Why are leftwing publications so dull?


12:00 pm - January 20th 2009

by Dave Osler    


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I have in the past worked for Tribune and Red Pepper, and written for New Statesman and the Morning Star. For the sake of sentiment alone, I naturally wish all of these fine publications well.

But in truth, these days not even nostalgia combined with a vague sense of duty can motivate me to read any of them regularly. And if such titles cannot get people like me to fork out for a subscription, it is little wonder that they are – without exception – struggling to survive.

Unfortunately there is no nice way of putting this to the many friends of mine, including an ex-wife, who do their valiant best to keep the left press from complete collapse. But the basic problem here is that almost all the content of the above is tailor-made to fit the description ‘worthy but dull’. Sorry, but there you have it.

The irony is that, in a climate where capitalism is increasingly under question, and even New Labour is being forced involuntarily to discuss issues such as nationalisation and class, there should be an obvious market for punchy and well-written leftwing writing.

There is a clear need for something more than what is on offer from the national press and broadcast media, which restrict themselves – to paraphrase Dorothy Parker – to the whole gamut of political opinion from A to B, and even the biggest leftie blogs are not yet capable of plugging the gap.

Yet look at what is happening out there. Red Pepper could not sustain monthly publication, and has been forced to half its frequency. Trib came close to closure last year, and only managed to avoid going under after an unnamed Labour Party figure promised to put up £40,000 a year and the unions agreed to write off existing debts.

The word is that the new boss – anybody know who he or she is, by the way? – is keen on extended coverage of EU affairs, which is unlikely to make for the kind of riveting journalism that will bring back the paying punters.

Things do seem to be looking up for the Morning Star, which has recently relaunched with higher pagination, and finally made its website free. Yet this has only been achieved thanks to financial support from Anita Halpin, a veteran communist who became an overnight multimillionaire in 2006, after selling an inherited painting.

The newspaper shows no sign of being able to pay its way, and Ms Halpin is said to want to be a hands-on proprietor, enforcing a pro-Labour editorial line that will put paid to earlier flirtation with the idea of some kind of new left party.

Meanwhile, the Guardian media supplement this week carried an extensive feature on the travails of the Staggers, now owned by a squabbling diumvirate of Geoffrey Robinson and millionaire businessman Mike Danson.

All the signs are looking bad. The magazine is refusing to recognise the National Union of Journalists, has made a number of long-time staffers redundant, and has apparently ditched star columnist John Pilger, still one of my journalistic heroes.

Circulation is falling fast. Recently-appointed editor Jason Cowley is said to want to ‘remake the title as a mainstream magazine with broad appeal … running more big reads on subjects ranging from food to sport’.

Well, he’s in the editor’s chair and it’s his call, but I cannot see how the strategy can possibly work. The field is already crowded. Who is going to pay a hefty cover charge for the kind of material that comes free in endless national newspaper supplements every weekend?

Such an editorial direction is far cry from what the New Statesman represented in the 1980s, when it regularly broke investigative journalism scoops and carried some coruscating critiques of Thatcherism.

The reality is the leftwing public deserves a better media diet than an endless succession of badly-ghosted opinion pieces published under the by-line of a trade union general secretary. Interspersed with first-person accounts of time spent on work brigades in Cuba. Either the left press starts to provide it, or it is not much longer for this world.

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About the author
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
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Reader comments


Disagree the New Statesman is excellent

Your view of excellence differs somewhat from mine.

Actually I think a the future for The Statesman could well be a liberal-leaning, politics heavy, news and features magazine. Along the lines of Monocle or Der Spiegel.

I might buy that.

4. Laurie Penny

‘including an ex-wife, who do their valiant best to keep the left press from complete collapse’

Ah, the pieces fall into place!

Well, I’ve heard on the grapevine that Red Pepper has quite a few exciting up-and-coming talents stalwartly writing away, and manages to be an exceptionally fine publication, especially since the bi-monthly makeover – we’ve been able to go into full colour with some excellent new design work, and we are just about to expand the editorial staff. I’ve been helping write the funding proposals.

As ever, the problem for left-wing publications isn’t lack of ideas, or drive: it’s money. Plain and simple. If you actually have any ideas for where we can get some more, that would be useful!

Well the two most interesting ones were Marxism Today (which created a row so large it destroyed the old CPGB and birthed New Labour) and Living Marxism (which was the organ of the Reovlutionary Communist Party and basically existed to be provocative and for no other apparent reason at all).

Perhaps something could be learnt from them, but neither are really something I reckon should be directly emulated. That said, if they were I’d be a damn sight more likely to read them than the Tribune, there’s no doubt about that.

I wonder if all this stems from the fact that (IMO, at least) the left is generally more idealistic than the right. I would argue that the left, generally, believe that there is an attainable, ‘perfect’ state of governance that a nation (or the world) can achieve, whereas the right, generally speaking, agree that the world is a bit screwed up and the best we can hope for is to try to keep the state out of our lives and just get on with it.

I could elaborate on this but I don’t have the time. Hopefully someone out there will get where I am coming from on this one.

7. Laurie Penny

I’ve worked for what’s left of Living Marxism, too. They’re massively bitter and just want to fuck things up in a vague way without really knowing why any more. Pretty sad, really.

Red Pepper is the best of them. I’ve been reading it since I was 12 years old, and the new edition really is much better. Subscribe today, comrades!

8. Guido Fawkes

Isn’t the New Statesman’s new owner also on Labour’s MEP shortlist?

9. Green Socialist

Living Marxism mutated into “Living” and eventually “Spiked Online” from the maddest group on the “left” to the maddest Climate change deniers on the faux libertarian right.

Red Pepper is great, as is Jewish Socialist Magazine, also an honorable mention to “Freedom” the venerable Anarchist paper not the BNP’s one!!

The Morning Star has improved loads and has a broader range of writers outside the Communist party like SWP’s Keith Flett and Green Party’s Derek Wall.

The trot papers are so dull and I’m speaking as an ex trot.

Isn’t that Guido Fawkes from Facts Unrelated?

Dave, back when I (and you) worked for Red Pepper, I remember an editorial meeting mandating editor Hilary Wainwright to “watch more television” in an effort to inject some semblance of popular culture coverage.

Actually I agree with Laurie – going bi-monthly was a step forward not back for Red Pepper, and recent issues have been much better. Last month’s did exactly what RP should be doing at the moment: offering an intelligent critique of Keynesian economics from the left. (But, then again, perhaps boring articles on economics just seem more interesting these days.)

“in a climate where capitalism is increasingly under question” – I, and I think most people with any historical perspective, would prefer even today’s failed “capitalism” to whatever successes the socialist left have to offer:

http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2008/10/15/gods-that-fail/

I suppose we haven’t tried planning an economy along environmentalist lines yet. If that were followed through systematically, we could see destruction equivalent to Pol Pot’s year zero. So I hope it all remains hot air:)

The thing is, a lot of politics and poltical discussion is dull unless you’re prepared to act like an arsehole. It livens up magazines no end if people are encouraged to be provocative, or to exaggerate, or to shout as loud as you can in an attempt to make a name for yourself. The music press isn’t dull: but it’s very badly written. The Spectator isn’t dull, but it’s objectionable. Marxism Today wasn’t dull, but it was more interested in iconoclasm than it ought to have been.

I don’t contend that it always has to be dull, but a certrain amount of dullness is probably unavoidable. And dullness is probably better than forced hilarity and showing everybody how fun-loving we all are. Spare us that, for God’s sake.

One of the reasons it is so dull is because the writers are taught to be journalists and not writers – imagination goes a long way.

The main reason for left wing publications being so dull is that left wing policy is more complicated to discuss. Right wing policy ( if they have any) is basically simplistic, Leave it all to the market. It is easy to understand, and easy to ridicule those that want to intervene in the market. (you can’t buck the market is the rights cry) Of course it is not as straight forward as that , but that is the easy sell the Right wing pushes.

No one likes paying taxes , but if you want a health care system or a pension system you have to raise revenue, and that means taxing people. As soon as you do that, people glaze over as the detail gets complicated. The right would prefer to spend it’s time insulting people of other religion/colour/sexuality in the name of humour. (Public school boy humour usually.) Right wing columnists are successful because they make everything black and white. The world is made less complicated for people who don’t want to think too deeply.

Sally, if you were as much of a paragon of responding to rational and dull detailed policy discussion as you seem to claim then I assure you you would be voting Lib Dem.

I suspect the reason for the perceived “dullness” is as follows. There are fashions in intellectual discourse as in everything. People who would rather eat their own complete works of Hayek than admit they are subject to fashion are nonetheless subject to it. There has to be a buzz of some sort about an intellectual movement for it to be in any sense economically viable (because we’re talking about vanishingly small readerships even for the most successful political rags. I think the Spectator circulation is barely above 30k).

And that fragile viability is vanishing because the Left has acquired the reputation of being intellectually bankrupt and a bit yesterday. In a sense this is a little unfair. Everyone can see NuLabour’s agenda ran into the buffers a long time ago and your more careless observer, who doesn’t pay much attention to the nuances, will look at that spectacle and think that the Left has nothing exciting intellectually to offer them. So if they’re ever inclined to buy a political rag, they won’t buy a leftie one.

Not fair, because Labour, so far as I can see, are no longer the party of the Left (nearly choked on my Sunday brunch reading some lackwit on this site claiming that Lib Dem policies were “to the right” of Labour’s. Is that possible??) But that’s the Left’s problem. Circulations of Leftie rags won’t rise again until they are perceived to be offering something stimulating and new. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to decide whether this is best done by gritting your teeth and supporting NuLabour or tossing it on the scrapheap and starting again with your own two hands.

I think the Spectator circulation is barely above 30k

Its actually nearer 75k. But saying that, I find it enormously tedious, pompous and full of screeching writers like Melanie Phillips and Rod Liddle.

I have to say – I actually love Red Pepper. But its useless for current affairs discussions that are ahead of the curve (I think) and also doesn’t seem to have a sense of purpose.

Leftwing publications have become lazy in thinking that they’ve won the idelological battles. There’s no longer a project in any of them – no sense of where they’re going or want to go. We know what the Spectator wants – my version of hell. But I’m not sure what the New Statesman wants.

Red Pepper is very well produced as an easy, intelligent monthly read, but their marketing is terrible. Other than that, I can’t fault it.

New Statesman used to be great. Back when it was effectively a mutual owned by a charitable trust. Then bloody John Major sued it for saying he wasn’t having an affair, and the distributors settled out of court leaving them liable.

Since they were bought out by Robertson they went all commercial and seemed pointless. I tried each of the vaunted relaunches and just got bored. Y’know what?

I think Dave’s identified a gap in the market for a decent leftish media/comment magazine produced on a shoe string and run as a collective. Sunny; fancy a print version?

I see 2 factors. Firstly, yes many leftwing papers are dull because of a preponderance of bores and windbags with nothing new or relevant to say. Thats not to say the Right does not have its fair share…

Secondly, a fact often overlooked in this internet age, is that the economics of owning a publication (socialistic or imperialistic) often sucks. Thirdly, many leftwing publications were dull and rotten with the politics of envy all along.

When the underlying economics are crumbling, talented writers may slow the decline, but eventually eroding fundamentals will overwhelm any journalistic brilliance. It is a known fact within the newspaper industry fundamentals are definitely eroding, a trend that has caused profits to decline, and will almost certainly continue.

In the old days, owning a publication was an easy a way to make good returns. However dull the product or inept the management, it was much easier to make profits or at least keep the thing ticking over than today.

Publications like Tribune and New Statesman were the primary source of information for socialists, who did not anticipate that this insulated world was going to change.

Simply put, if cable and satellite broadcasting, as well as the internet, had come along first, these publications would never had existed.

I feel I must defend the NS although its a bit hard work at times. It’s at its best when covering big issues and challenging group think. Yes it can be a bit worthy, but it’s hard to be ‘concerned’ without straying into this territory. If it could be a bit more old stlyle funny Private Eye then I’d be delighted. (OT I’ve just cancelled my PE subscription as it’s got SO up itself.)

