Monday, May 31, 2010
Comedian Mark Thomas’s ‘People’s Manifesto’ confirms that no one is more suspicious and disdainful of the masses today than the worn-out, disillusioned rump of the radical left
The funniest [British] election result on 6 May probably passed most of you by. It wasn’t Esther Rantzen losing her deposit (and what meagre shred of respectability she had left) in Luton South. It wasn’t the ousting of cheeky cheeky Lembit Opik in Montgomeryshire. It wasn’t even the fact that under Nick Clegg – who had been appointed by the chattering classes as the High Representative of liberal, cosmopolitan, Waitrosean values – the Lib Dems actually lost seats. No, the most grin-inducing result was in Bristol West, where an independent called Danny Kushlick came sixth with 343 votes.
Normally there wouldn’t be anything especially chucklesome about an independent candidate doing badly. But Kushlick was standing on a ticket of ‘The People’s Manifesto’, no less, a document drawn up by left-wing comedian Mark Thomas (I say comedian. I say left-wing) and modestly described as ‘the ultimate political manifesto’. For all its radical pretensions, Thomas’s intolerant document actually highlights the sneeriness and cynicism of what remains of the radical left. It is a work of high radical snobbery, jam-packed with disdain for, rather than faith in, the toiling masses.
Throughout history a lot of dodgy individuals have claimed to speak on behalf of ‘The People’, but Thomas’s might just be the most dubious claim yet. By ‘The People’ he actually means members of his audiences, who were asked, during his recent stand-up tour, to come up with policies for a manifesto. The idea that the kind of people who attend Mark Thomas gigs represent the people really is funny. Simply the fact that they enjoy being bombarded with radical-liberal prejudices camouflaged badly as gags – Coca-Cola is evil! Rupert Murdoch is Satan! – should be evidence enough that they aren’t like normal folk. If you need further evidence, take a look at their collected policy proposals.
They’re obsessed with dog shit, in that way that miserable, moaning tossers tend to be. Loads of Thomas’s audience members suggested instituting new laws to punish people who allow their dogs to take a dump on the streets. ‘If a dog owner lets their dog shit on your doorstep, you should be able to shit on theirs’, says one. ‘[I]f someone allows their dog to shit on your doorstep, then you should be able to shit upon their head’, says another. Two audience members said the government should keep a DNA sample of every dog’s shit and then set up a ‘multimillion-pound dog-turd database so that police could work backwards to track down the offenders’.
In the end – spoilt for choice on the burning question of how to get dog shit off the streets – Thomas opted to include the following proposal in his People’s Manifesto: ‘People who allow their dog to shit on the pavement without cleaning it up should be forced to wear it as a moustache.’ It’s Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life meets Dirty Sanchez, where the blue-haired, Mary Whitehouse-style conservativism of being obsessed with what disgusting people allow their disgusting dogs to do on my doorstep is sexed-up with some talk of shit-moustaches to give it a radical gloss.
The manifesto continually adds a dash of surrealism to its miserabilist proposals in an attempt to make them appear funny ha ha rather than funny authoritarian. One proposal is that ‘There should be an age of consent for religion’, which would aim to ‘balance the rights of religious freedom and the rights of the child by setting an age limit on religion’. That is, mums and dads should be prevented by law from bringing up children under the age of 14 in a religious faith.
Never has there been a more graphic illustration of what ‘children’s rights’ really represent: the watering down of the real rights of adults, in this case the right of adults to have the freedom of belief to bring up their children in whatever moral fashion they see fit. To take the edge off this proposal to invite the filth into the most intimate relations of ordinary families, Thomas says: ‘This policy will prevent children entering mosques, temples, synagogues and churches until they are 14 and will be enforced with a height bar, just like those at funfairs and adventure parks.’ See? It’s funny to increase the power of the state over families!
