Jun 232015
 

Occasionally I sit and mourn blogging of the old style—you know, before every journalist and his dog started doing it, before entire startups were founded on the idea that what people really need these days is MOAR CONTENT (yeah, looking at you, Buzzfeed)—but then some Johnny-come-lately to the party pings my radar and I remember that, oh! it’s just my own blog that has wheezed itself into its deathbed.

Sorry about that, youse guys.

So first a tribute to those who have persevered beyond what my meagre capacities have been able to sustain: Tim Worstall, Anna Raccoon, Longrider, Leg-iron, Ambush Predator, Counting Cats, Dick Puddlecote, Samizdata, and many, many others too numerous to list here but whose insights, contempt, and swearing have brightened up my days even as I’ve failed to return the favour.

But who would have imagined how many noobs might also be coming onto the scene, arriving at blogging a decade after it was new and fresh, and yet bringing something old and much-missed with them? Namely, the return of that well-reasoned, open, and non-partisan (dare I say it) dialogue that obtained between right and left online before the politicos realised the series of tubes and self-publishing were ways to rock the vote.

Many of the few of you who still check this blog for updates will have sat stunned and full of schadenfreude at the reaction from the left after the recent general election. You will have marvelled at practical ethicists who purged Tories from their timeline. You will have nodded and smiled alongside Squander Two. You will have wondered what all the weeping and wailing was about when Dan Hodges had it right all along.

But how many of you will have read a 5-part, multi-kiloword series on where, exactly, it all went wrong for the left, written by a leftist?

Allow me to introduce you to Wild and Whirling Words.

Decline of the modern left, part 1:

Modern left-wing arguments are all too often bad: they are weak, and they are bad-tempered. Why is this? Why are so many left-wing people making such poor, self-defeating arguments despite being overwhelmingly intelligent and well educated? And why, furthermore, with such rancour that the once reliable notion of the ‘nice’ left and ‘nasty’ right is increasingly obsolete?

First off, two premises that will apply to everything that follows.

No good cause can be well served by a bad argument. Why not? Because any cause requires common purpose between oneself and others. To pursue common cause arbitrarily (‘it’s a good cause, and that’s all you need to know’) or coercively (‘pursue this good cause or I hurt you’) would offend our dignity as reasoning human beings acting according to our individual consciences. So any cause pursued by arbitrary say-so or coercion would cease to be a good cause. A truly good cause must therefore be communicable and shareable, and for this we need arguments that demonstrate the goodness of the cause clearly, rationally, and convincingly; that way, other reasonable people could agree that the cause is indeed a good one.

No society can call itself decent that makes difference of identity alone, or group belonging alone, the grounds for legal, political, cultural, social, or economic inequalities. If we can assume that we all feel ourselves to be as human as everyone else, and that we are (with the exception of those who are unwell or impaired) reasoning human beings acting according to individual conscience, then any laws, policies, social conventions etc. that make us less than that, by reducing us to a group label, must be an affront to our basic dignity, and must therefore be bad.

Decline of the left, part 2: Timidity

Having clung far too long to the rule of thumb that Tories are nasty and lefties are nice, niceness and nastiness have become integral to the modern leftist’s definitions of left and right-wing politics respectively: to be right-wing is to be by definition nasty, to be left-wing by definition nice. They have made an ontological error – a whopping big one.

What do I mean by this? Consider – the modern leftie might entertain misgivings that his name-calling, love of denunciation, prejudice etc. are actually a bit nasty, but if they are then he is in contradiction, because as a leftie he is by definition nice and not nasty. Now he knows he is a leftie because he calls himself one – that hasn’t changed – and he knows too that if he is a leftie then he is nice. So how can the nasty behaviour fit in to this without contradiction? A solution to the contradiction follows irresistibly: by a process of elimination, it must be the case that his actions are in fact not nasty after all, and that therefore it is acceptable to name-call, to denounce, and to entertain prejudices. Not just acceptable, in fact – nice. Hence, I suggest, the perceived justness of all this increasingly rancid behaviour.

