Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday 25 November 2008

The return to Socialism and the New Puritanism of Labour

Yesterday's 'pre-Budget' speech by Chancellor Darling has finally stirred even the BBC's political and economic correspondents to wonder where Labour under Brown is leading us. The 'solution' to our economic crisis, brought on by over-borrowing and over-spending by the public and Government over the past decade, is apparently to try and encourage more of the same to try and 'buy our way' out of the recession. I don't believe a word of this, of course - these policies are going to lead us even further into the mire in a few years time. The Government's only objective is to try and fool the voting public into voting for it at the next elections (European and Westminster), after which even they are now forced to admit that taxes will have to rise and government spending to fall, both substantially. The 'spin' from both the Government and, regrettably and embarrassingly the Bank of England, that 'deflation' is going to be more than a fleeting near-term problem is one I find exceedingly difficult to accept. I think that the government's continuing reckless reliance on borrowing (and debt-fuelled spending by the public to try and keep the economy turning) is going to result in further sterling weakness and the an increase in the cost of borrowing and that this will pretty soon feed through into severe inflation. The basic problem is that the government (and the US and other governments are pretty much the same) is afraid and reluctant to allow market-forces to do what needs to be done - to let failing banks fail and to let those who deal with such banks, borrowers and lenders, to suffer the consequences. Their fear results from concerns with their own electoral prospects, not to mention social stability. However, lancing this financial crisis by allowing that to happen, whilst exceedingly painful in the short-term unfortunately and inevitably, will result in a lot less long-lasting trauma. The real solution is to reduce and simplify taxation dramatically and to 'fund' this by slashing public expenditure and to give the Bank of England back much of the regulatory authority it lost when it was theoretically made independent of government interference in setting interest rates. The simplistic management-school idea of splitting regulatory authority amongst three groups has not worked - no one, in practice, knows who is in charge. The lie that 'capitalism' has failed needs to be attacked vociferously. Free market economies should not be unregulated economies, a subtle distinction that Labour apparatchiks such as Brown just don't 'get'.

Harriet Harman continues on her 'soundbite politics' and 'dog whistle' campaign against prostitution. Whilst I would agree that human 'trafficking', for sexual or other purposes, is deplorable, there are lots of undercurrents to what Ms Harman wants to see happen. Basically the government doesn't have the guts simply to ban prostitution (and perhaps even they know that such a ban would be largely futile), instead they propose ever more outlandish formulae for controlling and discouraging an activity of which they disapprove on moral grounds, using the 'cover' of trafficking to advance their agenda. I am neutral about prostitution; I don't believe that all prostitutes are coerced, although some/many(?) undoubtedly are, nor do I believe that all purchasers of such services are inherently wrong to do so; I would far rather see this age-old feature of human society recognised and regulated as a lawful activity for those that choose to pursue it - I think that would do a lot more to diminish unsavoury practices than Harriet Harman's shrill rants. The other strand to this government's moral duplicity is the emphasis on 'foreign' prostitutes; many of these foreign prostitutes probably come from other EU member states so have every right to be here, but Labour are undoubtedly using this phraseology as a way of trying to seem 'tough' on immigration to try and defuse the impact of far-right political parties on Labour's own electoral base; I've seen analyses over the past few days seeking to explain away the rise of far-right political support mainly in traditional Labour areas by saying that this is 'inevitable' because Labour areas tend to be more urban, whereas Conservative/LibDem areas tend to be more rural. Possibly there is some truth in this, but I think it is more probably simply a reflection of the more authoritarian mind-set of most people on the 'left' of politics - the lie that the BNP, for example (which I have tacitly played along with above, but only for the sake of making what I am writing comprehensible to readers, not because I believe it myself!) is 'right-wing' is clear to anyone who compares certain aspects of their policies (on their website) with the policies that the Labour government has been busy furthering these past 11 and a half years - ID cards, centralised databases, higher taxation, dramatically-increased state control of most economic sectors, incompetent economic management, centralised decision-making, etc, etc. The urban/rural split cannot explain away these factors. The original title I had in mind for this article was "The return to Socialism and the New Fascism of Labour" and perhaps, on reflection, that would have been just as appropriate.

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