Wednesday 17 April 2013

Mrs Thatcher's funeral and right-wing political correctness

It seems there has been some kind of orchestrated Facebook campaign going on by Margaret Thatcher apologists to silence dissent about their "beloved leader".

For at least a week, right-wing people have been crawling out of the woodwork to condemn as "disrespectful" anyone daring to criticise Margaret Thatcher, her policies, her intransigence, her callous disregard for the harsh consequences of her actions or the social and economic legacies that resulted from her rule, no matter how calmly or non-gloatingly these criticisms have been expressed.

There are a few issues to note about this new found "mustn't criticise the dead" attitude from the right-wing.

Just one month before the death of Margaret Thatcher, the Venezuelan democratic left-wing populist leader Hugo Chávez died after a lengthy battle with cancer and my Facebook page was positively crawling with right-wing people desperate to gloat, hurl insults, make up lies and disparage his personality and achievements. Just one month later, the right-wing suddenly want us "lefties" to behave in such a totally decorous manner towards their "beloved leader" that even calmly stated and analytic criticisms (such as this and this) are shouted down as "disgusting" and "disrespectful"!

Another thing to note is that by disparaging anything but the most eulogistic hagiographies of Thatcher as "disrespectful", it is absolutely clear that the right-wing want to stifle legitimate criticism, not because it's disrespectful, but because they simply don't want to hear the inconvenient truth that Thatcher was a divisive woman that was hated by millions.

Another point about this sudden outbreak of "right-wing political correctness" is that it must be causing some awful cognitive dissonance amongst Daily Mail readers. One day they are working themselves up into a familiar rage about leftie-liberals ruining the country with "political correctness gone mad" and the next day they are being told in no uncertain terms that it is politically incorrect to criticise Thatcher, and that the "leftie-liberals" are degenerate scum because they wont comply with these brand new norms and conventions about what can and can't be said about the dead.

Several other media commentators have explored right-wing political correctness and the stifling of debate, so I was going to leave the subject alone, but then several iterations of a clearly copy n' pasted message were posted onto various threads on my Facebook page on the day of Margaret Thatcher's funeral. These duplicate comments demonstrated that not only do they want to shut down criticism that they actually have a right to find distasteful (Ding-Dong the Bitch is dead, Thatcher public urinal/grave memes, and the like) but that they are willing to smear anything that is in the slightest bit critical with accusations that it is "disgusting", "appalling" and "indecent", and that there is some orchastrated  kind of copy n' paste campaign going on.

Here's the copy n' paste comment that appeared several times on my page:
"I find it both sad and an embarrassing as a Nation that somebody who worked there [sic] whole working life for the good of the Country and others is being treated this way by people who never knew her. She did not fiddle her expenses, she did not let us get ruled by Europe, she stood up to terrorists, anarchists , Argentines, communists and didn't let Unions dictate to government. Whichever bit of her politics you may or may not agree with is your choice. However celebrating the death of an old lady creating music and movies etc and sharing them shows a disgusting lack of common decency and an sets an appalling example to your children which makes you a sad reflection of society. Please let these Grandchildren bury their Grandmother in peace. If you can't keep you celebrations down for this one day please unfriend me."
The fact that this reasonably lengthy comment appeared literally within seconds of me posting this image (which is clearly neither celebratory nor musical) indicated that the message had obviously been pre-prepared. Then a short while later another iteration of the same comment appeared, here's my response to the second one:
Not this copy and paste rubbish again:

I find it extremely "sad and embarrassing" that you've copy and pasted this Thatcher apologist rant onto my page. You've done it again, and again you've done it without any consideration of the actual content I've shared on here, or the articles I've written on my blog. You've copy n' pasted this "reply" without attempting to rebut, or even to address any of the actual points I've raised.

Especially sad is your absurd accusation that considered and carefully worded criticism of Thatcher's social and economic policies (as I've striven to offer) represents some kind of "celebration" of her death, it clearly doesn't.

You Tory apologists are obviously trying to stifle legitimate comment and debate with these kinds of spurious accusation that perfectly legitimate comment and analysis is somehow "disgusting" and "indecent".

Shame on you for attempting to silence legitimate debate (or even comments by others that you or I may find personally distasteful - no-one has, or even should have, a right to be not offended). Your efforts at using this funeral as an excuse to enforce some kind of warped right-wing political correctness demonstrate your "disgusting lack of common decency" and are a "sad reflection on society".

Long live freedom of speech.
Long live freedom of speech.
Long live freedom of speech.

Tom (AAV)
Also - I'm not your Facebook friend, I'm the administrator of my own Facebook page, so your request that I "unfriend" you is utterly misplaced. Perhaps you should stop following my page?
Also - I haven't actually created (or even shared) any music or movies in relation to Thatcher's death, so your accusation is unfounded. (your use of the Americanism "movies" is noted, Mrs Thatcher would probably have disapproved of that). 
Also - It is laughable that you would try to shout down legitimate debate like this and then paint communists as "the enemy", given that it is generally societies suffering under pseudo-communist personality cults where the slightest criticism of the "beloved leader" is absolutely forbidden. 
Also - Thatcher did let us get ruled by Europe; the Single European Act was signed by Thatcher in 1985 (without a referendum).
Also - She clearly escalated the troubles in Northern Ireland (and IRA activities in England) with her intransigent stance. At least John Major and Tony Blair (although I'm no big fan of either) had the sense to take steps towards a peaceful negotiated settlement. Anyone that maintains that Northern Ireland has not become a much better place since Thatcher's political demise is quite clearly insane.
Also - The claim that Thatcher worked her whole life for "the good of the country" demonstrates a shocking willingness for you to divorce yourself from reality. She worked for the good of herself, for the wealthy and powerful, for corporate interests and for the Tory party. Her decision to leave swathes of (Labour voting areas of the) country in post-industrial ruins, from which many areas have yet to recover, is a clear demonstration that she didn't care about the good of the nation as a whole, just about the good of the bits of the nation she personally approved of.
Also - Don't you dare bring my children into the debate. They'll probably find plenty of reasons to be ashamed of me as they get older, none of which will be the fact that I tried to articulate Margaret Thatcher's dreadful social and economic legacies in reasonably calm, analytic and non-gloating language on my blog and on my Facebook page.

More articles from
Margaret Thatcher is dead

What is ... neoliberalism?
  The Great Neoliberal Lie
The economic case against tax-dodging
  The "unpatriotic left" fallacy
Daily Mail: Fascism, Racism and Homophobia
  The warped Tory redefinition of rights
  The death of Hugo Chávez
Why I blame the left for the economic crisis

Another Angry Voice is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only source of revenue for Another Angry Voice is the  PayPal  donations box (which can be found in the right hand column, fairly near the top of the page). If you could afford to make a donation to help keep this site going, it would be massively appreciated.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Counting the corpses

Last week someone began demanding that I provide evidence to back an assertion I had made in an article I wrote last year about Tory Work and Pensions minister Iain Duncan Smith's callous contempt for the dead victims of his welfare reform policies.