Decline of the left, part 3: Moral hazards

Consider: to fight discrimination we must believe that fighting discrimination is the right thing to do, because it alleviates inequality – we must aspire to do it, and we must actually do it. If, however, we must prejudge every remaining instance of inequality as being the result of our society’s badness, of its racism and sexism, then we must also have an automatic belief in our badness, our biasedness, in our failure. Not just the failure of our well-meant attempt to do right, but our moral failure. We end up condemned to a cynically contradictory double-think: let’s do good by fighting discrimination while all the time being prepared, as a matter of principle, to believe automatically in the failure of our attempts to do good. A sense of moral worth, of doing the good thing by fighting discrimination, must motivate us, but we must also believe as a matter of principle that this moral worth is instantly negatable. How can something so negligible serve as the motivation for our actions?

Decline of the left, part 4: Ferguson, Baltimore, and race

If the exclusion of black Americans is bad, how could we possibly remedy that exclusion by creating, as the left do, another exclusion in which black Americans are accorded a separate moral and legal and political status? How could this ‘gift’ of a double standard, by which black America is cut some slack, be anything but a poisoned chalice?

We know, surely, that this is a bad idea. This whole problem was caused by segregation and double standards, and it is clear that nothing has changed such that, this time around, it would be a good idea to have a legal and political system determined by double-standards based on racial difference. Moreover ethnic minorities would almost certainly end up being the victims of such a system. Isn’t the modern leftist making race as dangerously determinative as the racist ever did – making Ferguson’s citizens black first and citizens second?

Decline of the left, part 5: Guilt by resemblance

The inky thumbprint of crit[ical] theory can be found all over the arguments of the modern left, particularly theorists’ insistence on the politicization of everything: once you adopt the licence to insinuate political ‘assumptions’ to any and all forms of thought, there ceases to be much point in actually asking people what they think and what the premises of their arguments are. Why bother, when assumption does just as well? Imputation is one of the main analytical tools of critical theory.

And why bother with reasoning, with uncovering premises, with testing arguments, when reason, truth, logic, ‘rational argument’ are nothing but political constructs? With my background and my education I am exactly the sort of person likely to use these constructs, which can be seen as nothing but tools for denying the plurality of truths, with the ultimate socio-economic goal of excluding from discourse the textual subjectivities of those whom I consider ‘other’.

There you go: a small illustration of how easy it is to come up with this rubbish.

If you’ve been bored to tears with what passes for discourse amongst our lefty counterparts, I urge you to read the whole series. Not everybody on the left is satisfied with nodding and smiling.

Check out these bonuses as well: Why there has to be an EU referendum, and if like me you’re an ASOIAF nerd in withdrawal, also these: Winter still has not come – pt. I  and Winter still has not come – pt. II (if you look at the URLs, apparently the original title was “Winter is Coming – TBC”, lol).

Oct 022013
 

Shutdown, blah blah.

The whole web is full of dumbass articles with screenshots of federal agency websites like this:

Due to the US government shutdown, this website has died.

I’m not an expert, but I know a thing or two about websites. For example, I know these bastards don’t rent server space by the day.

I mean, come on! One day without a budget and they can’t leave their fucking websites up? Is this some kind of joke, or are federal government agencies so shite they can’t keep a website running for ONE FUCKING DAY without a budget being passed?

And these are the people who run the free world. Jesus wept.

Jan 212013
 

So, the Daily Mail has an article about the 50 things the average person wants to achieve during their lifetime, along with the caveat that the average person only actually does five of the 50.

There aren’t even 50 things on the list, but here goes:

1. Become a millionaire—Would like to do.

2. Travel the world—Would like to do only once no. 1 has been achieved.

3. See the Northern Lights—Would like to do.

4. Trek the Great Wall of China—No thanks.

5. Be mortgage free—I’m mortgage-free now, but about that student debt…

6. Go to the Inca Trail—No thanks.

7. See all seven wonders of the world/8. Visit the Egyptian Pyramids—You can’t visit all seven wonders these days, and the pyramids are one of them anyway. Still, I wouldn’t mind seeing the ones that are left.

