Rocco: Ed Miliband isn’t confused, his critics are confused. I was never confused!

This past fortnight I’ve been thinking about Ed Miliband. Thinking about his soulful eyes, smooth voice (his accent! OMG! So hot!), great body, and stylish cardigan. I’ve been thinking about his hand on my waist, and his fingers in my hair as he kisses me. Hang on, not Ed Miliband. Thierry Henri, that’s who I mean. Ooh, Thierry…

Just kidding, I’m totally ‘ro, bro! But here’s something to think about: When a chap doesn’t like gays this is sometimes taken as evidence that he secretly likes gays very much indeed. But no one makes the parallel argument about racists: no one says that racist beliefs are cover for a profound desire for some interracial lovemaking. Very strange. I am unsure whether this lacuna is a sign of racism or homophobia or both. Hopefully the government will launch an expensive inquiry into this, preferably one that drags on for several years.

Anyway, to business. When Labour leader Ed Miliband unveiled his cruel, cruel plans to limit the amount of “benefits” paid to “youngsters”, he got some stick in the papers. Isn’t he meant to be “Red Ed”? What, is he “Blue Ed” now or something? Does he even know who he is anymore?

Well, consider this. A few days before Miliband’s metamorphosis, David Cameron was going on about his commitment to promoting British Values. This was also something of a volte face – albeit perhaps not one as dramatic as Ed’s. Cameron is thought of as being a bit of a lefty, and certainly not a ‘real conservative’ by, er, real conservatives. What’s going on?

Democratic politics, that’s what. As Schumpeter says, politicians engage in a competition for votes, and the way to win is by giving voters what they want. And what voters want – according to pollsters – is for the government to spend less on unemployed youth, and more on promoting British values.

Do you know what else British voters like? The NHS. According to a new YouGov poll 74% of respondents think it’s one of the best healthcare systems in the world (52% say it’s among the best, 22% say it’s the very best). Which is to say, it’s simply no good moaning about ‘lefty politicians’ who won’t seriously criticise the NHS. Of course they won’t – it’s electoral suicide!

Fortunately (for liberals) there’s more of a ‘general trend’ than a simple one-to-one correlation between what a majority of voters want and what politicians offer them, because this is just the tip of the iceberg: a majority would like the State to tax income over one million pounds at 75%; incomes of £100,000 to be taxed at 50%; a “living wage” to be brought in; energy companies nationalised; railways re-nationalised; Royal Mail re-nationalised; schools to be controlled by local councils; newspapers to be regulated far more heavily, and restrictions on who can own them; a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on financial transactions. And this is just the stuff pollsters can be bothered to ask about.

As to why there can be a difference between the public’s desires (insofar as these can be discovered) and the policies offered by political parties on given issues, interest groups almost certainly play the largest role. But I suspect that politicians themselves might rein in some of the more obviously economically illiterate demands. After all, the praise that accompanies the implementing of a disastrous policy is quickly drowned out by the insults and abuse after it produces its predictable results. (On a related note.)

Maybe this can shed some light on a familiar topic. Libertarians, especially the more hardcore, are often criticised for being “impractical”. That is, we recommend things that don’t appeal to politicians. But, as should now be obvious, our task isn’t to convince politicians to be liberal – by the time a man becomes a politician, it’s already too late – it’s to convince the public to reject politicians, and, in fact, to reject politics tout court. Which, I think you’ll agree, is much, much easier.

Links to all my posts for Bogpaper and Libertarian Home can be found on google plus: Rocco Bogpaper

  • https://twitter.com/whynotpolonium polonium210

    Hard to see how we could ever convince the general population to reject politics though. You’re asking people to stop granting themselves gifts out of everyone else’s toybox. If more people understood sound economics then we might have a chance, but without that understanding, you haven’t a hope.

    I’m not sure what kind of event could shift the thinking of the public away from this kind of popular collectivist nonsense but it would represent a radical step-change in opinion, and would be nothing short of a miracle, or a catastrophe depending on your point of view.

    • AeronPage

      Exactly, ATM I feel like “Head, meet wall” when trying to explain anything to these peoples.

      • https://twitter.com/whynotpolonium polonium210

        I was chit-chatting with someone at lunch the other day and we got onto the subject of minimum wage and I was pleasantly surprised when I said it increases unemployment and they agreed right off the bat.

        So it’s not all doom and gloom I guess

        • AeronPage

          On the other hand, I had a girl tell me how her parents would NEVER have become accountants without state grants, they would have stayed as poor farmhands in a libertarian world apparently.

    • Rocco @Bogpaper

      I think we have to accept that we’re playing a very long game, and for a long time to come we’ll have little to cheer about. But, to paraphrase Rothbard, short term pessimism (and long term optimism) keeps us from losing sight of our goal. And if we lose sight of our goal we’ll never reach it.

      • https://twitter.com/whynotpolonium polonium210

        I can still fantasize about a libertarian moonbase though, right?

        CLASSIC LIBERALS IIIIIIIIIIINN SPAAAAACCCEEE

        • Rocco @Bogpaper

          In space no one can hear you scream about the evils of government.

        • AeronPage

          Who will build the flight paths?

          • Rocco @Bogpaper

            XDDDDDD

  • DanV

    Personally, I think the key is to steer clear of too many economic arguments, and go for the jugular of morality. As someone fairly new to libertarian thinking, it was definitely the understanding that leftism/statism is basically a big scam to parasitise other people’s productive effort and that I was unwilling to support a system that encourages people to become parasites of each other that got my libertarian juices flowing.

    • https://twitter.com/whynotpolonium polonium210

      Morality is too subjective and you’re fighting on the enemy’s ground. The ever shifting sands of left-liberal newsspeak also put you at risk of them just redefining some word to wrongfoot you half way through an argument.

      Sticking to economics is what is sound abd irrefutable. The lefties hate it because they can’t best it.

      • Rocco @Bogpaper

        I think it’s more of a “horses for courses” thing. Some people respond better to moral, some to economic arguments; some are receptive to both. Yes, moral language can be abused, but economics can be, too (I’m told that Piketty has us laissez faire types “trembling”!) Fortunately both the moral and economic arguments are on our side, so we shouldn’t give up on what is, historically, a very fruitful approach.

      • Rocco @Bogpaper

        If you’re interested I’ve written about the link between economics and morality, and their role in a voluntary society, here: http://libertarianhome.co.uk/2014/05/morals-and-markets/

      • DanV

        I take your point, but personally I think that one of the main reasons that libertarian thought is still a relative minority pursuit is precisely the fact that while every human being on earth responds to moral narratives, the number of people who ‘get’ economic arguments is relatively low. As long as statists are allowed to maintain the myth that they are an altruistic elite and the only thing standing between the vulnerable workers and exploitation by evil capitalist monsters, they will always have a far greater hold over hearts and minds.

        • DanV

          And I know that as libertarians the last thing we want is a hold over anyone’s heart or mind, but that does mean that we are kind of left fighting with one hand behind our backs.