Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Capitalism 'provides' - the myth of the market

. We live in historic times. Suddenly it's ok for everybody from Archbishops and Conservative Shadow Chancellors to disgruntled leftists to bash the market; arguing variously that the market has the wrong priorities or should 'accept responsibility'. Barely a day goes by without a 'defence of capitalism' appearing in right-wing newspapers like the Mail and Telegraph. This in itself should say something; obviously, nobody would feel the need to defend capitalism if serious questions were not being asked in the first place. For the first time in decades people are turning round and questioning what is going on and if the total lack of public support for the rescue plan in the US is anything to go by they are also increasing unwilling to spend their money on saving the system.

Still this doesn't deter some people; on the blog below Anonymous says:

"I think capitalism generally works fairly well in terms of its ability to identify peoples' needs and wants and service those needs."

Maybe the poster in question should look at the BBC website this morning. It reports;

"Millions of children in the UK are living in, or on the brink of, poverty, a report claims.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty says 5.5 million children are in families that are classed as "struggling" - 98% of children in some areas."

How has capitalism provided for these people? It's an obvious question but one that should be answered by the defenders of the system. My work involves knocking on peoples doors and the number of times people say with all sincerity they haven't got a dime is untrue. How has capitalism and the market provided for these people?? The current crisis has also lead to an inability for capitalism to provide for those at the top; it can no longer provide profits for the "greedy scumbag bankers" that the same poster lashes later in his post. In all fairness to the 'scumbags' they were only following the logic of the system we live under; that is they were seeking to maximise profit at the expense of long-term stability and of course those who are now mired in financial limbo, the people they sold credit too.

Liberals make the mistake often of confusing the democratic liberty of the individual with the liberty of the market to rampage how it pleases; it is the 'liberty' of the 'scumbags' that has plunged the system into chaos and will now impoverish billions. Furthermore, the market is not an individual; it is a thing, a creation of the capitalist method of exchange. Would you afford a chair or table the same 'rights and freedoms' you accord to human beings?? The market should serve the people, it should indeed be a place where people's 'wants and needs' are met but it isn't. It is a vechile for the enrichment of a few at the expense of the many and now it is the agency of the wide-ranging collapse of capitalism as a whole.

One of the most pernicious myths is that the 'freer the market, the freer the society'. The children and the people mentioned above are not free in any true sense of the word. Neither are the leaders of the collapsing banks who are now subject to the whirlwind of forces they themselves unleashed. This myth is partially given credence between the descent of the left into statism; the move of the left away from it's radical agenda of the economic and political empowerment to stultifying bureaucracy. It wasn't always this way, there was a time when the right's clarion call for empowerment was the left's with the caveat that the left realised that voluntary association for the collective benefit was the route to freedom. It's time for the left to roar again; it's not Britain that is broken, it's the whole market system and a reinvigorated left can fix it.

Three cheers for Congress!

. Just a short blog as well...it's gone midnight. I have no problem with openly saying I don't think capitalism works, that I think it is fundamentally flawed but I have no desire to see people suffer because of it; nonetheless Congress made the right decision in rejecting the proposed $700bn bail-out for the US financial sector. Why should the taxpayer support what are in effect reckless gamblers??

If somebody ran up huge gambling debts at a casino very few people would support the state bailing them out while they continued to indulge their habit. Nobody would support them actually being rewarded for continuing their habit. So, why do people line up with the bankers in this debate?? It has come to something when even Conservatives are chiding the City, saying it must 'share the blame' for the current crisis. In other words even the most trenchant defenders of the system feel that this time the market has gone far too far.

Congress, like Parliament, was elected to safeguard the interests of the people; not the bonuses of bankers. Elsewhere I have said that what we are in fact facing is a classic crisis of overproduction, in this case of credit and overconsumption of debt. I simply don't buy the argument that the consumer is 'as much to blame' as the banks are for offering the credit. Ultimately the responsibility lies with the financial institutions as supposedly being the fiscally responsible party.