9. Invent something that changes lives—Meh.

10. Visit Antarctica—Definitely not.

11. Go on the Orient Express—Would like to do.

12. Go on an African Safari—No thanks.

13. See the Taj Mahal—Meh.

14. Learn to play the piano / guitar / drums—Done two of these, ish.

15. Stay a night at the world’s best hotel—No thanks.

16. Build your own house—No thanks.

17. Drive Route 66 in the US—Meh.

18. Go to Lapland—What the heck? Does the average person really want to do this? I have no idea where Lapland even is.

19. Swim with dolphins / sharks—Would like to swim with dolphins. Not so much with the sharks…

20. Emigrate—Done it.

21. Learn to speak another language—Done it.

22. Own an island—Too much hassle.

23. Dine at a Michelin star restaurant—Done it.

24. Write a novel—Would like to do. Need a plot first, though, and maybe some characters…

25. See Gorillas in the wild—No thanks.

26. Live and work abroad—Done it. This is the same as no. 20, anyway.

27. Hot air balloon ride—Done it.

28. Fly a plane—No thanks.

29. Travel New Zealand in a Winnebago—Again, do people really want to do this? Seems really specific. Anyway, it’s a maybe for me.

30. Start and run your dream business—No thanks.

31. Ride a Segway—Okay, this one would be fun.

32. Go to Disneyworld—Done it.

33. Gamble in Las Vegas—No thanks.

34. Act as an extra in a Hollywood film—Meh.

35. Dedicate time to volunteering—Done it.

36. Try out an F1 car—Meh.

37. Learn to fly a plane or helicopter—No thanks. Same as no. 28 anyway, surely? I definitely don’t want people flying planes who haven’t learned how to do it first.

38. Have a family—Um. Someday.

39. Be an extra in a movie—This is the same as no. 34.

40. Climb a mountain like Everest—No thanks.

41. Buy a yacht—Only once I’ve achieved no. 1. Even then I might prefer just to rent.

42. Meet your idol / favourite celebrity—Done it. Ask me about meeting Robert Plant if you want your face bored off.

43. Run a marathon—No thanks.

44. Watch a World Cup final—I watched one on television, does that count?

45. Meet the Queen—Nah, don’t give a crap. She’s not my queen.

46. Learn to surf—Done it.

47. Go to Harry Potter World in Florida—Would like to do.

48. Abseil down a mountain—This could be fun.

49. Do an army assault course—No thanks.

50. Deep sea dive—Definitely not.

So I’ve done 10, maybe 11 of these. Twice the average. Not bad.

Jan 172013
 

…comes from Heresy Corner’s latest, ‘Screwed by the state‘:

You’d think, though, looking at it from the outside (as I do) that the actual fucking police literally fucking duped activists and then using an obscure legal procedure to deny their victims open justice would interest people who call themselves radical and progressive rather more than a throwaway remark made by one self-identified feminist journalist, or even the genuinely offensive comments made by another high-profile feminist journalist a few days later in her defence, which is at the end of the day just words. You’d think so.

They’ve got the post-election blues

 US-bashing  Comments Off on They’ve got the post-election blues
Nov 112012
 

Ah, those weeks following an American presidential election. Tempers calm, fanaticism wanes, and wishful thinking becomes wistful thinking. The news is all about deconstruction of the results, and peace reigns until next year (when everything ramps up again before the mid-terms).

So what is the deconstruction?

Both sides are postulating the existence of a permanent Democratic majority in the American populace, a turning point reached wherein there are no longer enough people in the country who benefit from Republican policies to be able to elect them. Talk on blogs is of the 47% plus the 1% in permanent coalition (though that still only makes 48%).

Looking at the results on the map, though, I’m not sure I get that. Obama won in the states the Democrats usually win in, and Romney won in the states Republicans usually win in.

Why, then, is there all this talk of Republicans never taking the presidency again? Why is Janet Daley writing in the Telegraph about the Europeanisation of the American electorate when all that happened was that a Democratic incumbent won again? They sometimes do, you know. Clinton did. The pendulum swings back.

Maybe it’s something to do with why people voted the way they did. Election analysis, pre- and post-, loves to delve into “what the election is all about.” I remember in 2004, people were saying the election was being fought on values: patriotism, Jesus, and the American Way. Bush won because Americans were still proud of themselves and thought America was the greatest place on Earth. Kerry lost because he was “too European” and considered a dweeb who had never done an honest day’s work.

That certainly wasn’t what the election in 2008 was about. You don’t vote for hope and change unless you feel hopeless and stuck, so there was something wrong with the brand already.

What happened to the brand? Did people stop believing in the American dream? Is the United States still the land of the free, where an honest day’s work gets you an honest day’s pay?

