be a compassionate conservative in it’s approach, with the inclusion of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition government that Cameron presided over most, you’d have thought this branding may have been more than rhetoric. Likewise Cameron promised to rebalance the economy in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, while cutting the deficit. Cameron also promised to implement the “Big Society”, the idea that voluntary community work would help the most needy in society. Every single one of these ambitions have not been realised.

David Cameron can be proud of one thing in particular, the introduction of gay marriage. It is a progressive cause that even Labour couldn’t and didn’t attempt to introduce during its 13 years in power. It demonstrates that Cameron did have some modernising tendencies within the Conservative movement, that he, or rather George Osborne, recognised the future of conservatism would imply preserving a more open conception of marriage. The institution of marriage as a respectable public institution needed preserving rather than its traditional conception as a bond between a man and a woman.

Sadly David Cameron wasn’t able to modernise the party further. Take cutting the deficit for instance. Cameron could have used the Liberal Democrats to claim impetus that conservatives could be social justice warriors, that helping the lot of the poor and disenfranchised wasn’t Labour’s responsibilities. Economic liberalism need not imply that the poor be left to fend for themselves, but instead it implied enabling the poor to help themselves. A synthesis essentially of one-nation conservatism and the libertarian tendencies of the Thatcherite wing of the party.

To accomplish such ambitions would need successful reform of the welfare state to make it simpler but also less punitive to those who become successful while on welfare. Such reforms were never carried out and the agenda to cut the deficit ended up being a regressive economic agenda that didn’t attempt to self-help the poor to improve themselves but make it a lot harder for those people to tread water, if not sink in many cases. The unemployed were victimised as scroungers, despite the fact that many tirelessly seek jobs of their own but the economic climate doesn’t allow them to. They were also victimised despite the fact that jobseekers allowance consists of only a small percentage of the welfare state. The state pension and tax credits, i.e. benefits to those who had worked hard all their lives and those that are working hard but find ends can’t meet up, are the benefits the state spends most of its money on.

David Cameron willingly allowed George Osborne to politicise welfare cuts which only helped prosper the image that they were still the “nasty party”. Cuts to those with disabilities is the best example of this. Welfare reform ended up being synonymous with punishing those on undesirable forms of benefits, which appealed to the basic instincts of a significant amount of voters. It was a basic instinct that a good Prime Minister would avoid, a good Prime Minister would have used the public angers to make the welfare state work for all instead of being negligent to those who couldn’t qualify, yet may deserved it even if they didn’t want it, and a necessity to those who were receiving welfare, i.e. the welfare trap.

Such attitudes to those on welfare also contradict the sentiment surrounding the Big Society, people are less likely to help those who they perceive as being responsible for their predicament. Human altruism has a rather restrictive set of limits, someone as intelligent as Cameron should understand the importance of that point. Even though he killed of the Big Society, he’d have hoped it emerged anyway. To be fair a Big Society would be emergent in nature, which is why its frustrating Cameron kept undermining the conditions needed to allow such a society to emerge without it being a cover for an attack on the welfare state and the poor.

Cameron also promised to rebalance the economy, George Osborne proposed the Northern Powerhouse to do precise that. After six years nothing substantial has emerged, let alone a powerhouse. Rebalancing the economy would have helped the Conservatives implement structural reforms to the economy which would have helped them implement cuts better equipped to cutting the deficit while allowing the country. The Conservative-Liberal coalition had to significantly slow down the pace of cuts in 2012-13 to ensure the economy started growing before the 2015 General Election. As a result the deficit remains high increasing the burden of public debt on the country to very high levels.

The Northern Powerhouse would also have helped detoxify the Conservatives image in Labour’s urban heartlands. The Tories destroyed the communities in the 80s only to fix them in the 10s. Even though some would still hate the Tories for it, others may have put renewed hope above a bleak past. In the meanwhile, Labour just took their votes for granted with little concern to improving economic conditions in the North. Such ambition would have been worthy of a great Prime Minister. Not so David Cameron.

David Cameron’s time as Prime Minister was one that failed to live up to its ambition, it failed to simplify the welfare state or cut the waste out of the NHS. It has failed to cut the deficit and failed to fight for social justice. It didn’t expand liberty, hope or prosperity to many. It was only component relative to the level of competence seen within the Labour party.

 

The Huge Risk the PLP are taking in Disposing Corbyn in this Fashion

Since the referendum, Labour spent the following week doing its best to implode. Members of the shadow cabinet resigned en masse, only to be replaced by other shadow ministers who then resigned their post not too long after. This is done in the name of bringing down the leader Jeremy Corbyn, who many in the PLP feel isn’t fit to lead the Labour party to a general election. A significant number of Labour voters are not too appetised by Corbyn’s reign as leader either. Yet Corbyn remains entrenched as leader of a party that in any other circumstance have seen its leader resign. His position is untenable, but he’s holding on to dear life.

