Sunday, 21 May 2017

Economic competence is not on the menu

Generally I disapprove of the leftist tendency to shout "Tory scum". Largely because it's a knee jerk reaction based on an illiterate strain of anti-Thatcherism that crosses over into outright bigotry. Don't get me wrong, Tories are indeed scum, but it's important to understand exactly why. The lack of precision on the left is what irks me.

At the heart of the Tory tribe there is a boorish crassness that believes in its own scriptures. The inner circle of Toryism is one that demands absolute conformity to them. From its advocacy of the WTO option as a Brexit avenue to the time honoured canards about free markets and deregulation, there is no original thinking going on.

In that regard it is little different to the hard left currently running the Corbyn cult. Their activists are the prison guards, the enforcers; the jobsworths who would escort the Jews to the gas chambers if they were told. It's why all activists give off a strong whiff of fascism. They suspend their critical faculties for the good of the tribe.

In all this it's all too easy to mock the Labour party for having fantastical economic ideas but Tory think tanks such as the Institute of Economic Affairs have been recycling the same material for three decades. They don't devise policy, they simply reinforce scripture. A classic example is their obsession with deregulation. Every survey of UK industry has said that they want to keep regulation broadly the same post-Brexit citing the utility of harmonisation and its relevance to trade. It is therefore odd that a think tank primarily concerned with economics would have so little clue.

From them we get the same tired responses to every problem every time. Free markets! This is more a brainless bleat than a political point of view. Case in point being the oft repeated assertion that free of the EU we can suddenly stop subsidising agriculture, citing New Zealand as their poster child. The obvious point being that New Zealand has no direct neighbourhood competition. They work with Australia to fulfil block contracts with China. Were we to drop subsidies it would have to be in conjunction with the EU or we'd be priced out of European markets - our closest and largest market. No trade analyst that I know of thinks this is a viable avenue for the UK - but in the Tory boy circle jerk, the scriptures say that all subsidy distorts markets therefore subsidies are baaad m'kay!

It's true there are certain generalities about free markets which should be observed and any Conservative party ought to be guided by these principles but in a world of massive interdependency where absolutely everything hinges on regulation, things are a little bit more complex than scriptures allow for. What the IEA and Adam Smith Institute do, when not deep throating each other (which is most of the time), is promote the Janet and John free market principles as the solution to every problem.

Where it gets particularly toxic is their approach to the NHS. Now straight off the bat you won't get any argument from me that there is room for the private sector to massively enhance the NHS but for the Toryboys nothing short of total and immediate privatisation will suffice. Little do they realise that they are not opening the door to the capitalist paradise they envisage. Instead they are bringing about a corporate predator state and are actively applauding it.

In their minds all human concerns take a second place in pursuit of their utopian ideals. They are no different to the Corbynistas. Like the communists they have no moral base. They are imbued with a certitude that all they need do is rip down all of our institutions and let the full force of the market have its way with us. This is why Professor Patrick Minford is their Brexit guru, despite there being bits of lemon peel floating down the Thames with a better grasp of trade policy.

What I find especially loathsome about these people is how they seem to relish the anger and resentment they cause. They cheer on every cut to every service upon which many people depend, when never in the history of Tory cuts has it ever resulted in a low tax small state. At a certain point it starts to look like pure malice.

Not for nothing do I repeatedly refer to these types as Toryboys. Everything in their ideological arsenal is pure hypocrisy. It's always of interest and amusement to me that those who most favour cuts to social provisions are thirty something well-to-do able bodied types who never once in their lives will have to depend on state services for anything. At the core of it is an assumption that anything that doesn't affect them directly isn't a problem at all - and if they snatch something away then the free market will provide. Such zombie like devotion to scripture should be treated as a mental illness.

In most respects Toryism is no more sickening than any other party tribalism. I have a searing contempt for all of it. That said though, the thought engine of the Tory party is financed by a very few donors acting only in their direct commercial interest. They are more than happy to shaft the entire export sector so long as their business interests are served. It is as corrupt as it is wrongheaded.

What makes it all the more rotten is that it enjoys credibility because if its legacy prestige, but when you put IEA material up for close scrutiny (on Brexit and regulation especially) we find that it is no more credible than the fag packet agenda of Ukip or the maths of Diane Abbott. How they have managed to evade similar public ridicule escapes me.

It is, though, not without its supporters. CapX, City AM and the Telegraph never hesitate to advance that agenda, preying on the ignorance of their readership. The Tory militant tendency. The factphobic hard-Brexiteers and free market puritans. Worse still we have a new generation of MPs about to join the herd, blissfully unaware of what they are actually joining, unwittingly putting a sanitised face on an agenda to asset strip the UK.

For years the Toryboy circle jerk have largely been viewed as cranks better suited to Ukip. Theresa May's suspicion of them is well placed. Her mistake though was to swallow the Brexit kool aid that originates from that very shop.

As it happens, I am not opposed to free markets in principle, but the dogmatic pursuit of these principles is dangerous. In pursuit of these ideals we have all but dismantled our ability to produce tanks, aircraft and ships. We have lost a good deal of institutional knowledge which is why our most recent procurements are dogged with technical faults. The free market tendency tends to only measure that which you can put an asset price tag on. They know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

What is further depressing is the polarisation in British politics whereby the moral collapse of the left have made the Tories seem virtuous and competent by contrast. It causes those on the right to unquestioningly soak up Tory tribal dogma. This is dangerous because we have a government following scriptures of people who have not updated their thinking since they first came to politics. If the worst instincts of Toryism prevails in Brexit talks then we will have no export sector to speak of and will have little recourse but to cut every government department to the bone.

While this thought may give your average toryboy a full blown erection, a collapse of civic institutions would destroy much of the governmental infrastructure that supports trade, and all the while defence will take another pruning. That means cut numbers of F35s, A400Ms and a mothballed carrier - and the jobs that go with them. You cannot act as a "global Britain" with no global reach. We'd have little more international standing than Ireland.

You could persuade me that Britain does need a radical shake-up but this needs to be done with intelligent holistic policy. We need original thinking, not dogma. This is something our political class and its parasitic apparatchiks are no longer capable of. A scorched earth Brexit is no medicine to any ailment. In that regard, since economic competence is not on the menu at this election, your vote is next to worthless.

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