I’m not sure what people thought in 2008, but I’m pretty sure I know what they think now: the American Way is a clapped-out clunker. If you’re an Average Joe, working in an average job, paying down a modest mortgage, bringing up a modest family, and modest town somewhere, you don’t expect your country to fail you. After all, you’re doing your bit. When, for no reason you can divine, your company goes bust, you lose your job, your house is repossessed, and you have to go on food stamps, you kinda lose that patriotism, don’t you? You definitely lose your pride.

And here comes this Romney guy, talking about how he stands for hard-working Americans and the virtue of honest toil, and you probably hate him just a little bit for it. If his American Way is so great, how come your life sucks so much?

Fundamentally, it doesn’t matter who’s to blame for the economic situation in the US and around the world. What mattered in this election was the number of Americans who knew it wasn’t their fault, and who couldn’t understand this dude effectively telling them to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. If that worked, they might have thought to themselves, they’d have done it already. But just as they clearly had no power to prevent the collapse, neither did they feel like they had the power to recover from it through their own efforts.

And I think that’s basically why Obama won. He acknowledged that these average people were both blameless and powerless, and suggested that as it was the government that got them into this mess, thus it was the government’s duty to get them out of it again.

So all of the chatter in the aftermath that this election was fought on how Americans feel about the role of their government is right; I just think the commentators have it backwards. American voters haven’t embraced big government as the way to a fairer society (although maybe some of them have). They’ve looked big government in the eye and said “You sons of bitches broke it. Now you fucking fix it. We’ll just sit over here and wait until you’re done.”

There’s a degree to which I sympathise with this point of view, but I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed. There’s a reason people say “It doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always wins.” The solution to the problem isn’t more of the problem, and if you feel like the much-abused little guy getting stomped all over by the powers that be, you’re crazy if you think a nice guy like Obama is going to be able to put a stop to the stomping.

Obama probably is a nice guy, and probably wants to help, but fundamentally he is one guy amongst hundreds of thousands of government apparatchiks, special interest groups, think tanks, and corporate donors. And he is certainly one guy who said he was going to put a stop to the stomping in 2008, and totally failed. But I agree that he probably had more credibility in claiming this than Romney.

There is one outcome from this election that nobody seems to have made much of yet, and that is the announcement of Ron Paul Kenobi’s retirement. Americans, he says, would rather have the Empire than freedom, and least he can retire and not, like Cato Uticensis, feel compelled to put a sword through himself.

This article is not so much Lucas or Plutarch, though, as it is Seuss:

The Lorax said nothing. Just gave me a glance
just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance
as he lifted himself by the seat of his pants.
And I’ll never forget the grim look on his face
when he hoisted himself and took leave of this place
through a hole in the smog, without leaving a trace.
And all that the Lorax left here in this mess
was a small pile of rocks with one word…UNLESS.

Nov 072012
 

Last time we spoke, I had some predictions for ye olde election, and they all came true. Just call me Cassandra. Allow me to refresh your memory.

(1) Obama will win.*

He did.

(2) It won’t matter that Obama has won…Republicans don’t have to vote for Romney to piss in Obama’s cornflakes, they only have to vote for Republican congressional candidates, which they will do.

They did. The Republicans have kept the House. I HOPE Obama is looking FORWARD to the total absence of CHANGE in the House’s attitude toward his policies. It’s going to be a hard four years for the guy, and I hope all of those people who said he would use this second term to really fix his slice on the golf course are right, otherwise we might see the first presidential suicide in history.

If Obama thinks he’s had a hard time up to now, it’s nothing compared to what he’ll suffer when his apologists melt away because they don’t have to care about getting him re-elected any more. They’ll be looking for their 2016 candidate at 8am on 7th November.

Turns out I was late to the party on this one. This New York Times article from 6 September states:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Whether President Obama wins or loses in November, one thing is certain for Democrats on the morning after Election Day: the 2016 auditions begin.

A buncha people I’ve never heard of are in the running, plus Joe Biden (not fucking likely), Hillary Clinton (okay, maybe) and Andrew Cuomo (he’ll be lucky if he’s even still governor of New York by that point).

Then, the prediction I was most certain would happen:

(3) Paul Ryan’s career in the big-time is over.

He didn’t even carry his home state.

Ryan is toast.

*Looking on the bright side: at least I don’t have to retire my “oops! Obama” tag.

