Brexit, Trump and the Russians

Friday 1st December, 7:15 for a 7:30pm start, Unity House, Fennel Street, Loughborough

Discussion to be introduced by Ray Sutton.

Have the Russians tried to influence the American Presidential elections? Are they trying to influence Brexit? How would they do this? And why?

How much influence can social media really have?

 

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A “Soft” Brexit?

A very interesting discussion at the last Friday Room discussion, “an Anarchist view of Brexit”.

I have clarified my views on Brexit. I voted remain and I still of that view. At the time I accepted that the EU governance is hardly representational, that its long term agenda, “ever closer union” was not what I wanted. Since then my view on this is, if anything, even stronger. I now see as a “Brussels elite” whose covert aim is to retain and increase its power, which has been responsible for a few bad key decisions. Yes, this is a threat. But mostly long term.

However, Global corporations are far more to be feared. They are essentially amoral, hughly powerful, but we have absolutely no control over them. They have the potential to wreck the environment and threaten to have a profoundly toxic effect on our culture and society.

Alone, Britain would not have the will or the inclination to stand up to them. A Tory government would most likely just roll over and have its tummy tickled. “Run the NHS for you?” Yes please! “Dominate the media?” luverly! All finance run by the Global Banking Syndicate? Utopia! This to me is far more scary and immediate than the EU.

The EU has demonstrated that it has the clout to stand up to the global corporations. It is not totally amoral and mostly supportive of culture. It is open to influence, although not nearly enough.

As a result of the referendum we are in a different place. I don’t think there is any sense in trying to undo the referendum, rather we should focus on uncoupling ourselves from the EU autocracy.

The detailed policies, all the separate treaties and trading agreements should be left as they are. The advantages of change are at best arguable. Many of the agreements are complicated and remaking them in a rush is foolish. Let’s keep things as they are unless there are really pressing reasons for change. Economic predictions are always notoriously unreliable and particularly in this case.

My vote now would be for a Brexit that does not change existing policies but changes the way policies are made in the future. A Brexit in which all EU edicts are negotiable.

If this is what is meant by Soft Brexit, then I think there would be a clear majority vote for it. Given such a Soft Brexit as an option, I think only a minority would now vote remain.

I suspect that total withdrawal is what the global corporations (and Russia?) really want,  resulting in a loud and well funded lobby. However, those that voted leave would surly be divided on a choice between Hard and Soft.  As they start off accounting for only slightly more than half the total, the arithmatic indicates that only a minority are likely to support a Hard Brexit.

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Brexit: An Anarchist Approach

Thanks to John for organising this month’s Friday Room discussion on ‘Brexit: an Anarchist Approach.’  I was intrigued by the topic, having only the vaguest idea about an anarchist approach to anything, let alone Brexit: black flags and Conrad-inspired images were all my mind could dredge up on the subject.

Claire and Mike from the Anarchist Federation were greeted by an enthusiastic but sadly depleted group as – in an ironic twist – the evening coincided with a farewell dinner for Glenys Wilmott, the area’s retiring MEP.

Unsurprisingly, there is not one single anarchist view on Brexit or the EU.  Many anarchists opposed the EU as a super-state which exerts control over large populations and therefore voted for Brexit.  But most voted to remain, through a belief in internationalism and the power of people to work together across national borders.

Anarchists are against power-structures.  They oppose the nation-state and the ‘giving away of power’ (as they see it) to elected representatives.  They do not organise through political parties but are active in many campaigns, such as anti-nuclear demonstrations, anti-oil pipeline and anti-fracking protests.  Anarchism looks beyond capitalism and the nation-state for its vision.  Although not members of political parties, most anarchists tend to be on the left politically.  They do not usually vote in elections as they see these as too distant from the lives of individuals to make a difference, but single-issue referendums are different and many did vote in the EU referendum as this is a more direct process.  We had much discussion afterwards about how (and whether) democracy might be improved by having referendums, say, on each budget or piece of legislation.

