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Liberals are the problem
2012
unknownj
I've had it pointed out to me more than once that my politics are a bit.. "extreme"..? I dunno, I don't care for that word - I'm always open to debate on it, and can back up any ideologies I might support with logical, considered arguments. With those attributes in mind, I don't find "extreme" to be a helpful word since it also describes people with the exact opposite attributes. If anything, I would go for the word "radical", since it has a slightly more appealing history in politics.

Either way, the criticism is that I appear to adopt positions that sit well outside of the "moderate" set of ideologies. However, it hasn't always been that way. I drifted towards being a moderate in the period between leaving university and my later radicalisation by the election of a Tory government (sic). The following graphic shows my positions at different times using the Political Compass as a handy way of recording such things:



What's clear is that I started off towards the anarchist corner, drifted towards being centrist, and then swung right back to the anarchist corner again. Fortunately (for me), the amount of time I spend dwelling on political ideas means I can pinpoint exactly where that drift happened, and the point at which I realised that I had been absolutely wrong. Liberals, moderates, whatever you fancy calling them - I'm sure their hearts are in the right place, but if they think their approach will ever lead to left wing progress, they're wrong.

Liberals are basically good for signing petitions, and not a lot else.

What I've noticed in a lot of liberals, and what I felt myself for a time, is that somehow perhaps the machinery of capitalism and neoliberalism can be use to deliver progressive, humanitarian outcomes.

Nick Clegg recently said
"competition is the means to a better NHS, not the ends"
And I think for me, that says it all. He imagines that the forces that routinely create societal inequality can be harnessed for good. It's a sad delusion, which I held for a few years, and which he has seemingly made a career out of holding. What will of course happen is that competition will do what competition does - serve markets, serve itself, and do nothing to help people.

I mean, look at the railways. There's meant to be some form of competition there, right? So, say I want to travel from Guildford to London.. Competition means that I can choose between taking the direct route with Southwest Trains (33 minutes), or else with First Great Western (88 minutes - more than twice as long) or else with FGW and Southern (97 minutes - almost three times as long). Is that competition in any practical sense?

"Ah!" say the neoliberals, "that's not how it's meant to work!" Rather, they would argue that the competition element comes when companies bid for the franchises to run the railway lines, at which point they can compete on price and on the services they propose to offer. So we get the best companies, right? Wrong - what we get are the companies who have the best short term policies, with no regard to the long term. What incentive is there to invest in the infrastructure of the line if in ten years, before the investment has paid for itself, the franchise is then awarded to another company? So that doesn't really work either. This is why we're currently overwhelmed with mediocrity in our rail network.

And this is why liberalism needs to be combated at every possible opportunity. It's a mechanism by which good intentions think they can tame a bad system, and in doing so only lend legitimacy to that system, without improving it one iota.

If you think you can tame the system, the system will instead tame you. The Liberal Democrats are an obvious example of this, but there are plenty of others. Do not aspire to tame the system, aspire to smash it. It'll try to smash you back, but better that than be turned into a liberal...

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What will of course happen is that competition will do what competition does - serve markets, serve itself, and do nothing to help people.

Leaving the NHS thing aside (since I'm not on board with that crap), this statement isn't true. A lot of what you talk about seems to bash capitalism, when the competitive nature of, you know, humans, is precisely what drives companies to deliver better products and services.

Of course free market competition helps people - if nobody was competitive, and wanted to gain an advantage, no inventions would have been capitalised on, ever, and we'd still barely be out of the trees.

You fundamentally don't understand how humans have evolved if you think that a society based on everyone being equal has a hope of working - people will always want to get ahead.

A lot of what you talk about seems to bash capitalism, when the competitive nature of, you know, humans, is precisely what drives companies to deliver better products and services.

Perhaps in the short term, but that often doesn't translate to long term social good, especially in the case of essential services. Competition drives towards very specific goals that are money orientated, so it only creates better products and services when doing so is not only financially viable, but represents the best opportunity to generate a return.

If degrading the quality of products generated greater returns for shareholders (as we find in the electronics industry where each generation of gizmos lasts for less time than the last), then that's what happens. If having your consumer electronics manufactured in China by people kept in awful conditions, using minerals taken from the DR Congo where they're extracted amid a brutal civil war, gets you a better return, then you do it.