There has been a lot of turbulence there over the last few years which is a real shame as no matter what you think of Mr Robinson et al, he cultivates some of the most interesting and clever people I’ve ever met and that does filter down into the publication.

If you’ve never been to one of his legendary NS lunches, then I can’t recommend these too highly. These have no obvious agenda and from my experience are simply the most entertaining networking events based on the free lunch format.

I was at one a long while ago with an ex ambassador, hons appt committee grandee, bigger wotsit of Royal Opera and well known ghost writer to name just a few of the guests – oh and a lefty female journo plus a sprinkling of apolitical nobodies like me. Now that to me is a pretty eclectic bunch if ever there was one for a Labour MP’s organ and stopped me from assuming (without reading it) that the NS was a dreary self important rag.

Like many leftish things – it needs a good target to hit at and after 11 yrs of Labour a period in opposition would be a shot in the arm for it IMHO.

PS Sally – I disagree that lefty is harder to explain unless the righties are caricatured as meany, nimby, selfish grabbers. All points from far left to far right have their fair share of window lickers and bores in my experience.

I read both the NS and the Speccy and find them both infuriating , so guess the balance for me is about right 🙂

Something along the lines of the News on Sunday?

Incidentally, right-wing publications are dull as well. I can’t even glance at the Spectator without wanting to paper-cut my wrists and rub a fresh Sun into the wound.

I think you’ll find what you are looking for in NUTS magazine, or The Times.

Real politics is not showbiz, even if it at times it looks as such.

The reason you don’t understand why leftwing journalism is boring and in terminal decline, and therefore answer the question you pose is that your article hangs entirely on a false assumption:

“The irony is that, in a climate where capitalism is increasingly under question, and even New Labour is being forced involuntarily to discuss issues such as nationalisation and class…”

Capitalism is only under question by the lunatic fringe. Everybody else realises that it is an imperfect system that is a thousandfold better than your alternative. Capitalism creates wealth. Not everyone gets an equal share, and every now and again along the road there is a nasty stumble, and a few bruises are caused. Socialism destroys wealth. Look at every single country in the world that has ever tried it. There are lots, including Britain. At its worst it results in the murder of millions of people. At its best it causes economic stagnation and relative decline.

And please, don’t make me laugh about class. Look what happened at the Crewe and Nantwich by-election when Labour played the class game. You have to be an ocean-going nutter to think that the man in the street gives a damn about class these days. And with the appalling mess that Labour have made of education, it is only toffs like Boris and Call Me Dave who are educated enough to get elected.

If you want to know why socialist journals are in decline, it is because socialism is in decline.

I tend to think of the Guardian/Cif as a leftwing publication; George Monbiot today on ‘alternative currencies’ surely can’t be read in any other way.

Agree with above on Living Marxism and Marxism Today in their respective heydays. In a funny sort of way Harry’s Place fulfills a similar function these days.

Dear ‘Plato’ (shlightly arrogant pseudonym, shurely?) 🙂

>”OT I’ve just cancelled my PE subscription as it’s got SO up itself.)
hmmm…”up itself”? really? not from where I’m sitting, but then I’ve only been reading it for about 25 years or so. It was probably much better back in the 60’s…?

>”There has been a lot of turbulence there over the last few years which is a real shame as no matter what you think of Mr Robinson et al, he cultivates some of the most interesting and clever people I’ve ever met and that does filter down into the publication.”

Oh, so it would be entirely unfair to wonder whether your cancellation is at all related to the fact that PE regularly sticks a well-justified boot into that wonderful anti-union ‘cultivator’ Mr. Robinson and his rapidly-sinking-in-esteem organ?

🙂

“I wonder if all this stems from the fact that (IMO, at least) the left is generally more idealistic than the right. I would argue that the left, generally, believe that there is an attainable, ‘perfect’ state of governance that a nation (or the world) can achieve, whereas the right, generally speaking, agree that the world is a bit screwed up and the best we can hope for is to try to keep the state out of our lives and just get on with it.

I could elaborate on this but I don’t have the time. Hopefully someone out there will get where I am coming from on this one.”

The problem is that this often translates into: “We know what you need and we are jolly well going to ensure you get it!”

Oh dear, now all the Guido readers are going to get here and tell us how leftwingers can’t manage interesting because they’re such authoritarian, fascists who love ZaNuLabore etc etc.

I think Dave’s identified a gap in the market for a decent leftish media/comment magazine produced on a shoe string and run as a collective. Sunny; fancy a print version?

Erm no – I think there’s far more money to be made online, if done right, especially if one is thinking long term. I’ve worked in print and frankly just producing it is half your resources – let alone the content and the investigations. I would much rather spend all those resources on content online, if I had them in the first place.

Leftwing publications don’t have to be so lame – just look at how much money leftwing blogs in the US like TPM, HuffPo and Daily Kos make. They all sustain teams of writers and investigators. And they do a much better job than their right-wing counterparts.

In the UK, if being right-wing made you commercially successful, then Standpoint would be setting the world alight. And yet its even more insufferable than The Spectator – which is saying something.

In the UK, if being right-wing made you commercially successful, then Standpoint would be setting the world alight. And yet its even more insufferable than The Spectator – which is saying something.

God, I recall reading a Standpoint article which accused Chavez of generating the understandable envy the poor Venezuelans felt towards the rich (apparently they waved at her father as he drove his Merc through their slums), then went on to outline how the very, very rich aristocracy are having such a terrible time there now (they’re struggling to pay their exclusive club fees!) and what a calamity that was.

If I’d set out to make a parody of a right wing aristo critique of socialism in action I really couldn’t have done much better.

Have you never thought that the left simply lost the argument, because it is wrong? Bleating on about self-righteous economic arguments that make no sense at all and have been proved time and again not to work is by its very nature dull, except to those who make the arguments and are self-righteous. There is a limit to the amount of dull, self-righteous people who want to read such publications.

Yes, it’s clear that the whole of Britain has abandoned socialism, Random. That’s why they think that the state should have a bigger role in public life and the centrepiece of every libertarian’s wet dream – the dismantlement of the NHS – is something that about as popular amongst Britons as legalising paedophilia.

Dave, you are the only left-wing blog that I read with any regularity, and it’s because you seem to have some wit and intelligence, even though I almost never agree with what you say.

Most left-wing publications (and blogs for that matter) are po-faced, self-righteous, hair-shirted, politically correct drivel. The left suffers from two big problems (in my oh so very humble opinion:

1. They’re not funny. This baffles me, because most comics are left-of-centre, but none of them seem to be doing any witty writing.
2. They lack intellectual rigour. Everybody seems to feel that despite socialism failing in every context that it’s been tried, “if we just tweak it a bit more or do even more of it, it will work.Promise!” Or even worse, they resort to endless slagging off of Tories. While the Tories deserve all the kicking they can get for being such an utterly useless opposition, it is hardly engaging political discourse, especially when it’s written in such a puerile fashion.

There is no left wing magazine that’s funny or even slightly amusing. It’s as simple as that.

As a young student i read the Spectator because of Jeffery Bernard and just stayed with it. Am I a conservative now because of that? Maybe…

Come on you lefty’s – influence a new generation through humour. It works.

Obnoxio

I agree. If I was to try and summarize further, I would say capitalism (for all its faults) gives people what they want, socialism presumes to tell people what they need.

I would say capitalism (for all its faults) gives people what they want

Markets give people what they want. Capitalism rips people off while they’re chosing.

Markets are not synonimous with capitalism. For that matter, socialism doesn’t need to be prescriptive.

Oh, and one more observation.

Socialist comedians like those often broadcast from the BBC are not actually funny men, as in being able to create audible expressions of merriment or happiness in others.

No, what they get from their predictable ‘George Bush is a moron’ material is applause, not laughter. Big difference.

“Capitalism rips people off while they’re chosing.”

I think what you mean is “exchange of goods or services for money”. This is neither good nor bad, but the normal workings of the market. Price is more or less a function of the quantity demanded by consumers, and the quantity supplied by producers.

Socialism by its very nature is prescriptive as it’s proponents often advocate interfering with markets and the state control of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.

Yugoslavian, Hungarian, Polish and Chinese Communists in the 1970s and 1980s, all instituted various forms of market socialism.

They have all since been disbanded as they were found to be inefficient and incompatible with civil liberties. Also socialism cannot adequately transmit information about price discovery and quotas, and as a result cannot make rational economic decisions.

Or as Churchill put it far better than I:

” Socialism is an attack on the right to breathe freely”

Suni said: “Oh dear, now all the Guido readers are going to get here and tell us how leftwingers can’t manage interesting because they’re such authoritarian, fascists who love ZaNuLabore etc etc.”

Good grief, no. Please don’t let’s have any debate…

There is no one problem. However the authoritarianism of some of the broad left came to my attention when I was at a Green Party conference not long after the fix to have the name changed from The Ecology Party. (No, in fact, it was that fix that was the first example I saw, when the democratic decision of the majority was changed by a minority who knew exactly what was good for the party.)

The second example was when some authoritarian souls decided to try to ban TV cameras from the conference. Why? Apparently some deep-seated but utterly illogical hate of The meejar”.

Socialism by its very nature is prescriptive as it’s proponents often advocate interfering with markets and the state control of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.

Witness here the raw inhumanity of the market evangelicals: they care more for their beloved markets being protected than people.

Sorry I’m a little puzzled. In what way does being an enthusiast of the free market system make me inhumane? People are more than welcome to disagree. Where do I say or imply that I care more about markets than people?

@36

In my opinion the NHS and other safety nets, introduced by the left, have had far more influence on enabling people to “breathe freely”.

41. Ryan Stephenson

Problem with the media of the left is that it isn’t the media of the left (ie. the political media of the working class). It is the media of socialism which was a particular proposal for a solution to the problems of the working class. It failed, because Socialism does not attempt to first truly understand the problems of the working class, or its aspirations to a better life. For instance, it believes that the problem of housing working class people is to stick them on a waiting list for two years and then put them in a concrete box called a council house next door to a recently released paedophile. If they complain then the local council jobsworth simply puts them back on the council housing list where they will wait for another two years. Working class people generally don’t believe in this. They believe only in a better redistribution of wealth that would allow them to buy a house of their own choosing in an area of their own choosing. It follows from this that they don’t believe that socialist intellectuals have any right to pontificate to them on how they should live their lives, and they read the Sun because they don’t give a damn about Israel, they don’t like mass immigration and they actually aspire one day to be as rich as David Beckham. They don’t believe in socialism and the only people that do are the same age as Fidel Castro, gradually popping off this mortal coil. If the “left” want to be more popular they had better ditch socialism fast and come up with something new and exciting that working class people can believe in or the BNP will do it for them. Come up with believable politics that working class people can relate to and you will be able to fill newspapers with exciting articles. How about this for an idea – take all the land off the super-rich and introduce a planning free-for-all so ordinary people can build a house they want where they want for a price that doesn’t take a life-time to pay back. That’s not socialism but sure as hell it is the politics of the left – you might even get some middle class people to back that one. Oh, I forgot, the politics of the left is financed by the super-rich so you won’t do anything to upset them will you? Looks like the working class are on their own again with their hopes, dreams and lottery cards, while the socialist media is a rag-bag of political misfits with chips on their shoulder. GIVE ME SOME POLITICS I CAN BELIEVE IN THEN I WILL BUY YOUR NEWSPAPERS! SOCIALISM IS DEAD!

42. Ryan Stephenson

“In my opinion the NHS and other safety nets, introduced by the left, have had far more influence on enabling people to “breathe freely”.”

