Saturday 30 May 2015

The spending cuts vs tax increases false dichotomy

One of the most commonly occurring defences of George Osborne's ideological austerity con is the spending cuts vs tax increases false dichotomy. I'm not sure where people are rote learning this vastly over-simplified and economically illiterate argument from. All I know is that they're learning it from somewhere and repeating it in lieu of making any actual effort to understand the economic issues for themselves.

Here is an example from the Another Angry Voice Facebook page:

"What would you have the government do, raise taxes or cut spending? They're the only options."
The fetishisation of public sector borrowing

There are numerous problems with this kind of over-simplified question, not least the fact that the unhealthy fetishisation of the public sector borrowing figures (above other vitally important economic indicators such as the balance of trade, GDP per capita, private debt levels, workforce productivity ...) is so extreme that it's completely warped political debate in the UK.

After five years of ideological austerity the UK's GDP per capita is still way below the pre-crisis level, the UK balance of trade is woeful, we're languishing behind the other developed economies in terms of workforce productivity, disposable income (and therefore economic demand) has been eroded away by the longest sustained decline in wages since records began and levels of household debt have rocketed back above pre-crisis levels - yet all people tend to worry about is a level of public sector debt that is only a third of what it was in the 1940s, and still lower than the average for the entire 20th Century!

If this illogical public debt fixation weren't such a serious problem, it would be laughable that the level of government borrowing is being given such complete priority over other incredibly significant problems like the fact that the UK is trapped in an ever widening trade deficit, that the so-called recovery has been funded with another unsustainable bubble of private debt, that the recklessly deregulated and corruption riddled private banks haven't been reformed, and that the British workforce is falling further and further behind the other developed economies in terms of productivity.

false dichotomies

Once we get beyond the bizarrely over-simplified idea that levels of public sector borrowing are the be-all and end-all of any nations' economic performance, it's important to note that the spending cuts vs tax increases question is a false dichotomy that makes absolutely no sense whatever to anyone with a basic understanding of macroeconomics.

False dichotomies are very useful propaganda tools because they can be used to trick people into supporting all manner of things under the mistaken impression that there is only one other alternative that is much worse.

The presentation of false dichotomies is such an effective propaganda technique that the tactic of programming people to believe in simplistic binary choices is not going to go away. What we can do is try to remain ever vigilant when we are presented with binary choices by politicians and the media. If we can think of any other possibility that lies outside the two given choices, it becomes obvious that the choice we're being presented with is more of a propaganda device than an actual choice.

Returns on investment

The reason that the spending cuts vs tax increases choice is so misleading is a fundamental part of macroeconomics theory called fiscal multiplication. I've already written an article explaining the term here, so I won't go into excessive detail about what the term means other than to give a very brief description and to demolish one of the commonly cited criticisms of the concept.

The basic idea of fiscal multiplication is that some forms of government spending produce more economic activity than others.

A hypothetical example could be government funding for a new bypass to ease congestion that might return £3.70 for every pound spent by virtue of the fact that construction companies, their workers and their suppliers will benefit from the construction project, then millions of gallons of fuel and millions of hours will no longer be wasted sitting in traffic jams.

Another hypothetical example could be a government scheme to increase employment by bringing in a load of corporate outsourcing giants to get people into work that only returns 20p for every pound invested because the companies end up raking in hundreds of millions of pounds despite producing results that are statistically worse than had nothing been done at all*

The new bypass would have a fiscal multiplication value of 3.7 and the corporate work scheme would only have a value of 0.2. 

The concept is pretty easy to understand, but I think it would be better named "returns on investment ratio" (or something similar) so that people could easily grasp its meaning when they hear the name of it.

People of the extreme-right libertarian persuasion often try to dismiss the concept of fiscal multiplication by making misleading claims that the concept is "highly contested", a claim that is often used in conjunction with attacks on the character and competence of John Maynard Keynes, who was the Godfather of macroeconomics.