In the article I made the claim that "thousands of people have died after having been found fit for work" after enduring the stressful WCA regime administered by the French outsourcing company Atos. Now, I'm not complaining about the fact that I've been asked to substantiate my claim, far from it. If I make an assertion without providing a link to supporting evidence, I should be able to back it up with some kind of evidence or analysis, which is what I intend to do here.

It is undeniable that people have died after having been found "fit-for-work" by Atos. One of the examples Iain Duncan Smith reacted so angrily and disrespectfully towards was the case of Brian McArdle, the 57 year old (suffering paralysis, blind in one eye and unable to speak) who died one day after being declared fit for work by Atos. There are many other documented cases of people dying after being declared fit by Atos too, you only need to read the Hansard transcript from the January 2013 Parliamentary debate on the Atos WCA for many more harrowing cases.

The main problem with justifying the claim that thousands of people are dying after being declared "fit-for-work" by Atos is that the government don't bother to collect the statistics for those people stripped of their disability benefits to have subsequently died. Here's what they say about it:
"Data on the number of ESA claimants that have died following a fit for work decision is not available, as the Department does not hold information on a death if the personhas already left benefit."
Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of Recipients, DWP Report July 2012
The fact that the government openly admit that they can't even be bothered to count the victims of their own policies is absolutely shocking stuff. Not only is it shocking that they don't bother to collect the data, but it is also worthwhile noting that this refusal to collect and publish this data makes the job of opposing the hopelessly flawed WCA regime significantly more difficult. It doesn't however make it impossible as I intend to demonstrate.

The same DWP document does include the number of people that died after being told that they must prepare to return to the workplace (put in the "Work Related Activity Group"). This figure stands at 1,300 for the 11 month period January 2011 to November 2011. From this we can extrapolate a reasonable estimate for the number of people to have died after being told that they are fit enough to prepare to return to the workplace. If we increase the figure by one 11th to extend it to cover a full year, we get 1,418 and extend it again by 15% to reflect the fact that the number of WCA assessments undertaken in 2012 has been significantly higher than those conducted in 2011, we get an estimated figure of 1,630 people to have died in 2012 within six weeks of having been told that they must start preparing to go back to work.

This estimate of 1,630 deaths within six weeks amongst the 20%-30% of people that are told to prepare to return to work is a shocking figure, however the main problem is that similar statistics simply are not recorded for the 50%+ that are declared "fit-for-work" and thrown off their disability benefits entirely. That these statistics are not collected is callous and revolting, yet it is still possible to generate reasonable extrapolations to show that significant numbers of people declared "fit-for-work" are dying within weeks too.

The most important area to consider is the truly appalling failure rate of the Atos WCA regime. 30%-40% of people that appeal their Atos assessment win their case, and with adequate legal representation this figure rises to 70%-80%. It is safe to assume that with adequate legal representation, many more people would have their "fit-for-work" assessments overturned. However, I'll take Tory welfare minister Mark Hoban's own dubious and extremely conservative estimate that "just"15% of Atos decisions are completely wrong. For the last period for which data is available (April 2011-March 2012 - a PDF entitled "Statistical Release January 2013" can be found here) 203,700 people were found "fit-for-work". Using Mark Hoban's extremely conservative 15% inaccuracy rate, that gives us an estimated figure of 30,555 people incorrectly declared "fit-for-work". We know from the previously mentioned DWP impact assessment that the death rate within six weeks of assessment for people on ESA was 10,600 people, around 1% of the caseload. This gives us an estimated figure of 305 people that would have died within six weeks of being incorrectly declared "fit-for-work", even using Mark Hoban's deliberately underestimated figures for inaccuracy within the Atos WCA regime.

If we realise that the appeals success rate doubles when appellants have adequate legal representation, instead of attempting to manage their own appeals, it becomes clear that many people that are actually unfit for work are having their appeals turned down because they are unfamiliar with the legal process and simply don't know how to demonstrate adequate evidence to the court. If we add the estimated 1,630 people to have died within six weeks of being told to prepare for a return to work in 2012 to the estimated 305-610 people to have died within six weeks of being told that they are "fit-for-work" and stripped of their disability benefits in 2012, we have an estimated figure of some 1,945-2,240 people dying in such appalling circumstances in the previous year. To this can be added a number of people that may have died due to stress related conditions (heart attacks, strokes, suicides) due to the enormous stress of the WCA regime and having their benefits revoked and a further 2,000+ people that died before their Atos decision was even completed.

I accept that these figures are rough estimates based on extrapolated data conducted by someone that has a reasonable understanding of (but not formal training in) the use of statistics, which is far from ideal. However, this is the best I can offer due to the government's refusal to collect the data on the number of people to have died after having been declared "fit-for-work". If the government bothered to "count the corpses", then bloggers like me wouldn't be left conducting our own statistical analysis and extrapoloations  from what data has found it's way into the public domain.

The appalling Atos failure rate

As a side note, it is worth considering exactly how bad a failure rate of at least 15% actually is. Imagine you're running a parts manufacturing business (lets say brake components for HGVs) and less than 85% of the items you produce end up being functional. Imagine that you don't bother to quality control these brake components and sent them off to your customer to fit onto their wagons. How long do you think your customer would put up with their corporate reputation being irreparably tarnished as their new wagons suffer a 15% brake failure rate resulting in tens of millions of pounds worth of damages claims and the tragic deaths of numerous civilians and wagon drivers? How long do you think that they would retain your company as a supplier? Do you think they would be likely to offer you a range of lucrative new supply contracts after such a demonstration of negligence?

Well, this analogy isn't far-fetched stuff. The £50 million+ cost of all these WCA appeals is being borne entirely by the taxpayer. The courts are being packed with WCA appeal cases and the Citizens Advice Bureau have complained that they are being flooded with cases, which means that the courts and the CAB are unable to deal with all kinds of other important legal issues; a Parliamentary Select Committee has slammed the DWP for drawing up such a one-sided contract with Atos and failing to trigger virtually any of the penalty clauses that were actually written into the contract; and worst of all, Atos have even been handed more lucrative contracts by the DWP, despite their appalling legacy of failure!


It shouldn't be the job of bloggers like me to collate data on how many people are dying and make reasonable extrapolations from known statistics, it should be the job of the government to collect and publish the data properly.

That they chose not to collect this data is a clear demonstration of the callous disregard for the consequences of their own policies. That they don't even bother to "count the corpses" looks is a demonstration of their contempt for the value of ordinary people's lives.If the 1,300 odd people in January - November 2011 that died within weeks of having their benefits cut and being told to prepare to go back to work, the dozens and dozens of documented cases other cases of people dying after being told that they are "fit" for an immediate return to work and my  extrapolations (from the fact that at least 15% of Atos decisions are wrong), that many more people must be dying isn't enough to make you very angry indeed, then the fact that the government doesn't even bother to collect the data on how many people are actually dying really should be.