Yes the decision will probably make the crisis worse but ultimately the question has to be asked that if something is so fundamentally broken is it really worth fixing??

Monday, 29 September 2008

'Dave's decline' - Tories losing members

. Hat-tip to Luke Akehurst for this one; John Mann MP has produced a report called 'Dave's decline' which documents a decline in Conservative Party membership during Cameron's tenure. Mann says;

"From reports to the Electoral Commission, 90% of local associations with a sitting MP report either no recruitment or a fall in members.

Since Cameron’s election:

  • Constituency membership has fallen by an average of 24 in 2006 and 93 in 2007.
  • Each Shadow cabinet member lost an average of 81 members in just the last year.
  • George Osborne experienced a net loss of 240 members since joining the Shadow Cabinet.
  • Even Cameron himself lost 19 members in Witney last year.
  • 90% of sitting MPs’ membership has fallen or stayed the same.
  • 50% of Tory MPs have lost 10% of their membership.
  • 20% of Tory MPs have lost 20% of their membership.
  • Figures for the last five years show an even longer term decline which Cameron has failed to arrest, and in places, made worse."

Of course, these figures don't incorporate 2008 and it is only this year that the Conservative revival has really taken hold. So, it will be interesting to see figures for 2008. However, Luke rightly makes the point that as Tony Blair's head of steam built-up membership of the Labour Party which grew in it's charge to government. He sees this as further evidence that the Tories support is wide but not deep and there maybe some truth to that but he is underestimating how deep the resentment of the government is becoming and if that deepens it will barely matter how 'deep' the Tories support actually runs.

However, this decline should worry the Conservatives because a strong activist base is essential for fighting what is potentially going to be a very long election campaign. It does however present their opponents with a good opportunity to outfight them on the ground. We can steal a march on them if we build from the bottom-up.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Tainted love - ex Labour voters

. I have mentioned elsewhere a debate I had with Charlotte Gore on her blog. Charlotte doesn't much like the Labour Party; hardly surprising since she voted for them previously. Meanwhile, on Liberal Conspiricy another ex-Labour voter, MatGB took issue with me questioning whether it was really fair to say Labour and the Conservatives were essentially the same.

Something struck me during these exchanges; namely the psychology of ex-Labour supporters is much like that of the jilted lover. It has been also said to me by another Lib Dem refugee from Labour that 'Labour left them' not the other way round. It seems a fair few people have something approaching an emotional relationship with the Labour Party. I hope I am not disturbing any spouses of Labour members who are reading this and suspect their other half of having an emotional affair with Gordon Brown. One wonders how Sarah Brown feels about being a thrid wheel; mistress to the thorny red rose spouse.

I think this stems from the fact that for many Labour is more than a political party; if you happen to be working class it's an embodiment of a movement. Indeed the terms labour movement and Labour Party are held as being interchangeable by more single-minded Labourites. Labour has also been representative of hopes and dreams as much as actual policy commitments, as much a party as an ideal. In that it is exactly like a relationship, all your hopes and aspirations become tied to this one person. When tragedy strikes it is thus hurtful and so it was with Labour. When you discovered Tony Blair had been unfaithful; trading your hopes and dreams for ranch-side sunsets with a strapping Texan you took it personally.

Blairism generated an awful lot of hopes dreams in 97 - come on, confess you hummed along to 'things can only get better' didn't you?? Now the custodian of all that is a dour Scotsman who isn't exactly brimming with charisma. It's like waking up one morning and discovering all those 'beauty spots' you knew existed but glossed over in the heady days. It get's worse; you go for a morning kiss and your partner just rolls over and grunts. So it is with Labour; it's core vote has discovered it doesn't care and never has, the falling back of scales from the eyes can be quite traumatic as anybody who has ever had their heart-broken or seen it in other people can attest. Meanwhile, the fly-by-night suitors who once deified you are off chasing the slick new Etonian from down the street.