Anarchism seeks the freedom of the individual to act within society unconstrained by national or international structures.  They support the right of people to be unwaged if they need to be.   However it is difficult to state anything with any certainty about what anarchists believe, as there is no ‘party line’ and every individual is likely to have a different view.  Many anarchists do believe, however, that ‘leave or remain’ was a false choice, and that a better choice would be to retain the nation-state or remove it.

Although anarchists tend to be on the left politically, there could perhaps be some crossover between their ideas of individual freedom and those of the libertarian right.  In campaigning they make a distinction between violence against property, which is considered acceptable, and violence against people: however they are not committed to non-violence and will act in self-defence.

When asked what an anarchist utopia might look like, they described a situation where people’s needs were provided for simply and on a local basis.  There is a lot of support for the idea of doing away with money and perhaps going back to a barter system.

The talk generated a lot of discussion around the EU vote, referendums and the strengths and weaknesses of the anarchist utopia, as described.  In areas of Iraq and Syria called Rojave, anarchist regimes are being established now and for further ideas you can go to:

http://www.freeworldcharter.org/en

Kirk out

 

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An Anarchist View on Brexit

Friday 3rd November, 7:15 for a 7:30pm start, Unity House, Fennel Street, Loughborough

The ongoing Brexit saga is never out of the news. Understandably so, as many people face a level of uncertainty – whether economic, political or based on the simple right to remain or move freely. At the same time, there has been a rise in nationalist and populist politics here in the UK and abroad. At this meeting, a speaker from the Anarchist Federation will present an anarchist view of Brexit and its context within the current crisis of capitalism.

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Friday Room, 6th October, 7:30 pm

Friday Room meets this week, 6th October at 7:30pm, in Unity House, 21 Fennel St, to discuss the social and political consequences of automation.  Is this round of automation likely to create as many jobs as it destroys?  Is Universal Basic Income a realistic and positive prospect?  What other implications does automation have?

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Basic Income: Three narratives

There is widespread support for a basic income of some sort, as shown by Amanda in turning a solution into a problem, but it is not clear how it could come about. The debate seems to have got hung up with a narrative of reforms to the benefits system. I suggest that there are two alternative narratives which should be considered alongside this one.

Narrative One: Universal benefit

The current benefits system is notoriously complex and there is universal recognition that it works badly, is expensive to run and is frequently unfair.

A universal benefit would be a substitute for a lot of payments already being made, dole, sickness benefits, state pension etc. but the details are complex. Two serious models have been made, one by the Citizen’s Income Trust in the “70s, the other recently by Compass.

Both use models to work out the details. They both predict that most of the money for the basic income replaces the existing payments and the difference coming from raised income tax, would not be excessive.

Both studies propose a range of schemes. Both include minimal schemes where the Basic income would be about £60 per week or £3,000 per year. (As a reality check, the national living wage for a 40 hour week is £300 or £15600 per year. The NHS costs a bit more than £2000 per person per year.) These schemes would be implemented by DWP.

There are problems:

There would inevitably be a transition period as work patterns and pay levels adjust to the new regime. This has two important implications, first is that there would winners and losers and extra provision would be needed to support those who lose out during the transition. The total cost of introduction over and above the tax burden when fully up and running, is likely to be considerable.

There will be vocal opposition to any suggestion of funding the scheme from income tax, however irrational.

There is uncertainty about it working. A possible outcome is that it would reduce the incentive to work and result a large number of people will choose to live in idleness. There are a number of trials around the world which suggest a positive outcome, but these have been on a small scale and cannot demonstrate what would happen in the long term when society adapts to a radical new regime.

When the question is asked “why do so many working class people vote Conservative?” high up in the answers is a low regard for the welfare state. There seems to be a general feeling that, in its present form, the welfare system is bad solution the (admittedly difficult) problem.