What you can do

If you feel strongly that the government should be collecting data on the many hundreds of people a year that are dying within six weeks of being thrown off disability benefits, then there are a couple of things you can do.
  • Write a letter to your local MP requesting that they raise the issue in parliament, or at the very least contact the responsible government ministers (Iain Duncan Smith, Mark Hoban, Anthony David Freud and Esther McVey) to raise your concerns. 
Tips on writing to your local MP.
  • You can find their email address easily by using the search function here.
  • If you include your name and address, your local MP has a statutory obligation to reply to your communication. If they do not, you can report them to the Parliamentary Standards Authority.
  • Please remember to be polite, if you resort to abuse you will do nothing but harden their stance against the argument you are trying to make.
  • Try to be concise and explain what you would like them to do in very simple and unambiguous terms.
Another Angry Voice is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only source of revenue for Another Angry Voice is the  PayPal  donations box (which can be found in the right hand column, fairly near the top of the page). If you could afford to make a donation to help keep this site going, it would be massively appreciated.

More articles from

Iain Duncan Smith's callous contempt for the dead
The Atos "disability denial factory" 
   A letter to fans of Workfare
The Workfare ship is sinking
The Jobseekers (Back to Work schemes) Bill
 Retroactive legislation is fascist legislation

Secret Courts and the very Illiberal Democrats
Legal Aid cuts: A Tory commodification of justice
The Tory contempt for working people
Iain Duncan Smith's lame Workfare propaganda

Monday 15 April 2013

Dominic Raab and the Internet Snoopers' Charter

I've written extensively about attacks on civil liberties by the Tory led government, especially their use of retroactive legislation, their introduction of secret courts and Theresa May's Internet Snoopers' Charter.

If the Tories were in opposition and New Labour were trying to push through these kinds of absurdly illiberal half-baked and totalitarian powers for the state, the Tories would surely be gleefully berating them as a bunch of Stalinists awarding themselves powers that the East German Stasi would have been proud of. Yet, as the government they are busy completely trashing any claims they might have of being a libertarian party. There are a few Tory rebels though.

One of these Tory rebels is the young MP for Esher and Walton in Surrey, Dominic Raab. He can see through Theresa May's scaremongering rhetoric that her £1.8 billion Internet Snoopers' Charter (Communications Data Bill) is necessary in order to fight terrorism. Like me, Raab is aware that these new powers to spy on the internet activity (emails, Skype calls, internet browsing history, social media activity...) are not just for the exclusive use of the security agencies (as would be the case if the Tory rhetoric was to be believed) but that dozens of other public sector bodies have applied to use these new spying powers when they come into force. Some of the bodies desperate for the ability to pry into the private lives of ordinary citizens include the Health and Safety Executive, local governments, nine Whitehall departments, NHS trusts, the Environment Agency, fire authorities, the Gambling Commission, the Charity Commission, the Food Standards Agency and the Pensions Regulator. If the stated purpose of the legislation is to combat terrorism, then allowing all of these bodies the same rights to spy on people fatally undermines the Tory justification narrative that it is all about combating terrorism and would represent an absolutely cast-iron example of function creep.

Here's what Dominic Raab was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying about Theresa May's Internet Snoopers' Charter:
“This scheme is Orwellian. Intrusive surveillance powers should be limited to pursuing terrorists, paedophiles and villains – not enabling jobsworth inspectors at the Health and Safety Executive or council busybodies to snoop into the private lives of ordinary citizens.”
Now I am not a big fan of Dominic Raab. In August 2012 he contributed to a book called Britannia Unchained, where a number of younger Tory MPs derided British Workers as "among the worst idlers in the world" despite the fact that British workers work longer hours than any other national workforce in Europe aside from the Austrians and the Greeks. For me his political career will always be tainted by the fact that he was involved in a book which made such inaccurate (and downright unpatriotic) claims about British workers. Surely the job of British MPs discussing the future of the British economy should be to try to emphasise the skills and attributes of the British workforce, rather than writing outright lies about how lazy British workers are (in order to justify their favoured policy of further undermining labour rights) which just provides yet another reason for investors to avoid Britain and concentrate their corporate strategies on lower cost economies like China or Eastern Europe instead.

What is much worse, is the fact that Raab has openly supported other draconian legislation. In December 2012 he did not join the 4 libertarian Tory rebels (David Davis, Edward Leigh, Simon Reevell and Andrew Tyrie) who voted against the Justice and Security Bill (legislation which creates secret courts, where defendants can be found guilty without them or their lawyer even being present, being told what the evidence against them is or even with what offence they have been charged!). If he was any kind of libertarian he would have noted the opposition of 700 legal professionals, that the legislation would "fatally undermine" the fairness of the British legal system and the concerns of civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and similar bodies from Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Argentina, Egypt and Hungary who stated that the passing of secret court legislation in the UK would be "a huge setback for those of us fighting to secure truth and fairness from our own governments and within our own justice systems across the world".

That the UK is now in the position of taking criticism for civil liberties infringements from countries such as Argentina (The Dirty War and the disappeared), South Africa (Apartheid), Hungary (Soviet occupation), Egypt (Mubarak dictatorship) and the USA (Guantanamo Bay and rendition flights) is an utterly shameful situation and Dominic Raab played his part in bringing it about.

Another example of Raab abandoning the libertarian stance to toe the Tory party line came in March 2013 when he voted in favour of the imposition of retroactive legislation in order to cover up the £130 million cost of reimbursing the victims of Iain Duncan Smith's blundering incompetence.

Given his authorial contributions and his appalling voting record when it comes to illiberal legislation, sadly it is impossible to conclude that he is any kind of true libertarian. Which is a sad conclusion to draw, because the lack of political diversity in the United Kingdom isn't just limited to the fact that all three of the Establishment political parties present minor variations on the right-wing orthodox neoliberal socioeconomic model, they all occupy the same illiberal authoritarian territory too.

As someone that occupies the left-libertarian quadrant of the 2D political spectrum, I find the Secret Courts and Internet Snooping legislation of the Tory-Illiberal Democrat coalition as offensive as I found New Labour's Detention Without Trial, National Identity Register and Digital Economy legislation.

Still. As it is such an exceptional occurrence, any Tory talking some kind of sense must be congratulated. Raab's statement shows that he is capable of at least grasping some of the libertarian ideas that supposedly underpin the orthodox neoliberal agenda of his party, even though he seemed to forget all about them when he chose to vote in favour of the Secret Courts Bill and against the amendments that would have put an obligation on the courts to consider the public interest before initiating "secret court" proceedings. Lets hope that Raab continues to think along libertarian lines, recognises the errors of his way and begins offering some genuine representation for those of us that are opposed to the totalitarianisation of the state. One can assume however, that his political future within the Tory party depends quite strongly on the fact that he won't. 