The idea that fiscal multiplication is "highly contested" is completely wrong. Fiscal Multipliers are used by the IMF and World Bank (hardly radical "leftie" organisations by any stretch of the imagination) and by every government that is interested in generating anything resembling accurate economic projections.

Anyone who tries to talk down the concept of fiscal multiplication is essentially saying that it's better not to have a measure of how strong the economic returns are on any given tranche of government spending. This stance makes no economic sense, and surely doesn't even make sense to people of the right-wing persuasion because it would mean that government spending on stuff like policing, roads, infrastructure, etc would be precisely as useful as the so-called government "non-jobs" the tabloid press are always harping on and on about.

Fiscal Multiplication errors

A lot of people seem to have forgotten the Tory double-dip recession that happened as a result of George Osborne's ideological austerity agenda. The reason that the UK economy took such a huge hit between late 2010 and early 2013 was that instead of working out the economic returns on investment on the various bits of government spending they were slashing, the Tories simply assumed that every bit of government spending had a fiscal multiplication value of 0.5.

Of course it makes sense to go on an indiscriminate cutting spree if you assume that every aspect of government spending results in 50% waste, but the problem is that in reality it doesn't. In 2012 the IMF released research that showed that since the global financial sector insolvency crisis, fiscal multiplication values tend to range between 0.9 and 1.7, meaning that most of the stuff George Osborne had cut had actually been creating more economic benefits than it had cost.

It turns out that if you look at reality rather than assuming that all government spending is essentially 50% waste, arbitrary across the board spending cuts are a really really bad idea.

Intelligent investment

The idea that the only options are spending cuts vs tax increases is economically naive because it's absolutely clear that public debt can be reduced as a result of focusing government spending on things that produce more economic benefits than they cost.

This doesn't just make sense in theoretical macroeconomics, there are plenty of real world examples of governments spending their way out of debt.

The most relevant example is that of the post-war Attlee government of the 1940s that inherited a shattered war-torn economy and a debt to GDP ratio of 238% (way more than four times the size of the debt inherited by the Tories in 2010). Despite all of that debt Attlee's government founded the NHS, introduced legal aid, built hundreds of thousands of new homes per year, improved pensions, unemployment benefits and disability benefits and set about rebuilding Britain's war damaged infrastructure. By the time they left office in 1951 the debt was down to 175% of GDP, and by the time Margaret Thatcher tore up the post war consensus in 1979 the debt was down to just 43% of GDP.

Anyone who thinks that it's impossible that a government could spend its way out of trouble is not only guilty of ignoring countless historical precedents, they've also clearly never run a successful business of their own.

If we take a highly simplified example of a loss making business group with ten factories. It would make good business sense to see how much each factory is making it relation to the running costs. If it turns out that five of the factories are making losses, two are breaking even and three are making profits - it makes no sense whatever to make arbitrary across the board spending cuts in all of the factories, neither does it make sense to arbitrarily increase the product prices. Any responsible business owner would surely consider investing some money to convert the loss making factories to doing what the profitable ones are. In other words intelligent investment makes more sense than arbitrary spending cuts or increasing prices/taxes.


Of course it suits George Osborne and the right wing press to have people believe that government spending is essentially waste that is incapable of producing strong economic benefits. If people believe this, then the public can be hoodwinked into believing that the only alternative to the Tory austerity con is that we'd all have to pay a load more tax, but that's simply not the way things work.

Next time you hear anyone using the
 spending cuts vs tax increases false dichotomy, you should ask yourself whether they are saying that because they are trying to trick you into thinking that ideological austerity is a good idea, or whether they themselves have been tricked, and they're just saying it because they've rote learned it from the right-wing press.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

* = this isn't such a ridiculous example as it sounds. I've actually given a basic description of Iain Duncan Smith's Work Programme. The only thing I made up was the fiscal multiplication value of 0.2. I've got no evidence to suggest that it's anything like as good as that.