The enabling legislation for the NHS was introduced by Winston Churchill at the request of the Liberals. The reason that the Tories were in favour for it (and subsequently voted in favour of it when the NHS itself was set up by Atlee) was because it meant that the taxpayer (i.e. the employees) paid for healthcare rather than the employers. In other words the NHS has ended up costing ordinary people more than healthcare did when it was the employers that paid for it! This is rather typical of the self-delusion of socialists – it presumes that because the NHS is popular with people that [1] it was set up right in the first place and [2] it can’t be made better and this leads to [3] all other poplicy should follow the same format. Well, I hate to tell you this but if [1] and [2] are true why is it that other socialist countries in Europe use compulsory health insurance to pay for healthcare? Could it be that it gives the patient buying power that ensures that the doctors see them as a money making opportunity rather than a “problem”? Could it be that incentivises doctors to give better care, rather than kicking smelly working class people out the door at the first opportunity i the hope they die soon an cease to be a “problem”? Could it be that the NHS was set up this way to please the unions, rather than the vulnerable people that use hospitals? Could it be that these assumptions of British socialism has left it unpopular when socialism in the EU is still a viable political alternative?

“I tend to think of the Guardian/Cif as a leftwing publication; George Monbiot today on ‘alternative currencies’ surely can’t be read in any other way.”

Uhh, re-legalising “outside money” has been a common solution amongst libertarian economists for some time:

http://blog.iea.org.uk/?tag=free-banking

Not saying you are wrong, I am just saying your definition would make me left wing (which I am more than happy to be 🙂 )

“In other words the NHS has ended up costing ordinary people more than healthcare did when it was the employers that paid for it!”

Yet the official right-wing line is that taxes and other costs borne by businesses simply get passed on to employees.

Whether the NHS was set up right or wrong is not the point I was making. The concept of a universal healthcare system and other safety nets as an enabling force to let people breathe more freely was. It was a contract between the state and the people who accepted to pay a percentage of their income in return for universal health care, free of charge at the point of service delivery. If you think that was a step backwards from the miserable conditions of the 20s and 30s then you clearly need to get you head checked, by a NHS specialist, free of charge at the point of delivery.

Pleasing the unions by setting up the NHS is possibly the most ridiculous idea ever, especially as you claim that it’s the actual union members who are paying for the service instead of their employers! I have no problem with shifting this cost to employers, NHS is not perfect, but the concept of a universal health care system is non-negotiable in my opinion.

Nick, these libertarian economists do have a nack for stealing/plagiarising Anarchist ideas, don’t they. 😉

Well, Soon, I prefer to think of it as an intellectual conversation, but it is not as if these concepts are particularly new in libertarian thought. It has been a feature for over 200 years! http://divisionoflabour.com/archives/003207.php

Who was the first anarchist to talk about it, out of interest?

I’m a freelance journalist with lots of things I’d like to write about for the left-wing press which I think would be interesting (OK, so I would say)
BUT – they don’t pay, and since I need to eat I need to concentrate on outlets which will actually reimburse me for my labour. I know several other progressive writers who feel the same way.
Therefore the pool of people available to write for these publications is limited and means the quality level is lower than it could be.
Frankly, for magazines like Red Pepper to carp on about exploitation of Primark workers while not paying for contributions is a bit much. Tribune are at least apologetic about it and the Staggers makes an effort even its rates are appalling.
The best I have seen is the America weekly The Nation. The design of its print edition is terrible but its content is great and so is its blog.
(They’ve still not picked up any of my pitches tho – buggers).

Can’t give you a name but an alternative value system has always been part of anarchism.

You can consider Mazdak the Persian though who lived during 5th century AD. I can’t find any decent references in English to his thoughts but a few Farsi sources that I have come across do mention his ideas about alternative currencies and their relevance to his pseudo-anarchist movement.

I’ll look into it 🙂

A point of caution Nick, the majority of English sources out there seem to have been written by Iranian monarchists. I would take them with a pinch of salt, their only considerable contribution to humanity is re-writing history. 😉

Nick, these libertarian economists do have a nack for stealing/plagiarising Anarchist ideas, don’t they. 😉

Well, as they’d already stolen the name…

Andy: You talk about “Interfering with the markets” as if it’s all that matters, or at least’s that is the way your comments cut across.

Ryan: Perhaps the popularity of the NHS is a consequence of it being a service that people appreciate. Perhaps the relative disdain which Americans hold their own system in (except for the rich, of course) is a consequence of insurance companies being a profit seeking company. Accordingly they won’t cover the people who need covering most: people with a family history of degenerative diseases (which cost massive amounts for insurance companies to deal with) and other people in the way of harm.

Accordingly, you have a situation where those most likely to be struck down with something are the ones who find it hardest to prepare for that eventuality. It makes perfect business sense, but the loss of hedrons is pretty massive, I think we can agree.

Beyond this there’s the issue of how much it costs. Interesting that you should bring that up, but in reality (rather than in state-hating ideologue fantasy land) British healthcare is about the third price of American, with superior outcomes for the average Briton. Additionally, not being tied to employers means that when there’s a recession (as there is now, courtesy of some capitalists who didn’t know what they were doing) and vast numbers of people lose their jobs they don’t lose their healthcare as well, not even for a day.

Which is why the NHS is so hugely popular, much to your disdain. As an institution (not just a policy) it does a massive amount of good and people adore this incarnate instance of state socialism. It saves their lives and doesn’t ask them for a penny until January. Indeed, if they are a child then they don’t need to bother with prices at all.

In short, socialism works.

Andy,

In what way does being an enthusiast of the free market system make me inhumane?

You are inhumane because you think the individual should have the power to make his own choices as opposed to the state making his choices for him.

Socialists know best, didn’t you know?

market evangelicals: they care more for their beloved markets being protected than people.

Precedent suggests socialism has been rather effective at killing people.

State-hating ideologues like myself also realise that the US offers nothing like a free market in health care. It is a state-licensed and regulated cartel, and, as you would expect, it regulates in the interest of the already rich and powerful. Parts of Europe, including the Netherlands, Switzerland and increasingly even Sweden now demonstrate more market orientated solutions than what the US has to offer. Which is not to say that they are perfectly liberal, but they have taken on some of the lessons of market economics.

The mistake of the left is to assume that just because a set of institutions is nominally public, it isn’t also as likely to seek their own interests. In functioning markets, incentives can be aligned so that they serve people – so that it doesn’t matter how greedy the doctors are, their pay is reliant on treating people.

You are inhumane because you think the individual should have the power to make his own choices as opposed to the state making his choices for him.

Ah, the tired old “choice” canard. As beloved by New Labour ministers looking for excuses for not improving hospitals & schools. The stuff seems to matter even more to you lot, though. Interesting how some people (the rich) deserve a lot more of it than others, though….

Socialists know best, didn’t you know?

A darn sight better than idiot libertarians, at very least.

Precedent suggests socialism has been rather effective at killing people.

Which is why I’m not arguing for a Red Army, Cultural Revolution or the liquidation of the kulaks.

The mistake of the left is to assume that just because a set of institutions is nominally public, it isn’t also as likely to seek their own interests. In functioning markets, incentives can be aligned so that they serve people – so that it doesn’t matter how greedy the doctors are, their pay is reliant on treating people.

No, Nick. It is never going to make good business sense to insure someone with a strong family history of cancer. If you believe otherwise, explain how.

James,

Aye, but in what way do my comments make me inhumane?

I simply trust the free market in being able to create more wealth to greater numbers of people than socialism ever will. Many people believe the exact opposite, and that’s perfectly fine by me. How then does me holding this viewpoint and not minding opposite viewpoints count as “raw inhumanity” by any stretch of the imagination?

Now imagine the debate which has taken over this thread packaged into a magazine and watch them fly off the shelves.
Perhaps this thread is helping answer Dave’s original question.

“Interesting how some people (the rich) deserve a lot more of it than others, though….”

Sour grapes.

That argument contains no sound reasoning or logic, it is envy, bitterness and spite towards those more successful than you. How very socialist.

James, show a little imagination. Cancer is becoming rapidly more and more curable, and the costs of treatment are following too. A long-term insurer will predict how much cheaper it will be in the future and even invest in developing cures so that when the time comes and they have to pay out, they can still turn a profit.

Of course, there are a few other state mechanisms that get in the way of the pace of progress, like patent laws and while those inefficient elements are present, I am not going to be completely against things like subsidising medical insurance and care. But that doesn’t mean providers shouldn’t be private and chosen by the patients themselves.

You are inhumane because you think the individual should have the power to make his own choices as opposed to the state making his choices for him.

Ah, the tired old “choice” canard. As beloved by New Labour ministers looking for excuses for not improving hospitals & schools. The stuff seems to matter even more to you lot, though. Interesting how some people (the rich) deserve a lot more of it than others, though….

Er no it’s about where the power to spend one’s ‘money’ (or vouchers, or whatever) should lie. Should the power be invested in me, or in someone roughly as competent but rather less interested in my health, and rather more interested in political expediency?

(Besides, if I recall correctly New Labour decreased choice, because where before you could choose to go to any UK hospital to be treated, they said you could choose one of six…)

NHS is so hugely popular, much to your disdain. As an institution (not just a policy) it does a massive amount of good and people adore this incarnate instance of state socialism. It saves their lives and doesn’t ask them for a penny until January. Indeed, if they are a child then they don’t need to bother with prices at all.

In short, socialism works.

Non sequitur.

First demonstrate that the NHS ‘works’, let alone how it proves “socialism works”!

Do you define ‘works’ as having an excess of waste and middle management?

Yes the NHS is popular to some extent. Is there plenty of scope for improvement? Yes. Can some lessons be learned from the market? Yes.

I think the NHS is less popular when people discover a replacement hip, for example, will cost the public purse £18k if done by the NHS, but £15k if the NHS outsources it to private healthcare – same consultant, mind. People wonder about where that £3k has gone. It is, after all, £3k less that can be spent on cancer care.

Incentives matter.

(and of course the implication that supporters of the market don’t care about patients or recognise the good work the NHS has done should not be dignified with a response.)

Aye, but in what way do my comments make me inhumane?

I simply trust the free market in being able to create more wealth to greater numbers of people than socialism ever will. Many people believe the exact opposite, and that’s perfectly fine by me. How then does me holding this viewpoint and not minding opposite viewpoints count as “raw inhumanity” by any stretch of the imagination?

I suppose the source of my view was failure to comprehend how anyone’s first thought upon considering public sector health workers go about their work (helping anyone who suffers from blight, irrespective of their wealth) could possibly be “State interference with the market! This must be stopped!”

What it seems like to me is ascending a concept you find favourable above the reality of the human impact. I should have borne in mind that you think that the eventual outcome will be a lot better, though.

I suppose I made the error of mistaking you for a rights libertarian, there. And even then my rhetoric would have been a little ripe. My bad.

James, show a little imagination. Cancer is becoming rapidly more and more curable, and the costs of treatment are following too. A long-term insurer will predict how much cheaper it will be in the future and even invest in developing cures so that when the time comes and they have to pay out, they can still turn a profit.

That isn’t what’s been happening, though. They’ve been denying people insurance, because degenerative diseases are massively expensive to treat.

Of course, there are a few other state mechanisms that get in the way of the pace of progress, like patent laws and while those inefficient elements are present, I am not going to be completely against things like subsidising medical insurance and care. But that doesn’t mean providers shouldn’t be private and chosen by the patients themselves.

The private sector still exists. It’s still out there for those that want it (BUPA, etc). It’s not as if we’ve banned anything.

Er no it’s about where the power to spend one’s ‘money’ (or vouchers, or whatever) should lie. Should the power be invested in me, or in someone roughly as competent but rather less interested in my health, and rather more interested in political expediency?

If you really hate the NHS, as mentioned above, you can use private alternatives.

(Besides, if I recall correctly New Labour decreased choice, because where before you could choose to go to any UK hospital to be treated, they said you could choose one of six…)

Yes, do make sure not to conflate New Labour rhetoric with New Labour reality. What they said was that they were “promoting choice”. What they did was botch investment.

Non sequitur.

First demonstrate that the NHS ‘works’, let alone how it proves “socialism works”!

Well the approval ratings are much higher than more “free market” nations, for a start. A lot less money gets spent per person. Nobody is without the protection of a health service of one sort or another (something not true of verging on 50 million Americans, at present).

Do you define ‘works’ as having an excess of waste and middle management?

I’m not saying it’s a perfect system, just that it functions better than all alternatives. By no means am I saying its a policy ideal and we should avoid all tinkering and modification of policy…

Yes the NHS is popular to some extent. Is there plenty of scope for improvement? Yes. Can some lessons be learned from the market? Yes.