People need occupations and incentives to pursue them. Increasing ones income is a strong incentive. The welfare system has a “claw-back” mechanism, so coming off benefits into employment means that most of the increased income from wages is cancelled out by loss of benefit. The incentive offered by greater income is removed. There can be situations where people are worse off when they get a job. (The poverty trap. Bad.)

With a basic income, entering employment means the wages are a total gain and represent the strongest incentive.

Narrative Two: Citizens’ dividend

(This needs a soap box.)

Fellow citizens. Our country has grown rich. The onward march of automation has brought us  to a state where we could all live in reasonable comfort.

We got to this state only because of the toil and intellectual efforts of our ancestors.

Our ancestors made this investment. We should all now be reaping dividends on our inheritance, distributed most fairly as a citizens’ dividend.

A Citizens’ dividend is ours by right!

Narrative Three: Economic compensation

This narrative is about economics. It has two sides. The first starts support for the idea of a basic income voiced by some economically significant people; Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of facebook and a top venture capitalist in silicon valley (Interviewed on BBC TV prog.). We need to take these people’s views seriously because their particularly insight into the potential disruptive effects of automation and artificial intelligence.

Up to now the economy works something like the game of Monopoly. In the game all the players collect £300 when they pass go. I guess that if they didn’t, the game would not work.

In real life everyone is a player. The economic system depends them having an income when they “pass go”. With the continuing development of automation/AI, there is a looming situation where the demand for labour declines and an increasing number of players will not be able to play the game.

A basic income would be the equivalent of “£300 on passing go”. It would be a compensation for the decline of the historical income and essential keep the game going and to prevent the economy from seizing up.

The other side of this narrative is about resources. Over the last few decades non-renewable resources have become scarcer, pollution greater and the economic consequences increase. This fits well into the model from of the report “Limits to Growth”. We can be confident that trend will continue over the next few decades and is set to become a major determinant of the economy.

To tax is to discourage. It seems to me a no-brainer that, with meaningful work becoming scarcer, income tax, which discourages work, should be replaced by resources taxes, that discourages the consumption of resource.

The big problem with this is that income tax is progressive and resource taxes are regressive.

The result of resource taxes will be to make goods more expensive which hurts everyone. Distributing the tax take as an economic compensation in the form of a basic income solves this.

This has already been done. In Alaska the Economic Security Project was set up in 1976. Revenues from Alaska’s oil and mineral leases went into a fund, and every October  a dividend check is sent of up $2072 per person. This year 71% of Alaskans voted to continue the scheme rather than reduce taxes.  They are not closet lefties.

What next?

The universal benefit narrative of making significant step changes by the DWP is problematical. The combination of sheer complexity, an understandable uncertainty of the consequences combined with necessary government caution makes it unlikely to get off the ground.

The trend to less resources and more automation maybe remorseless, but it is gradual, with a time scale of a few decades. The wistful dream of returning to full waged employment gradually becomes less plausible. Profound changes to the economic landscape are happening but there is no cliff edge.

A step change is not a good idea anyway. The introduction of a basic income will have profound knock-on effects for industry, society and culture. Raw materials become more expensive and labour becomes cheaper. The business world has always adjusted to change, but does not like sudden change. Although the indications from all the trials is that people react positively, it is impossible to tell how society will change in the long term.

Another argument for a gradual introduction is that we have no clear idea of the level at which a basic income should be set. This has been a big concern in the first narrative, with some arguing that anything less than a living wage is not worth consideration, others argue that is too much and would enable people to live comfortably in idleness. The truth is that we simply don’t know.

A gradual introduction means that we watch what happens and decide later.

Conclusion

There is a strong case for introducing a Citizens’ Dividend paid for by levies on resources, pollution (eg a CO2 tax) and maybe dividends.

It should be introduced gradually over a period of at least 10 years.

The role of DWP would be merely reactive. Benefits would be reduced in response to the increasing Citizens’ Dividend resulting in a reduction of the burden on ordinary taxes.