Austerity is a con
What is ... Fiscal Multiplication?
The myth of right-wing patriotism
How George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history combined
An entirely Osbornomic double-dip recession
The Tory ideological mission
Austerity and economic illiteracy
David Cameron's "austerity to infinity" speech

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Labour's post election U-turn on an EU referendum

Anyone familiar with my work knows that I'm scathing critic of Labour's strategic ineptitude. I've already written at length about how their strategic incompetence cost them their political heartland of Scotland (where they lost 40 of their 41 Westminster seats) and how their unwillingness/inability to articulate a clear and coherent anti-Tory, anti-Austerity narrative severely damaged on their General Election campaign

In this article I'm going to consider Labour's strategically inept decision to leave it until a couple of weeks after the General Election to make a complete U-turn on their opposition the EU referendum. I'm not writing this article from a pro-EU perspective, nor from an anti-EU perspective, I'm simply interested in showing how Labour's decision to leave their U-turn until just a couple of weeks after the General Election is yet another demonstration of their strategic incompetence.

The decision by the Labour Party to drop their opposition to an EU referendum just weeks after their dismal General Election defeat is almost beyond belief. I say "almost" because anyone who witnessed the way they squandered 40 seats in Scotland by siding with the politically toxic Tory party over Scottish independence (instead of offering a distinct and clearly defined alternative of their own) will be familiar with the woeful strategic incompetence of the Labour Party leadership.

In the lead up to a General Election we had the bizarre spectacle of the Labour Party being utterly paralysed with incompetence as Nigel Farage actively told UKIP supporters to go vote Tory. Had Labour dropped their opposition to the EU referendum at that point, they could have drawn the UKIP thorn by offering the Eurosceptic public the referendum they wanted, which is nothing more than what they are now willing to offer after the fact.

Instead of playing the situation to their advantage by dropping their opposition to an in-out EU referendum at a strategically significant time, they sat in paralysis whilst Nigel Farage actively and explicitly reduced the UKIP threat to the Tories by instructing cohorts of them to actually go out and vote Tory.

As a breif aside before I get back to Labour's strategic ineptitude, it's worth thinking about how incredible it is that Farage has managed to hang on as leader of his party when he was guilty of losing an absurd all-or-nothing resignation gamble and of actively promoting a rival political party during the campaign (in which they actually lost one of their two seats). If the leader of the party I supported had advised me to go off and vote for another political party, I'd either have demand their removal as leader, or abandoned the party altogether if they clung on to the leadership. Most Ukippers on the other hand seem deleriously happy to have him back for some reason!

A pre-election announcement that Labour would drop their opposition to an EU referendum, but campaign in favour of continued membership could have worked very well indeed. Not only would this change of position have drawn the UKIP thorn, a clear contrast could have been drawn with David Cameron, who leads a Tory party that is clearly split down the middle over the EU.

Labour could easily have framed the debate to contrast their policy of having a referendum and campaigning in favour of staying in, with the fact that the Tories would be incapable of delivering anything even remotely resembling a coherent message on EU membership should they win the election and get to administer the referendum.

Such a stance would also have allowed Labour to draw a very favourable comparison against the Lib-Dems too, by casting Labour as the pro-EU party who want to give ordinary people a say on the issue and have the confidence in themselves to articlulate a pro-EU stance in the debate, and criticising the Lib-Dems as intent on denying people the right to decide because they believe themselves incapable of coherently defending their support for the EU.

Had Labor framed the debate this way they could have offered Eurosceptics the referendum they wanted, and offered Europhiles the chance to support a pro-EU party that is not afraid to give the public their say and articulate their case in the debate. Only those who are fearful of the "wrong result" in an EU referendum would be deterred, but since the incredibly untrustworthy Lib-Dems would have been the last party standing on a platform of refusing to let the public have their say, Labour probably wouldn't have lost many Europhile votes to them over it.