I think the NHS is less popular when people discover a replacement hip, for example, will cost the public purse £18k if done by the NHS, but £15k if the NHS outsources it to private healthcare – same consultant, mind. People wonder about where that £3k has gone. It is, after all, £3k less that can be spent on cancer care.

Incentives matter.

(and of course the implication that supporters of the market don’t care about patients or recognise the good work the NHS has done should not be dignified with a response.)

lol, some extent


Sour grapes.

That argument contains no sound reasoning or logic, it is envy, bitterness and spite towards those more successful than you. How very socialist.

I don’t believe I mentioned I was poor?

And I think that there is some sound reasoning, there: your much vaunted “choice” is restricted to those with enough money to have multiple options open to them. The choices which encounter the poorer people in areas lacking proper healthcare systems occasionally reach issues as dire as: “Which finger shall I lose?”

I notice many socialists and those of a socialistic bent that work in the NHS often play the (supposed superiority of) ‘caring’ profession card.

This is the card that, because someone is employed to ‘care’ for our needs, trumps any dissent for they can do no wrong or that the whole system need an overhaul. This card is one that is regularly thrown on the table by the medical profession but is often also used by social workers, teachers & many others paid out of the state purse.

Interesting word ‘care’.

In this context it would apply to those who administer to the requirements of others which
would logically include hairdressers & indeed estate agents.

Of course, our NHS socialist friends would use the card by implying that their contribution to society is so much greater than any of their detractors’

If it came to the preserving of health & life our NHS friends would come a very poor second to the humble plumber (Polish or otherwise). Historically, it’s provision of sanitation & safe drinking water to which we owe MOST of the increase in life expectancy & freedom from disease.

So my argument is this: can plumbers, as caring professionals, play that card too?

Nope, just strip poker!

If you really hate the NHS, as mentioned above, you can use private alternatives.

Poor people can’t (except when the NHS outsources their care). Are you on their side, or not?

I don’t hate the NHS. I’d like good healthcare workers to be rewarded better than bad healthcare workers, and I’d like less waste, and I’d like less workers involved in helping government to look good.

Do you define ‘works’ as having an excess of waste and middle management?

I’m not saying it’s a perfect system, just that it functions better than all alternatives.

Well, make your mind up. An alternative is having less waste and not so much middle management. Would that be better, or not?

(Besides, if I recall correctly New Labour decreased choice, because where before you could choose to go to any UK hospital to be treated, they said you could choose one of six…)

Yes, do make sure not to conflate New Labour rhetoric with New Labour reality. What they said was that they were “promoting choice”. What they did was botch investment.

What they did was lie, that was my point.

Yes the NHS is popular to some extent. …
lol, some extent

Not sure why you find that funny.

leftwing publications – like so many leftwingers – lack humour.

“leftwing publications – like so many leftwingers – lack humour.”

Name me some one on the right who is funny? A lot of them think they are funny, but that is not the same thing.

Ah great, a subjective and unwinnable debate…

sally,

It’s nowt to do with politics really. Either someone is funny or they’re not.

My own favourites have been Peter Cook, Reeves & Mortimer, Harry Enfield and Al Murray.

I’d heard acts from the Comedy Store, the birthplace of alternative comedy when I was younger but still came away distinctly unimpressed, by and large.

Sure they had plenty of material to draw from: rants about pooing and wee wee, or in the case of the female comics, endless routines about periods, all with plenty of swearing, all wrapped up to make the performer appear edgy and radical. Oh and plenty of Tory jokes as well. Yawn.

My only ‘alternative’ choice would have been The Young Ones programme, only because right-on Rik was someone you were meant to laugh at, not take seriously.

Theres no such thing as alternative comedy, just comedy.

We are talking about right and left wing pundits and publications not stand up comedians.

The Right asserts (falsely, like so much of its claims ) that right wing pundits are funny, I say no they are not.

We don’t get many right wing pundits, the political establishment keeps them off the TV! How about Ian Hislop. He certainly used to be funny.

Ian Hislop? Right Wing?

Eh?

He still is funny, but while certainly not being what might be termed a “lefty”, he’s definitely not “of the right”…happy to take the crap out of both whoever needs it. 🙂

His only recent statement that might reveal his personal politics was his praise of Vince Cable.

and..er…that’s it.

We don’t get many right wing pundits, the political establishment keeps them off the TV!

ahhh yes, the victim card! They must exist somewhere but there’s a vast left-wing conspiracy to keep them out of television! Even though the BBC employs a whole bunch of right-wingers to do its journalism. Yes, that must be it… the comedy dept is run by socialists.

Oh come on. Listen to most of Radio 4’s comedy output. I wouldn’t mind, but I wish the socialists were, at least, also comedians.

76. diogenes1960

why do so many people here complain about left-wingers being dull and unamusing, when here we have Sally? Every post she makes raises a guffaw. She is a natural comedian.

Nick, I do (it’s how Jennie and I met as it happens). If she didn’t find, for example, The News Quiz funny, she wouldn’t have travelled down from Yorkshire to go to a recording. It’s a matter of taste, I find most of Radio 4’s comedy funny (although Count Arthur Strong and Clare in the bloody community are both a waste of space), but others don’t.

I also find that notorious socialist Jeremy Clarkson quite funny, he is a most excellent pastiche of the bumbling conservative at times.

And of course there are no right wing pundits in the BBC at all. Nick Robinson isn’t a personal friend of David Cameron nor is he a former chair of his university Conservative Association. Andrew Neil is another notorious lefty, having previously worked for one R. Murdoch setting up the horribly liberal Fox News in America and now being one of the BBCs main political presenters. Oh, wait.

Here’s a hint to all those on the right who think the BBCs biased. You’re on the right, it’s to your left. I think it’s horribly right wing and pro establishment myself, and I’m not even that left wing compared to many others that hang around this site.

FFS stop playing the victim and distinguish between “somewhere about the centre” and “actually left wing”.

I also find that notorious socialist Jeremy Clarkson quite funny, he is a most excellent pastiche of the bumbling conservative at times.

I thought he was a pseudo-neo-futurist?

79. Ryan Stephenson

James, what a nasty little strawman argument you have invented. Did you not know that America is not the only country that uses health insurance? Did you not know that in fact Germany uses a similar scheme to provide health care that is free at the point of use? It consists of a compulsory insurance payment taken at source (in effect, a tax) to which the employee may add his own contribution to achieve a higher level of care, i.e. a private room. Now the reason that this works better than the UK system is that the employee now has access to an insurance fund and he can decide where to spend his or her money. This means that he can avoid the local hospital with a bad reputation and go elsewhere, and if a lot of people make the same choice the hospital with a bad reputation had better buck its ideas up.

Compare this with the UK. I have no choice. I must go to the local hospital. The local hospital – Great Western in Swindon, is a charnal house. I wouldn’t send a dog there. You would be better off going to a butcher for an operation. Nobody should be forced to go there. My local doctor is a man that likes to make improper suggestions to women , but has not be fired for doing so. Other local doctors will not take on his case book so the women that have had trouble with him have no choice but to continue to go to this nasty little man.

That is what state provision of health care does for you. It forces the states opinion of what should be provided and how it should be provided onto the individual, who finds himself with no choice but to use what is provided. The socialist state cannot provide the carrot to the employees to encourage better care, and it abhors the stick, so the care continues to deterioate as the NHS employees find the best solution for their own issues at the expense of the patient. The NHS may be slightly cheaper than Germany but the standard of healthcare in the NHS makes MASH look civilised.

After 7 years of my wife being left bedridden by hopeless NHS care I paid for her myself to be treated at the private Ridgeway Hospital. With 6 months she was cured of endometryosis. Endometryosis! Harldy a rare condition! But the NHS couldn’t find it! They thought she had gall bladder problems. So now I pay Tesco to cover my whole family for private healthcare. The NHS is worse than useless, and I have the greatest empathy for all those of my fellow citizens that have no choice but to use it. The poor devils are kept ignorant of how the NHS is mistreating them, like the hapless souls that were the victims of communism in Russia but were kept in the dark about how much better life was in the West. I have wept for a girl I have known that now cannot have children because of infections she picked up in NHS hospital, for an uncle that died because A&E said that peritonitis was in fact indigestion. The families won’t always take on the NHS when these things go wrong. They fear they have no choice but to suffer, for fear of what their local hospital might do to them when they need treatment.

Like I said, it’s imperfect. Germany has its flaws too, however, and I would suggest that although your personal experience is clearly very poor annecdote can not be allowed to serve as the last word in a debate concerning national issues. If only because my own experience with the institution (top notch) hardly contradicts your own, but simply suggests that the service is variable and that there are some areas which should emulate others. I know many people who have had marvelous experiences and some who owe their lives to NHS doctors.

I am also well aware that as my family was recently very poor (due to extensive theft from a thankfully departed member) we would have received far worse treatment under any alternative system that I am aware of. The word “employee” in your description of Germany also indicates its failing: under capitalism there will never be full employment and so those without jobs will invariably have to be treated. The NHS serves this purpose admirably.

Additionally, I would suggest that the women mistreated by that doctor file official complaints, there is a system in place for reprimands over such matters. A lot of the problems come with people “putting up” with poor conditions. Along with poor funding, of course.

but simply suggests that the service is variable and that there are some areas which should emulate others. I know many people who have had marvelous experiences and some who owe their lives to NHS doctors.

but the point of course is that we should be able to give our money/vouchers/whatever to the good ones and not the bad ones.

Healthcare organisations in the private sector have a rather stronger incentive to “emulate [good] others” than those in the public sector.

Which would be fine if everyone had enough money for healthcare, or even if everyone could get insured…

That’s why I used “money/vouchers/whatever”…

Doesn’t that incentivise the hospitals to perform more surgery and so on than they need to?

That may be a risk – indeed I’m sure it is. But there are risks associated with every system – that’s what we have to weigh up. There are risks associated with, for example, targets set by the centre – we’ve had trusts going into the red, and ‘gaming’* (or perverse incentives), among other things. There are also risks associated with the frequency of changes to the system.

(e.g. the target relating to the percentage of people who can get appointments to see their GP on the same day, causing surgeries to prohibit people from making appointments more than a day in advance! In Spain, some clinics have one of these newfangled interwebsites with a calendar where you can click on a free slot this week, next week, whatever, and you’ve got it.)

Worth reading John Crippen.

Hello again, ukliberty:

Let me start off by saying that I agree with both you and Dr. John Crippen entirely. Targets as applied in Britain (and perhaps as applied anywhere, I haven’t seen much on regimes in other countries) are an absurdity which bring out the legalist in our medical professionals. There are reports of nurses removing wheels from patient trolleys to declare them “beds” and medical centres intentionally booking appointments during times when people are on holiday in order to get “Cancels”.

It should be noted, though, that this was actually started off by John Major, who was directly and entirely inspired by neo-liberalism. That it was followed through with by New Labour is shameful, but this entire idea is actually one that originates from the “Marketisation” Right.

As for the aforementioned risk, I’d like to give an example of it in action: the contrasting case of circumcision in Britain and America.

The secular trend originated here during the Victorian era as one of a raft of measures they thought were needed to cure masturbation and thus act as a preventative to the assorted ailments (blindness, madness, etc) associated with it. When the NHS was established there was some controversy over whether it would be offered until a medical report in 1947 decisively demonstrated that it did more harm than good. Accordingly in National Health Services it wasn’t offered as part of the free maternity care.

The result? Rates trend upwards until the late ’40s, then plummet.

Now in America things panned out a little differently. They adopted it for much the same reason, although whereas Britain had it as more of a class thing (for the aristos and those aspiring to become them) in America the aspect of pseudo-science was strong: an experimental physician proclaimed it as a cure to epilepsy.

Consequential to them never having had a National Health Service supply and demand ruled the day. Now if you’re struggling as to why this would make such a massive difference here’s the rub: in America every baby boy is effectively born with a price tag attached to his penis. A doctor usually earns around $150-300 per procedure, and when you consider how many babies the average hospital gets through under industrialised healthcare that’s a lot of money.