With yawning predictability, Thomas’s audience members proposed enforcing sanctions against 4x4 drivers. ‘4x4 drivers should be forced to drive everywhere off-road, even to Sainsbury’s’; ‘4x4 drivers should be forced to drive their vehicle sitting on the roof in a deckchair with a long steering column’, etczzz. No one went quite as far as an artist who attended the Guardian’s launch of its climate-change initiative last year – who suggested that 4x4 drivers should ‘spend a night in the cells’ – but the Two Minutes Hate against 4x4 drivers in Thomas’s manifesto confirms what they have become in the mean, envious, thrifty imaginations of the agitated middle classes: symbols of unacceptable ambition, affronts to the top-down ideological demand that we should all live as meekly (and naturally) as sheep. ‘4x4 driver’ is effectively code for ‘nouveau riche’ – people with ideas above their station (wagon).
And there are two policy proposals on the Daily Mail in The People’s Manifesto, out of 40 proposals in total, such is its alleged threat to the reading public’s mental health. ‘The Daily Mail should be forced to print on the front page of every edition the words: “This is a fictionalised account of the news and any resemblance to the truth is entirely coincidental”’, says the first; ‘The Daily Mail should be forced to print the words “The paper that supported Hitler” on its masthead’, says the second. The operative word in both instances is ‘forced’. In the feverish Mail-fearin’ minds of contemporary radicals nothing is more attractive than the idea of the British state – which of course never distorts the truth or had any dodgy dealings with Hitler prior to the war – forcing a newspaper effectively to brand itself with a modern-day mark of Cain, singling it out as Completely And Utterly Beyond The Pale (As Decided By Guardian Readers).
Thomas says these proposals are not born from a ‘desire to stigmatise the paper’. Yes they are. What drives Mail-bashing is the rather mad idea that it’s the only paper with a penchant for sensationalism and the censorious idea that its words translate directly into prejudicial public behaviour, as if its readers are sponges waiting to soak up whatever nonsense the Rothermere clan is spouting. And who are these readers? Thomas favourably quotes Stephen Fry describing the Mail as ‘a paper that no one of any decency would be seen dead with’. Ah, so its readers are the indecent, Them, the fickle, suggestible mob. This is a modern-day, ‘humour’-tinged version of the anti-newspaper snobbery of earlier elitists, who, as John Carey documented in The Intellectuals and the Masses, said ‘the rabble vomit their bile and call it a newspaper’ (1).
Thomas’s proposals on politics are so dripping in cynicism that you could almost scoop it up, bottle it, and sell it to students. He suggests ‘Politicians should have to wear tabards displaying the names and logos of the companies with whom they have a financial relationship, like a racing driver’. Most strikingly, for someone who claims to be a fan of the Chartists, and even their political heir (another brilliant joke), he proposes: ‘MPs should not be paid wages but loans…because they get highly paid jobs after they graduate from Westminster’.
One of the nineteenth-century Chartists’ great democratic demands was that members of parliament should be paid a wage, so that even a man without a pot or a window but with some political convictions could choose to run for office, alongside those moneyed lords and barons. Thomas’s loan proposal would rewind history and make parliament once more the preserve of those with no financial headaches.
For a true taste of why Thomas’s audience members are not ‘The People’, consider the following policy proposed during a gig in Darlington: ‘Institute the “Sky test” on benefit claimants, so if you suck on the teat of Murdoch, no benefits for you.’ In other words, explains Thomas, ‘if you are unemployed and have Sky, you get your benefits cut’. What a cast-iron confirmation of the spite that lurks behind apparently radical, anti-capitalistic Murdoch-bashing. What presents itself as a critique of a massive media mogul is in fact a profound discomfort with the dumb automatons who lap up the media mogul’s produce, whether it’s Sky, the Sun or whatever.
Most manifestos put forward ideas for creating a better world – this one only moans about a world apparently smeared in dog turd and peopled by parents who religiously brainwash their kids and lazy spongers who suck Rupert’s nips all day long. It confirms that the most poisonous snobbery leaks from those sections of society most cut off from the masses, in this case the remnants of the disappointed, disgruntled, radical left. The wonder is that even 343 people voted for this steaming pile of dog dirt.