After the election many people were surprised that there had been huge swings towards UKIP in several Labour seats, but that Farage's party had failed to displace a single Tory MP. I wasn't that surprised. After all, David Cameron had offered Eurosceptics the referendum they wanted, and Labour hadn't. Add to that the fact that Nigel Farage had even instructed his followers to go and vote for his ideological blood-brothers in the Tory party, and it's not difficult to see how UKIP probably caused much more damage to Labour than to the Tories in 2015.

In my view this post-election U-turn from the Labour Party is utterly absurd because had Labour supported letting people have their say before the election instead of after it, it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that a shift of a few hundred thousand disillusioned Eurosceptic Labour supporters in marginal constituencies back from UKIP would have been enough to prevent the Tories edging an absolute majority.

Who knows what the outcome might have been? But one thing is for sure, changing tack when the party is wallowing leaderless in the wake of an inepty managed General Election campaign is not exactly what anyone would call a strategically opportune moment.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

Austerity is a con
The terrifying scale of political illiteracy in the UK
Labour vs the Lib-Dems in the strategic ineptitude stakes
How George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history combined
The Tory "economic recovery" mantra is a lie
The Tory ideological mission
How Labour completely lost the plot in Scotland
Nigel Farage's undignified un-resignation

Friday 22 May 2015

Why I don't speak on behalf of the collective left

As a political writer, one of the things that I find really frustrating is the fact that so many people tend to simply dismiss my views by crudely labeling them as those of an enemy ideology.

By far the most common label that people tend to use to dismiss my work is "leftie" (usually combined with a smattering of crude insults, fallacious arguments and lazy assumptions) but many others have also tried to condemn me by labeling me as a "communist", "Marxist", "socialist" "anti-capitalist" and many other things, without ever having tried to justify their assertions with facts, evidence or analysis.

The idea that I somehow represent any of these political viewpoints is completely wrongheaded, and the tactic of labeling me as such and then attacking the label is an extremely weak debating strategy indeed.

I'm just a guy

The views that I express in my work are my own. I don't speak on behalf of any organisation or ideology whatever. People are free to agree with me or disagree with me as they please, in fact I actively encourage people to try to find something I've said that they disagree with, because I'm just a guy from Yorkshire, and nobody should be 100% agreeing with everything I say.

I'm not a member of any political party and I never have been, however there is obviously some overlap between my views and those of particular political groups. A few examples of this kind of overlap include Positive Money, The Green Party, Common Weal, Unlock Democracy, Basic Income Europe and Rethinking Economics, but I don't endorse everything that these groups say, and I certainly don't speak on their behalf.

I don't speak on anyone's behalf but my own. If people agree with what I've said, they're absolutely free to share my articles and infographics, to quote me or to borrow my arguments for their own use. They can do this without the act of borrowing a specific veiwpoint of mine being a blanket endorsement of everything I've ever said.


The tendency for human beings to put simple labels on things is perfectly natural. The world would be impossibly complicated if we had to consider the incredibly complex detail of everything we experience, rather than just labeling things "tree", "cloud", "person", "blogger", "left-winger" or whatever.

The act of putting simple labels on things is a normal and necessary part of human existence, but there's still a strong distinction to be made between people who understand concepts like heuristics and confirmation bias, and recognise within themselves that they often use simple labels to reduce the incredible complexity of things to a manageable level, and those of us who don't, and tend to think rigidly within the limits of the simplistic labels they've applied to things.

I'm not trying to be judgmental or anything, or to say that some people are more inherently aware than others, because as far as I'm concerned it's within almost anybodies grasp to understand stuff like confirmation bias and heuristics if they have the opportunity and inclination to learn about them.

Labeling things

I am always very hesitant to label my beliefs, especially because so many political and economic words have become so layered with meanings that go so far beyond the original intended senses, that in many people's minds they mean something completely different to the actual definition.