Another Angry Voice is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only source of revenue for Another Angry Voice is the  PayPal  donations box (which can be found in the right hand column, fairly near the top of the page). If you could afford to make a donation to help keep this site going, it would be massively appreciated.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Maggie's revisionist meme

To the right is a Facebook meme (shared tens of thousands of times by cognitively illiterate Thatcher apologists) which is a wonderful demonstration of how delusional and revisionist Tory minded people have become about the Thatcher government.

In this article I'm going to stick to the task of rebutting the claims made in the Facebook meme. I have already written a much more comprehensive critique of Margaret Thatchers toxic social and economic legacies which can be seen here.

Point One: Thatcher didn't "abandon the Falklands to the Argies"

Declassified documents reveal that Thatcher and her defence secretary John Nott were warned several times that her cuts to the South Atlantic force would be interpreted by the Argentine military junta as an open invitation to reclaim the disputed islands. Thatcher ignored this advice, and in so doing, abandoned the Falklands to Argentina. Had she not made those cuts, no Argentine soldiers would ever have set foot on the Falklands. Essentially what Thatcher did by ignoring the expert advice was to provoke an entirely unnecessary war, cost a thousand young men their lives and cause injury and trauma to many thousands more. That Tories chose to celebrate this disastrous strategic error and unnecessary loss of life as one of Maggie's greatest successes demonstrates their abject disregard for both the facts and for human suffering.

Point Two: Thatcher didn't "cow down to the IRA"

I'll begin by noting that the expression is "Kowtow" (from the Mandarin Chinese for bow down or prostate oneself) not "Cow Down" (which for me creates the mental image of a hip-hop bovine grooving down to some funky beats).

More seriously; Thatcher's intransigent refusal to negotiate with the IRA ensured the continuation of the conflict and increasing numbers of attacks and deaths in England. One can only assume that these Maggie fanatics are glad that these people died, that they despise her successor John Major for softening the hardline stance and laying the groundwork for the peace process; that they must hate the contributions of people like Mo Mowlam who managed to get the various factions around the negotiating table; and that they must desperately wish that the peace process had never happened and that British soldiers, the police force in Northern Ireland and innocent civilians were still suffering dozens of casualties a year. There is nothing to this point but an appeal to tribalist hatred of the Irish independence cause which once again demonstrates the Thatcher apologist's indifference to death and suffering in favour of militant ideological posturing.

Point Three: Thatcher didn't "allow [a cherry-picked number] of immigrants into the UK"

This point demonstrates the Tory contempt for reality. They utterly dismiss The Tory party policy of closer integration with Europe and Thatcher's own role in opening up the UK to migrant workers and signing away sovereign powers.

Between 1964 and 1979 the UK actually had a long period of net emigration. This trend was reversed under the Thatcher government. The rise of net immigration, which began under Thatcher's rule, increased under John Major's rule and went into six digit figures when the European borders were thrown open to eastern block countries by the orthodox neoliberal fixated New Labour party.

The right-wing brigade love to claim that these kinds of open borders immigration policies are some kind of left-wing conspiracy, however the Tories have opened up EU immigration far more than "the left", which no longer even exists in terms of parliamentary representation. Thatcher's predecessor as Tory Prime Minister, Edward Heath opened up economic immigration from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Denmark in 1973. Thatcher herself opened the borders to Greek, Spanish and Portuguese workers in 1981 and 1986 and her successor John Major threw open the door to workers from Austria, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein in 1994. By the time Labour returned to power, Tony Blair had transformed the party leadership into adherents of Thatcherite neoliberalism (Thatcher cited this destruction of the left-wing Labour party as her greatest achievement in politics). The fact that Neo-Labour threw open the doors to eastern European migration is a direct consequence of Thatcher's rule. Given that Thatcher actually opened up the UK borders to further economic migration herself and the inexorable rise of mass immigration began in the 1980s, the idea that mass immigration is somehow a left-wing problem is fantastically revisionist stuff.

Point Four: Thatcher didn't "institute the Human Rights Act"

Firstly, the UK was subject to the European Convention on Human Rights long before the Human Rights Act came into effect. The 1998 Human Rights Act simply formalised these conventions into UK law. The ECHR was signed up to by Clement Attlee, with the support of Winston Churchill and passed into law in 1953 when Churchill was once again Prime Minister. The idea that human rights are a new thing introduced by Labour in 1998 is a pathetic fantasy.

Reactionary Tory fanatics seem to despise their own rights (the ones Attlee and Churchill both supported) and would love to see them abolished forthwith. Their favoured tactic for propagandising for the abolition of their own rights is to cherry-pick a tiny minority of cases where undesirable outcomes have resulted, their favourites being the inability of the government to expel Islamist extremists to countries where they are likely to be tortured and killed in contravention of the right to life (which has existed since 1953). They then use this tiny minority of cases to argue that the entire Human Rights Act should be abolished and that the UK should become the first country in history to repeal the European Convention on Human Rights.

These pitiful reactionaries honestly seem to think that it would be a great idea to allow Theresa May and the Tories to revoke our rights to stuff like a fair trial, freedom of expression, freedom from discrimination, freedom of association, protection from retroactive legislation, freedom of thought, the right to liberty, protection from torture, the right to effective remedy, the right to life, the right to privacy and protection from servitude. They really believe that all of these rights should be scrapped so that a bunch of millionaire Tories can decide which of these rights we are allowed to keep as they redraw a "more suitable" system of rights for ordinary British people. These people are so laughably naive that they'd openly call for the abolition of their own rights!

Point Five: Thatcher didn't "roll over and allow Europe to dictate what we can and can't do"

Again, this post shows breathtaking ignorance of Thatcher's relationship with Europe. Thatcher signed up to the Single European Act in 1985, which set about the creation of the European Single Market and codified European Political Cooperation and Common Foreign and Security Policy. Her chosen successor John Major then handed over even more powers to Europe when he signed up to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. In effect Thatcher and her successor John Major did roll over, cede sovereign powers to Europe and allow the EU to begin dictating "what we can and can't do". This point simply reinforces the fact that Thatcher fanatics are brazen revisionists.

Point Six: Thatcher didn't "run up huge debts and end up getting our credit rating reduced"

This one is probably the most revisionist point of the whole lot. Despite North Sea oil production booming in the 1980s and the £billions raised through the fire-sale of state infrastructure (the national silver), the Thatcher government simply couldn't manage to run a balanced budget. During Thatcher's rule the national debt rose from £169 billion in 1978 to £570 billion in 1990! Despite all of the North Sea oil revenues and privatisation windfalls, the Thatcher government ran near constant budget deficits and massively expanded national borrowing.