The usual Leftist perversion of language is being used to demonize Israel
Over the past generation, the Left has commandeered our language. It has inverted the terminology of human rights, freedom, morality, heroism, democracy and victimization. Its perversion of language has made it nearly impossible for members of democratic, human rights respecting, moral societies to describe the threats they face from their human rights destroying, genocidal, tyrannical enemies. Thanks to the efforts of the international Left, the latter are championed as the victims of those they seek to annihilate.
Two incidents in recent weeks make clear just how disastrous the Left’s wholesale theft of language and through it, their inversion of reality has been for Israel.
Last Monday, Noam Chomsky arrived at the Allenby Bridge and requested a visa to enter Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The police at the border refused his request. The radical leftist Israel-basher made a fuss and waited around for several hours before he went back to Jordan.
Chomsky left Jordan at the end of the week and travelled to Lebanon. For the second time in four years, on Friday Chomsky toured southern Lebanon with a Hizbullah guide. Now an official guest of Hizbullah, Chomsky is scheduled to give an address in Beirut Tuesday to celebrate the IDF’s pullout from south Lebanon 10 years ago.
As David Hornik detailed in *FrontPage Magazine on Friday, the leftist-dominated Israeli media went nuts when they discovered Chomsky had been turned away at the border. *Yediot Aharonot and *Haaretz heralded Chomsky as a great mind and proclaimed hysterically that the refusal to allow him to enter the country marked the end of Israeli democracy and the start of a slide into fascism. The Western media quickly piled on and within hours Israel’s right to deny its avowed enemies entry was under assault.
And Chomsky is Israel’s enemy. As Hornik pointed out, Chomsky has repeatedly defended Holocaust deniers while accusing Israel of being the ideological heir of Nazi Germany. When he hasn’t been too busy championing the Khmer Rouge and Josef Stalin, and attacking the US as the Great Satan, Chomsky has devoted much time and energy to calling for Israel’s eradication and defending Palestinian and Hizbullah terrorists.
IT WAS the government’s job to point this out. But instead, faced with the leftist onslaught against its right to control its borders, the government crumpled. Instead of explaining that Chomsky is an enemy of Israel and an abettor and defender of genocide, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev apologized for the unpleasant reception Chomsky received at the Allenby Bridge. Regev also promised that if Chomsky returns, he will be granted an entry visa.
The government’s cowardly handling of the Chomsky incident is testament to the Left’s success at intimidating Western leaders to the point where instead of standing up to leftist propaganda and lies, they accept them as truth and even collaborate in disseminating them.
Probably the PMO figured no one would listen if it told the truth about Chomsky. It probably felt that defending the decision to bar Chomsky from the country would only elicit a second barrage of media attacks.
And perhaps they were right. But the fact that the Left would have remained unconvinced doesn’t excuse the government’s abject surrender of the truth about Chomsky to Israel’s enemies on the Left who portray the MIT professor as a human rights activist and a great intellectual humanitarian. As David Horowitz and Peter Collier prove in their book *The Anti-Chomsky Reader, there doesn’t seem to be a tyrant that Chomsky hasn’t championed or a victim that Chomsky hasn’t demonized in the entire span of his 50-year career as a radical activist.
The government is not alone in its fear of exposing and fighting the Left’s campaign to demonize the country.
THE RADICAL left’s ability to block voices of dissent from its anti-Israel and anti-freedom positions was similarly demonstrated two weeks ago at Tel Aviv University’s annual Board of Governors meeting.
For several years, a large, vocal group of tenured professors from the university have actively participated in the international campaign to boycott Israeli universities and academics while actively supporting Hamas and Hizbullah. That is, many Tel Aviv University professors, whose salaries are paid by university donors and Israeli taxpayers, have been using their university titles to undermine the university and to advance the cause of Israel’s destruction.
