I'm starting to think that the Left might actually be right … What with the phone-hacking scandal, the eurozone crisis and the US economic woes, the greedy few have left people disillusioned with our debased democracies. It has taken me more than 30 years as a journalist to ask myself this question, but this week I find that I must: is the Left right after all? You see, one of the great arguments of the Left is that it is actually a set-up. The rich run a global system that allows them to accumulate capital and pay the lowest possible price for labour. The freedom that results applies only to them. The many simply have to work more insecure, to enrich the few. Democratic politics, which purports to enrich the many, is actually in the pocket of those bankers, media barons and other moguls who run and own everything. – UK Telegraph
Dominant Social Theme: Doubts creep in. Maybe the greedy capitalist bankers are as bad as the left says they are.
Free-Market Analysis: This is a fairly remarkable column by the Telegraph's Charles Moore. (See article excerpt above.) It shows us how the mainstream intelligentsia are struggling with the growing awareness of how the financial system actually operates. The problem is that Moore cannot bring himself to explain what has really gone wrong; though it is in fact doubtful that he really knows. But he gives it a try in this article.
One can certainly question why the Telegraph continues to present articles that are far less bland than the average mainstream fare. It must be by editorial design, and yet even Telegraph columnists will go only so far. One can blast government and bureaucrats within the Telegraph's pages but to refer to the elites running the world from the City of London (and elsewhere) is still obviously off limits. Moore comes close, however, by referring to the "rich." It's an inchoate reference however.
The article is part confessional, part analysis. In the 1970s and 1980s, he writes, Britain's problems seemed easily identifiable. It was the trade unions that were holding people back. "Bad jobs were protected/created. Industrial action did not mean producing goods and services that people wanted to buy, it meant going on strike. The most visible form of worker oppression was picketing." Here's some more from the article:
A key symptom of popular disillusionment with the Left was the moment, in the late 1970s, when the circulation of Rupert Murdoch's Thatcher-supporting Sun overtook that of the ever-Labour to throw off the chains that Karl Marx had claimed were shackling them – and join the bourgeoisie which he hated. Their analysis of their situation was essentially correct. The increasing prosperity years proved them right.
But as we have surveyed the Murdoch scandal of the past fortnight, few could deny that it has revealed how an international company has bullied and bought its way to control of party leaderships, processes. David Cameron, escaping skillfully from the tight corner into which he had got himself, admitted as much. Mr. Murdoch himself, like a tired old Godfather, told the House of Commons he was so often courted by prime ministers that he wished they would leave him alone.
The credit crunch has exposed a similar process of how emancipation can be hijacked. The greater freedom to borrow which began in the 1980s was good for most people. A society in which new people cannot rise. How many small businesses could start or first homes be bought without a loan? [But now] the global banking system is an adventure playground for the participants, complete with spongy, health-that they bounce when they fall off. The role of the rest of us is simply to pay.
Having compared the past to present, Moore tries to summarize the differences. This column's mantra about the credit crunch is that Everything Is Different Now, he writes. People have lost faith in free markets, and even in Western democracy. They may even, as they did in the 1930s, begun to consider totalitarianism as the answer.
These days, he suggests, they ask "What's in it for me?" And this is especially true of America where "the optimistic [free-market] message of the Reagan era has now become "a shrill one."
He notes that Fox News is part of the problem, poisoning the dialogue with its shrillness. He watched the news channel and noticed it said nothing about Murdoch's problems while continually blasting Barack Obama. Republican Congressman attacked Obama recklessly in Moore's view. "They seemed to take for granted the underlying robustness of their country's economic and political arrangements … We can wave banners about "life, liberty but they tend to say, in smaller print, 'Made in China'."
He is remarkably blunt about the EU, pointing out that it resembles a left-wing satire. " A single currency is created. A single bank controls it. No authority watches over it, and when the zone's borrowings run into trouble, elected governments must submit to almost any indignity rather than let bankers get hurt."
It is almost as if honesty has gotten the better of him, as if once started, he cannot stop. Here is a remarkable observation: "When we look at the Arab Spring, we tend complacently to tell ourselves that the people on the streets all want the freedom we have got … [But] we are bust – both actually and morally." He is very close to placing Egypt alongside Britain, which would probably be a job-killing observation even for a Telegraph columnist.
He concludes by observing that if "conservatism" is to be saved, it will be because of the stupidity of the Left. "The Left's blind faith in the state makes its remedies worse than how much ground we have lost." This may be true, but Moore's use of the word "conservative," betrays the fundamental flow of his analysis. He uses the word casually as if it is beyond definition. But as we have often pointed out in these pages, what is a conservative?
François-René de Chateaubriand in 1819, supposedly coined the term after the upheaval of the French Revolution. But it is the great Irish politician Edmund Burke who elaborated on it and attempted to turn the phrase from descriptive adjective into viable political perspective. Nonetheless, conservatism remains in our view more of a state of nostalgia than a coherent ideology.
Yearning for a perceived past does not create a workable environment for the present. This is in fact why so many conservatives essentially end up espousing fairly authoritarian views over times, especially during eras of political stress. Having adopted the nostrums of fashionable perspectives, they yet have no deeper understanding. Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is said to carry around a copy of a book by Ludwig von Mises, but close acquaintances doubt she has ever read it.
One could make the argument that it is in some sense a variant of "fascism" – Fascism Lite – because of its celebration of patriotism, militarism (especially in America) and an often-uneasy conflation of state activism and quasi-free market economics.
English conservatism (Toryism) supports the monarchy, for instance. But the monarchy is a tool of the entrenched Anglo-American power elite, which values rank and file conservatives no more than anyone else. One is left ultimately with an amorphous philosophy that is resistant to change and endorses the status quo without a great deal of calibration as to what that status quo actually represents.
Conservatism is essentially backwards looking. One does not have to be financially literate to be a conservative. One need merely be "pro law and order." Thus, conservatives both in the United States and Britain are willing to tolerate far more state involvement in economic affairs than laissez-faire "classical liberals" – libertarians in the States.
The world is run by Anglosphere power elites with tactical arms in Israel, Washington and perhaps the Vatican. It is abetted by corporate, political and military enablers. Its enemy is classical liberal sociopolitical stances and free-market thinking. Conservatism holds little threat to it, especially as conservativism usually espouses government action to solve perceived problems.
Conservatism is often nationalistic and even militaristic. Even those who are profoundly ignorant of free-market principles, history and philosophy, can adopt it. Moore concludes his article by worrying that conservatism cannot be saved. He is worrying about the wrong thing.
Conservatism does not necessarily have anything to do with free markets, competition or the invisible hand. It is the other side of liberalism-socialism. Since Moore and many others like him cannot even define the problem it is doubtful that they will ever discover the solution. This is too bad for consumers of mainstream media.