I'm pretty sure that most of the people who tend to use words like "leftie" and "socialist" as insults to hurl at people actually have very little idea of what the words actually mean. While someone who self-identifies as a socialist believes that the means of production should be owned socially and run cooperatively for the benefit of all sectors of society, the person who has only ever read about the perils of socialism in the Murdoch press or the Daily Mail is likely to be using some kind of simplistic short-hand platitude like "spending other people's money" or "jealous of success" as their definition of what socialism means. Thus, to self-identify as a socialist is to give many people a convenient label with which to immediately dismiss your views as ridiculous.

I'm not saying that socialism is right or wrong. There are so many different branches of it that any such simplification would be an exercise in lazy absolutism. What I will say is that I strongly agree with some socialists about some things, I strongly disagree with other socialists about other things, and that the vast majority of my views on socialism fall somewhere between the two extremes.

My reluctance to pigeonhole myself by labeling my views with specific words is summed up by one of my favourite (and most easily memorable) existentialist quotes:

"Once you label me, you negate me" - Søren Kierkegaard


One of the very few labels I have ever allowed myself to self-apply is left-libertarian because the term simply doesn't carry the layers upon layers of (often bizarrely warped) political baggage in the same way as so many other terms like socialist, capitalist, communist, anti-capitalist, anarchist etc.

In reality my political and economic views are too complex to be constrained by a term like left-libertarian, but I am prepared to wear the label because it should be reasonably self-evident that a left-libertarian is concerned with promoting social justice and maximising freedom, and even if it's not self-evident, people would either have to think a while about what it means or go and look it up (both of which are good outcomes). They certainly wouldn't be able to use it as a convenient label to dismiss my views as, and to hurl at me as an insult, because "you left-libertarian bastard" and other such potential insults just don't parse.
The divided left

When people try to dismiss my work by labeling it "leftie" they often make the mistake of talking about "the left" as if all left-wing people are some kind of hive mind, and as if generalistic criticism of anything that is claimed to be left-wing carries the same weight as actually reading what's been said and addressing any of the specific points that have been raised. It's easy to spot these kinds of collective criticisms because they often refer to "the left" as if everyone who is not as right-wing as they are is part of one homogeneous blob that can be generalised about and dismissed.

Anyone who knows anything about left-wing politics (or has seen The Life of Brian) must be familiar with the problem of factionalisation. One of the most bitterly frustrating things about left-wing people is that so many of them seem to have more determination to attack other left-wing people for promoting the wrong shade of left-wingness, than they have to actually criticise the real enemies of the left like powerful 
right-wing media barons, entrenched establishment interests, tax-dodging multinational corporations, the pushers of neoclassical pseudo-economic dogma and the crony capitalist political elites.

It is easily apparent that "the left" is so divided and factionised that anyone who makes sweeping generalisations about "the left" clearly doesn't actually know anything much about it at all.

Not all "lefties" agree with me

Some of the strongest and most heartfelt criticisms of my work come from other people on the left who think that I'm doing it wrong. Other strong criticisms come from the libertarian-right.

I think the reason that the strongest criticisms of my work tend to come from people with whom I have something in common is that they are capable of actually engaging with what I've said, rather than simply labeling it as "leftie bollocks" and hurling a sequence of insults and logical fallacies at me.

It's obviously a lot easier to build a coherent counter argument to something if you actually read what has been written and set out your specific objections to the parts you disagree with, as opposed to simply dismissing the whole thing as "leftie bollocks".

It does seem like a strange phenomenon, but my experience bears it out. The most coherent criticisms of my work almost always come from people who occupy the green and yellow segments (see diagram), whilst the vast majority of insult and logical fallacy laden "critiques" of my work see to come from supporters of political parties that occupy the red quadrant.

The idea that I somehow represent all "lefties", or all libertarians for that matter, is nonsense, especially given that the most coherent criticisms of my work almost invariably come from other "lefties" and other libertarians.