This year the university’s Board of Governors bestowed an honorary doctorate on Harvard Prof. Alan Dershowitz. In his acceptance speech, Dershowitz called these professors out for their vile behavior and named three of the most vocal enemies of the university and Israel on the international stage: Profs. Anat Matar, Rachel Giora and Shlomo Sand.
The university’s tenured anti-Zionist activists were quick to retaliate. More than 46 professors signed a letter to university president Joseph Klaffter demanding that the university disassociate itself from Dershowitz’s statements.
Klaffter was quick to oblige. At the Board of Governors meeting, Klaffter silenced board member Mark Tanenbaum when he tried to put forward a resolution calling for disciplinary action against university professors who use their university titles to defame the university or Israel. Klaffter, who isn’t even a member of the Board of Governors, reportedly grabbed the microphone away from Tanenbaum and adjourned the meeting. Klaffter justified his physical denial of Tanenbaum’s freedom of speech by claiming that he was defending academic freedom.
Like the Prime Minister’s Office’s apology to Noam Chomsky, Klaffter’s action – aside from arguably being prohibited by his own university’s constitution – was further proof of the Left’s success in appropriating the language and imagery of freedom and tolerance in the service of forces that seek to destroy freedom and end tolerance.
ON THURSDAY Hamas’s maritime enablers from Europe, Turkey and beyond will arrive at our doorstep. The navy will block their entry to Gaza. Israel will be demonized by terror-abettors disguised as human rights activists and journalists worldwide. And the story will pave the way for the next assault on Israel’s right to exist.
This endless circle of demonization and aggression will continue to widen and escalate until our political leaders and our intellectual elite reclaim our language from those on the terror-abetting Left. True, our reclamation of our language will not go unopposed. But if we do not reassert our right to describe objective reality, our inability to explain why we are right and our detractors serve evil will be our undoing.
Hatred of Israel among Australian far-Leftists
by Philip Mendes
Historically, the international Left has incorporated a wide spectrum of views on Zionism and Israel ranging from unequivocal support for Israel to even-handedness to hardline support for Palestinian positions. The contemporary Australian Left also lacks any consensus on this issue.
Nevertheless, it is fair to say that a wide majority on the Left support a two-state solution which encapsulates recognition of both Israeli and Palestinian national rights. It is also fair to say that those anti-Zionist fundamentalists who advocate the elimination of Israel and its replacement by an Arab State of Greater Palestine represent a small if vocal, minority.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, this minority group attempted to censor and exclude any Left voices in favour of the continued existence of the State of Israel. For example, the assorted Trotskyists and Maoists in the far Left Australian Union of Students (AUS), and Bill Hartley’s extreme Left faction of the Victorian ALP hurled abuse and vitriol at any Jewish-identifying leftists who didn’t identify unconditionally with the abolish Israel aims of the PLO.
Political scientist Dennis Altman – himself Jewish, non-Zionist and sceptical of both extreme Zionist and anti-Zionist perspectives – famously wrote at the time that this anti-Zionist fundamentalism had become a new symbol of ideological purity in the radical Left. In the UK, a significant number of student unions even disaffiliated Jewish student societies on the prejudiced grounds that they were Zionist and hence allegedly racist.
This fanatical intolerance for moderate two-state views went on the backburner during the years of the Oslo Accord, but returned with a vengeance as the fundamentalists were reinvigorated by the blood and guts of the Second Intifada. Recent debates suggest that this vocal, but still small, pro-Palestinian lobby is enjoying some success in excluding and censoring the majority of Left voices.
For example, the proponents of an academic boycott of Israel essentialise Israeli Jews by claiming that left and right-wing Israelis are no different, and that they are all racist oppressors of the Palestinians. They argue that the rights of the oppressed Palestinians – who they also collectively essentialise as being uniquely innocent and deserving victims – should always take precedence over the rights of Israeli Jews.
