Monday, 3 November 2008

'Boredom' and 'esoteric debates'

. Alix Mortimer dismays of the 'libertarians v social democrats blog war'. Charlotte Gore then goes to defend herself and feels she has blown her chances of winning the Lib Dem Blog of the Year award which Alix partially judges. Involvement in such debates should never exclude a blog from the running from this award; if anything raising challenging ideas (which, by definition will get a counterpunch) should be rewarded. I don't agree with libertarians on a wide range of issues but I would rather be in an atmosphere where there was that stimulation, debate and the moving forward that comes from it than not; sometimes tempers will get frayed and more heat will come than light but the broad thrust of these debates is that they do cover important issues.

For example, your view of the role of the state will necessarily determine your views on taxation which as part of an discourse will be raised as an issue. Alix links to my post on Liberal Democrat Voice and conveniently forgets that among the rather more abstract stuff there is concrete proposals around taxation (like reviewing VAT, ending of what I regard as punitive taxation etc, etc) and these are issues that have been raised in the concrete before so I find the claim that these debates are about 'everything and nothing' to be somewhat missing the point.

If we want to be brutal it is ideas that are proving such a boon to politics 'across the pond' at the moment; Obama has built his campaign on the idea of change and then given flesh to the bones. What is hooking so many American voters in is that idea, not a detailed study of his economic policy or any other policy. Of course, they then go onto learn his ideas in more detail and they are much more likely to accept them because they agree with his central idea in the first place. In other words there is a complex relationship between 'big ideas' and the real world as it were, with the former often changing the latter.

I think the pound in peoples pockets; the role government plays in peoples lives is highly relevant to the outside world. Debates about welfare and it's importance are highly relevant to people who depend on it; the list goes on. Frankly, Alix reminds me a bit of my old far-left days where people are regularly told that debates of any kind are 'irrelevant' to the working class. Something that is predicated on the notion that they are too stupid to actually understand and engage with them. If we all posted about 'how great the Lib Dems' are and how rubbish the other parties are would this make us more relevant to the outside world?? What has been more relevant over the past few weeks than the origins of the current crisis and what to do about it??

9 comments:

oranjepan said...

Irrelevant not in the sense that 'ordinary' people are stupid, but irrelevant in the sense that labels have only representative value and none beyond their intrinsic material worth.

Who cares whether your plates are silver and golden if there's no food to put on them?

Darrell G said...

Oranjepan,

Well I think we have kind of had this debate before. They have worth if behind them lies a coherent set of policies and ideas which I think is pretty much the case here. The germ of your point is that I feel the left in general has lost alot of its coherence on a whole range of issues (i was reading Nick Cohen while I was away and he made some good points as far as I got, don't share his conclusions about Iraq though and there are reasonable rejoinders to what he says there)....

People need lables in politics to establish some coherency and there is nothing wrong with that...I feel I have debated beyond my lable, sometimes with yourself and sometimes with Asquith but as I have always said there is a point where, as a blogger, I wont pass because I do feel it compromises principles. Drawing that line is sometimes a hard but necessary call; that's politics and I dont see anything wrong with that...

Incidentally, Id like to make a point here because libertarians do kind of self-lable since they have an independant organised presence...the size of which is irrelevant to the fact it actively exists.

Julian H said...

"Obama has built his campaign on the idea of change and then given flesh to the bones"

This is the most flattering description of the Obama campaign to come out of anywhere except the Daily Kos.

Have you changed your thumbnail photo thing to a strangely-cartooned picture of two people snogging? Are you one of them? It looks vaguely Suede-esque:

http://content.answers.com/main/content/wp/en/thumb/8/88/200px-Suede.jpg

Alix said...

"I think the pound in peoples pockets; the role government plays in peoples lives is highly relevant to the outside world. Debates about welfare and it's importance are highly relevant to people who depend on it; the list goes on."

You totally misrepresent me if you're suggesting I don't want to talk about those issues. I spent the early stages of the debate doing little else apart from discussing welfare and tax in a mind-bending amount of detail. And I pointed that out at the start of yesterday's post as well.

But in that debate I was constantly being frustrated by the ultimate catch-all comeback - that tax cuts are what right-wing people do. Argument closed, as far as some were concerned. That's what I mean by emotive language. That's what I'm objecting to. Hence where I said "My real problem... is that this is no longer a dialogue."

How you can go from that to arrive at "Frankly, Alix reminds me a bit of my old far-left days where people are regularly told that debates of any kind are 'irrelevant' to the working class" I've no idea.

Alix said...

I should also clarify actually that I wasn't singling out your post as a particularly good or particularly bad example of the genre. It was just the most recent post in the debate.

Darrell G said...

Julian H,

By pure coincidence I have occasionally written for Daily Kos...yes I have and I guess it does a little lol....

Alix,

Well if i am misrepresenting then so are you...so err what do you actually want to do??

I have never said that; if you read what I have written then I am mostly convinced on the tax cuts package and indeed call for it to be broadened over into a look at the taxs that effect pricing. What I have said quite consistently is that reducing the size of the state without clear alternatives is wrong. What I have said is that the market cannot be allowed to 'let rip' as people like Charlotte want and yes I am happy to say such views are right-wing.

I arrive at that because to me your thrust is against the entire debate. I dont particularly care what your view of my post is or isnt to be totally honest. What I do care about is that there is no ackowledgement that there are concrete ideas on both sides of this debate and that they are very relevant....

Darrell G said...

Addendums;

Incidentally neither do I object particularly to 'emotive language'....the only time I have come close to calling tax cuts right-wing is when I have cautioned for the need for them to be packaged correctly in terms of how they could be *preceived* in Labour heartlands...

Alix said...

I specifically did not say that you were the one supplying the catch-all comeback about right-wing taxes. Because you weren't. It was, nonetheless, being supplied, and is in keeping with the overall tendency to "emotive language" that I object to. Therefore it was relevant here. You took it to apply to you and I didn't mean it like that.

I've specifically quoted you an extract that demonstrates that my problem is with how the debate is taking place rather than the fact that it's taking place, and yet you can still say that "to me your thrust is against the entire debate.". In which case I'm not sure what else to do. You've simply called black white.

"What I do care about is that there is no ackowledgement that there are concrete ideas on both sides of this debate and that they are very relevant...."

That's exactly where you misrepresent me. All along my acknowledgement that the debate itself is worth having has been explicit. As I've said before, and say again now, I'm happy to engage on issues, and was happy to for a long time. I've provided several references for this. My objection is to how the arguments are being constructed, not to the arguments themselves. I'm a bit of an evangelist on the importance of being wary of labels and emotive language because they're usually barriers to understanding and hence to effective compromise.

Darrell G said...

Alix,

In that case I am sorry but I do have to plead I am being misrepresented. As I have said above what I have warned about is the fact that in Labour heartlands a tax cutting package probably will be preceived as an attack on public spending. Thus, I do feel that we do need to be careful about how we package them in this instance.

When the package was first announced I think you will see a cautious attitude it is true. However, subsequently I have broadly supported them (with the caveat that it should not be at the expense of public services) and, I say it again, incorporated them into a broader, what I feel is a redistributive, package of ideas...

The idea of 'letting the markets rip' *is* right wing in my eyes and I make no apology for saying that....