25 Oct 2012


I've been watching The Thick of It. Although Camoron has been warned that it shouldn't be used as an instruction manual by one of the stars, Rebecca Front, it does provide us with some insights into the minds of the people in power.

Today there was a tiny increase in the GDP figures which is almost certainly a blip caused by the Jubilee and the Olympics, and almost certainly an over-estimate as several people have pointed out today (e.g. here, and here).

But the way politics works is that this tiny bit of good news is spun as a massive confirmation of government policy - despite the fact that even the IMF is now saying that austerity is choking our economy. Government seems to have no choice in this. Despite multiple u-turns on various (mostly minor) issues, the government has staked it's reputation on a policy thought up just before the election in 2010. If it shifts on this, it is in effect admitting that it's hard-arsed attitude was wrong all along.

The problem with being a Tory is that one is committed to a morality which is kind of neo-Darwinism at it's worst. Their motto might well be Herbert Spenser's 'survival of the fittest' (with the corollary 'death to the weak'). Right-wing politics is embedded in a self-help morality in which success is a sign of hard work, determination and perseverance. In this world view success, especially in business or politics, is associated with moral fitness. Failure to succeed is, ergo, a moral failure. The poor are immoral in this world-view. Now the nasty party are quite capable of dressing their morality up as 'compassionate conservatism', but it is a wolf in sheep's clothing. The left have other problems, but they're not in power.

This is one of the reasons Tories are so reluctant to go after the rich even when they are dishonest. Somewhere deep inside the Tory believes that in order to become rich one must be fundamentally moral. With this kind of world view, they are loath to attack the ultra-rich and the corrupt bankers. It doesn't seem right to them, though they may not be capable of articulating why. Moral beliefs are often deeply held and experienced as emotions rather than concepts.

So the Tories, in order to appeal to their core voters, and to be seen to be representing the Tory values, need to be hard men. This is why so few women succeed. They don't do that kind of hard as well as men. To my mind this is very far from being a flaw. These hard men do a lot of damage with their rigidity and brittleness. They don't have any Dao, they don't flow and change very well. Hence they are conserve-atives - though what they seek to conserve is their own power. Everything else needs changing.

So faced with a crisis they don't really understand they're left with posturing and playing the hard man with the immoral (criminals, the disabled, the poor, people with a lot of children, etc). So something like the announcement today must be seized and inflated. While the rest of us look at 0.5% increase in GDP and say 'meh' the Tories are constitutionally and morally (by their code) obliged to make a big deal out of it and at the same time ignore any bad news, or at least blame it on someone else.

The trouble with all this is that it doesn't amount to intelligent public debate. The media, bless them, were mostly trained in the same kind of cockmamie economic paradigms and don't utilise the rhetoric of the heterodox economists to really tear the politicians to shreds. They sort of barrack from the sidelines, but you can tell they're just as confused as the politicians. They implicitly believe in the same kind of economic lies as the rest of the mainstream.  So we're still getting swamped in bullshit about deficit reduction and austerity, and the 'problem' of sovereign debt (there is no austerity as overall spending is up, and we don't have a sovereign debt problem). Still no one is talking about private sector debt which dwarfs public.

Personally I find it all profoundly depressing. When the news is all that and paedophilia I find myself just switching off. The appeals to our outrage, fear, and appetites leave us intellectually impoverished. The government clearly lost the ability to think years ago. New Labour were no better, and I have no confidence in post-New Labour-Labour being very much different. The LibDems have just massively disappointed everyone - which is a shame because Vince Cable did call the overload of consumer credit in 2006. He missed the scale of finance and business sector debt, but give him his due.

So yes the government take this tiny isolated positive result (with an unknown margin of error) as confirmation of all their economic policies. But this is instinctual. It represents the first stage of a devolution away from rationality and humanity. In Buddhist terms the government is now in the animal realm where emotions and instinct overwhelm any semblance of intellect.  Politicians are no longer full members of the human race because they deny their human faculties, they deliberately operate at less than their human potential. They're not quite farmyard animals yet, but something is definitely amiss. The same thing is evidently happening in the USA.

I see a dystopian apocalyptic future for us. My plan if things turn to custard is to join a monastery and try to preserve books and learning. It worked in the last dark ages.

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Keep is seemly & on-topic. Thanks.