You never know what is round the corner; there is always hope as I discovered this year when I met my partner. I stopped looking in the wrong places and found something and somebody so amazing and beautiful it's untrue - it's about time Labour voters learned the same lesson. Stop hoping that your party will change because you wish it was so; look around you and the right party is out there for you too ;)

Friday, 26 September 2008

Wither the Daily Mail....

. Mark Pack has produced a reasoned defence of his readership of the Daily Mail over on Liberal Democrat Voice. Now, far be it from me to tell people which newspaper they like their dog or pet rabbit to savage before they settle down to toast and coffee but since Mark has bravely made an entire article out of his reading habits there can be no complaint if a reply is written.

There is no doubt the Mail has a large readership but I see that as no reason to add to it. His second point is totally flawed;

"Very large numbers of Liberal Democrat voters read it: around 980,000 Daily Mail readers voted Liberal Democrat in 2005, a number only topped by the 1.1 million Sun readers who voted Liberal Democrat. In comparison, there were only 250,000 Independent reading Liberal Democrat voters and 400,000 Guardian reading Liberal Democrat voters. So if you’re interested in politics, and in particular from a Liberal Democrat angle, all the more reason not to ignore the Mail."

Obviously, these people didn't come to vote for our party due to the superstar supportive coverage they read in the pages of their morning newspaper. In fact, there is no paper which truly pins it's colours to our mast so how this justifies reading it is beyond me. Maybe Mark is practicing a bizarre variant of Trotskyist entrism into the Labour Party?? We will infiltrate the jaundiced hearts of Middle England by reading their newspaper and beating them on the Coffee Break pages. It is great that 980,000 people decided to totally ignore the politics of their own paper and vote for something progressive but I feel no great urge to join them in their snack time reading habits.

His praise for the Mail's journalistic integrity is equally as baffling; the Mail along with such luminaries as The Sun and The Express belongs to the 'Alien immigrants eat my baby hamster' school of journalistic falsification. If there is prejudice and hatred out their waiting to be incited then you can bet a boatload of bananas that it will be leading the lynch mob.

I can understand wanting to understand what your opponents are thinking and saying. All well and good; buy the Telegraph which at least has a stab at not propagating the same hysterical hate-mongering that the Mail goes in for and, for the record, it's coverage of politics is better. Myself?? I read either the Guardian or Independent. When I am in the mood for something a bit right-wing; Telegraph, Spectator or the Economist usually suffice.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Archbishop - Marx was partly right about capitalism

. As regular readers of this blog will know I am a committed atheist and secularist so rarely find occasion to lavish praise on the clergy. However, I am going to make an exception to the rule for Dr Rowan Willams whose latest article in The Spectator is described by Matthew D' Acona as a "red rag to capitalist bulls". It is a generally excepted truth that the left will use any kind of economic crisis to hammer capitalism but this time we have seen the calls for greater regulation go well beyond the 'usual suspects' which is a direct testimony on how deep this crisis actually is; as reported below even David Cameron has called for 'sensible' regulation.

Willams rightly inveighs against the 'fictional wealth' that has been slushing around and generated the helpful illusion that the system works. He rightly says that the truth is;

"that almost unimaginable wealth has been generated by equally unimaginable levels of fiction, paper transactions with no concrete outcome beyond profit for traders."

You could add that the 'trickle down' effect; one that is so highly prized by defenders of the market have shown minimal benefit for people at the bottom end of the scale. Yet as is always the case they are the first to suffer, something that we even recognise as a reality with our promise of targeted tax cuts. It should be taken as a given in the current climate that it is;

"no use pretending that the financial world can maintain indefinitely the degree of exemption from scrutiny and regulation that it has got used to"

in other words the party is well and truly over for the free market. It comes as no surprise to critics of capitalism that;

"We find ourselves talking about capital or the market almost as if they were individuals, with purposes and strategies, making choices, deliberating reasonably about how to achieve aims. We lose sight of the fact that they are things that we make."