Why I don't speak on behalf of the collective left

I don't speak on behalf of the collective left because I'm just a bloke sharing my opinions. I don't represent any political parties or protest groups, and neither do I claim to speak on behalf of people who follow my Facebook page or share my work. I speak on my own behalf, and if other people choose to agree or disagree with any of the things I've said, that's entirely their own prerogative.

People who try to dismiss what I'm saying by making generalised criticisms of "the left" as if I'm some kind of spokesman for the "leftie" hive mind, or by hurling political words at me as if they are insults (rather than technical terms with specific definitions), are basically demeaning themselves by publicly demonstrating the fact that they don't actually have a meanigful argument against what I'm saying, and that they're incapable of even understanding that what they've said doesn't even remotely constitute a coherent counter argument.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

Why I want you to question everything - even me
Don't read this article
The myth of right-wing patriotism
What is ... a Closed Ideology Echo Chamber?
Austerity is a con
The Tory ideological mission
Why are so many right-wingers still fighting the ideological battles of the past?

Tuesday 19 May 2015

The utter Tory contempt for traditional British values

One of the most commonly used Tory propaganda narratives is that there is a big problem with people who don't respect traditional "British values". The Tories love to cast themselves as the protectors of British values, and propose all kinds of draconian measures such as the abolition of free speech, the scrapping of the concept of innocent unless proven guilty and indoctrination schemes to instill a very Tory version of British values in all of our school children.

In this article I'm going to consider the shocking hypocrisy of a political party that claims to support and defend British values but which is actually engaged in an ideological war against long-established British values such as freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, and the right to be left alone by the state if you're a law abiding citizen.

The right to a fair trial

Not only is the right to a fair trial one of our most cherished British values, it's also one that has proven so popular that it has been adopted by liberal and democratic nations all across the world.

It should be a matter of pride to British people that our nation inspired the world in this way, but our ancient right to a fair trial has been severely eroded by the Tory party, and looks even more threatened by the Tory efforts to scrap the Human Rights Act and withdraw the UK from the ECHR.

One of the most blatant Tory attacks on the ancient British right to a fair trial was when they introduced Secret Courts so that defendants could be tried in a courtroom they are not allowed to enter, on charges they are not allowed to know, based upon evidence they are not allowed to see.

Anyone who thinks that such a crude assault on the concept of open and fair justice is compatible with British values must have a very different interpretation of British values to my own, and to those of anyone who believes that justice needs to be seen to be done fairly, otherwise it's not justice at all.

It's no surprise at all that the Tories want to get rid of our human rights, since their secret courts legislation is so blatantly at odds with Article 6 of the ECHR which states that "everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law".

Freedom of expression

Another long-established British value is that people should be free to express their views, as long as those views are not incompatible with the law. Thus one person has the right to interpret British values in one way, while others may disagree very strongly indeed. What unifies the vast majority of versions of what British values are is that people should have the freedom to believe and express their own values, as long as they are not breaking the law by doing so.

The Tories are pushing forward with new measures to revoke this right to free speech. If Theresa May and David Cameron get their way, it will no longer matter whether the expressed opinion is lawful or not (or even if an opinion has been expressed at all) if the government or the security services take exception to the individual, they'll be able to ban them from freely expressing their views.

The Tories have used the age old "bogeyman tactic" to scare people into agreement, but a person would have to be completely ignorant of the concept of function creep to imagine that any such laws would only ever be used against suspected Islamist extremists. Once the state has awarded itself the ability to silence people with no evidence at all of any actual wrongdoing, who would be naive enough to imagine that such draconian restrictions on freedom of speech would never be used against other people too.

Another factor to consider is that once the right to free speech is abolished and these draconian new censorship laws are enforced, how would it even be possible for us to know that they weren't being used to censor law abiding citizens?