The fundamentalists also attack all Jewish supporters of Israel’s existence as apologists for oppression, irrespective of whether they are supporters of two states, or alternatively advocates of a Greater Israel. They reserve particular hate for the so-called “left Zionists” who oppose the West Bank occupation and settlements whilst also critiquing Palestinian violence and extremism. These moderates are constructed as little more than the equivalent of left-wing Nazis. And then they use the old Soviet trick of highlighting the views of a few Jewish “Uncle Toms” who are willing to exploit their own religious and cultural origins in order to vilify their own people. That malevolent game was used in the 1950s to defend Stalinist anti-Semitism. Now it is employed to misrepresent the historical and political context of the creation and development of the State of Israel.
The crude political objective is the exclusion of all Jewish-identifying leftists from Left debates on Zionism and Israel. And any means are justified to achieve this outcome including the ad-hominem abuse of individual Jewish activists, and a horrific lowering of intellectual and scholarly standards. The pro-Palestinian lobbyists are willing to throw out the most basic academic conventions regarding accurate presentation of evidence and correct citations and referencing if they don’t serve the interests of the Palestinian cause.
Two recent examples that come to mind are those of Overland and Arena Magazine. Some will say that these journals have a small readership within the Left elite and do not matter. Yet both journals are read widely by students and intellectuals, and have an influence far beyond their formal subscription figures. They are not the equivalent of party propaganda sheets such as Green Left Weekly, and that is precisely why they should incorporate a diversity (rather than narrow uniformity) of Left voices on Israel/Palestine. For the record, I have regularly contributed to both journals in the past on a range of issues, and continue to respect their broader political projects despite their current adherence to a particularly fanatical form of pro-Palestinian orthodoxy.
The case of Overland is particularly disturbing. This Melbourne-based quarterly journal was formed by ex-communist Stephen Murray-Smith in 1954 to promote progressive and democratic debate. Overland is best known for its publication of local poets and short story writers, and its powerful cultural presentation of Australian progressive politics. Although Murray-Smith published a powerful critique of Soviet anti-Semitism in issue 32 (1965), it has rarely covered Jewish-related issues. To the best of my knowledge, it rarely if ever published material on Israel until 2007.
Under the editorship of Jeff Sparrow, the pro-Palestinian lobby has captured Overland’s agenda. This is particularly reflected in the four recent articles that appeared in issues 184 by Ned Curthoys, 187 by Ned Curthoys, 193 by Antony Loewenstein, and 198 by Michael Brull. As a combination, they form a mad hatter’s picnic of fanatical attacks on Israel and supporters of Israel followed by more fanatical attacks of the same ilk.
Curthoys, who co-ordinates the two person Committee for the Dismantling of Zionism with his father John Docker, is a serial hater of Israel and Zionism. In Issue 184, he provides not surprisingly a positive review of Antony Loewenstein’s anti-Israel text, My Israel Question. He also cannot resist promoting his favourite obsession concerning the campaign for a cultural, economic and academic boycott of Israel based on the racial stereotyping of all Israeli Jews as oppressors.
But in Issue 187, he firmly criticises the founding statement of Loewenstein’s Independent Australian Jewish Voices group for being too moderate, and specifically for accepting Israel’s right to exist. Instead, Curthoys returns to his theme of the necessity of an economic and cultural boycott of Israel, and particularly targets Left Zionism as inherently racist. He proposes the elimination of Israel, and its replacement by an Arab majority state.
The case of Arena is equally disappointing. This intellectual journal of “Left political, social and cultural commentary” was formed by dissident party and non-party Communist intellectuals in 1963. Originally informed by Marxist ideology, it published a useful critique of Soviet anti-Semitism by Jewish leader Isi Leibler in the mid 1960s, and some views to the contrary. In recent decades, it has been increasingly influenced by a wider range of ideologies including particularly post-modernism.