Sep 302012
 

(1) Obama will win.

Not even Romney’s own party likes Romney all that much, so any vote for Romney is essentially a vote against Obama. And while there are a lot of people out there who would enjoy sticking it to Obama, all of the presidential elections I’ve been alive for suggest that “voting against” is vastly inferior to “voting for” as a source of motivation.

Just ask Mondale, George HW Bush, Dole, and Kerry. Especially Kerry.

(2) It won’t matter that Obama has won.

If Obama thinks he’s had a hard time up to now, it’s nothing compared to what he’ll suffer when his apologists melt away because they don’t have to care about getting him re-elected any more. They’ll be looking for their 2016 candidate at 8am on 7th November. Republicans don’t have to vote for Romney to piss in Obama’s cornflakes, they only have to vote for Republican congressional candidates, which they will do.

I think the Republican party knows this, and therefore haven’t really exerted themselves to put up a compelling candidate. As Andy Parsons put it on “Mock the Week” the other night, they’ve decided to run a guy who lost the nomination to the guy who lost the nomination to George W Bush. Many critics from within the Republican camp attribute this to an “it’s his turn” mentality, but I think it’s probably just that the party bigwigs don’t give a crap this time around.

Any Republican who won this year would probably be a one-term president, because the economy is in the shitter and you can bet that the media—who are ignoring this point at the moment to help out Obama—wouldn’t be ignoring it in 2016 if the incumbent were a Republican.

Much better to give Romney his way, shrug sadly when he loses, and proceed to torment the ever-loving shit out of a now-friendless Obama for four years, thus paving the way for a charismatic Republican to win in 2016 and 2020.

(3) Paul Ryan’s career in the big-time is over.

There is nothing more damaging in American politics than being the VP candidate to a guy who loses. I mean, apart from their VP run, do these names mean anything to you?

  • Geraldine Ferraro
  • Lloyd Bentsen
  • Jack Kemp
  • John Edwards

Okay, that last one might mean something to you because he’s now known as the guy who was indicted for using campaign funds to cover up the affair and love child he had while his wife was dying of cancer. But if that hadn’t happened, John Edwards would be a total nobody.

I won’t be voting in this election because I don’t believe in this faux-democratic bullshit and I don’t support either party. But I’m going to give the Republicans the benefit of the doubt and assume they’ve used this presidential election, which it wouldn’t benefit them to win, to purge the lunatics, also-rans, and has-beens from the nomination slate, and are gearing up to stick it to their weakened, herdless prey.

I mean, it’s what they did to Clinton, and that turned out pretty well, no?

Sep 172012
 

So, archaeologists from the University of Leicester think they may have found Richard III’s earthly remains under a council car park in Leicester, although the DNA tests they’re conducting won’t be finished for another 3 months.

This is a subject rather close to my heart: I even used to be a member of the Richard III Society and everything. If those remains do turn out to be Richard III’s, I will probably have to have a private moment. Ten years ago, when I was first studying all this, it was a source of pain to all Ricardians everywhere that, to the best of everyone’s knowledge, Richard’s bones were sleeping with the fishes in the river Soar thanks to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Now that might change, and Richard III will get the site of cultic worship his supporters have always wanted.

However.

That site might be, of all places, in the Anglican cathedral in Leicester. Which—really? This deeply Catholic man is going to have his final resting place in the Anglican cathedral of the city where he was freaking bludgeoned to death? And all because the University of Leicester, who dug him up, and Leicester City Council, whose car park he was found in, would like to reap the benefits of Ricardian tourism?

How insulting.

I’m not going to claim I can read the mind of a man who’s been dead since 1485, but there are probably a lot of better alternatives which might have been more palatable to the man himself. It’s not his fault he didn’t have the luxury of specifying his wishes about a final resting place, so I’m not sure it’s particularly tasteful to be treating the poor man’s bones like the private property of the institution that dug them up.

If the royal family themselves don’t get involved—I mean, come on, if those bones are really Richard III’s, he’s basically their cousin forty times removed or something—it really ought to be up to whoever’s paying for the interment, which I suspect will be the Richard III Society, to decide where the burial is located.

If I were still a member of that society, I’d certainly be arguing for some alternative place that had something to do with Richard III other than being the place where he was done to death by his own allies. York, maybe, which bravely paid tribute to him in their city annals after the battle of Bosworth, or one of the castles where he actually lived, or even Berwick-upon-Tweed, which he won back from the Scots.