In other words people are alienated from what they produce which is a highly Marxist concept and critique of capitalism. He later goes onto say slavish devotion to the market as the panacea for all ills is a kind of 'fundamentalism'. Something that he, of course, will know an awful lot about; Willams says that the;

"biggest challenge in the present crisis is whether we can recover some sense of the connection between money and material reality — the production of specific things, the achievement of recognisably human goals that have something to do with a shared sense of what is good for the human community in the widest sense."

Amen to that; it is time to recognise that there is something fundamentally wrong with capitalism, how it works and that it is the duty of governments who supposedly govern in the name of the people to protect the people from the consequences of it's failures.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Lib/Lab; neither secterianism nor compromise

. Very interesting article on Liberal Democrat Voice by Alisdair Murray suggesting that Nick Clegg's leadership and Labour's impending wipeout means greater co-operation between the two parties and even merger possible. Meanwhile, in another place, on Charlotte Gore's blog a very vigorous debate about Labour and the left in general.

I won't bore the reader by repeating myself here; suffice it to say we can debate the merits and histories of the socialist and liberal tradition ad infinitum the real question is what it means in the here and now. I have never hidden my past in Labour and on what we shall gently call the wider left; peoples politics evolve with experience and my experience of those traditions convinced me something was wrong with both; however, something being wrong doesn't make it totally so and if I am being big and brave in admitting my mistakes I will also say there is an awful lot about those traditions that is worth fighting for and preserving. It is also worth saying that there are aspects of the liberal tradition which are problematic from a progressive point of view; I have no time for the 'unbroken thread' no matter whose it is; so, we all have problems.

The reason that the left is constantly seeking to reinvent itself is this; the left has traditionally meant and been about a challenge to the established social order. The terms left-wing and right-wing have their origins in the French Revolution. They originally referred to the seating arrangements in the various legislative bodies of France, specifically in the French Legislative Assembly of 1791, when the king was still the formal head of state, and the moderate royalist Feuillants sat on the right side of the chamber, while the radical Montagnards sat on the left. So, the challengers to the established social order sat on the left, it's defenders on the right. Since the collapse of communism the left has had no clear vision of what an alternative society might look like and has largely given up bothering with the notion of producing one.

This is wrong in my eyes. As communism turned out it wasn't a acceptable alternative but that doesn't mean we should accept there is none. Losing that vision, that clarity of purpose has crippled the left. A narrative is needed to string together politics; to provide people with hope there is something better and ultimately to drive humanity forward. It is the essence of progressive politics and despite what Charlotte may say or feel none of this automatically leads to gulags and collective farms.

Specifically with regards to how we view and approach the Labour Party we need to regard it as something of an awkward cousin. As a party we are agreed on targeting 50 Labour seats; to win those seats we are going to have to speak to and win people who would describe themselves as socialist or social democrats. They won't give up those labels because we shut them out; tell them they are historically wrong, they wont drop the labels but they may well support our programme for government and they may well give us their vote.

Hard facts tell us that progressive support in Britain is pretty much split between our two parties. Good people exist in the Labour Party because they see it as the best place to be to advance progressive politics and logistically they are right; Labour has the opportunity to govern and we don't. We need to convince them that given critical mass it is now our party that is leading the progressive charge. Our party has the great strength it can bridge the divide between free marketeers and people who would see themselves as socialists. It is a great asset that we should make the most of; if we do then we will broaden our appeal across the political spectrum.

A merger of the two parties based on numerical weakness would be bad politics. After all, haven't we been here before?? It would be messy and produce little discernible benefit to either party. A split from Labour that we could absorb would be a different matter because that could be affected by them broadly accepting our programme. The electoral map of Britain will make look radically different and most likely alot bluer soon; how we meet the challenges that presents is entirely down to how much we are prepared to be flexible while standing our ground.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Lies, Lies and dammed polls...