A starting point might be to allocate the entire fuel duty to the Citizens’ Dividend. The amount would be modest, about £430. It should be revenue neutral, with the loss to the treasury cancelled by a reductions in benefits and state pensions.

From then on increases to fuel duty would lead to a general increase in prices but for the poorest this would be more than compensated for by an increase in the Citizens’ Dividend. Richer people can easily compensate by using more efficient cars. Win all round.

Next would be a gradual increasing carbon levy, again general increase prices for most goods but for the individual compensated by the Citizens’ Dividend and by choosing goods that are more carbon efficient.

Where do we go from here? There seems to be cross-party support. Letter to MP? 38 deg petition? Back the doing of a proper analysis?

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Turning A Solution Into A Problem

This is the text of the planned talk for Friday Room which I placed on my blog.  It has a particular style which is perhaps not in keeping with the general tone of this WordPress site, but after some consideration I decided the most straightforward way to present this would be simply to post it again here.  I see this more as an opening to discussion than anything else, and in view of the facts that “a week is a long time in politics” and the pace of technological change, this could become quickly outdated.  I am also continuing to research the subject as I’m fairly fresh to it.  Anyway, here it is:

Northamerican_technate

This is a map of the proposed North American Technate, one goal of the Technocracy Movement of the 1930s, whose symbol was the Monad:

monad

The crucial things to remember about automation are that it ought to be a solution rather than a problem, and that as technology it’s not new, but part of our nature as hominins since we were Australopithecines.  Hominid tool use is primarily motivated by a drive to ease life and raise living standards and automation is just a continuation of this.  Any illusion of scarcity is artificial and unnecessary.  The corollary of automation should be something like a basic income scheme or a technocratic social order, and to be frank I can’t understand why everyone isn’t outraged that this still doesn’t exist and isn’t demanding that it happen immediately.  The fact is that there is simply no reason for anyone to be exploited or to have an unacceptably low standard of living.  It’s hard to imagine a bigger scandal than this in the whole of human history, and this scandal isn’t even new.  I can only imagine there is a psychological need for some people to imagine they’re superior to others.

progress

Right hand image is by Jononmac46 – CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33751770

 

Technological change through the Palaeolithic seems to have led to increasing population and life expectancy, suggesting that the advent of new technology increased hominid fitness to survive and thrive in its environment.  The adoption of agriculture has a number of drawbacks in this respect, such as the possible emergence of a more hierarchical society, patriarchy and the problems of managing infectious disease and malnutrition due to the change to a lifestyle to which we are adapted, but in some ways there was a further increase in living standards brought on by technology, at least for some.  However, inequality grew and there was a drift away from providing for the common good.

The Industrial Revolution brought fear that means of livelihood, now substantially centred around factories, would be lost with increasing mechanisation.  It was actually suggested quite early on that those who were put out of work by machinery should simply be paid enough to live on, although I can’t track down a source – it may have been  late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.

An argument frequently deployed against basic income is that it’s psychologically damaging and another is that it could lead to unrest or lack of motivation.  People are seen as benefitting from paid work with employers and as primarily motivated by monetary gain.  However, if work is worth doing, literally, i.e. it is heart work which fulfils a fundamentally useful social function and cannot be automated well, then it’s worth doing without pay.  The wages paid for work have the function of supporting someone financially who doesn’t have the time to support themselves by pursuing a hunter-gatherer way of life or self-sufficiency in other ways because they’re working for someone else.  This compensation needn’t be from the actual employer.  Much unpaid work is already done, such as parenting and housework, and the motivation to do those tasks doesn’t come from the prospect of monetary gain.  There is also much work which simply should not be done.  Financial services come to mind, and there’s nothing to be proud of in being a citizen of a nation which is a world leader in swindling people out of their income and forcing them into debt, which is basically what financial services amount to much of the time.  As far as mental health issues are concerned, much work is seriously deleterious to happiness and the constant anxiety and depression which emanates from the symbolic estimation of people’s lives as worthless and expendable and the removal of meaningful work from their lives definitely constitutes a mental health hazard.  These factors need to be set against the supposed dignity of “work” in the restricted sense of the word, namely paid work with an employer.  A change in the relationship with income could also free parents up from having to organise childcare in the form of state schooling, which is clearly now superfluous as a means of relevant or efficient education.  Incidentally, education needs also to carry the message of self-motivation in its delivery, which is currently impaired by societal factors.