So while the secular practice was dying out completely in Britain (indeed, decades after it had) doctors were performing prepucectomies on every healthy male infant without even parental consent. Babies were just taken away, usually without warning or explanation, then usually operated upon without even the use of any analgesiac. This has since changed after some legal rulings and thankfully the practice seems to be finally dying out through a mixture of the internet providing information on the risks and losses entailed and Hispanic immigration. The AAP declaring the routine performance not something it could advocate also helped.

But you can see my point – the doctors had a motivation to promote an entirely unnecessary, non-therapeutic procedure and duly did so. Indeed, there are many which continue to do so most firmly. Now that parents have to be convinced they frequently do their best (I have heard quite a few stories of people being put under quite a bit of pressure). You could take all of them in good faith and agree that they’re simply persuaded by the (paltry) evidence in favour, but frankly I imagine the money they get is a substantial factor in persuading them. I don’t think that the practice would return if we abolished the NHS (its just not part of our culture any longer), but it does give you some idea of the quite clearly distinct outcomes of profit based healthcare and state based.

I certainly know which one I prefer.

“Healthcare organisations in the private sector have a rather stronger incentive to “emulate [good] others” than those in the public sector.”

What, like the private banks had an incentive to run good practice? and not destroy the world finacial system? Or like the private utility firms who are screwing everbody over?

If people like you want to go private for your health care then fine, goodbye have a nice time until your money runs out, but don’t destroy the Nationla health care system with your nonesense about vouchers.

James, I think the underlying issue is of that the incentives of the state and the patient are too dissimilar and they need to be aligned. I can’t see the state being able to do that – it is rather more interested in political expediency, and will continue to be, because politicians are in charge. I don’t know what would be the best solution – I think some sort of market (because this is where a patient is in charge) would be better than the status quo.

Now, obviously there have been problems with various systems. But that is the key – would a new system be better than the status quo?

And in relation to John Major… well, centrally set targets seem the antithesis to the market, so please don’t tar all markets with the same brush.

Sally, fortunately for the country I’m unlikely to be in a position where I can destroy the NHS, but I’ll let you know when I am and perhaps by then you’ll be able to offer something constructive for once.

89. Ryan Stephenson

James: Your opinion of the NHS should not trump an individuals personal experience of it. That is the fundamental problem with statist socialism. It sides always with the opinion of the state rather than the direct experience of the individual. The individual cannot then escape the opinions of the political class. They are, in fact, inflicted upon them regardless of the pain and suffering they cause. Sometimes the pain and suffering that can be caused are extreme. So extreme that a friend of mine that found himself in severe pain some years back actually drove 10 miles up the road before calling for an ambulance on his mobile phone so he could be treated by the NHS hospital in Cirencester rather than being trapped within the NHS hospital in Swindon (Princess Margaret Hospital as it was then).

So we should complain right? Except we CAN’T complain. The girl that had her ability to have children taken away by an unclean local hospital cannot complain for these reasons [1] she is still very ill [2] she now has to consider adoption – which means applying to the state for the right to adopt [3] she is reliant on state healthcare in the same hospital in the future. So how can she complain? The state has her completely under its control. She has no escape. Well, actually she has one escape, because next year she is going to emigrate. Imagine, her escape from state socialism in the UK is actually to escape to another country entirely. I have also found myself with the same problem. Although I pay a lot of money I can barely afford for private healthcare, I am trapped into using the ambulance service if I have an emergency. Despite the fact that I pay my taxes and my healthcare is now offloaded from the NHS, I cannot ask the ambulance to take me to the local private hospital even though it is almost within spitting distance of the NHS hospital. Therefore, in an emergency I will probably find myself forced to depend on the state and therefore even I can’t complain about the local NHS service for fear that any future treatment I might need will be suspended for me and my family.

While I am on the subject it is a myth that you cannot get emergency treatment at private hospitals. You most certainly can. In fact, if you get to our local private hospital you will be seen within the minute by the live-in consultant. Go to Great Western NHS hospital and you will have to wait for a consultant, and you will be seen not in order of severity of your condition – but in order of age! Under 5s see a consultant first. So when my wife was admitted with a suspected burst appendix (was related to her endometryosis) she actually had to wait half an hour in extreme pain to see a consultant while a five year old on the next bed got treated by that consultant for a few cuts and grazes after falling off a bike thanks to a national state imposed target.

Since we are on the subject of myths here are a few more – the NHS was not invented by Labour – it was invented by Liberal Beveridge. The NHS was not opposed by the Tories, in fact Tory Winston Churchill introduced the enabling legislation for it in 1943 but further work on its introduction was suspended by WWII. All three parties were committed to the introduction of the Beveridge report, which itself had been sponsored by the government of national unity led by Churchill to look at how Britain should develop after WWII. I have noticed that this myth that the NHS is a Labour concept backed only by Labour contijnues to this day. When John Major signed off the replacement of the Princess Margaret Hospital with the new Great Western Hospital at the end of his term, Gordon Brown stopped it in its track for two years, ostensibly to check on its funding. In reality, when it was re-introduced two years later the Labour Party totally commandeered it as if it was its own idea, thus cementing the concept that Labour was for new hospitals whilst the Tories were against them. The whole thing was just lies and spin. Sadly it was also to mean that Swindon would end up with a smaller hospital than the previous hospital built in the 60s. This was because the building boom in Swindon in the two year interim had pushed up building prices dramatically. Contracts for the new hospital had to be re-written around the same funding as two years preious which meant the hospital size had to be reduced by 1/3rd. Thus Swindon has a hospital smaller than it had in the 60s despite having a population that has doubled in size! This mismanagement is probably the nub of Swindon NHS’ latest problems, although PMH also had a bad reputation.

I will end by pointing out that MRSA is unknown in the private hospitals and unknown in Sweden or Germany. It only happens in NHS hospitals. Unclean NHS hospitals have claimed over 35,000 lives. Isn’t it astonishing that there have been few claims for negligence leading to those deaths? I believe that this is because people are afraid of what the NHS and the wider state will do to them if they complain. For most people, their life is in the NHS hands – it doesn’t pay to get on the wrong side of them. Personally the NHS scares me.

Your opinion of the NHS should not trump an individuals personal experience of it. That is the fundamental problem with statist socialism. It sides always with the opinion of the state rather than the direct experience of the individual.

Individuals’ personal experiences are wholly irrelevant, as are opinions. Data are relevant – and people (as resoundingly demonstrated by your mad tirade) are far worse than government organisations at reacting to data. The circumcision example above is just one of many excellent illustrations of this.

I will end by pointing out that MRSA is unknown in the private hospitals and unknown in Sweden or Germany. It only happens in NHS hospitals

Err, MRSA is a massive problem in Germany. And it’s unknown in private hospitals primarily because they dump anything serious on the NHS.

Uklib – I had hoped that that example would raise the point that since doctors are authority figures it will almost invariably be them that are in charge. Now would you prefer doctors out for profit controlling the encounter or doctors who have no vested interest?

Ryan: I never said that my opinion negated your personal experience or that of those you know. What I said was that we can’t dictate public policy suggestions through the medium of anecdotes. And as I said, if we can then my own experience (very, very good) will have to be pitted against yours in a brutal struggle to decide which is forced into irrelevance.

I think that we can agree that that isn’t too wise.

Additionally, this:

Therefore, in an emergency I will probably find myself forced to depend on the state and therefore even I can’t complain about the local NHS service for fear that any future treatment I might need will be suspended for me and my family.

so far as I can tell is a peice of fantasy. When has this ever happened? Furthermore, the Beveridge report did indeed set out suggestions similar to the system in place, but they were implemented by the Labour Party. Much like Friedman came up with the theory, Thatcher implemented it, to give you and example I suspect you’ll appreciated.

And finally, I’ve told you my view of “targets” already. It’s really annoying that those marketising neo-liberal policies were introduced. I wish that they hadn’t been.

I’ve told you my view of “targets” already. It’s really annoying that those marketising neo-liberal policies were introduced

Markets have nothing to do with targets, markets don’t need targets. Targets aren’t liberal either, they’re the antithesis of any sort of liberal idea I’ve ever come across.

Targets are managerial and centralising, managerialism is another one of those traits that people who say they like markets and choice introduce when they really like power and control.

Other than that, this thread is so far off topic it’s silly and pointless now.

I think that should be “targets are managerial and centralising”, non? 😉

Well said.

Ah, yes, it definitely should be. Feck. I know, I’ll get a friendly editor to fix it…

“Now would you prefer doctors out for profit controlling the encounter or doctors who have no vested interest?”

That’s covered in what UKLib said earlier, about weighing the risks of that way of doing things as opposed to this way of doing things. You’re simply bringing up a factor that should be considered if we were to move to a voucher system, not making a decisive argument.

You also betray a certain lack of belief in the essential goodness of people that is often characteristic of statists. The most obvious, easy and morally attractive way for a doctor to “get more business” would be by being a good doctor. But you’re implying that they would in fact be inclined to get more business in a difficult, underhand and morally repugnant way, e.g. by telling people to have operations they don’t need and getting away with it – essentially by being a bad doctor. Do you really believe that of a majority of doctors?

Uklib – I had hoped that that example would raise the point that since doctors are authority figures it will almost invariably be them that are in charge. Now would you prefer doctors out for profit controlling the encounter or doctors who have no vested interest?

Please describe a system where doctors would have no vested interest.

And finally, I’ve told you my view of “targets” already. It’s really annoying that those marketising neo-liberal policies were introduced. I wish that they hadn’t been.

Yes we both disagree with centrally set targets. But it’s odd that you still think they have anything to do with the market, other than that they were set by people who claimed they were in favour of the market.

You also betray a certain lack of belief in the essential goodness of people that is often characteristic of statists.

…which is weird, cos the more common libertoonian argument against ‘statists’ is that socialism *requires* a misplaced belief in the essential goodness of people, whereas markets harness people’s natural selfishness for everyone’s mutual benefit.

That’s covered in what UKLib said earlier, about weighing the risks of that way of doing things as opposed to this way of doing things. You’re simply bringing up a factor that should be considered if we were to move to a voucher system, not making a decisive argument.

I’m saying that healthcare shouldn’t be for profit.

You also betray a certain lack of belief in the essential goodness of people that is often characteristic of statists. The most obvious, easy and morally attractive way for a doctor to “get more business” would be by being a good doctor. But you’re implying that they would in fact be inclined to get more business in a difficult, underhand and morally repugnant way, e.g. by telling people to have operations they don’t need and getting away with it – essentially by being a bad doctor. Do you really believe that of a majority of doctors?

I’m telling you that that has happened.

Please describe a system where doctors would have no vested interest.

No financial one, to clarify.

Yes we both disagree with centrally set targets. But it’s odd that you still think they have anything to do with the market, other than that they were set by people who claimed they were in favour of the market.

Tempted as I am, I’m not going to insert an essay on neo-liberalism here.

James, IIRC you’re a contributor here.

Please do write a post on neo-liberalism. I’d love to see a definition of it that’s coherent instead of some outdated bogeyman figure that is nothing except something to rail against.

Please describe a system where doctors would have no vested interest.

No financial one, to clarify.

Right. So can you describe a system where their interests are aligned with the interests of the patient?

“I’m telling you that that has happened.”

Then I can only repeat my question. Do you really believe that of a majority of doctors?

You observed somewhere above, I think, that the current system isn’t perfect. No, and nor would any replacement be. I repeat, I’m entirely happy with the idea that we’d need to consider anbd weigh up the possible bad outcomes from allowing, say, a choice/voucher system, and among those bad outcomes would be people who lied, or cheated, or whatever, for gain.

What I don’t understand is how you, or anyone, can assert that this version of an imperfect system is better than that version of an imperfect system for purely abstract reasons to do with the perceived moral good attaching to non-profit. Down the statist route we have targets (and I’m sorry, you can’t block them out, they are as MatGB and UKLib point out a consequence of centralist managerialism), bureaucratic nonsenses and some very bad and dangerous experiences that largely result from a lack of choice and incentives to provide quality care. On the other side we have the possibilty of profiteering which might also lead to some very bad and dangerous experiences.