. I know there is some debate within political circles about the worth of opinion polls. It is often said on Liberal Democrat Voice that although polls are reported little store is set by them. My view is that they have some value; especially when they uniformly report the same data. Of course, any poll only reflects the views of it's sample and although polling companies are supposed to weigh their samples properly there is often huge margin for error; that should be taken as a given with anything.

If the culture in reporting polls was changed from trying to predict a specific result to charting overall trends in moods they would be much more valuable. However, you simply cannot ignore the fact that if a general election was held tomorrow it would certainly return a Conservative government with a majority of over 100. The polls showing their consistent lead has been backed up by people who have actually gone out and voted in recent elections so it must be taken as a given that the current polls are an accurate reflection of how people feel about the Labour government (actively hostile) and the Conservative opposition (ready to give them a chance of governing).

Although as Liberal Democrats we are a party of opposition and thus we should counterpose our position to that of the government that mood of active hostility is dangerous. Why?? Because it encourages people to think purely in terms of 'getting Labour out' which logically would lead them to vote Conservative in most seats. It would certainly lead them to vote Conservative in more seats than it would lead them to vote for us where we are the best tactical bet. It would be an effective reversal of the position in 1997 where as a party we benefited from people desperate to get rid of the Conservatives voting for us.

Nick Clegg was right about a 'zombie-government' and the evidence of that is in way people are thinking. After all, if you had a corpse rotting in the front room would you be too concerned about choosing which undertaker removed it; of course you wouldn't you'd go for the one closest to you and most able to remove that corpse effectively. This mood will fester and continue right up until election day if nothing radical changes as it did with the Major-Blair drama. It won't vanish; it will simply become more deeply embedded.

It is a cushy number for David Cameron because he really doesn't have to do an awful lot to pick-up a huge majority. He can let Gordon Brown do his job for him; sure he will produce policies but they can be pithy and vague because people are so heartily sick of Labour they don't care anymore. This is why Tony Blair's pledge cards were effective in 1997; they showed just enough to persuade any waveres that Labour should be given a chance.

It should also be borne in mind that this situation put Blair in a position where he could junk parts of the 97 manifesto that he didn't particularly like because nobody cared enough to hold him to account and the people who elected him felt complicit in any case. This goodwill carried him all the way to entering the Iraq war and it will carry Cameron a long way too, people will be so glad to get rid of Brown that they won't care what Cameron does as long as it sounds good and right. We can't ignore the message that the polls are giving us, we are in danger of being squeezed and to overcome that we need to move people beyond the purely negative.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Labour leadership crisis...why Brown won't go.

. Ok, so let's be honest; Gordon Brown doesn't cut the mustard. He missed his one chance at delivering a fourth term for Labour when he failed to call an election last autumn. Some of the things that have happened have been the governments fault; some haven't but none of that really matters now. People hate it and want it gone; they want new government. If they don't have specific grievance then the 'time for a change' mood is now the prevailing mood so they are opposed on those grounds. If an election was held tomorrow then Labour would be wiped out and we would probably post a reduction in seats too.

This is one good reason why there will be no change in the Labour leadership. Switching from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown just about scraped through with the public but a third leader? The call for a General Election would be hard to resist and Labour would be all to vulnerable to claims their leader lacks mandate. So, the unfortunate soul would be effectively boxed into calling an election if not this autumn then next spring. Any such election would be likely to be fairly disastrous for Labour so it is not as if any sane politician would want to put themselves in the position of captaining the Titanic. Another good reason that Brown won't go; you would have to be pretty brave or myopically ambitious to want to replace him, far better to let him lose and start with a relatively clean slate even if that is in opposition.