For example, the August-September (Issue no. 85) 2006 issue published three contributions from Antony Loewenstein, Jeremy Salt and John Hinkson which all presented a parochial Palestinian narrative instead of a balanced internationalist perspective. Worse was to come. The February-March 2009 issue on the Gaza war contained no less than three pro-Palestinian articles by Jeremy Salt, Les Rosenblatt, and the Docker/Curthoys tag team backed up by four biased photo montages from anti-war demonstrations in Israel. The contribution from Docker/Curthoys of the Committee for the Dismantling of Zionism was uniquely fanatical, contesting the legitimacy of Israel’s creation in 1948, and advocating an unconditional return of 1948 Palestinian refugees to Israel which would mean the immediate end of Israel as a Jewish state.
The pseudo-radical war on economic growth
Some old moans about the evils of wealth-creation still burbling on among people who are themselves doing very nicely
Some of the world’s most influential thinkers are engaged in an earnest debate about the goals of society and even about the character of humanity itself. Strangely, however, hardly anyone seems to have noticed.
The main reason for this oversight is that the discussion is wrapped in an arcane dispute about statistics. It is presented as economics in the most turgid, evidence-based, technocratic sense of the term. Typically the debate is focused around an analysis of the shortcomings of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as an indicator of wellbeing – GDP being the standard measure of economic output, which works out the total value of goods and services produced within a country’s borders during a fixed period, normally one year. The influential thinkers who are increasingly criticising the category of GDP then go on to have endless technical debates about the pros and cons of alternative ways of measuring human welfare.
But the turgid nature of the debate should not be taken to mean that it is unimportant. On the contrary, this debate represents the ratification and extension of some of the most backward contemporary ideas. It also reveals much about the elite mindset in relation to the mass of humanity and the possibility of progress.
The central idea that is being endorsed in many of these intellectual discussions is that humanity should give up on the idea of economic growth. Striving to make the mass of the world significantly richer is viewed as counterproductive. It is seen as undermining quality of life, damaging the environment and threatening planetary disaster. It is a view I have called ‘growth scepticism’, because it purports to support growth in principle but, through the conditions it attaches, it constantly undermines it in practice (1).
Several core assumptions typically accompany this aversion to economic progress. Humans are seen as defined primarily by what they consume – and mass consumption is viewed with revulsion by the elite. In that respect, growth scepticism can be seen as a defensive response to protect what the elite regards as its fair share of resources.
At the same time, the productive and creative side of humanity is downplayed or even ignored. Growth sceptics have lost confidence in the ability of human ingenuity to solve difficult problems or reshape the world for the better. Growth scepticism is also a strongly asocial approach. The emphasis is on individuals and households rather than understanding society as a whole. There is little attempt to probe the complex relations of consumption and production that characterise modern societies.
With such a diminished view of humanity, it is hardly surprising that pessimistic conclusions are drawn about economic progress. If humanity really did simply consist of seven billion consumers – a giant swarm of human locusts – then the future would indeed be bleak. But if it is understood that humans are also capable of amazing feats of creativity and production, then the prognosis is entirely different. Humans are not simply consumers, but producers capable of remarkable ingenuity.
Once this context is understood, it is possible to start to appreciate the implications of the widespread move away from seeing economic growth as the driving force behind human progress. The point is not that the target of these thinkers’ wrath – Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the conventional measure of economic output – is a perfect measure of progress or human wellbeing. On the contrary, it has many flaws and alternative indicators of welfare can be useful. But the current discussion is not about the GDP measurement itself – rather it is about undermining the desire for economic progress.
Although the attack on GDP is often presented as an innovative, radical campaign, it is in fact a long-standing focus in official circles. As far back as 1990, the United Nations Development Programme launched the Human Development Index (HDI) as a measure of wellbeing in the poorer countries (2). The HDI combined life expectancy, literacy and income into a composite measure of wellbeing. Then in 1992, the United Nations Rio Summit, attended by most of the world’s top leaders, adopted Agenda 21, which invited signatory countries to develop ‘sustainability indicators’....