And this is what I mean about liberals. Liberals tend to believe that even though markets serve themselves before serving people, they imagine that by constructing the right set of harnesses and levers, they can somehow use them to do good. Realising that this invariably tends not to be the case is the point at which liberalism in this form stops being an attractive option.

no inventions would have been capitalised on, ever, and we'd still barely be out of the trees.

I agree. But at what human cost along the way? You can take all the industrial good that the slave trade might have done, the economic power it created, and argue that without it, we would be worse off now. And we might be. But would you not rather we had grown more slowly, in a more morally acceptable way?

The history of human progress is full of tales of exploitation in the name of advancement, of people being used and mistreated in order to bring about economic growth. At some point, can we not take our feet off the gas pedal, say "we're pretty happy with where we've got to, let's not maniacally chase economic growth as if it's the be all and end all, and instead enjoy the quality of life we've achieved and spend our efforts and our economic surplus on bringing that quality of life to others"?

Individuals will always want to get ahead, that's obvious. That's why the system itself needs to be reconfigured such that it's not possible for those with drive and motivation to end up exploiting and subjugating others. We already have a legal framework that prevents that sort of behaviour when it arises from physical strength, whilst seemingly embracing it when it arises from economic power.

And that's even before we tackle the fact a great number of those that wield economic power now do not possess it through any effort of their own, but rather were born into it. How does the motivating power of wealth really work when the circumstances of your birth are an easier way of accruing it than hard work? Consider the single mother who works every hour she can to make ends meet so her children can have food and clothes. Then consider yourself, or me. How hard to we really work compared to that, and enjoy a comfortable life?

The system is wrong. That's all there is to it :o)

But would you not rather we had grown more slowly, in a more morally acceptable way?

No, because if you apply that policy to the entirety of human history we'd still be fresh out of the trees, and I'm really quite a fan of my roof and central heating. As nice as it might be, if you apply such stringent controls (and I don't argue that there shouldn't be controls), you don't get the advancement required.

At some point, can we not take our feet off the gas pedal, say "we're pretty happy with where we've got to, let's not maniacally chase economic growth

But we can't stay still - without advancement we won't be able to beat the huge challenges that are facing us as a species (overpopulation, climate change). What will drive people to invest in schemes like nuclear fusion? Anticipated profits. Profits they are taxed on to pay for the rather excellent welfare state, amongst other things we take for granted.

What you're talking about is the utopian future, the Star Trek future where people don't *need* money because everything you want can be created out of thin air for free. Should we aspire to get there? Of course, that'd be amazing, I'd love it if everyone could live happily and sustainably without any suffering. Until we do, though, we'll have to just accept that 'bad things' will happen, and people will, on occasion, get exploited. Should there be restraints on this? Yes, minimising the damage done for furthering ourselves would be nice, but not to the point where you actually constrain growth and development.

That's it. Breathe in the realism. Deep breaths.

Your first paragraph basically says it all. You're happy to have a comfortable life at the expense of others. As such, you and I are coming at politics from very different angles.

overpopulation, climate change

Overpopulation is hugely driven by poverty, climate change by unsustainable industrial practices largely arising from a thirst for economic growth. A fairer and more equitable world resolves a great deal of that. Show me a social ill, and I'll show you how the human instinct to compete is a massive contributor to it in one way or another.

You seem worryingly comfortable with the idea that people who aren't you will inevitably be exploited in order that you can maintain your current quality of life, and in order to deliver progress (which will of course first be felt in the first world, by you). As I mentioned in the start, you and I are coming at this from incredibly different angles.

Your *only* angle appears to be 'progress is bad, we should never have left the jungle'.

Of course the human instinct to compete has created injustice and hurt, but look at all the amazing things it's done. I won't list them, just look around you.

Your angle appears to be "progress has been good for me, so who fucking cares?", which isn't any better :o)

And "just looking around me" shows me that yes, the first world has done very well out of this. Before we do any better, I'd quite like to share that with the rest of the world. Y'know, like the people who made it all possible..?

True fact: I went to a screening of all the episodes, plus new material, followed by a Q&A with the guys who made the show, hosted by Jonathan Ross.

I mean, it's no Red Dwarf X, but still.. be jealous :oP

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