He’s holding onto dear life because he knows he can mobilise enough support among Labour members to vote for him in a leadership election bid. Such a victory would keep him in control of Labour even though the PLP would most likely split between the party. The PLP is deciding to not challenge Corbyn’s position until he either resigns or becomes a certitude loser to whoever his challenger would be (most likely Angela Eagle). As a strategy to dispose Jeremy Corbyn without splitting the party, this may be the most effective.

The PLP are taking a huge risk though. The general public probably won’t see this as a clever strategy being implemented to ensure the survival of HM Opposition from perpetual Tory government. Instead the public are likely to think the PLP is not only full of bland and boring politicians, but incompetent ones who can’t even dispose of their own leader quickly despite being very unpopular. Simply put the PLP don’t look in charge of their own party, rather than tolerating a pariah as leader they are being held hostage to him. Now who’d want these hostages to negotiate Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union? Aren’t they meant to representing us? Aren’t they meant to leading us through these uncertain times?

The PLP may save Labour, but it will be a pyrrhic victory. The waiting game will only help the Tories. Would that constitute saviour?

Brexit! What now for the Left?

By a margin of 52-48, Britain decided to leave the European Union. The Mutualist’s author decided to vote Remain, primarily due to the fear that Brexit would lead to a big shift towards the right on the political spectrum. So far the Left have done little to encourage me that my fear was wrong. Unless Jeremy Corbyn resigns before a leadership contest is held, the Labour party will split in two. Progressives outside of Labour have also essentially stated that the referendum result should be ignored. Both of these situations the left find themselves in are highly damning.

Let’s start with Labour. The EU referendum result offers the first major chance the Left has had to realign the political spectrum since the Second World War. The political system is in chaos at the moment with a very nervy population that seeks to gain control over their own lives. Many have not seen wages rise for over a decade, mass unemployment exists within the North and those among the working classes don’t feel proud to either being working class, or British/English. Even though the left has never had a good reputation for stoking up patriotism in this country, it can be good at promoting prosperity for those struggling in society.

If you’re on the left thinking about the scenario we find ourselves in, there are opportunities to overturn the political orthodoxy by giving Leave voters (particularly those in the North East) the ability to Take Control of their lives through a more left wing economic agenda tackling both inequality but also the dearth of investment in the North to the scale needed to make the region prosperous. This could be done while remaining socially liberal, demonstrating the people’s socially conservative attitude towards immigrations in a symptom of the economic hardship they’ve faced, rather than because a significant amount of the population are racists looking to come out of the closet.

The party you’d expect to represent the left is not only in disarray, but lacks the necessary leadership to do the stuff mentioned above. It’s leader barely has a Shadow Cabinet, yet no alternative leader is offering a vision on how to make the Labour heartlands prosperous. It was clear throughout the reign of Miliband, that Labour lacked leadership throughout the party. There wasn’t a single politician that looked capable of setting the agenda, this despite the publication of the popular and flawed study of inequality by Thomas Piketty’s in his book Capital. The Parliamentary Labour Party seems devoid of the talent necessary to do for the left what Thatcher did to the right in the 80s.

Jeremy Corbyn had the right idea in allowing a team of experts to heavily influence his economic policy, yet such ideas haven’t took off and neither does Corbyn look like someone who could demand obedience from his fellow MPs. Yet those MPs have little appreciation for the scale of ambition needed to ensure their party survive. They think they do, but everyone thinks they’re capable of surviving until its too late. This is the sorry state of not only the Labour party but the left as a whole. Those with washy washy ideas about how to improve things, like Ed Miliband, lack the leadership calibre to make those ideas turn into reality, likewise those with the ideas also lack that exact calibre needed. This is what will kill of the left and progressivism in this country.

If you still think that a future exists for the left and progressivism in 21st century Britain, then you’ll be pleased to know that some progressives want to reject the result of the referendum. The referendum itself was advisory so it is technically possible to do this, especially given that Leave only won by a narrow margin.

Politically it would be a disaster. First the right could legitimately claim to be on the side of the people, ensuring their vote gets put into action. It will be right-wing parties like UKIP that will benefit electorally, it will be left-wing parties like Labour that will lose out. UKIP will be the one’s in touch with the working classes, listening to them and acting on what they want.