What is more, the financial sector crisis that caused the runaway budget deficits of today can be traced back to Thatcher's neoliberalisation agenda. Wave after wave of deregulations, which began with Thatcher, but continued under Neo-Labour allowed financial institutions to gamble the entire financial sector to the brink of insolvency, necessitating the biggest state interventions in UK history to save them from the consequences of their own recklessness. The financial crisis, the credit crunch and George Osborne's failing ideological austerity experiment have all contributed to the escalation of the national debt, and all of these things can be traced back to Thatcher's introduction of ideologically driven neoliberal-pseudo-economics.

One other thing that needs to be said about this point is that it is illustrative of the Tory mentality of measuring the price of everything and the value of nothing. Their problem with the current economic situation isn't the huge rises in long-term and youth unemployment, massive rises in the number of children growing up in poverty, cuts to infrastructure, services and education, ever rising personal debts, financial sector greed and corruption, industrial scale tax-dodging or the fact that the government is led by and positively riddled with barefaced liars; it is that a foreign financial institution (that only a few years ago caused the economic crisis by stamping £trillions worth of toxic derivatives with AAA ratings) has removed their AAA rating from UK sovereign debts.

Conclusion "So before you sit there slagging her off (especially those who weren't even born when she was Prime Minister) take a look at what happened to our country since she resigned.

Many of the problems that have happened to our country since Thatcher resigned can clearly be traced back to decisions made by her government. I'll go through a few of her toxic legacies after a quick not about the parenthesised effort to so silence those that have suffered the consequences of her social divisiveness and economic mismanagement by whining that they weren't even born when she was ruling to roost. This effort to shut down criticism is truly feeble stuff, it's like saying that people shouldn't be allowed to have an opinion on the First World War unless they are one of the few hundred people still living that were children at the time; like forbidding anyone under the age of 57 from expressing an opinion about the leadership skills of Winston Churchill, or like preventing future generations from criticising Tony Blair and his desperate efforts to secure the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Here are some of the toxic legacies  that can be traced back to Margaret Thatcher. For a more comprehensive exploration of these themes, you can read the Margaret Thatcher is Dead article instead.

Neoliberalism - Thatcher was responsible for the introduction of ideologically driven neoliberal pseudo economics. Countless current economic problems can be traced back to the abandonment of the social democratic model in favour of hard-right economic extremism.
New Labour and political apathy - Thatcher once cited Tony Blair and New Labour as her greatest achievement in politics. To her, it was a great success that Labour abandoned their central ethos in favour of Thatcherite neoliberalism, but most people should be able to see that it actually resulted in the death of political diversity which went on to cause the spread of political apathy.
Centralised executive power - No Prime Minister has ever done more to damage participatory democracy. She stripped power away from local government and centralised in her own hands. This centralisation of power runs entirely contrary to all of her waffle about small government and no Prime Minister since has wanted to hand back powers to local government.
Manufacturing Decline - Thatcher relentlessly pushed the absurd post industrial fantasy, where the UK economy would more or less abandon productive activity like manufacturing in order to focus on providing services centred around the financial sector in the City of London. The industrial decline Thatcher instigated has continued under all subsequent orthodox neoliberal governments, and these days Britain runs record breaking trade deficits and the decision to put the gamblers in the City at the very centre of our economy looks ever more foolhardy.
Trade Deficits - back in the 1970s the balance of trade was considered one of the most important economic indicators, these days people fixate upon GDP, and the grotesquely distorted measures for inflation and unemployment and tend to ignore the fact that the UK trade deficit has been widening ever since Thatcher initiated her assaults on the UK industrial sector.
Mass unemployment - Thatcher didn't inherit full employment in 1979, but she reintroduced the near forgotten spectre of mass unemployment that hadn't stalked the country since the 1930s. To the Tories, mass unemployment was a price worth paying, and unemployment has remained high ever since. Another of Thatcher's cons was placing people on sickness benefits in order to manipulate the headline unemployment figures downwards. Even if people weren't incapable of work at the time, decades of inactivity and poverty on sickness benefits will have rendered the majority too old or infirm to contribute anything now. The current Tory administration are so cheeky that they resort to blaming Labour for the explosion in sickness claimants, when the policy of parking the unemployed on sickness benefits was introduced by their ideological godmother.
Social division - Thatcher was undeniably the most divisive Prime Minister of the 20th Century. She set communities against each other in order to prevent people coming together in solidarity against her rule. Where solidarity was shown she used the police as her own personal militia to crush dissent. Thatcher's industrial strategy tore the economic heart out of countless communities, then her government instructed those still with jobs to blame those without for the catastrophic failure of her policies.
Poverty (falling wages, loss of disposable income, ever rising personal debts) - Thatcher set about destroying several decades of social progress. The wealth gap began increasing under Thatcher and has never stopped since. Thatcher's socially and economically divisive policies ensured that the rich got all the gravy and the poor got all the blame. Not only did this wealth transfer to the rich have devastating social consequences, it also had appalling economic consequences too. As the value of wages fell, disposable income fell too and personal debt rose. Low disposable income and high levels of personal debt are two of the causal factors in the current economic stagnation.

The housing crisis - Thatcher contributed to the current housing crisis in two ways. Her hatred of anything social led her to attack social housing provision and to instigate the firesale of social housing and her obsession with home ownership led to the development of the massive property speculation ponzi bubble which burst so spectacularly in 2007-08.
Rent seeking parasitism - Thatcher's privatisations and deregulations led to the development of the "too-important-to-fail" model of capitalist parasitism. She introduced the policy of allowing private interests to put themselves in the position where they can demand ever greater taxpayer funded subsidies and charge ever increasing prices, safe in the knowledge that the state or the individual consumer will tolerate this rent seeking behavior and cough up incrementally greater amounts, rather than suffer the much greater economic shock of having their rail network, health service or banking system declare bankruptcy and shut itself down, or the greater personal shock of having their water or electricity supply shut off due to non payment of inflation busting bills.
Tax-Dodging - The Thatcher government set the great tax-dodging bonanza in motion with the abandonment of capital controls. That many of the people to have made themselves filthy rich through their offshore activities have gone on to pump £millions into the Tory party is absolutely no surprise at all. In fact the current leader of the Tory party is the son of a tax-dodger that cashed in on Thatcher's tax-dodging bonanza in the 1980s.
The financial sector meltdown - Many of the aforementioned legacies came to ugly fruition with the 2007-08 financial sector meltdown and the subsequent economic chaos. The contributory factors that have Maggie's fingerprints all over them include neoliberal pseudo-economics, the lack of political diversity, manufacturing decline, the absurd post-industrial fantasy, financial sector deregulation, the housing crisis, poverty, lack of disposable income, personal indebtedness, rent-seeking parasitism and tax-dodging.
The Murdoch Press - One final factor that simply cannot be ignored is the Murdoch bias. Thatcher opened the establishment door to Murdoch and in return for support in his papers, she allowed him to build up a vast anti-competitive share of the UK media. The fact that all current political leaders in the UK have to go and grovel ("Cow Down"!) before the Australian-American kingmaker Rupert Murdoch so that his criminal media empire might back them, is a disgusting spectacle that is yet another of Maggie's toxic legacies.