I mean, of all the places the dude probably would have hated to be buried, the only place worse than the Anglican cathedral in Leicester would be in Henry VII’s lap at Westminster Abbey. Geez.

UPDATE: @Fat_Jacques points out that Leicester Cathedral was Catholic in 1485, as indeed were all of the lovely ecclesiastical buildings at the time that the Church of England later stole. Which is a good point, but of course it’s not the building that’s the problem, it’s the funeral rite itself. What medieval Catholic would want an Anglican funeral service?

There’s also the political point to think about; Richard III isn’t any medieval Catholic, he’s a medieval Catholic who was snuffed by the father of the man who founded the Anglican church. Which is kind of why the title of this blog post is “Give the poor man a break”—he’s suffered enough indignities without piling this one on, too.

Sep 162012
 

Chris Dillow asks:

One remarkable feature of the Conservative party since the late 19th century has been that it has been the party of most of the rich. It has more or less successfully represented the interests of land-owners, rentiers, industrialists and commerce…

What I am doing, though, is raising a question. It’s long been a cliche that Labour’s class base – industrial workers – is shrinking and fragmenting. But might the same be also true for the Tories?

In the context he mentions—that of commerce’s interests conflicting with the land-owners’ interest, particularly regarding a third runway at Heathrow—I think he’s right, but in answer to the greater question he poses, I think he’s also right.

Which is unusual, because a lot of the time, I don’t agree with Chris Dillow.

However, sometimes—especially when he writes about managerialism and where the major parties go wrong—I find myself nodding along.

The majority of people in Britain today are neither land-owners of the old sort, rentiers, industrialists, ‘commerce,’ or industrial workers. Relying on these groups, singly or in combination, is not going to give any major party enough votes to stay in power (though it might provide enough financial support to keep a party going). Thus the never-ending race to the centre ground, and the fact that both the Conservatives and Labour have seen their traditional class bases shrinking and fragmenting.

When society is no longer divided along the traditional class lines—no matter how much people want to cling to this way of looking at life’s great pageant—the political parties can’t work that way either, and when they try to keep at it, as they so obviously are, they end up pissing off their voters, which they have.

It would be interesting to see the opinion-formers shake off the old dogma about class and try to identify where the lines are really drawn these days—private vs public sector workers, maybe, or workers vs non-workers, or even (god forbid) British vs foreigners—but I don’t really see that happening anytime soon. For one thing, it’s widely socially acceptable to fulminate against rentiers, industrialists, unions, etc., whereas it’s generally unacceptable to fulminate against your average worker, non-worker, or foreigner (although interestingly, in the case of foreigners, this only applies to non-whites—apparently you can bitch about Polish people all you like without being considered racist). For another, to acknowledge new class-based groups is to redraw the distinction between left and right, which probably suits neither the left nor the right, and is why the opinion-formers don’t do it and why the political parties in this country have such schizophrenic views.

A lot of people seem to approve of this schizophrenia (“It’s, like, not ideological, man”), but I think there’s something seriously wrong with it: if you’re a voter who cares about the actual, stated policies of political parties, it’s impossible to really like any of them because there’s always some conflict. For example, I really like the Lib Dem policy of raising the personal tax allowance, but I really dislike their policy on Lords reform. It’s not that I think Lords reform is an inherently bad idea, it’s just that I think their particular proposal is the wrong one.

And the end result is that this contributes to the huge voter apathy people are always banging on about. It’s not the only contributor, by any means, but it certainly is one of them. I’m not a land-owner, rentier, or industrialist, so the Conservatives aren’t looking out for my interests. I’m not an industrial worker, so Labour isn’t either. I’m employed, so everyone’s trying to represent me, but one day I might be unemployed, so everyone’s still trying to represent me. You see? How does your average person even choose these days?

These modern class divisions, unlike the old ones, are fluid, and I might be on one side today and the other side tomorrow. It’s no wonder the political parties are suffering fractures.

Maybe, instead of trying to represent specific classes or groups, it’s time for the parties to return to ideology, and let the chips fall where they may. That would, at least, be internally consistent and supply an actual framework for how parties might respond to unexpected issues, rather than the bizarre pendulum of expedience we get now. Then people could decide whom to vote for based on actual value systems rather than tedious detail about e.g. government funding for house-building in the green belt.