It should also be borne in mind that there can be virtue in useless employment.  If your job involves providing essential goods and services there is a sense in which you are holding the beneficiaries of those services to ransom by asking to be paid for doing that.  Work which is “useless”, such as in the creative arts and entertainment, is more interchangeable.  It can “say” something important but an audience can prefer Ben Jonson to Shakespeare or the Stones to the Beatles.  Consequently it makes sense to ask for money in such a situation.  If the work is something like providing adequate sanitation, growing food, putting out fires or life-saving medical treatment, that work needs to be renumerated in a way that is unconditional in order to prevent the ransom situation from arising.  This is another way in which basic income could address the problem.  It may of course also be that such essential work is more likely to be replaced through automation than less vital work, which is another reason for basic income.

There are in fact both left and right wing arguments for basic income, each providing a counter-argument for the other side.  The right wing case is that it simplifies the welfare system.  Milton Friedman argued for it as a “negative income tax”, i.e. a tax which is paid to individuals below a certain income threshold.  This would make it means-tested and thus introduce bureaucracy.  It’s also seen as reducing the incentive to work, and in this scenario work is seen as an unequivocally good thing because considerations are primarily in terms of traditional economics and work is not seen as an intrinsic part of human nature.  This potential disincentive could be seen as a bad thing from a left wing viewpoint because it could reduce the potential number of trade union members.  Another right wing argument is that it could completely remove the need for the lowest paid employees to be paid at all by an employer, and lead to abolition of the minimum wage.  Friedman also questioned whether those relying on basic income should still have the right to vote, since he saw them as inevitably voting for increases in basic income, making the scheme impractically expensive.

A number of potential problems have been raised regarding basic income.  One is that it could lead to inflation of accommodation costs.  Since everyone would then have a certain guaranteed income, rent and other costs might then rise according to market forces, thereby wiping out any advantage it might have.  Possibly for this reason, some people advocate that the level of basic income should be set slightly below subsistence level.  It’s also possible that those with greater needs such as the disabled would not be provided for because the welfare state would potentially have been dismantled.

One of the most obvious objections to basic income is its affordability.  This would depend on it being initially unaffordable because the cost of not having basic income is enormous.  If you consider, for example, the expense of dealing with mental illness, homelessness, physical ill-health and crime resulting from poverty, if unaffordability is the strongest argument against it, it would have to be that it would be too expensive even to be considered as an investment in the future.  Some people also believe that new jobs will arise as automation proceeds, a phenomenon seen as having occurred throughout history.

Leaving the objections aside, I see basic income as a solution to many problems.  It removes the motive to do harmful work just for the money.  It means the lowest-paid employees needn’t be paid at all.  It reduces the bureaucracy of the welfare state.  It means that people will work for its own sake rather than for money.  It will also save money because of the cost of crime, substance abuse, poverty, homelessness and poor physical and mental health.  However, I consider the reasons it isn’t implemented to be unconnected to any of these things.  Not having a basic income is cost-effective, I think, because it means the poor live in fear, which has both social and psychological functions.  The fear of penury prevents poor workers from demanding better working conditions and job security, meaning that a frightened and ground-down workforce is cheap and disposable.  This means that the vast investment necessary to ensure the existence of a large number of desperate, hopeless people pays for itself many times over.  I’ll come back to disposability in a minute.  It also performs an important psychological function, although at the cost of preventing a generally happier society.  It isn’t enough for some people that they succeed in their own terms of wealth and possessions.  It’s also important to them to know that there are many other people living in misery and want, not knowing where their children’s next meal is coming from or if they will die of hypothermia tonight, because it makes them feel more secure and valuable as individuals themselves.  Against this can be placed the issue that the happiest societies are the most equal in terms of income.  These are the reasons, I think, that basic income will never be implemented.