It's beyond obvious that the first thing the state would do if they were using these laws to censor people who aren't radical Islamists (political agitators, investigative journalists, environmentalists, people speaking out against high profile paedophile MPs, anti-corruption campaigners, whistleblowers etc) would be to prevent the targets from ever speaking out about the fact they are being censored by censoring them every time they try to complain about it.

Not only are these proposals to scrap the right to free expression at odds with traditional British values, they're also at odds with Article 10 of the ECHR which protects our "freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority"

The presumption of innocence

Another traditional British value that the Tories are ever so keen to scrap is the idea that people should be considered innocent until it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that they are guilty.

Theresa May's draconian new proposals to revoke the right to free expression from people who have broken no law whatever is clearly at odds with the presumption of innocence.

What Theresa May want to replace the presumption of innocence with is a system where agents of the state only need express a "reasonable belief" that the target might do something bad, in order for draconian restrictions on their freedom of speech and their freedom of assembly to be imposed.

If the Tories get their way then agents of the state will no longer have to actually prove that someone has done anything wrong, or even that they are planning to do anything wrong. All they will have to do is claim that they suspect that the person may at some point do something wrong. Essentially the Tory party are legislating against the possibility of thought crime. In order to be a potential target for these censorship proposals the individual won't even have to be guilty of thought crime! - All that it will take is for somebody in power to claim that they suspect that the individual may be guilty of thought crime in order for their freedom of expression to be revoked.

The right to privacy

Yet another traditional value in Britain that is under Tory attack is the idea that law abiding people have the right to privacy.

When the Edward Snowden leaks revealed that the British surveillance state was mass trawling the private communications data of countless millions of innocent people, and doing so without the approval or oversight of parliament, the Tory reaction was to rush through some "emergency legislation" to allow the security services to continue mass trawling our private communications data with complete impunity.

The idea that agents of the state should be able to trawl through our emails, our social media postings, our webcam conversations, our online transactions and all of our other private communications data is not only completely at odds with the traditional British belief that law abiding people have a right to privacy from state snooping, it's also at odds with Article 8 of the ECHR which enshrines a right to "respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence".

Freedom from harassment by the state

There are few British people of any political persuasion who would support the idea that the state should routinely harass law abiding citizens.

In May 2015 David Cameron famously complained that the British state is too tolerant, and declared his intention to make sure the state interferes more in the lives of law abiding citizens. If you read his actual words it's impossible to infer any other meaning:

"For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens 'as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone'." - David Cameron, May 2015
It is interesting to note that this statement is about as clear an attack on an established British value as it is possible to make. Cameron clearly admits that freedom from state harassment is a long established British value, but one that he wants to see abolished and replaced with a system where law abiding citizens won't be left alone by the state.

David Cameron has clearly expressed the idea that the traditional British custom that law abiding people deserve to be left to get on with their own lives is somehow wrong and needs to be scrapped. To express such a thing is appalling enough in itself, but the fact that the person saying it loves to dress himself up as a protector of British values is even more repulsive.

Essentially what David Cameron is saying is that in order to "protect British values" we need to scrap British values.


I believe that stuff like the right to a fair trial, freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence, the right to privacy and freedom from harassment by the state are all long established British values, that are not only believed in by most British people, but also have very long historical precedents, some of them going back as far as the Magna Carta.

When David Cameron and Theresa May deliberately attack and destroy these concepts, they're actually guilty of attacking and destroying the British values they claim to be upholding.