The above mentioned facts all mean that enough of the Parliamentary Labour Party are unlikely to fancy putting their jobs on the line by forcing Brown from office. If you are nervously looking at the swingometre and fearing the loss of your seat it is a far safer bet to hope that by 2o10 the economy has picked up a little and people are more favourably disposed to Labour if not it's leader. So, expect alot of dull protestations of loyalty from Labour's party conference this week; in public at least.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Hysterical Con Home

. Conservative Home reported on David Cameron's remarks to the Financial Times which it claimed called on centre-right leaders to 'defend capitalism'. In fact, in the article Cameron himself even calls for;

""sensible” steps to improve transparency and regulation"

Meanwhile, Iain Dale writes;

Listening to Shaun Woodward on ANY QUESTIONS I was struck by several things. Firstly, he seemed to acknowledge that this credit crisis had happened on Gordon Brown's watch and he should therefore apologise. I suspect it will be a cold day in hell before that happens. But apologise for what? According to Woodward and his Cabinet colleagues, the banking crisis is almost entirely down to the effects of globalisation and the US sub prime mortgage market. I completely acknowledge that this is at least in part an entirely reasonable argument.

But if you don't acknowledge the failures in regulation and in public policy in this country and place the whole blame on external issues, you are implicitly, or tacitly acknowledging that if you were powerless to stop it, you are powerless to solve it. In short, you hold up your hand and say 'there' nothing we can do'. That is, of course, patently ridiculous. The moment a government surrenders to external forces and says it can do nothing is the moment it also surrenders the right to be called a government.

So, who is overreacting and hysterical? Is it the free market buccaneers of Conservative Home who realise that their cherished market has once again turned in on itself or is it the people who realise that markets need regulation and people need protection from the fall-out from the chaos they cause??

Can Harry Potter save Gordon Brown??

. JK Rowling has given the Labour Party one million pounds. Apparently motivated by Labour's 'record on child poverty' Rowling said;

"I believe that poor and vulnerable families will fare much better under the Labour Party than they would under a Cameron-led Conservative Party."

Obviously we never got a look-in which is rather disappointing to say the least especially since Labour's record on child poverty actually leaves something to be desired. As to the question posed above the answer has to be a decisive no; it is not as if Rowling can actually wave a wand and reduce the parties rather huge deficit in the polls. I find the notion put forward by the BBC that;

"her donation will boost Gordon Brown as he tries to calm unrest among party members at Labour's annual conference"

slightly surreal to say the least. However, any other ideas for celebrity donors that we can attract to our party?

To cut or not cut??

. Tax cuts are great. They are brilliant, everybody would like them and to promise them is surely a good idea? My main reason for not being particularly sure about offering them are mainly practical;

  • As things stand they are largely uncosted. It is commonly accepted that the economy is in recession and that public debt is high. The natural question thus arises where is the elbow room for £20 billion worth of tax cuts from the public purse?? It may well be that at the time of election the economic climate will be different but in current climate it is surely not the case that you will in practice have to cut more than £20 billion from public expenditure. The question then becomes where are these savings are coming from and the above cold, hard economic facts surely calls into question whether they can be achieved without impacting frontline services.
  • It follows that during economic contraction spending on frontline services will rise, not fall. So, the above points apply with equal force unless the cut's themselves are expected to stimulate growth which their is little evidence they will; these are questions that need to be answered before a informed descision can be made so I remain on the fence.

New Direction??

. If I had a pound for every time a leftist writer called for a 'new direction' or some such other regeneration then I would never have to worry about my overdraft again in my life. It was thus with a degree of weariness that I looked at Mike Killingworth's article on Liberal Conspiracy.

He wants to "advance new themes for the centre-left for the next ten years" and to do this he wants to 're-think the role of the state'. His basic contention that markets are now in effect more powerful than the nation state is certainly one that appears to be accepted by Naomi Klein et el and the 'anti-globalisation' movement in general. However, it rather does avoid the fact that nation states still enact laws, have standing armies and police forces etc etc. Transnational organisations like the United Nations, the European Union etc remain very much the sum of their parts still hamstrung and very much at the mercy of powerful nation states.