However, undoubtedly the highest profile of all such reports was a commission inaugurated by Nicholas Sarkozy, the French president, in 2008. It included many of the world’s leading academic superstars in social science. The three key authors of the report were Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel laureate in economics, former chief economic adviser to President Bill Clinton and to the World Bank), Amartya Sen (Nobel laureate, also one of the architects of the HDI), and Jean-Paul Fitoussi (an economic adviser to Sarkozy). Other panellists included Daniel Kahneman (Nobel laureate for his work in behavioural economics), Nicholas Stern (known for the key British government report on the economics of climate change) and Robert Putnam (a Harvard academic known for his key Bowling Alone study on social capital) (9).
A full technical version of the report was published last year as the ‘Report by the Commission on Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress’. Less formally it was known as the Sen-Stiglitz-Fitoussi report, or simply the Sarkozy report (10).
Recently a non-technical version of the report was published as Mismeasuring Our Lives: Why GDP Doesn’t Add Up. The report starts with a foreword by Sarkozy, followed by sections on traditional problems with GDP, quality of life, and sustainable development and environment. It repays examining in some detail, as it draws out many of the flawed assumptions embodied in the attack on GDP.
Forcing a change in behaviour
Sarkozy’s foreword is useful as it makes many of the assumptions embodied in the report explicit. His opening sentence is particularly telling: ‘I hold a firm belief: we will not change our behaviour unless we change the ways we measure our economic performance.’ This immediately puts the discussion in its proper context: the political class is intent on encouraging the mass of the population to behave in a different way.
Soon afterwards he starts to explain what this means. ‘We must change the way we live, consume and produce.’ He goes to call for ‘a revolution in our minds, in the way we think, in our mindsets and values’. So Sarkozy is keen for a transformation of behaviour and values. He wants us to be satisfied with less and for our subdued desires to be reflected in our behaviour.
He then goes on to make the point that the discussion of statistics is not only about numbers. ‘Our statistics and accounts reflect our aspirations, the values that we assign things. They are inseparable from our vision of the world and the economy, of society, and our conception of human beings and our inter-relations.’
He also makes two common but dubious assertions. He argues that economic growth is destroying what it is creating and endangering the future of the planet. Then he approvingly cites the commission’s authors arguing that most people perceive themselves as worse off because they actually are worse off.
Interestingly, Sarkozy closes his foreword by stating his opposition to ‘conformism, conservatism, and short-sighted interests’. Despite being the French head of state and a member of the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), he presents his arguments as somehow radical. This is a typical growth-sceptic perspective. In their upside-down world, ordinary people demanding a more prosperous life are a conservative force, while the romantic demand for restraint is radical.
The authors of the report have obediently followed Sarkozy’s vision. They have produced a technical-sounding report which suggests that downgrading the importance of economic progress would somehow benefit humanity. No doubt the report’s arguments will be percolated down to the mass of the population by other equally conformist politicians, non-governmental organisations and journalists....
Most fundamentally there is a problem with the way the Sarkozy report downgrades the importance of production. It fails to see that increasing and transforming production is a pre-condition for human advance. Economic growth is central to the more general project of social progress. In any case, everything that is consumed has first to be produced. Increased production is also closely associated with technological and scientific advance.
It is true that in a market-based society a relatively small number of people can command many of the revenues generated by growth – although the empirical record shows that even the poor gain substantially from rising economic output. Even poorer countries have typically benefited from large rises in life expectancy, sharp declines in infant mortality, higher levels of literacy, better nutrition and many other developments. But whatever the reality of inequality, it is absolutely certain that without economic growth the mass of society will not be able to meet its needs.
This is most obviously true in relation to the developing world – which was included in the remit of the report. It has been forgotten that such countries need not only economic growth, but more broadly an economic transformation. For their living standards to rise to match those in the West, they need more efficient production combined with industrialisation and urbanisation. Otherwise, whatever the protestations of Western greens, they will be condemned to remain in poverty.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.