What we have learned

That this water-brained diatribe is the most popular tribute to Thatcher on social media is a clear demonstration that the majority of Thatcherites are callous, fact averse, revisionists, afflicted with such stupidity they would gladly propagandise against their own human rights.

The fact that the author of this meme couldn't come up with anything better than those six woefully poor points demonstrates what a feeble legacy Thatcher must actually have. The fact that tens of thousands of Maggie apologists shared this pitiful meme demonstrates the dreadful lack of critical thinking skills amongst tribalist Tories.

Another common theme with Maggie apologists is the sheer cognitive dissonance of their proclamations that she was such a great leader that changed the country completely and left a wonderful legacy, combined with their demands that we consider how badly the country has deteriorated since she was turfed out of office by her own MPs. They want to talk up her wonderful legacy when it suits them, but then immediately point at the radioactive social and economic fallout from Thatcherism as evidence that everything was better when their beloved harridan was running the country!

Here's my annotated version of the meme:

More articles from
Margaret Thatcher is dead

What is ... neoliberalism?
  The Great Neoliberal Lie
The economic case against tax-dodging
  The "unpatriotic left" fallacy
The NHS is not safe in their hands
  The warped Tory redefinition of rights
  The catastrophic failure of "Osbornomics"
Why I blame the left for the economic crisis

Another Angry Voice is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only source of revenue for Another Angry Voice is the  PayPal  donations box (which can be found in the right hand column, fairly near the top of the page). If you could afford to make a donation to help keep this site going, it would be massively appreciated.

Saturday 13 April 2013

Neoliberalism and Communism

One of the most annoying aspects of running a popular Facebook page about politics and economic is the sheer number of politically and economically illiterate comments that people leave. I believe that the standard of debate on my page is often quite high bearing in mind the usual standard of debate on Facebook, however many comments bear the hallmarks of lazy political tribalism and brazen economic illiteracy.

Wading through the rubbish to find the more thoughtful, intelligent and inspirational comments is a mind-numbing chore, made all the more difficult by my unwillingness to simply let lies and misrepresentations pass without rebuttal. I waste far too much of my time replying to idiotic comments; time that could obviously be better spent writing articles, designing images, spending time with my family or just watering the plants. Every so often though, a comment appears that is so utterly wrong-headed that it it is genuinely enlightening. A comment that serves to illustrate exactly how completely wrong it is possible to be: An exemplar of idiocy.

Here's one such comment about Margaret Thatcher from a post on the Another Angry Voice Facebook Page:
"Her economic policy [was] based on the evil ideas of Freedman economics by the Jewish communist Milton Freedman of Chicago."
Now, a normal person, with the slightest clue about who Milton Friedman actually was, and a reasonably accurate definition of communism would probably have a laugh about the sheer scale of ignorance and perhaps leave a short comment to point out how exactly how utterly wrong it is. However, I'm not a normal person by any stretch of the imagination and I find myself almost duty bound to conduct further analysis in order to marvel at the exceptional stupidity of such a comment.

Firstly I'll consider how it was even possible that such a remarkably stupid comment could have been devised in the first place before going on to examine what makes it so remarkably wrong.

The author was clearly using the word "communist" as an insult, without any consideration for the actual meaning, the way that Teabaggers in the United States describe Obama as a communist, demonstrating both the fact that they don't even know the definition of the word (see this video) and their shocking ignorance of who Obama actually is. That Obama is the most right-wing leader of the Democrats in living memory, with a steadfast commitment to capitalism is unquestionable. To people that have actually paid attention to Obama's political appointments it is remarkably clear that Obama should actually be known to all as "The Wall Street President". You only need to look at the source of his political donations to realise that anything but a Presidency with an absolute dedication towards serving the interests of Wall Street and of American corporate power is actually an impossibility.

But I digress. It is clear that our contributor is using "communist" as a derogatory term in the same way that he is using "Jew" as an insult. The two are often seen in combination in far right politics. The extreme right recognise communism as the enemy economic philosophy, so it is natural for them to work it into "the Jewish conspiracy" that they are always so fanatically preoccupied with. It doesn't matter that the Jewish state of Israel has been part of the anti-communist alliance since the foundation of the state, nor that there are countless examples of Jewish anti-communists..

The idea that the concept of communism is Jewish is as simple minded and wrong headed as the idea that the concept of Television is Scottish. Yes some Jews have engaged with and promoted the communist ideology, however there are countless examples of other Jews that haven't. Probably the most famous example of a non-communist Jewish person is the aforementioned Milton Friedman. In fact Milton Friedman is almost synonymous with the ideology he spent his lifetime promoting, the ideology of neoliberalism. Friedman was the ideologue at the heart of the University of Chicago school of economics that was at the very epicentre of American neoliberalism. Just as Vienna is the Mecca of Austrian school of economics, Chicago is the spiritual capital of neoliberalism.

Now onto analysis of just how wrong the conflation of Milton Friedman's ideology of neoliberalism and the communist philosophy actually is. Apologies if you are familiar with the definitions of these two socio-economic theories, but for clarification I'm going to describe these ideologies in terms of economic power, property rights and freedoms. I'll try to keep it as brief and informative as possible, since I'm sure a hefty proportion of my audience are already familiar with meaning of both communism and neoliberalism.

Under communism, all economic power is in theory, supposed to be controlled by the state, which in turn is controlled by the people. Ownership of property and the means of productivity are transferred to the state, which means individual property rights must be curtailed. The state then exploits the means of productivity to provide for the populace, which means that the populace loses the freedom to economically exploit one another in return for the freedom from exploitation.

The problem with communist theory is that it's never really been tried in practice because the power of the communist state is simply usurped by totalitarians like Stalin, Mao or the Kim dynasty in order to erect absurd totalitarian personality cults.

Not only is the model of absolute state power over the economy prone to usurpation it is also often prone to inefficiency (because individuals are often capable of making more efficient decisions that the secondary party of "the state" making those decisions on their behalf). Purely applied communist theory is an impossibility, because like all economic systems it is prone to subversion (all economic regimes are subject to black markets, corruption and fraud). "Pure communism" has never existed, and will never exist.

The main practical problem with the communism based economies that have existed hasn't actually arisen out of the huge potential for inefficiency within vast state bureaucracies, it has arisen out from the revocation of individual freedoms.

