Thursday, 23 April 2009


I've really got to stop looking at Penny Red's comments threads. It's gotten so full of the stupid I can feel it burning through my screen.

I only just stopped myself from weighing in on this debate, after some particularly burn-y comments from Free Marketeer Central.

It could be argued, I know, that these people need to be taken on, but frankly I've been there before. It's an entrenched ideological position that they're bunkered down in, and they often know (but don't want to see) that they're defending privilege over alleviation from misery. I just can't be having with another one of these pointless, go nowhere internet debates. I've had them enough times before, and at parties when someone makes the mistake of saying something like 'Thatcher was good for this country' within my earshot, and although I always come away feeling like I've not only held my own, but a consistently winning hand (I honestly have never felt outclassed by a right-winger), they rarely achieve anything. Sometimes I'm able to correct a few misconceptions and historical untruths, but I honestly can't say I've seen a Damascene conversion.

And nor do I expect to. As Ben Goldacre likes to say, 'I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.' I don't regard people as marionettes waiting to dance to an ideological tune, and I don't expect someone's political ideology to be fundamentally rational.* Obviously I think that I'm right, and obviously I'm convinced that I can explain my ideas better and that my ideas are fundamentally better ideas, built on the work of those who cared about everyone, not just the freedom of a privileged bourgeois class.

Sorry to state the bleeding obvious, but people's political ideas, like their religious ideas, do not arise in a vacuum. As Marx once wrote: men make their own history, but they do not do it under circumstances of their own choosing.

So I hate these 'debates' on the interweb. There's always a pompous tendency to arrive with your opinions carved into pearls, which you are casting before the swine of the thread. What does that achieve, other than to convince people you're a cast-iron bollock? Far better to knock it off and have a game of Mornington Crescent.

Of course, it may equally be down to my debating skills or lack thereof. Maybe I'm just not a persuasive enough speaker. But if so, then my original conclusion stands and I'll see you at Oxford Street playing by McQuinan's 3rd Omnibus Rules (Balham edition).

I freely admit I can be a bit humourless about this. But I think these things matter, I think that I, my party and fellow-travellers are fundamentally correct in our understandings and aims, and I don't expect the right to suddenly come over to the light side of the force. I do think these issues will be settled by a proletarian revolution or not at all.

PS as a public service I now present the comment I nearly made, which would have got me in precisely one of those tedious go-nowhere arguments I've just spent a whole post explaining should be avoided. I post it because I think it's quite funny.

Wow, with comments like Mark's, I can't work out if the retrograde political/economic debate in this country is spiralling back in time to the nineteenth century or has skewed off at some ghastly American tangent until all our political debate becomes as decapitated as theirs.

Astonishing. I only hope most of the more depressing commentators on here are making vague attempts at humour, because if this is seriously their level of political awareness it's just too depressing. I've got Year 8s who could see through this shite.

Here's a clue though, if you hand over to Milton Friedman for an opinion, you should regard it as similar to the Peter Griffin test: i.e. if it's something he would do, it's probably stupid.

What I'm saying is that Friedman is the economic equivalent of Gibsoning a thread.**

*And fundamentally, the left starts from a far more noble position than the right. The left is progressive, the right is reactionary. The left wants equality, the right privilege. The Marxist left has a good understanding of the political economy of capitalism, the right has only neo-classical theories that do not acknowledge the source of the value that makes their monetarist philosophies tick.
**And if you don't believe me, look at Chile during the Pinochet years or Britain during Thatcher. How many recessions did you say?

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