Those are two sides that need to be weighed against one another, as does the range of action available to people who get the bad experiences. And only if you believe that a majority of doctors are just itching to turn into the bad guys will you automatically come down on the side of the statist system.

Also, on the circumcision story, I think it’s germane to point out that an increase in information generally leads to better decision-making. You can’t transplant stories from an era before mass communication and mass knowledge about basic healthcare was normal and doctors were demi-gods of authority into an era when everybody is their own wiki-doctor. It’s evidence to bring to bear on the weighing up, sure, but it needs to be seen in the context of its time. An interesting analogy is the MMR vaccine scare. So far as I recall, the clinical jury’s still out on which side is nearer to being “right”, but the fact remains that in that case the public questioned authority, giving as good as they’d got on the basis of the information available to them. Questioning authority on the basis of freely available information tends, on average, to be a good thing. It could probably have stopped a few unnecessary circumcisions.

John b, I’ve got mercifully little idea of what you think “libertoonians” are or how you think I relate to them, so I’ll have to leave you to it.

“So far as I recall, the clinical jury’s still out”

There you have it: FUD works, and it keeps on (and on and on) working.

James, IIRC you’re a contributor here.

Please do write a post on neo-liberalism. I’d love to see a definition of it that’s coherent instead of some outdated bogeyman figure that is nothing except something to rail against.

A guest. If I submitted anything it’d have to be approved by Sunny/Aaron. I’ll certainly do one, but once term is over. I also dislike the sloppy usage of the term, which seems to act as a cover-all for domestic policy amongst the far left in much the same way that “Neo-Conservatism” (or the good ol’ “Imperialism”) serves for foreign policy.

So far as I’m concerned the extent to which neo-liberalism is that distinguishable from the classical form is limited. Despite the functionally identical name its as much a reaction to New Liberalism as anything. Indeed, a defining feature is their disparagement towards the rest of the left, which this article deals with well:

http://lhote.blogspot.com/2009/01/neoliberalism-liberal-hawks-and-my.html

Other features include focusing upon “choice” instead of actually improving things and focusing upon individuals making decisions in policy making (thus subtly shifting the focus off of government).

And with regards to this specific issue it seems like what they attempted to do was to mimic the market’s much vaunted capacity for providing “information”, but did so in a very harmful way. I imagine that the “true” neo-liberal response to the NHS is to get rid of it but with their hands tied (as they are by the British electorate, thankfully) the best they can do is make it resemble as much as possible their one true love: markets.

But I really don’t have the time right now!

Right. So can you describe a system where their interests are aligned with the interests of the patient?

When their job is to heal the sick people that turn up at the hospital.

Alix – I did state quite clearly that I didn’t think that there’d be a revival or anything? My point was that when you make a matter like healthcare a matter of business disastrous consequences would ensue. It’s because businesses exist to make profits, rather than existing solely to resolve an issue. Public systems are just there to solve problems the citizens might encounter.

Two things:

Firstly I noticed that that description of neo-liberalism actually ignores it in its prime, that is to say under Thatcher. It might have been much the same, but it’s a matter of historical study for me rather than anything I’m aware of first hand, courtesy of my age. Writing about what I know, that’s pretty much it.

Secondly the jury is not “out” on MMR. There is no reliable evidence to state that the fears are founded. See here: http://www.badscience.net/category/mmr/ It’s one of the most shocking cases of a baseless media scare stories there has ever been.

Public systems are just there to solve problems the citizens might encounter.

No, they exist for political expediency.

Right. So can you describe a system where their interests are aligned with the interests of the patient?

When their job is to heal the sick people that turn up at the hospital.

How do you incentivise them to do that?

No, they exist for political expediency.

If you’re going to assume bad faith and start speculating then enjoy yourself, but I don’t consent to a ride.

How do you incentivise them to do that?

Same way as any other public servant: they receive a salary (or wage).

No, they exist for political expediency.

If you’re going to assume bad faith and start speculating then enjoy yourself, but I don’t consent to a ride.

Assume bad faith? Sorry, who mentioned mid-20th century American doctors performing unnecessary circumcisions and held it up as an example of why all healthcare workers in a market will fail the patient?

How do you incentivise them to do that?

Same way as any other public servant: they receive a salary (or wage).

But healthcare workers in the market will receive a wage.

James, can you make any suggestion as to how to improve the status quo?

It’s like pulling teeth.

Assume bad faith? Sorry, who mentioned mid-20th century American doctors performing unnecessary circumcisions and held it up as an example of why all healthcare workers in a market will fail the patient?

That is an example of why they’d fail the patient.

And tbh I’m not that fussed with intentions anyway, I’m no adherent to Kant. As far as I’m concerned it’s outcomes that matter. So if you want to assume its political expediency then fine. That’s not the reason I’m arguing the NHS should exist and its not the reason that it generates such popular support.

So why New Labour want it to be there is by-the-by, really…

But healthcare workers in the market will receive a wage.

Not as good pension plans, apparently.

James, can you make any suggestion as to how to improve the status quo?

It’s like pulling teeth.

Just about everyone seems to suggest scrapping the present system of targets, getting rid of superfluous “managers” and doing something about PFIs.

And regardless of whether or not that does happen what we have is a better system than your proposal since:

-A business is under an obligation to maximise profits, and agrees to as much with its shareholders. This leaves it suffering from divided loyalties.

-A nationalised healthcare system is there to cure sick people, and regardless of whether that’s because it’s “politically expedient” or because the people involved genuinely feel compassion, that division simply doesn’t exist for it.

James, I didn’t propose a business…

John b, I’ve got mercifully little idea of what you think “libertoonians” are or how you think I relate to them, so I’ll have to leave you to it.”

Self-proclaimed libertarians; anyone who uses the word ‘statist’ with a straight face.

uklib – No? Sort of the outfit that tends to operate in markets, aren’t they?

Is it prerequisite for operating in a market?

It’s what happens in the other nations devoid of an NHS.

Really, James? All of them?

Why are leftwing publications so dull? I guess because they can’t afford decent writers, and because they’re far more interested in advancing a political agenda than they are about making a profit, being commercially viable (which means providing entertaining and interesting content.)

These left wing publications feel far more like the status quo than anything coming from the right as far as I’m concerned. They represent the interests of the public, charity and not-for-profit sectors…. which is always going to be the most boring copy imaginable – only of interest to political activists, students and die-hard socialists.

Left and Right are meaningless terms. It’s the Socialist press that’s dying – I mean the very idea of a political movement based on “help this class, screw that class” is prehistoric and unenlightened for starters, and a movement that’s now far more interested in getting a share of public money for X cause or Y project than anything else actually represents the prevailing consensus and is about as radical as toast.

The real opposition to the status quo is coming from the despised libertarians. They’re the real new ‘left’, because they’re the radicals wanting real change. The left referred to in the title just want more of what we’ve got – more state control, more public money, more projects, more schemes, more rules, more regulation and so on.

The old left can’t understand that they’ve won and become the establishment. All they see are the parts of society they’ve yet to control and see that as evidence of failure. It’s sad really.

Actually Charlotte, we’ve tried libertarianism before. It’s called the 1800s and it didn’t really work out.

And I don’t know about everyone else, but personally I don’t find libertarians despicable, merely TEDIOUS. When you’ve become more predictable than the Trots (“Statism! Statism! Socialist, socialist, socialist! Market solutions! Market solutions!”) you know it’s time to start shaking things up a little.

we’ve tried libertarianism before. It’s called the 1800s and it didn’t really work out.

Ridiculous argument.

Ridiculous argument.

Historically accurate though.

The same is true of the laissez-faire politics of 1920s America which led to a rather infamous conclusion. Or will you tell us that wasn’t a failing of libertarianism?

I should also point out that Alan Greenspan, former head of Federal Reserve and well known Randian Objectivist, had this to say on the current economic crisis:

“Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder’s equity — myself especially — are in a state of shocked disbelief.”

Or this excerpt from the House of Congress’ hearings into the financial collapse:

Referring to his free-market ideology, Mr. Greenspan added: “I have found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact.”

Mr. Waxman pressed the former Fed chair to clarify his words. “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working,” Mr. Waxman said.

“Absolutely, precisely,” Mr. Greenspan replied.

Surely Libertarianism has had its time?

121. david brough

Libertarianism was always unrealistic bollocks anyway. I’ve heard libertarians try to explain how they’d react to environmental problems, or things like Baby P, and it was always toss that wouldn’t stand a chance of working in the real world. Which is why no one will ever elect a libertarian government, and that’s why libertarians despise the general public.

Fuck it off. I’m sick of trying to be nice to people who, when you try to meet them half way, will just screech about how you’re a thief and a murderer because you don’t support every article of their dogma.

Surely Libertarianism has had its time?

Economic liberalism is superior to protectionism. It is not something to be afraid of. Protectionism keeps people poor – subsidies, tariffs, rules and regulations and so on. What we have in our mixed economy is a mixture of economic liberalism and protectionism. It’s crap, I agree, but it’s not libertarianism.

Civic liberalism, the idea that individuals can do whatever they want so long as it doesn’t harm others, that they’re free to do whatever they want in their bedrooms, to say what they want, to think what they want and to live their lives as if they actually own them and are responsible for them? See, that’s good too. So long as the state acts to prevents the use of illegitimate force then no human being could actually ask for anything more.

Libertarianism in my world is just taking economic and civic liberalism and putting them together, as they should be (because individual personal freedom also includes the ability to trade and deal with other people by mutual consent, without artificially imposed barriers designed for other people’s benefit).

Really it’s just liberalism, but then I have to call it libertarianism to differentiate my beliefs from those who call themselves ‘liberal’ but are actually collectivists.

Has libertarianism had it’s day? If it has then your choice is Conservatism or Socialism. Kill me now.

And I don’t know about everyone else, but personally I don’t find libertarians despicable, merely TEDIOUS. When you’ve become more predictable than the Trots (”Statism! Statism! Socialist, socialist, socialist! Market solutions! Market solutions!”) you know it’s time to start shaking things up a little.

Dunno about this. Off the top of my head, I could name about 5 or 6 libertarian bloggers who’re both interesting & stimulating on a range of topics. Trouble is, they all happen to be American. From my passing acquaintance with British bloggertarians, there seems to be a lot of shouting, a fondness for CAPS LOCK & an unhealthy obsession with proving that V for Vendetta was actually a documentary…

And after yet another classic display of Lib Con charm and wit towards people they disagree with, I think the OP has the answer to their question.

Surely the choice isn’t between Libertarianism, Socialism and Conservatism, but a whole host of other options which all centre around a “mixed economy?”

Charlotte…

“And after yet another classic display of Lib Con charm and wit towards people they disagree with, I think the OP has the answer to their question.”

Oh, come on, people were bound to react against this little back-pat…

“The old left can’t understand that they’ve won and become the establishment. All they see are the parts of society they’ve yet to control and see that as evidence of failure. It’s sad really.”

That’s condescension and applying motives to one’s opponents. Why not just pat them on the head and give them a lollipop?

You could have mentioned that “the old left” generally opposes militarism and “anti-terrorism” legislation (and, if we’re reacting against the state n’ that, immigration restrictions) but, hey, it would have rendered your argument invalid.

The OP is still a bit of a strawman, by the way. There’s a problem with the publishing industry generally, not “the left” exclusively. See the entertaining epicicity of Standpoint‘s failure, for example.

Love n’ hugs,

Ben

That’s condescension and applying motives to one’s opponents. Why not just pat them on the head and give them a lollipop?

I’m sorry. *Pat* Have a lollipop if it’ll make you feel better?

You could have mentioned that “the old left” generally opposes militarism and “anti-terrorism” legislation (and, if we’re reacting against the state n’ that, immigration restrictions) but, hey, it would have rendered your argument invalid.

I don’t see how it invalidates my argument – sure there’s disagreements between the Brown’s Government and the “Old Left” on certain issues – Brown’s a die-hard authoritarian after all, which is why appealing to Daily Mail readers seemed like such a good strategy for him.