Take the Soviet space programme for example. Even the most hard line critic of communism would struggle to take the stance that the Soviet Space programme never produced monumental achievements. Just think of the launch of the first communications satellite in 1957 (only 12 years after the concept of the communications satellite was actually devised by the Englishman Arthur C. Clarke) and then only a few years later the first manned space flights.

Another undeniable example of impressive communist efficiency is the Cuban health system. Not only do they have a health system with outcomes to rival any capitalist country, they've achieved it despite the continuous exodus of thousands of medical professionals a year in search of better pay and greater economic freedoms in capitalist countries. This exodus is illustrative of both the potential efficiency of communist economies (because the Cuban health system continues to function incredibly well despite this constant loss of skilled labour) but also the practical problem of the individual desire for economic freedom.

It is my view that the Soviet Union fell not because of economic inefficiency, but because of the social demand for greater social and economic freedoms. The denial of freedoms to the citizens of the Soviet Block caused the massive uprisings against the Soviet regime. The people of the Soviet block wanted the freedom to read what they choose, to associate with whomever they like, to buy luxury items, to watch MTV and to eat at Pizza Hut. In my view it was the denial of these social and economic freedoms that led to the eventual fall of Soviet style communism.

Neoliberalism is a form of militant capitalist anarchism where the state is to have no function but to dismantle itself and assume the minimal executive power of protecting property rights. The two core principles of neoliberal economic theory are deregulation and privatisation.

Under neoliberalism theory, in order to improve economic efficiency to the maximum level possible, virtually all economic power must be removed from the state and distributed to the populace. Essentially a government that embraces the concept of neoliberalism must strive to reduce the interventions of the state. A hard line neoliberal government is duty bound to dismantle itself from within.

Once this process of privatisation and market deregulation sets in, the theory tells us that a mystical force which is often referred to as the "invisible hand of the market" or as "market forces" supposedly guides the economy towards maximum efficiency. This existence of this self-regulatory effect is believed with such fervour that the idea that "the invisible hand" creates economic efficiency seems self evident to neoliberal adherents. It is believed so strongly that "market forces" lead to "economic efficiency" that the two concepts actually become inextricably merged to create the fallacy of capitalist efficiency.

One of the most fundamental problems with neoliberalism of course is that God-like phenomena of the "invisible hand" doesn't exist. It is clear from analysis of any complex system (human society being perhaps the most complex system known to mankind himself), that the arbitrary removal of rules (deregulation) invariably leads to chaos.

The reason that market chaos is inevitable if ideologically driven neoliberals are given free rein to tear up the economic rule book, is that many of the rules exist to prevent economic inefficiency by outlawing anti-competitive practices. If market competition creates efficiency, then the ideological destruction of rules that have been designed to prevent anti-competitive practices will inevitably result in an increase in anti-competitive practices.

It is undeniable that activities (such as monopoly formation, oligopoly formation, corruption, insider trading, taxation asymmetry, fraud, price-fixing, dumping, frontrunning, refusal to trade, tying, punitive intellectual property laws, cartel formation, information asymmetry, bribery and political patronage) reduce genuine competition and create market inefficiency. If the rules that prevent such anti-competitive practices are scrapped, it is inevitable that self-interested individuals will take advantage of their new found freedoms to engage in anti-competitive practices and in so doing, undermine market efficiency.

Privatisation, the other ideological foundation of neoliberalism, is no less prone to poor outcomes than deregulation. The great problem with privatisation of state assets and infrastructure is that those with the most capital to invest get the lion's share of the assets being disbursed by the self-dismantling state. In effect this means that economic power to exploit productivity of the populace is distributed to the capital rich (corporations and the super-rich) rather than to the population as a whole.

What makes this process so much worse is that like all economic processes, privatisation is open to corruption. Those with closest links to the neoliberalising government end up with huge swathes of formerly state owned infrastructure at bargain basement prices.

Another major problem with privatisation is that many services simply don't generate profit, necessitating vast subsidies and lucrative outsourcing contracts in order to entice private interests into providing these economically necessary services. These enticements often become a bigger burden on the taxpayer than the entire cost of running the services as a state monopoly! The privatisation of British Rail is one of the classic examples of runaway subsidisation, where the cost of current subsidies is significantly more than twice the cost of running the entire network back in 1994 (adjusted for inflation). Not only has the burden on the taxpayer risen, the burden on the passenger has too, with inflation busting price rises every single year in return for usage of an ever more overcrowded network.

Privatisation allows private interests to exploit infrastructure and services that are simply too-important-to-fail. This puts them in the position where they can demand ever greater taxpayer funded subsidies and charge ever increasing prices, safe in the knowledge that the state or the individual consumer will tolerate this rent seeking behavior and cough up incrementally greater amounts, rather than suffer the much greater economic shock of having their rail network or health service declare bankruptcy and shut itself down, or the greater personal shock of having their water or electricity supply shut off due to non payment of bills.

One of the indicators of capitalist inefficiency is the phenomena of market bubbles. Bubbles represent phases of economic inefficiency, of wasted productivity. Instead of capital being put to the most efficient use possible, vast amounts flow into the inflation of asset values until a loss in market confidence is triggered, causing massive asset depreciation and capital losses.

The more deregulated markets have become, the larger the bubbles of inefficient investment. At the time the 1987-88 Savings and Loans crisis in the United States caused by the Reagan deregulations was seemingly enormous, but in hindsight it dwindles in comparison with the devastating consequences of subsequent neoliberal crises such as the Asian contagion, the Argentine neoliberal meltdown and default, the dotcom bubble, and the 2007-08 global neoliberal meltdown.

The ongoing financial crisis is a result of market deregulation. (anyone that denies this fact in favour of facile tribalist "blame Labour" narratives is such a fact averse revisionist that the cognitive dissonance will probably have prevented them from even managing to read this far). Wave after wave of neoliberal  financial sector deregulations led to reckless speculation on all kinds of junk. Unimaginable flows of capital was invested in hopeless stuff like AAA rated Collateralised Debt Obligations, Credit Default Swaps, Greek government bonds, Irish bank bonds, Spanish property investments and all kinds of tangible but massively overvalued assets, worthless paper and mindbogglingly stupid derivative contracts.

What happened after the market lost confidence in so many of these hopeless investments at once was the absolute refutation of neoliberal economic theory. Financial institutions and investors ran to the governments of the world demanding the largest state interventions in history in order to stave off bankruptcy.

Countless institutions have exploited their "too-big-to-fail" status to demand unprecedented taxpayer funded bailouts in order to stave off systemic collapse. In essence, the players in the neoliberal market gambled themselves into such a predicament that their only salvation was recourse to the state, which under their own beloved theories, should never, ever intervene in the market.

Without these vast state interventions, the neoliberal market would have collapsed into insolvency and chaos. To put the scale of the bailouts into perspective. The UK financial sector interventions and Quantitative Easing injections (new money invention schemes) amount to more than an entire year worth of national output.

