Until recently I thought that the Right had won the economic battle decisively, but were gradually losing the cultural war. Now I am not so optimistic. Conservative economics suffered a set-back at the last election and now Conservatives are actually helping the Left to still more decisively destroy Conservative values.
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher won the Cold War by bankrupting the Soviet Union and by showing that Right-wing economics bring with it peace and prosperity. They therefore won both at home and abroad. The Left had generally supported the Soviet Union or at the very least sympathised with Soviet aims and ideals. But the fall of the Berlin Wall and the sight of masses of Eastern Europeans voting with their feet made the Left look silly. After decades of admiration of the Potemkin village in which lived the Soviet Union the Left was forced to reassess socialism and reflect on the fact that it simply didn’t work. It became clear to all but the thoughtless that wherever socialism is tried it leads to poverty and tyranny. For this reason the Left refocussed it efforts. On the economic front it would strive to modify capitalism and make it fairer and more equal without trying to overthrow it. The Left decided that it could work with the free market and improve it. This is the essence of Blairism and other forms of social democracy present from time to time in places like Scandinavia.
Social democracy can work well enough. There is a balance between government spending on things that make society more pleasant (free healthcare, various benefits) and allowing markets to be free and citizens to be taxed at as low a rate as possible. Very high taxes and excessive government spending will interfere with the free market to such an extent as to inhibit economic growth. But very low government spending and tiny rates of tax may lead to a society that is not very pleasant to live in.
The debate between British Conservatives and social democrats is however essentially sterile. The difference is minimal and amounts to a few percentage points on tax and a slightly different emphasis on public spending. All mainstream UK political parties are really social democrats of one form or another including the Conservatives. There isn’t a party that favours laissez faire free market economics and which wishes to seriously limit the size of the state.
Oddly however despite winning the ideological battle in the 1980s Margaret Thatcher was hated by those who essentially agreed with her. Perhaps it is for this reason that they hated her, because they were forced to agree. The difference between the mildly social democratic SNP and the Conservative Party is really trivial apart from their views on Scottish independence. Both parties are in favour of free market capitalism. The SNP is even in favour of lowering business taxes like the Republic of Ireland. The SNP wants to increase public spending, but then so do the Conservatives. Both favour reducing the deficit. They only differ on the timescale. The SNP accepts that an independent Scotland would have to try to balance its books and live within its means. But this is exactly what the Conservatives think with regard to the UK. The ideological difference between the SNP, the Conservatives and indeed Blairite Labour turns out to be practically speaking tiny. Why then is there so much hatred? Why hate Margaret Thatcher and think of her as the Wicked Witch of the West when fundamentally you agree with her about everything except details?
Jeremy Corbyn has brought ideological difference back into British politics. Since the end of the Soviet Union the Left everywhere has accepted that the economic battle was lost. The task was to modify the free market as much as possible so as spend as much of the proceeds of growth as you could. Meanwhile the Left put all its energies into the cultural battle, which can perhaps best be described as the attempt to correct people culturally by means of shame. It is a variant on the Victorian method of twitching the lace curtains. Don’t you dare show an ankle. Don’t you dare say the word “postman” or sin in any other way against the morality of the Twitter mob. The social pressure to conform today is the same as it was all those hundreds years ago when the sinner might be forced to wear a scarlet letter. It’s a different form of conformism, but the punishment. The letter is no longer scarlet, rather it is all the colours of the rainbow.
The difference between Corbyn and Blair is that Corbyn is a conviction politician. He is this in exactly the same way that Nicola Sturgeon is a conviction politician. What Corbyn believes he has more or less always believed. Likewise Sturgeon has been a Scottish nationalist since she was a teenager and will always be one. The answer for her to every question is Scottish independence. Even if she knew that Scottish independence would make Scots poorer economically she would still think it would be worth it. The same goes for Mr Corbyn. Even if he knew that socialism would make Britain poorer overall, he still would want it because it would make Britain fairer and more equal. It is for this reason that he prefers the Venezuelan model of government to the United States model of government. The average standard of living in Venezuela may be massively lower than in the United States, but at least they are all equally poor and poor equally.
Corbyn’s long term aim is not to work with the free market but rather to come up with a different model of economics altogether. He wishes to increase the size of the state, put more and more private business activity under state control, and more and more regulate how the market works. But at a certain point the market really ceases to be free when you do all of these things. Again it is a sliding scale, but as public ownership increases the market becomes less and less free reaching an ultimate point where the state owns everything and there is no private property at all. This is the aim of socialism. Imagine no possessions. You don’t have to imagine if you vote for Mr Corbyn’s Labour.
We already know that if Labour came to power and tried to introduce socialism it would be an economic disaster. The reason we know this is experience. Labour people may suggest that the experiment wouldn’t go that far. Corbyn’s Labour would not seek to overthrow the free market but modify it a bit more than Blair’s Labour. But we know that New Labour ended up with a note telling the next Government that there was no more money. Do we really want a method of running the British economy to go that does to us what the last Labour Government did only still more so? But this anyway is to misunderstand that about Mr Corbyn’s convictions. He’s not playing at being a socialist like most Labour people. Corbyn is not a hypocrite. He’s a true believer.
Conservatives cannot expect permanent Government. It is not a good thing either that one party remains in power forever. But then unless Corbyn’s Labour goes down the full socialist route of abolishing elections, we can expect the public to learn from its experience of voting socialism into power. It is unpleasant to suppose that we must endure a few years of Labour wrecking the economy, but this no doubt is the price of living in a democracy.