The sad thing is that so many people are so easily fooled that all the Tories need to do is show them a picture of an Islamist extremist, then cast their plans to destroy long-established British values as the only alternative, and tabloid minded people will bleat for their own rights and values to be abolished.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

Austerity is a con
Who are the real extremists?
The myth of right-wing patriotism
How George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history combined
Who were the 51 MPs to oppose DRIP?
The Tory ideological mission
Austerity and economic illiteracy
Secret Courts and the very Illiberal Democrats
The Tory "Gagging Law" is passed
Margaret Thatcher's toxic neoliberal legacies

Wednesday 13 May 2015

The Tory "economic recovery" mantra is a lie

The Tories are always harping on about their "economic recovery". Aside from all of the smears, fearmongering and divide and conquer tactics in the right-wing press, this endlessly repeated recovery narrative was the keystone of their re-election campaign.

I've detailed how they used distorted figures, revisionism and out-of-context big numbers to support this recovery narrative in a previous post, so I won't go into that too much in this one. This one is about something called per capita GDP.

I know a lot of people struggle with economics stuff, it's totally understandable given that the vast majority of our state schools do not teach economics to their students. This means that the 93% of us who go to state schools are very unlikely to get training in the economic basics, whilst the 7% of children with parents wealthy enough to send them to private school are almost certain to learn about economic issues. Whether you want to believe that this is a deliberate conspiracy to keep the general public in a state of economic ignorance is really up to you, all I'm saying is that I understand why so many people find economic stuff difficult to understand.

Per capita GDP is an economic indicator that tells us the economic activity of a country divided by it's population, which gives us a measure of how much economic activity there is per person in the economy.

What a lot of people fail to realise is that the the UK GDP per capita is still significantly lower than it was before the global financial sector insolvency crisis of 2008 (see graph). This means that if the economic activity is divided equally among all of us, then our share is significantly smaller than it was back in 2008.

The reason that people fail to realise this is twofold. One is that the mainstream media abjectly fail to hold George Osborne and the Tories to account for the failure of their economic plans. For example, when the Tories completely failed to eliminate the budget deficit as they promised back in 2010, journalists didn't challenge them about this failure, they instead allowed the Tories to completely reframe this abject failure as a success by constantly repeating "we've cut the deficit by a third" rather than forcing them to admit that they'd missed their actual target by two thirds. Thus most economics journalists are very unlikely to confront the Tories with damning statistics like the per capita GDP figures.

The second failure is that of the Labour Party, which also failed to challenge the Tory recovery narrative with anything. No facts, no evidence, no appealing and easy to remember counter-narrative, nothing. All they offered their supporters was a desperately dispiriting prescription of austerity-lite, which makes the cardinal mistake of accepting the premise of the other party (that the austerity con is even necessary in the first place).

What Labour should have been pointing out is that even after five years of grueling Tory austerity, on average we are all still significantly poorer than we were before the reckless gambling of the banks crashed the economy. But they didn't say that, they essentially said that they want to do exactly the same thing as the Tories, but just not be quite as mean about it!

Another factor to consider is that the tiny super-rich minority massively increased their share of the national wealth, in fact the wealthiest 1,000 families actually doubled their wealth.

Now think about it this way, if there is still significantly less economic activity per person than there was before the economic crisis, and the very richest people in society have massively increased their share of the wealth, what does that mean for the rest of us?

The fact is that the majority of us are worse off than we were before, not least due to the fact that the Tories oversaw the longest sustained period of falling wages since records began.

Millions of people voted Tory in 2015 because they imagined that they would get a bit richer, but the evidence is absolutely clear that for the last five years the Tories have been overseeing a prolonged economic stagnation (the slowest post-crisis recovery on record) in which the extremely rich got much richer and the rest of us got poorer.

Adolf Hitler once said that "if you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed", and as much of an unspeakably evil tyrant he was, he was right. Millions of people voted Tory because they believed the big lie that austerity is good for them and that the economy has recovered, when the actual economic evidence says that it's not and it hasn't.

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Austerity is a con
Anti-austerity = Epic Win / Austerity-lite = Massive Fail
How austerity-lite ruined Labour's election chances
How George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history combined
The "all in this together" fallacy
The Tory ideological mission
Austerity and economic illiteracy
David Cameron's "austerity to infinity" speech