(Incidentally, can anybody think of a political issue that is more crazy-making than housing? It’s like this great battle between those who think everyone should have a chance to get on the property ladder, those who don’t want estates built near their village, those who want more social housing built to ease the housing shortage, those who don’t want the environment ruined by paving over the nation with suburbs, those who don’t want the value of their own homes to fall due to increased supply, and those who only want houses built in places where there is enough public transport to stop people driving cars. I would hate to hold the housing brief for any of the major parties and try to tread that minefield.)

UPDATE: Here’s another take on Chris’s thesis, with more of a focus on reducing the conflict-based nature of party politics.

Jun 032012
 

Punk is dead,’ asserts Chris Dillow today.

In this, music reflects a wider social fact—that today’s young people are much less gobby than we were. Last summer’s riots, for example, contained less political motive than their 1981 equivalents. And much as I love them, today’s “voices of their generation” are pretty tame…This is not because of a lack of cause. Today’s youngsters have the same grievances as my generation – youth unemployment and police harassment—and then some.

So why are young folk so passive?

He presents a number of possibilities: today’s oldsters are more tolerant, today’s youth are the captive slaves of mega-materialist capitalism, etc.

At no point does he consider that today’s youth are passive because that’s how Chris Dillow’s generation taught them to be.

I’ve written about this before…

But we live in a curiously dishonest world, wherein baby-boomers hold all of the power and then complain that the youth are disaffected and disengaged, unlike themselves when they were ‘the youth.’ In fact, most of the policies advocated by the baby-boomers in power seem deliberately designed to keep ‘the youth’ dependent on them, which is a perfect recipe for further disaffection and disengagement.

Let us consider recent proposals in Britain dealing with ‘the youth.’

(a) Compulsory education or training to age 18. This keeps ‘the youth’ under the control of the state (read: baby-boomer run) education system until legal adulthood.

(b) Sending more of the population to university. This keeps ‘the youth’ under the control of the state (read: baby-boomer run and operated) education system until well into adulthood.

(c) Government-provided work and training for graduates who can’t find jobs. This keeps ‘the youth’ (who are now into their twenties) dependent on the state (run by baby-boomers) for sustenance and the acquisition of skills.

(d) Parent training courses. This sends the message to ‘the youth’ who have dared to reproduce that despite their biological fitness for the job, they are mentally and emotionally unfit to raise offspring without guidance from the state (i.e. baby-boomers, those proven experts in child-rearing).

All of these policies could not make more perfectly clear the belief of baby boomers that ‘the youth’ of today are unfit to make decisions for themselves, support themselves, or support other humans; and yet still the baby boomers complain that ‘the youth’ don’t take responsibility for themselves and agitate for their own benefit.

…more than once:

Mind you, our ex-hippy [ex-punk?] overlords seem particularly distraught that the voice of the new generation is a weak one. A couple of days ago, I wrote that it was a key feature of the baby-boom generation to strangle the life out of today’s youth and then demand to know why it wasn’t trying to breathe.

And lo, what should be in the newspaper on Monday but the results of a poll showing that today’s youth are ‘more boring’ than their parents.

Having been told from birth to shun smoking, drinking, sex, drugs, and pretty much anything else that could be interpreted as either exciting or ‘interesting,’ the yoof turn out to be rather hard-line Puritans. Quelle surprise. And for this, the baby-boomers have the nerve to complain that their kids are no fucking fun.

If you want angry, empowered youth, then don’t spend the first 25 years of their lives teaching them that the bland, unquestioning, isolating conformity which suits your desire to retain cultural and social dominance is for their own good.

Your methods of upbringing are what created today’s 23-year-olds who fret over whether they can afford to buy a house in Barnes. Your parental indulgence is why others of your children still live in your council house with three kids of their own, no spouse, and no job.

You didn’t teach them to see the value in standing up for their future because you didn’t want them to do that—because it might hurt yours. You’ve told them all of their lives that somebody else would sort out their problems, take their part, and make the world right for them; you’ve taught them that dependence has no cost and entitlements have no price and one’s desires are automatically others’ debts to pay—why should they not believe you now? You have no right to complain. You promised them the earth; they’re just waiting patiently for you to provide it for them.