On the matter of disposability, it occurs to me that the response of the rich and secure to an automated society would not be so much concern for the physical needs of the poor and unemployed as fear that these idle hands are expensive to maintain and yield no return, and that they may rise up against them and overthrow the system.  Consequently, the rational response may be to drive them to an early grave either through their own decision to kill themselves or simply by not bothering to take care of them at all, which is of course very cheap.  Maybe what the rich really want is for most poor people simply to die.  Basic income doesn’t achieve that, so that’s another reason it may not be implemented.

Technocracy

This is the belief that society is best managed by experts in the likes of engineering and science rather than by politicians.  This idea was particularly popular in the 1920s and 1930s but was overtaken by events such as the Great Depression and Second World War.  As can be seen from the map at the top, technocrats in North America believed in the unification of the North American continent and nearby areas into a unit they referred to as the “Technate”.  They had what they referred to as the “Energy Theory Of Value”, which was that the basic measure common to all goods and services is energy, so the sole scientific foundation for the monetary system is also energy.  Therefore they would issue energy certificates to individuals instead of money which could be exchanged for the equivalent energy use.  To take a simple example, someone who shifted sixteen tons two metres vertically during a day would then be entitled to use the same amount of electricity or fuel, or to buy food providing that amount of energy, having taken the work done to provide that, to the same amount, so they would be another day older but they wouldn’t be deeper in debt unless they were using more energy than they were expending.

Technocracy could be seen as the extension of automation all the way up to government.  There are, however, various problems with it.  It’s not clear, for example, which kind of expertise, or within that which theory, is more appropriate.  It’s notable, for example, that educational theory and the psychology of learning are quite different in nature, so  which system would be applied to educational policy?  Theories are not free of value or political bias either.  Evolutionary psychology, sociobiology and social Darwinism all spring to mind here, as does Lamarckianism on the other side of the political spectrum.  Technocracy was also used recently and controversially in Italy to implement neoliberal economic policies.  Technocrats are also distant from popular opinion, although the two may sometimes coincide.  Technocracy is not democracy.  However, it also strikes me as potentially quite left-wing because it doesn’t rely on “the school of hard knocks”, which may or may not be a bad thing.  Right wing anti-intellectualism would seem to be opposed to that.

The Venus Project is a modern manifestation of technocracy.  This is a long-term project started by the architect Jacque Fresco and featured in the film ‘Zeitgeist Addendum’.  Fresco’s view, which I happen to agree with in general, is that the alternatives for the future are utopia or oblivion, with utopia in the form of technocratically-organised sustainable cities.  Like other forms of technocracy, however, there appears to be little room for non-conformity.  The main problem as I see it with the Venus Project is that the will to save the world is not there.  I would argue that the laws of thermodynamics, particularly the tendency towards entropy, mean that there is a drive towards self-destruction in all living organisms, which is of course balanced in part by evolved homeostatic feedback mechanisms but cannot be completely eliminated.  This is what Freud called Thanatos, and although his ideas are largely discredited this one in particular is useful.  There may be a tendency for people to turn against positive, life-affirming and optimistic ideas and plans precisely because they have those features.  Therefore, to me the optimism and positivity of both technocracy and the idea of basic income are the precise reasons why they will inevitably fail.