His argument that progressive taxation is no longer a "practical political option" is thus pretty much nonsense. How many companies do you know that have direct control over the taxation of income?? Nation states are here to stay for the foreseeable future and although I think the progressive push should be away from the nation state, towards strengthening the transnational organisations, that does not change material reality. Progressive taxation is still very much an option and one that generally I am in favour of; however, the traditional folly of the progressive social democratic left has been to see things in a very 'tax more spend more' kind of way and assume that will solve societies ills.

The state is a 'Janus face' because ultimately it is a force separate from society and it is in this separation that the potential for conflict between it's and societies interests grow. Leftists either want to overthrow or reform the state; I propose a 'third way' if you will, the state needs to be integrated with society. This should in-turn shrink the state and reduce the areas of conflict and maximise democracy. So, everybody is a winner right?? If this view is set in context then our programme for things like electoral reform is important and it is just as important as pushing shiny new tax cuts.

Killingworth has a bit of a 'David Cameron moment' towards the end of his article;

"However, the state and the market do not exhaust the social space. There is also non-governmental, not-for-profit activity. This is the crucial area for the re-invention of progressive politics.

It is this third sector which offers hope. Against the liberty that the market promises but only partially and inequitably delivers; against the equality that the state pretends to uphold in those few moments when it isn’t attending to its own needs and fears - the not-for-profit sector can offer an expression of social solidarity."

This reinforces the move of the progressive left away from traditional politics which, as already mentioned above, is personified in the 'anti-globalisation' movement. However, as we have also seen that move away is based on a false preconception of the powerless state. Our challenge as Liberal Democrats is how do we bring that drive and passion for change back into 'conventional' politics and to show that our policies can make a difference.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Clegg's creationism???

. I have to confess to being really bad; I have pretty much ignored conference up until today when I have started to wade through the reportage and reaction. Apparently Nick Clegg's speech was really good (although as I have made clear I don't like the 'Preparing for power' pretensions and remain undecided over tax cuts due to their viability in the current climate) and my overall impression of the conference is positive. Of course, you wouldn't expect Conservative Home to feel as such but I thought it's piece attacking Clegg for 'creationism' was rather surreal in some ways. Frankly, I thought there was something in the speech that I had missed but it would appear not it is in fact an attack on Clegg's 'rosy' view of human nature.

Clegg said;

"My basic view of human nature is that people are born with goodness in them. Of course, people can be selfish, cruel or violent - But I believe no-one starts that way. "

This is not a subjective or rosy view because Clegg is not saying that we all start out good; he is saying that we all start out as 'blank slates'. It doesn't even rule out the possibility of predisposition towards certain tendencies but a recognition that predispositions can remain unfulfilled which at birth is as possible as their fulfillment. Obviously, what tips the balance is environmental factors, upbringing, opportunity etc. Determinism suits a conservative mindset because if an individuals path is already set then the need for society ie, the voluntary engagement of individuals with their peers to the betterment of the species and protection of the weak is not needed.


"If you deny that human selfishness - which evolutionary biologists explain as a willingness to help not just oneself but also those closest to oneself genetically, like children - is an intrinsic part of human motivations, then you'll struggle to understand why fiscal incentives, market signals and marginal tax rates are so important."

Conversely you could say that if you deny the reverse tendency towards selflessness then a focus on 'charities and voluntary sector support' as policy is complete madness. Either that or it is code for denying people the support they need from the state. Incentives without support create a off balance society riven with social division which inevitably would collapse. Change is the motor force of progress and yes, sometimes it does get messy, but so does the preservation of what is old and rotting (ask Gordon Brown about that one). It would be wrong and lop-sided to see complex organisms like human beings in purely one-sided terms. A lop-sided view produces lop-sided politics which invariably don't benefit society and only allow for the advance of the privileged few, which is of course the kind of society the Conservatives want and have always stood for; so no change there then at least.