But really these issues are side-issues compared to the status quo of a massive welfare state and public sector that costs more than the combined total wages of all the workers in Britain.

Try doing anything about that – in fact try complaining about it, or even just expressing concern about it and you’ll see for yourself, first hand, exactly what the ‘establishment’ and status quo really is.

There’s no real democratic way to do anything about this because of the nature of our election system (appealing to swing voters that just assume the way things are must be the way things should be). Only very minor changes are tolerated and the three main parties combine to quibble over tiny amounts compared to the whole.

The establishment is where the power is, and at the moment it doesn’t feel like the power is in the hands of private citizens. That’s all I’m saying.

But really these issues are side-issues compared to the status quo of a massive welfare state and public sector that costs more than the combined total wages of all the workers in Britain.

Right…And you don’t want to return us to the 1900s by getting rid of all that stuff?

Try doing anything about that – in fact try complaining about it, or even just expressing concern about it and you’ll see for yourself, first hand, exactly what the ‘establishment’ and status quo really is.

Has it occurred to you that we might have established around these points since they’re fairly good ideas and that people like the institutions which you despise most because those are the institutions that bring them joy?

There’s no real democratic way to do anything about this because of the nature of our election system (appealing to swing voters that just assume the way things are must be the way things should be). Only very minor changes are tolerated and the three main parties combine to quibble over tiny amounts compared to the whole.

To bring libertarianism to Britain you would need very major changes, which would be unpopular with far more than just the “swing voters”. And parties proposing hugely unpopular policies struggle in politics just as much as companies with hugely unpopular products struggle in the market.

Which is why you’ve been reduced to entryism of the Liberal Democrats and why those purists who’ve made their own party will never get anywhere.

The establishment is where the power is, and at the moment it doesn’t feel like the power is in the hands of private citizens. That’s all I’m saying.

No, for the most part it’s in the hands of private companies. A question: would those organisations get more or less powerful under libertarianism?

1800s is what I meant, obviously. Mid-1800s to be precise. After the repeal of the Corn Act, before the introduction of the dreaded “Welfare State”. Surely the libertarian ideal?

Surely the libertarian ideal?

Will you drop this pathetic straw man and go do some reading?

FFS, ‘libertarian’ is a label, one that has a lot of different usages. Currently, it’ smostly’ used by minarchists and Randians, but there are many many others, including respected contributors to this site, who use it themselves on occasions.

Unless, of course, you think the likes of Noam Chomsky and John Mortimer would’ve liked to “return us to the 1800s”?

Get a fucking grip you small minded intolerant illiberal ignoramous, this constant attack using points already rebutted is beneath you.

Yes Mat, there’s nothing more illiberal and strawmanish than pointing out what life was like before the Welfare State to someone who wants to get rid of the welfare state.

(And Noam Chomsky is a man fully aware that the contemporary libertarians are capitalists who stole that word from the anarchists as surely as the enclosers stole public land from peasants. Accordingly his usage is distinct from Charlotte’s, and his desired outcome was also pretty fantastical anyway (Paris Commune minus the massive slaughter at the end, I do believe. The difficulty with that being that the massive slaughter is one of the most telling facts about it…).)

The Welfare state has its own negative consequences on society and on individuals that depend on it. Should people who absolutely cannot work be cared for? Of course. They are and always will, of that I have no doubt.

Should people who can work but who choose not to be cared for? Never.

Should people who can work and want to work but can’t get work or are just basically unemployable? Yes.

But what form that help comes in is negotiable. A thriving vibrant economy with enough jobs for everyone – which is what I want and why I support liberal economics – is a start. Getting to near 100% literacy rates? That’d help, too. But there’s no overnight fix and I entirely agree that to simply turn it all off overnight would be devastating – and probably cause riots, civil unrest and all that business. Such is the responsibility we have taken upon ourselves.

My feeling is that it would take 60 years to dismantle the welfare state as we currently know it. That’s how long it’s taken to build. The world is very different – the cost of living and the quality of life experienced even by the lowliest workers is a marvel compared with hundreds of year ago, and there’s no reason to believe that won’t continue.

But do nothing at all because it’s too difficult? That’s just not good enough for me.

“Should people who can work but who choose not to be cared for? Never. ”

What’s the alternative? A blind wish that they’ll all go “all-right then, I’ll work, I’ll work!”?

Which is the better to accept as a nation, that we may well be paying people that are just scroungers to do nothing, or that some people will be criminals in order to survive and we have to accept that and treat them appropriately?

It was said that in 2002 the cost of maintaining someone in prison is between £30k and £40k. Giving a single person housing benefit and job seekers allowance costs significantly less at £6-£10k.

I know that, begrudgingly, I’d rather leave people on benefit and instead make their life hell enough to consider going to work just to make their lives easier, than to stop all support completely and cost us more through rise in crime.

yes good points. there is a lot of room for satire – where is the satire? there’s a lot of ‘earnest goody-goody’ type articles around which will inspire no one, including those who believe in such thinking! a lot of people seem to think that the serious nature of these issues requires ‘weighty and dull’ writing. bollocks, that never got anyone anywhere.

some amusing commentary along the lines of people like the space hijackers is in order i reckon..

I know that, begrudgingly, I’d rather leave people on benefit and instead make their life hell enough to consider going to work just to make their lives easier, than to stop all support completely and cost us more through rise in crime.

Blackmail?

There’s no win in such a situation Charlotte, only differing degrees of losses. We have to accept that in a free country some people will decide to not work, and the best solution is the one that costs us the least money as a state. Cutting all ties and forcing them down the criminal path if they’re that adamant to not work doesn’t seem like the most cost-efficient way of solving the problem, nor the best social answer.

Okay. Listen to what you’re saying:

We have to accept that in a free country some people will decide to not work

True. If people are self sufficient, or have access to resources that allow them to live without working then they’re perfectly entitled not to work. No complaints there.

The problem is people who don’t want to work, but don’t actually have the means to stop working.

What you’re saying is that a minority of these people are saying, “Look, if you force me to get a job to provide for myself I won’t do it. I’ll just steal from you. So give me some money to live in or I’ll just take what I want anyway” and so we’ve created a whole layer of Government redistribution to basically pay them off…. which is blackmail. Pure and simple. The downside of giving into blackmail is surrendering power to the blackmailers and inviting further extortion demands.

It might be more cost effective, it’s nice and neat, but is it the best social answer, really? Economic crime still exists. People still get robbed, mugged and burgled. People still cheat, lie and commit fraud. What’s the answer? Give criminals more money in advance? It’s a flippin’ protection racket! What message does this actually send out to kids growing up, wondering how they’re going to make their way in the world? What message does it send out to people who choose to work?

At the end of the day the woes and misfortune experienced by someone who quits their job without unemployment insurance, without any savings and without any intention of getting a new job is the master of their own misery. Why does it become my problem just because we live in the same country? If they turn to crime that is their choice – because in my hypothetical situation there *are* jobs, they simply do not want to do them (just as during the recent boom we needed EU migrants to meet the demand for labour) – they are not being forced to do anything, other than what nature forces us all to do: take care of our basic needs. It’s not a breach of liberty. We do not have the liberty to force other people to take care of us, surely? People will either help you or not, but it’s their choice, surely?

It’s all moot for now anyway, there’s far too many unemployable people in the UK, basically incapable of looking after themselves. My fear is that they never learned how because they never had to. Like I said: This is not something you can fix in a year or even a single decade. It’s a generational thing. Multiple generations.

It might be more cost effective, it’s nice and neat, but is it the best social answer, really? Economic crime still exists. People still get robbed, mugged and burgled.

Mmmm.. but is the evidence that its those people who are being paid welfare that commit crime? If economic crime was only correlated to earnings, then there wouldn’t be middle class corporate crime and tax evasion – which goes on in far bigger scale (in terms of money being embezzled). Furthermore, isn’t it also blackmail to say: “if you impose a minimum standard of economic welfare (minimum wage) then we’ll leave your country and invest somewhere else?”

Why submit to that blackmail?

OK, I understand what you’re saying Charlotte, but are you essentially saying you would prefer they turn criminal and that we spend more money on chasing them and incarcerating them when before we wouldn’t have had to?

You’re right it’s a generational thing, and that’s why the way to stop it isn’t to just cut off the supply and expect people to learn right now.

Mmmm.. but is the evidence that its those people who are being paid welfare that commit crime?

Never said it was. People are anti-social and malevolent for all sorts of reasons. It was others that introduced the idea that welfare as crime prevention – they’ll take more and it’ll cost us more to chase after them than simply giving them the money. Take it up with Lee!

Furthermore, isn’t it also blackmail to say: “if you impose a minimum standard of economic welfare (minimum wage) then we’ll leave your country and invest somewhere else?”

Why submit to that blackmail?

Interesting, but I disagree that it’s the same thing, and do not accept that is is blackmail.

People choose to do business voluntarily, often risking their own capital and livelihood in the process. They are perfectly at liberty to operate from wherever suits, where-ever they can make a profit.

It is not the same as someone saying that they will commit crimes rather than get a job if we do not provide for their basic needs (as Lee suggests people are inclined to do). The point is that moving a business to another country is not a crime. That is the threat of force to extract money, whereas a business pointing out that they will be forced to leave the country, or an individual saying they will withdraw their skills from the British labour market and go abroad to work is not using force – it is the state changing the terms and conditions of doing business or making a living and whenever they do this people are perfectly entitled to reconsider the deal.

You can force them to stay but that’s when you’re heading into authoritarian, totalitarian territory, obviously, which I doubt many here want.

If a state creates conditions (regulatory and tax burdens) that makes it impossible for certain business to operate, then it is the state’s fault that the businesses do the sensible thing and head for more favourable climes. This works both ways, remember? The state can make conditions more favourable and attract businesses back.

While we’re on the subject though, minimum wages *do* price certain workers out of the economy. Wasn’t a problem during the boom but the unskilled are effectively banned from giving themselves any kind of competitive advantage against the legions in the same position. The minimum wage will become a much bigger issue as this recession goes on, I think.

What I want is a job (for everyone that can work), a decent standard of living for everyone, and reward to be linked to effort. Same outcomes, different methods I think.

If a state creates conditions (regulatory and tax burdens) that makes it impossible for certain business to operate, then it is the state’s fault that the businesses do the sensible thing and head for more favourable climes. This works both ways, remember? The state can make conditions more favourable and attract businesses back.

Of course, and I wouldn’t force them to do anything. But that is still blackmail – saying ‘either you drop your standards or we move’. Similarly, the argument that if you force people to pay the full tax they earn (by closing loopholes) we’ll drive out rich people is also blackmail. Its just not said in such a way because we don’t see rich, successful people as malicious generally.

I believe Lee answered your other point.

Sally – I think your point is rather unwarranted. Every political party holds together a coalition of people (even if Libdems try and pretend all Labour supporters are authoritarians).

There are no bigger welfare criminals than the bankers IMO. They have stolen their shareholders money, destroyed the businesses they were paid to run, and then been bailed out by the Govt to the tune of 100s of billions.. But they don’t get put in prison, Oh no, they Just walk away with mountains of cash, and millions in their pension pots.

And the same morons who talk of free markets and hard work just shrug and say that’ s fine.

Not this moron. I was against bank bailouts from the start. All they’ve done is postpone the inevitable and increase the losses that we all have to bear.

Don’t know what rock Charlotte Gore crawled out from underneath but thankfully most people possess a degree more open-mindness than simply saying each for himself and the devil take the hindmost.
“The quality of life experienced even by the lowliest workers is a marvel compared with hundreds of year ago.” And that is thanks to the efforts of people who took exactly the opposite approach you promote. Don’t then have the cheek to appropriate their successes.
The situation remains that people born within a few streets of each in London are likely to have very different outcomes in life simply because one is born in poverty and one in prosperity. A few streets can mean dying 20 years early. And the chance of moving between the two modes are limited.
It’s a marvel isn’t it.

So you would allow the banks to go bust, and everybody would who had money deposited, their kife savings in many cases would loose them then?