The Gig Economy

Before I get down to discussing this, I should define what I mean by this currently popular term.  The “Gig Economy” is a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work.  The likes of Uber and Deliveroo are often focussed on in this respect, where people are nominally self-employed and have none of the recently acquired entitlements which employees normally have because of this but also get all of their work from one source.  In other words, it seems to be a ruse designed to get round legal requirements for employers to provide their employees with such things as pension schemes, sick pay and the like.  Zero-hours contracts are another common feature of these situations where people are employed by others.

Two things strike me about this.  One is that this sounds like the kind of situation with which working class people have long been very familiar.  The difference, I suppose, is that people from a middle class background have greater social capital and are therefore able to make more visible fuss about it, and also their mind set may have been less ground down than working class people’s, although it will shortly probably be down there.  In other words, the middle class is disappearing for this reason as well as automation.

The other thing about this, to me, is that it sounds a little like an inferior version of what’s been called the “Catholic Economy”, and that there may be a connection there.  There is a somewhat convoluted link between the concept of the catholic economy and the coalition government which formed after the 2010 election.

The catholic economy, although initially associated with the Roman Catholic Church, is now probably better referred to as distributivism.  This is the idea that private ownership is important to all members of society and a basic right, and that the means of production should be distributed as evenly as possible throughout society.  As such, the idea is not easily categorisable as either right or left wing.  A distributivist society would be one in which most people are self-employed sole traders, though they may be organised into guilds.  It sees both capitalism and socialism as products of the enlightenment and prefers to hark back to a mediaeval system, though I would see that as very idealised.  Against that, of course, it could be said that my own description of pre-agricultural society itself partakes of the myth of the Noble Savage.

Distributivism goes hand in hand with the theological position of Radical Orthodoxy, which rejects modernity via postmodernity to arrive at a position where the world is interpreted theologically, science and similar disciplines being seen as essentially secular, atheistic and nihilist.

The reason this is relevant is that Phillip Blond, a proponent of Radical Orthodoxy and distributivism, was a key figure in the construction of the “Big Society” agenda of Cameron’s Conservative Party, one of whose slogans held that “there is such a thing as society; it’s just not the same as government”.  This is presumably meant to emphasise the idea of the organic growth of customs and institutions into a society which works for all without state intervention, but also notably without the intervention of monopoly capitalist corporations.  This seems however to be largely a rhetorical device.  To illustrate, consider the coalition government policy on free schools.  The idea seems at first to be about giving parents, religious groups and others the legal right to establish their own educational institutions.  However, education need not be carried out in specific physical premises or locations.  It could be online, achieved via home tuition, take place in rented rooms or in people’s homes.  However, legislation required free schools to have physical premises, which immediately prices poorer people out of the situation and involves property or building firms quite heavily in the establishment of such schools when it is in fact entirely unnecessary.

I suspect that the gig economy is in fact what’s become of the catholic economy in the hands of Conservative pragmatism and realpolitik.  Hence a lot of people are nominally self-employed now, and in purely technical legal definitions of the situation there are now a lot of self-employed sole traders just as there are supposed to be under distributivism.  However, these people own precious little and are fragmented, having little recourse to professional bodies, trade unions or guilds, and consequently they have few rights and little power.  The situation, nominally, does however seem to have quite a lot in common with Phillip Blond’s ideas even if he would himself wish to dissociate himself from them.

This dissociation, however, could be key to the success of a more left-wing approach.  Just as New Labour in government didn’t do what many Labour members and voters wanted it to do, it seems to me equally possible that the current Conservative government isn’t doing what its own members and voters wanted it to do either.  This dissatisfaction, which I believe must exist, is probably fairly typical of the disillusionment felt by ordinary voters and party members when their party is in office.  It could also potentially be exploited by the Labour party as it is now.  It’s been clearly demonstrated that the practical result of the Big Society is just business as usual and the permanent government rather than anything like distributivism, and I suspect there is a strong groundswell of dissatisfaction among people who voted Tory and are now repenting at leisure.  I suggest therefore that this is something which other groups could capitalise upon, and obviously I have Labour in mind here.

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