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.
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