It is crucial however that Conservatives learn one thing from Mr Corbyn and indeed from Ms. Sturgeon. Conviction politics works. People like politicians who have beliefs and stick to them. Conservatives therefore should stick up for Conservative values.
The core Conservative economic value is free market capitalism. If you lower taxes, public spending and reduce the size of the state you will get economic growth. This should therefore be the aim of the Conservatives within the limits of maintaining a pleasant country. Conservatives should aim to balance the budget and spend less than we earn. We have failed in this task since coming to power in 2010. No wonder we have been punished by voters. If we were now running a surplus rather than a deficit, if we were gradually paying back the national debt rather than inflating it away, we could have argued against Mr Corbyn that Conservatism stands for living within your means and sound money. Instead we could not do this. No wonder some voters preferred his voodoo economics to ours.
Conservatives accept human nature to be what it is and do not seek to reform it by means of re-education. The Left realising that socialism had failed set out to rectify this failure by changing how people think. The key task culturally for the Left was to put equality at the heart of everything. It starts out trivially by suggesting that we shouldn’t use common words like “postman”. Why is this? It is because of equality. A postman after all might not be a man. This may seem harmless, but changing the words we may use has the aim of changing what we are capable of thinking. It’s not about postmen and that’s just the start anyway. The midpoint is when you tear down a statue of one of the greatest generals in American history. It could equally well be statesman or a writer who said or did anything to offend against a set of values that had yet to be invented. We must, after all, punish the past for being a part of history rather than the present. But this has nothing to do with statues, nothing even to do with history. It’s about here and it’s about now. The endpoint is when you rename Washington, D.C. after whichever prophet (Bernie, Barack, Billary, Benedict) takes you to the promised land of social justice. A new land is then founded and the old founding fathers disgraced and forgotten, their values discredited as much as their country. This happens when social pressure achieves the task of making us believe that 2 + 2 = 5 and that opposites are the same and equal. When contradictions are mediated, at this point socialism becomes possible.
Socialism failed because human nature is unequal and wishes to be unequal. The free market leads to growth that makes everyone’s life better, but the price that must be paid for this is inequality of outcome. The Left, realising that it had lost the economic argument, sought to be win it by means of changing human nature by changing how we speak and how we think. If enough human beings in the world could be made to think exclusively in terms of equality, if their speech could be changed and the way they think re-educated then the goal of socialism might turn out to be in reach after all.
The Left’s has focussed relentlessly on this battle and in the name of equality has sought to erase all distinctions between men and women and people from different countries and places. We must not discriminate between that which is different, we may not even see that there is difference. All difference must be annulled in the name of equality. To maintain that there is a real difference is to risk opprobrium on Twitter and the loss of employment at Google.
As a simple matter of logic it is obvious that a man cannot change into a woman (i.e. man ≠ woman). It is likewise self-evident that some things require difference and need their opposite as a basic matter of meaning. Husband is to wife as knife is to fork. To attempt to eat with two knives is simply to misunderstand the word “knife” and its purpose. Trying to overcome the essential inequality of knives and forks is to fail to understand what it is to eat. This is very simple logic indeed, but then 2 + 2 = 4 is very simple arithmetic. It takes decades to make us believe that which is contrary to logic and ordinary thought, but then the Left has had rather a lot of time and is encouraged because it is winning. Many if not most people in the West believe that opposites are equal and that 2 + 2 = 5. They are scared to believe anything else.
Conservatives above all must not respond to the success of the Left by agreeing with it. This just helps the Left to win its battle. It may seem that it matters not at all to allow someone to change gender simply by filling in a form. Let’s give them that so we can grab a few Labour voters. It may seem that erasing the distinction between my fellow citizen and someone from abroad is a harmless way to show yourself to be liberal and progressive. We’ll win a few more Labour voters that way. But it is to put equality at the heart of your politics and it is to concede the very battle that we need to win in order that there is such a thing as Conservatism in the future.
The Left depends on the idea that there is no distinction between people. But human nature throughout history has been making the distinction between my family and strangers, my country and foreigners, my success and my property earned by my efforts, versus yours. The Left wants to change human nature. Unfortunately it is succeeding. What’s more if the Left wins the cultural battle, it wins everything. Victory in the economic battle follows as a matter of course. The long road back from the fall of the Berlin Wall will have been achieved by culturally putting equality at the heart of everything, which naturally will mean economics too. When people can’t even think without thinking in terms of equality, when all difference is erased and unthinkable, then human nature will be ready for socialism.
Jeremy Corbyn’s success is in part because young people can’t remember the last Labour Government, but it is also due to the fact that the Left’s cultural battle has won over the young far more than the rest of society. Education is ever more controlled by the Left and it instils the values of the Left from age 3 to age 22. Many young voters have never even properly met Conservative values and Conservative arguments, not least because the Conservatives themselves are afraid to make the case for Conservatism.
The key to future Conservative success is not to agree with the Left but rather to disagree it. There is a whole constituency of voters many of whom presently vote Labour who would be delighted to find a political party that stuck up for traditional, common sense values and the idea that the British Government cares more for British citizens, than the citizens of anywhere else. Our safety, prosperity and freedom are what is important to us. Fair play and giving everyone a chance to succeed or fail matters far more than everyone must win a prize and the outcome must be the same. People are naturally different, with a variety of talents, skills and natures. They are not equal, cease pretending that they are. That way lies socialism. That way ultimately lies the Gulag of the mind enforced by the Twitter Committee of Public Safety and the Google guillotine.
This post was originally published by the author on her personal blog: http://effiedeans.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/the-left-is-winning.html