“Never said it was. People are anti-social and malevolent for all sorts of reasons. It was others that introduced the idea that welfare as crime prevention – they’ll take more and it’ll cost us more to chase after them than simply giving them the money. Take it up with Lee!”

I’m just hypothesising that if you stop benefits for people that “don’t want to work”, however you truly define that given the hoops people already have to go through, that a proportion will likely turn to crime or further methods of fraud. The cost of that is greater than simply keeping them jumping through hoops, so why change it?

Those that are already criminal aren’t part of my discussion, they are a burden regardless of which way you try and tackle it.

147. douglas clark

Charlotte Gore.

Would you be, perchance, this Charlotte Gore?

http://www.charlottegore.com/

Check the links Doug, of course it is 😛

“Would you be, perchance, this Charlotte Gore?”

Oh dear, another fake libertarian. So many of them about these days.

I am not sure how you can be a Liberal Dem.

Last time I looked , the Lib Dems support…… The National Health service, State funded education, unemployment benefit, state pensions, etc etc etc.

“If a state creates conditions (regulatory and tax burdens) that makes it impossible for certain business to operate, then it is the state’s fault that the businesses do the sensible thing and head for more favourable climes. This works both ways, remember? The state can make conditions more favourable and attract businesses back.”

Yes, but will the managers and owners move with the business. If they want to move to China, fine , but they should sell their large houses in Surrey , take their children out of private schools and go with them. Other wise it smacks of hypocrisy. They want to stay living in a democracy , but prefer their workers to have no say.

“Sally – I think your point is rather unwarranted. Every political party holds together a coalition of people (even if Libdems try and pretend all Labour supporters are authoritarians).”

Sunny,
you are right that a political party has to be a coalition of different people. But there are limits. Of course you won’t agree with everything your party does. However, The Lib Dems support State funded health care, education, pensions, welfare etc etc.

To claim that you are a libertarian Lib Dem means you fundamentally disagree with almost everything your party supports. That is just ridiculous.

To claim that you are a libertarian Lib Dem means you fundamentally disagree with almost everything your party supports. That is just ridiculous.

No.

To be the strawman libertarian that you think of whenever you mention the word perhaps would be, but given that what you think of as a libertarian and what actually is proposed by libertarians within the Lib Dems are completely different, it’s you that’s being ridiculous.

Did you bother to read any of the stuff I linked you to last time we had this discussion, or are you simply going to regurgitate talking points without actually listening to what anyone else is saying?

Charlotte? Until Sally demonstrates an ability to read replies or explanations, ignore her, as we’ve had this conversation with her too many times before and she still repeats the same fallacies and half truths.

“Did you bother to read any of the stuff I linked you to last time we had this discussion”

No , I didn’t bother to read any of the stuff you put up because it is all pretend libertarianism, Just like most of you Lib Dem Libertarians.

Your position is ludicrous. As for straw men you would know far more about that than me.

“Until Sally demonstrates an ability to read replies or explanations, ignore her, as we’ve had this conversation with her too many times before and she still repeats the same fallacies and half truths.”

Have you bothered to read your parties manifesto of the last 20 years? Because it ain’t libertarian that’s for sure. Me thinks you should start reading your parties own policies before you lecture other people on what they should read.

Sally,

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that we’re both libertarians and are so committed to our beliefs that we write about them every day despite the scorn and ridicule heaped upon us from Labourites, Tories and lots of people in-between. Let’s also imagine that we’re civic-minded enough to join a political party, but would rather advocate for a more libertarian approach in one of the major parties than stick with a group which has greater ‘purity’ (LPUK, for example) but, thanks to FPTP, has zero chance of ever having representation in Parliament. Which party do you pick:

a) Labour?
b) Conservatives?
c) Liberal Democrats?

As an imaginary libertarian, I’d go for the Lib Dems, and it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that there are many others besides Charlotte who do the same.

Also, I think there’s something to be said for a party which has a Charlotte Gore AND a Charles Kennedy. If nothing else, I bet it’s a lot more fun at conferences.

Look , I have nothing against the Lib Dems. In fact, I quite like some of their positions over the years. But Libertarian they are not. And that is good as far as I am concerned because I don’t agree with libertarians or believe in libertarianism, and I think most so called libertarians are fake.

If you really are a libertarian, the nearest thing to it is the Conservative party. Certainly regards economic libertarianism. But again, they are not real libertarian, because no such thing exists in my view. Apart from a few nuts who live in huts in the middle of Alaska.

“If you really are a libertarian, the nearest thing to it is the Conservative party. Certainly regards economic libertarianism”

Perhaps, but it’s also true that the economic argument is only part of a much broader whole. There’s also the issue of the liberty of the individual citizen and the extent to which the state can or should constrain a citizen’s liberty. On that score, the Lib Dems are certainly more in tune with libertarian thinking than Labour or the Conservatives, both of whom have practiced a fondness for the restriction of personal liberty. So without dipping too far into a political philosophy I’m not an expert on, I don’t think a libertarian would be as out of place in the LDs as they would in Labour or the Tories.

The discussion about left wing magazines was very interesting…. Once upon a time the New Statesman was able to launch Charter 88 🙂

158. douglas clark

No,

If you want to be a libertarian, there is a party especially for you:

http://lpuk.org/

Thanks Matt. I think this love bombing of Liberal Conspiracy went very well, don’t you? 😀

To be the strawman libertarian that you think of whenever you mention the word perhaps would be, but given that what you think of as a libertarian and what actually is proposed by libertarians within the Lib Dems are completely different, it’s you that’s being ridiculous.

I’m with Neil on this, although I’m not sure about the social libertarianism side of things, especially as they were split across the middle on the HFE Bill, and I’m interested why that debate was never had in the open about why so many Libdems opposed the woman’s choice to abortion at 24 weeks.

However, that aside, I’m interested in where Charlotte stands on many of the issues Sally means, for curiosity’s sake.

What do you mean Sunny? On the fact that I basically disagree with my own party on a lot of stuff?

It’s true. I don’t even pretend anything else. I feel very strongly that the Liberal Democrats should be a liberal party, a party of personal and economic liberalism even if that’s out of fashion these days. If I, and others like me, abandon the Lib Dems altogether to the social democrats, then liberalism will be snuffed out of mainstream politics in the UK forever.

Whatever certain people might think about this sort of futile idealism is really a matter for them.

Douglas you are aware of the concept of “divide and conquer” aren’t you?

Oh Douglas do please get a grip. For a start, they’re a particular type of libertarian, and second, this is the UK, we use FPTP.

A party without enough supporters to get the signatures to nominate a candidate isn’t a good option. FPTP requires broad church parties. Libertarianism is essentially an extreme form of traditional liberalism, indeed many consider that it’s more liberal than a lot of self-styled liberals. By the traditional British meaning of the word, a lot of contributors to this site aren’t liberal, but pretty much every libertarian I’ve ever encountered is. Given of course the very broad definition of liberalism that you need in order for the word to be meaningful.

Besides which, as she’s made very clear both up thread and in many posts on her blog, Charlotte isn’t the type of headbanging loon that you think of when you read the term Libertarian. Indeed, most of LPUK isn’t that bad (although some of them more than make up for the sane ones in the loony quotient).

When Life of Brian mocked the splitters, they were making a sound point. A liberal/libertarian socialist like me fits in acceptably within the broad church of the Lib Dems—indeed on many points I’m more likely to agree with Charlotte than I am with my more Social Democratically inclined colleagues.

But I’d rather a Social Democrat or a libertarian Lib Dem as my councillor, or even MP, than most of the modern Tory party, and these days what’s left of the rump Labour party, especially in the area I live, governed as it is by a Red/Blue group set up specifically to keep the only viable opposition out of office.

Is Libertarianism an extreme form of Liberalism? Well, it’s certainly an extreme form of one particular variety of Liberalism, namely Lockean contractarianism. As such, it is even more vulnerable to all the usual crtiques of Lockean contractarianism than Locke himself. It also has a very questionable construction of “freedom”, centering (when you chip right down to it) on property rights rather than any other understanding of freedom. (One can attempt a justification of this within a Lockean framework, but it’s pretty badly flawed.)

Nonetheless, however unsatisfactory Libertarian political philosophy might be, the Libertarian political critique can be a useful thing. We do need to watch out for what assumptions we make about the value, necessity and justice of state action, and Libertarians can be counted on for that.

Politically, the Liberal Democrats seem to be the natural home of Libertarians in the current party political structure in the UK. It’s a coalition in which their point of view can find a voice and at least some of their ideas be seriously considered for incorporation into a broader canvas. That’s never going to happen in Labour, and the Conservatives can be counted on to adopt Libertarian language precisely as far as it assists them in defending the privileges of the powerful.

I actually think it’s more beneficial for people like Charlotte to be in the Lib Dem’s. She’s an intelligent person with strong views, and as such can provide (along with others like her) a great balance to the liberal argument in the Lib Dem’s. It may not be exactly what she wants, but without the broad base of all liberalisms in the Lib Dem’s it’s hard to reach an end set of policies that everyone who calls themselves liberal can at least get along with even if not completely agree with.

it’s a shame that Sally has managed to turn this in to a libertarian/liberalism argument again which I’m sure is purely her way of taking heat off of Labour and the socialists as per usual, as is usually the case I think Charlotte actually has the ability to put her points across with a more than a semblance of intelligence that those going around shouting “The right are stupid because…” and “Oh look, Tory Troll” could well do with trying to muster.

If I, and others like me, abandon the Lib Dems altogether to the social democrats, then liberalism will be snuffed out of mainstream politics in the UK forever.

Mmmm… you mean libertarianism might be snuffed out, which is different to liberalism as you well know. Of course, and I’m all for the pragmatic and long term approach. Though, you might want to afford the same thought process to people more close to other parties too, and not assume that everyone who is on the left support New Labour policies, or even that anyone who is member of Labour agrees with govt policy. We’re all more pragmatic than we let on.
I’m honestly not passing judgement – just was curious about where you stood on various Libdem issues. I have nothing at all against broad coalitions or pragmatic politics, I sing its praises all the time.

Iain C – good food for thought. It also has a very questionable construction of “freedom”, centering (when you chip right down to it) on property rights rather than any other understanding of freedom

My thoughts exactly.

Jewish Socialist is a pretty good read…and yes Morning Star has some good stuff and gives diverse voices on the left space (although as I write for them I am biased) ..LRB is pretty essential.

The Guardian is not impressing me, at present, with Rory Carroll’s pro-US coverage of Latin America.

There are at least three reasons they tend to be dull ( i had to stop at three to avoid the Spanish Inquisition problem).

First because they’re terrified of being seen as ‘loony left’ but don’t want any right-wing or centrist content either so they end up publishing a fairly narrow range of views and not much that’s controversial.

Second because some – like Tribune – are linked to the Labour party (or the Tribune group of MPs and the Campaign Group in it) so spend too much time discussing how Labour can win elections or avoid losing them. The Guardian does the same but

Third because they’re always running on a shoestring budget from donations, subscribers and sometimes wealthy backers so they’re scared of taking risks.

Having said that Red Pepper, Tribune and the New Statesman all sometimes have good informative articles in them and interesting letters that make them worth reading.

meant to say the Guardian does the same but it has a much wider range of views in its comment columns

As a left leaning chap couldnt agree more. I buy the Times simply because The Guardian is do dull.

Quite like the Observer on a sunday.

The reason is that liberals have control of all things leftie in the media, and well middle class liberals are generally dull. There is no logical reason why a left leaning publication couldnt be humourous and have a sense of fun. A bit more Rob Newman and a bit left Robert Newman perhaps.

Left wing publications are dull because Liberals are stupid.
They can’t take much more into their tiny brains than slogans like change, hope or The One.
The proof of this is the fact that Obama got elected with no platform whatsoever.

Left wing publications are dull because Liberals are stupid.

Yeah, socialism is the way.

173. orlando Lujan Martinez IWA

When people have money in their pockets they have little interrest in left wing pubilcations. They don’t care if they are dull or not.


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  1. links for 2009-01-22 | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC

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