Imagine the productive potential of dividing up this massive investment and injecting that much capital directly into several areas of the economy. Imagine the increases in employment, skills, personal wealth, disposable income, aggregate demand and national productivity had such sums been found to invest tranches of £250 billion into five areas of the economy:
  • National infrastructure improvements
  • Schools, universities and technical training schemes
  • Scientific and technological research
  • Health research and service provision
  • Business development loans.
Instead of this kind of targeted investment, what the UK public witnessed was more than £1 trillion worth of state investment simply poured into the black holes of financial sector debt in order to stave off the systemic collapse of the failed neoliberal ideology.

The principal selling point of the neoliberal ideology is that it legitimises, and in fact glorifies self-interest, the pursuit of profit and personal greed. I'm not original in saying this, the French philosopher and economist Frédéric Bastiat wrote in 1848 that:
"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it"
It is absolutely clear that neoliberal economists have managed to find support for their ideology amongst the wealthy and powerful precisely because neoliberalism tells these people exactly what they want to hear. It tells them that greed and self-interest are not actually socially and economically destructive vices that must be counteracted, but actually virtues to be promoted and lauded!

Given the fact that neoliberalism provides a wonderful pseuco-economic justification for rapacious greed and self-interest, is is absolutely no surprise that neoliberal economists have found no problem in attracting financial support from the wealthy and powerful for their university departments and pseudo-economic research projects.

The problem with neoliberalism is of course that it doesn't matter how many billionaires pour funding into the promotion of the neoliberal ideology, it is, and will always remain economically illiterate stuff that relies on the deliberate ignorance of the inefficiencies created by anti-competitive practices. If the rules that prevent anti-competitive practices are deregulated out of existence, the whole narrative of capitalist market efficiency is destroyed. Efficiency can't be achieved by the complete abandonment of the rule book just as it can't be enforced by a billion rules and regulations enforced by a vast totalitarian state bureaucracy.

Real market efficiency is achieved through optimisation of market regualtions, rather than through ideologically driven attacks on the whole concept of market regulation. It seems stunningly obvious to me that the idea of maximised efficiency through free market capitalism is dependent on effective regulation to prevent anti-competitive practices and outright fraud. Essentially, in order to create a competitive "free market", it is first necessary to create a "fair market". What neoliberalism achieves through ideological attacks on the concept of market regulation is the entrenchment of crony capitalism. The establishment of a corrupt and inefficient system where the capital rich minority are free to put their vast wealth to hopelessly inefficient uses, whilst the majority suffer ever greater encroachments on their economic freedoms through impoverishment, debt, unemployment and low wages. Neoliberalism is a recipe for economic inefficiency and systemic collapse.

If we consider the three main themes I've covered (the economic power of the state, property rights and individual freedoms) it turns out that communism and neoliberalism are exact opposites. The communist believes that the state must command total power over the economy, the neoliberal believes in the complete revocation of state control over the economy. The communist believes that it is the role of the state to revoke property rights in order to communalise property, the neoliberal believes that the only role of the state should be to protect property rights. The communist believes in the revocation of freedoms in order to protect the populace from exploitation, whilst the neoliberal believes in protection of the freedom of the wealthy to to exploit others in the pursuit of profit.

In my view communism is a militant ideology of practical impossibility. The state cannot possibly regulate every aspect of the economy, and attempts to establish communism to date have descended into totalitarian regimes and often into the development of absurd personality cultism.

In my view neoliberalism is even worse. It seems to be built on the absurd foundation that because communism is, lets say, undesirable or anti-American, the exact opposite must therefore be desirable. Noeliberalism is in fact a reactionary position born of the anti-communist mindset. It is based on the ridiculous assumption that the opposite of what is undesirable, must therefore be desirable.

I've demonstrated that communism and neoliberalism are not just completely different ideologies, but that neoliberalism actually seems to be a reactionary reworking of free-market capitalist theory, born of the post-war anti-communist fervour in the United States, to make it the intentional opposite of communism. Where communists believe in the power of the state, neoliberals believe in the abolition of the state. Where communists believe in the abolition of private property rights, neoliberals place the protection of property rights at the pinnacle of their ideology: And where communists believe that rights must be revoked in order to provide freedom from exploitation, neoliberals believe in protection of the right to exploit.

Anyone that could conclude that communism and neoliberalism are the same thing must be so fanatical in their hatred of Jews and Judaism that they'd willingly conflate two opposite economic ideologies on the basis that the most famous proponents of both ideologies (Karl Marx and Milton Friedman) both happened to come from Jewish families.

Whatever the motivation behind such a ridiculous conflation, the fact is that it led me to write this comparison between these two ideologies, serves as a demonstration of the fact that, given the right kind of circumstances, the consequence of even the most grotesquely ignorant statement can be the exploration of interesting themes: That even the most idiotic statement can lead to something interesting.

Given that I've subjected both ideologies to severe criticism, I believe that you'd be entitled to ask what my favoured economic ideology actually is.

My view is that neither of these extreme ideologies are capable of maximising efficiency. Efficiency can't be enforced through the creation of millions of ruthlessly enforced rules and regulations, just as it can't be stimulated through complete abandonment of the rule book either. As I mentioned in my critique of ideological neoliberalism, the neoliberal dream of a "free market" becomes impossible once the rules preventing the development of anti-competitive practices come under ideological attack.

My view is that the rules of the market should be designed and rigorously applied with the principal aim of promoting economic efficiency, through the exclusion of anti-competitive and economically inefficient practices. Communists would criticise me because I believe in individual property rights and the efficiency of capitalist production, but neoliberals would criticise me because I believe in a strong democratic state with the power to intervene in the market to prevent anti-competitive practices, which means seizing the control of natural monopolies and economically vital infrastructure.

A truly productive economic system must not allow a minority of individuals and institutions to gamble vast amounts of capital on a shadow derivatives casino that is more than 15 times the size of the real productive economy of the entire world or into the inflation of vast bubbles of economically inefficient investment. A truly productive economy must ensure that the greatest number of individuals have the ability to improve their productive capabilities, through education, training, innovation, access to healthcare and finance.

I believe that the toxic effects of capitalistic parasitism (rent seeking behavior, capital hoarding, taxation, anti-competitive practices...) can be mitigated through the development of  robust legislation to promote competition and economic efficiency, and through democratic control over natural monopolies and vital infrastructure. I don't like to label myself as an adherent of one formal ideology or another, but for the sake of clarity I'll say that the two of commonly recognised ideologies that most closely match my own views are Social Democracy and Left-Libertarianism.

Another Angry Voice is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only source of revenue for Another Angry Voice is the  PayPal  donations box (which can be found in the right hand column, fairly near the top of the page). If you could afford to make a donation to help keep this site going, it would be massively appreciated.