Second there is no reason to think that the EU would take Britain, or the left, seriously at future negotiating conferences, etc. We would be the divorcee who can’t be arsed to move out into a new home, to file the divorce papers and expect the partners flow of funds to keep coming. Is that the vision of Britain progressives have in mind? It is a sickening vision that will only turn the country away from those who espouse such a picture, or to be fair those who espouse a picture that implies the picture just laid out. We’ve made our claim to divorce, let’s do it honourably seek to ensure the future ends up being good for us and who knows in the future we may want to remarry.

The referendum result will not only highlight frailties in the British economy, but it will highlight how the left has had little contribution to the mainstream economic debate in a very long time. It has not built a movement of think tanks, etc., like the right did with the Mont Pelerin Society, the IEA and across the Atlantic the Cato Institute. Those that have been set up don’t look like they’ll be called upon.

The situation we face should be an opportunity for any set of ideologies to come and form new electoral coalitions that will shape British politics for the next generation. The left though don’t seem intent on either espousing an ideology with conviction or forming a coalition that is workable. It looks like the right will win the next political realignment, just like it did with the last one in the 80s.

The Troubles Facing Labour Moderates

Pursuing a left-wing agenda in a mainstream political party is so difficult in the United Kingdom that a flawless political strategy is necessary to make sure a really embarrassing defeat, like in 1983, doesn’t occur. When the leader of the party is incompetent, like Jeremy Corbyn, it is next to impossible. Simply put for Labour to win an election on a left-wing platform it must have one of the greatest political leaders of all time captaining the boat through the inevitable storm that waiting for them. Labour moderates ought to have a really job easy in comparison, present an alternative and sensible path to power while waiting for the left wingers in the party to implode.

Labour moderates have had more than their fair share of plights as well. The truth is they are responsible for their plight, they are responsible for Labour’s plight, they are responsible for the dissatisfaction with centre-left politics in general, they are responsible for Labour’s demolition in Scotland, they are partially responsible for what happened in 2008 and they are responsible for the dim-witted philosophy behind the desire for power and management. Underlying all this is the manner in which they have pursued a centrist agenda. It’s not the pursuit of centrism itself which is their problem, but how they have gone about. When moderates realise why this is the case, they’ll have somewhere to start in building up a Labour party that has a long-term future in 21st century British politics.

Moderates have this insistence in the necessity for a centrist agenda to achieve winning the next, or any for that matter, election. Even though this isn’t necessarily true (cf. Margaret Thatcher’s reign of power),  in most cases it is. However, it is folly to think of the centre as a place you want to go. Great politician’s know that the centre isn’t a place you go towards, but one you pull towards yourself. Labour moderates ought not to be seeking out the political centre, which is already occupied by the Conservatives, but changing it to suit the ideals of the left and Labour. Shaping the political zeitgeist is only possible if you know the art of influencing the centre ground to come closer to you, while knowing which policies you have to meet half way with those you wish to substantiate your centre ground.

There have been a number of reasons why Labour have failed to attract the centre to it. It has failed to communicate a coherent vision that empathises with your average voter demonstrating that Labour do in fact share their concerns, even if they don’t agree with the instinctive action the public would want implemented to solve them. It has been incompetent in governing throughout the country. Safe competent government is a notion the electorate don’t associate with the Labour party. Incompetence is the reason the nation as a whole doesn’t trust Labour with the leverages of power, it is why Labour got annihilated in Scotland.  They never looked after their allies enough in the good times so in  the bad times they’ve changed their allegiances, whether that be to Jeremy Corbyn, UKIP, the Greens or the Conservatives.

How do the Labour moderates turn this around to make Labour an electable party again? First they must identify with left-wing principles again of liberty, equality and social justice. Second they must realise they were in fact right to embrace markets, but the type of the markets they embraced were not necessarily compatible with left-wing principles. The necessity for modernisation within the Labour party during the 80s and 90s is a statement not worth undermining. That doesn’t mean it is the end goal of the modernisation project though. Third they should find a way to reconcile all these points. Alienating your core support for long periods of time only hurts the health of the Labour party in the long-term, even if it greatly helps in the short and medium term when facing the travails of government.

Let’s take the first two together. My analysis rests upon the assumption that markets ought not be an anathema to the left. New Labour was right to criticise the anti-market tendencies of those on the hard left of the party. New Labour thought this could be accomplished by trying to make Thatcherite capitalism more humanistic by providing basic welfare to the unemployed, those in low paid work, to children and to the disabled. By making capitalism compatible with the philosophy of humanism, New Labour hoped to have found a way to reconcile left-wing principles with the economic realities that the left needed to address.

What New Labour got wrong is for the desire to humanise capitalism, rather than humanising markets. Markets in themselves are neutral to the concerns of the agents operating within them. Economists value markets though because on average the utility of market agents both in terms of welfare and liberty are expanded. But markets needn’t be capitalism. Capitalism as an ideology also makes an assumption about how companies ought to be organised (the essential role of investors) and what the nature of property rights are (in particular a very strong form of private property). Such assumptions though are not even supported empirically as being necessary for the existence of a functioning market, in our market economies many different form of ownership structures exist such as cooperatives and they succeed very well.

Why is this important? The assumption I made above particularly about property rights heavily favours a market based upon right-wing principles, rather than left-wing principles.  New Labour’s humanising of capitalism ended up painting over the cracks rather than truly trying to make society more equal. Social mobility in the UK is in a worse state now than during anytime during the 80s. In a more equal society, defined as equality of opportunity, this shouldn’t be the case. Simply blaming the Conservatives doesn’t cut it. There was talk during Miliband’s reign as leader of utilise policies that predistribute wealth, rather than redistribute wealth. Nothing has come of it though.

John Maynard Keynes once said:

The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist.

Labour moderates have espoused pragmatism for so long that they have becomes Keynes’ practical men. This has blinded them to alternative ways of seeing things, ways that if spun correctly could very well move the centre ground towards the left.

The trouble the moderates have though is that isn’t clear which thinkers offer a holistic philosophy and programme which is both pro-market and egalitarian. This is the result of the stagnation of the intellectual left which it would be unfair to hold the Labour moderates responsible for. Most MPs are lawyers, not economists and most certainly not political philosophers. So how can we expect this off Labour MPs? We can’t expect it, but the political outlook in the short, medium and long term for Labour is so bleak that it is demanded of them. MPs need to go out of their comfort zone and confront long held beliefs if they are to stop digging Labour into its grave.

Take Piketty’s Capital which asserts the need to implement a global wealth tax to tackle inequality. Piketty is in fact a supporter of egalitarian capitalism, or egalitarian markets, not a socialist like Jeremy Corbyn or Owen Jones.  The empirical research in Capital is to be highly commended, but it is thoroughly impractical. How are you going to implement a global wealth tax? Who’s going to do it? The UN? The US? The UK? Wont influencing the tax rate turn into some geopolitical game to see which superpower has the biggest mojo when it comes to promoting their national interests? Thomas Piketty attempt to provide a solution to his analysis on the source of inequality is an example of the failure of mainstream left-wing thinkers to give an alternative to what we have which is workable.

In turn that means heterodox groups are flourishing. We have advocates of Modern Monetary Theory, such as Steve Keen, who flat out rejects the economics of austerity as being wrong. Austerian economics simply doesn’t understand how money is created (mainly through lending from private banks) and that the worth of currency is guaranteed by the state. Georgists support the introduction of a land value tax  to promote land justice and tackle the UK’s housing problem, particularly in London. Most Georgists tend to be on a progressive-libertarian spectrum, some like Michael Hudson are progressives while Fred Foldvary is a geolibertarian. We then have your more traditional socialists who have nostalgia for the post-war consensus. Finally we have mutualism, or a form of left-libertarianism which supports both market and socialist economy all in one. All these ideologies are radical, with the first two and last one having the advantage of being compatible with free market enterprise.

In their current form, these ideologies will be too radical for the general populace to accept. The role of the centre-left, or radical centrists, is to take the really good ones and moderate the ideas so they become acceptable to the populace then ensure the centre grounds moves towards promoting those ideas. Some of these ideas, such as Georgism and mutualism, have support among those on the right of the spectrum as well. Milton Friedman thought that a land value tax would be the least bad tax. Red Tories have supported consumer-owned cooperatives in the past, the Conservative-Liberal Coalition government oversaw the mass mutualisation of some public services. Even though these groups have not necessarily taken on board the ideology of Georgism and Mutualism as a whole, they have taken on board some of the general premises which is the least the centre-left should be doing. Leave it for the left to move the centre-left more to the left to move the centre even further towards left that it once was. New Labour ironically did that with Thatcherism when it supported a mass privatisation of public services.

As this piece has argued though, taking ideas from other ideologies simply isn’t enough. A coherent set of principles must underlie why you chose those ideas. This is to allow a coherent narrative and picture to be established. Empathising with the electorate is necessary, but in order for you to persuade them of your perspective. It’s time for Labour moderates to ditch the moderate label and espouse something closer between the centre-left and radical centrism. A party on the left side of the spectrum shouldn’t behave as if it is a small-c conservative party, but should be radical in its own right. It’s the centrists jobs to find out where that lies on the political map.