World Travel
New Original Fiction
Books & Movies

Film Space
Movies in depth
Dreamscapes Two
More Fiction
Lifestyles Archive
Politics & Living


The International Writers Magazine:UK Economics

Life, Right, Halt!
• Tom Kilcourse
The rapid and extensive development of social media offers tremendous learning opportunities, from each other. It enables debate between people of different class, nationality and culture. Information that has not been doctored by a partisan press is freely available, but sadly the possibilities are not fully exploited.

Right Left

All too often attempts to debate, to exchange views encounter the same kind of prejudice that is evident in the conventional media. Efforts to discuss issues are blocked when parts of the intended audience reach conclusions based on their stereotype of the message’s author, rather than on the actual content. Perhaps these people have been infected by a press that appears incapable of disinterested reporting. Consequently the two most divisive words on the net are ‘left’ and ‘right’.

In the run up to the recent election of the Labour Party leader, and ever since, the British press has rarely mentioned Jeremy Corbyn’s name without attaching the prefix ‘left’, or sometimes far-left or hard-left. Some newspapers seem to use the term almost as an expletive, but what does it mean? Others freely attach the label ‘right’ as an expression of disapproval. The intention is to suggest that the person named stands to the left or right of something, of a centre or consensus perhaps, but where that centre is remains obscure. Where is ‘middle-England’, and who properly represents it?

In effect, the terms tell us very little. They are intended as spoilers, stereotypes used by intellectually lazy minds to discourage consideration of a point of view. In the modern world the labels are almost meaningless when applied to politics. They can give a rough indication where a politician or political party stands in general but only very rough. Was Wilson being a ‘lefty’ when he privatised British Steel? Unfortunately they are used as blanket terms that more often than not lead to summary dismissal of an opinion.  

When used to describe economics the terms are commonly nonsensical, with views derided in ignorance rather than rejected on merit. For instance Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion for quantitative easing directly to people was widely ridiculed as unrealistic, left-wing drivel, or ‘Corbynomics’, both in the press and on social media. That reaction was in response to who made the suggestion, not to the utility of it. However, if the suggestion is ‘left-wing drivel’, a remarkable number of professional economists must be considered either socialists, or idiots, and as I write I am aware that some consider those words as synonyms. As Anatole Kaletsky remarks in ‘Prospect’ magazine such a scheme was ‘one of the few points of agreement between Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes’.

In a previous essay I pointed to the dangers to a capitalist economy of falling consumption. Putting money into peoples’ pockets would be expected to boost consumption and accelerate growth of GDP. Corbyn’s approach was flawed, but not ridiculous, nor was it necessarily more expensive than the approach taken by the Government, whereby the new money goes to banks that use it to enhance their own books. With the latter approach Britain has ‘experienced the slowest economic recovery on record’ (Kaletsky).

Mention of Keynes reminds me of how excessive use of labels such as left and right can lead the user into ludicrous positions. I am accustomed to having my references to various economists devalued by remarks that such-and-such is a well-known ‘leftie’, but one recent example really takes the biscuit. On a blogsite that I use, My Telegraph, one contributor claimed that ‘everyone knows that Keynes was not an economist, but a propagandist for the left’. When delusion gets to that intensity medication is required. Nonetheless, many continue to see Keynes as ‘left’ and Friedman as ‘right’, regardless of how that devalues the contribution of both great minds.

Marx vs Keynes If the middle-ground in politics is difficult to identify, it becomes impossible when applied to economics, yet some commentators persist in seeing certain economists, like Keynes, as less credible because their ideas are ‘left-wing’. Such people appear to believe that any detraction from the views of neo-liberalism marks the sceptic as a ‘leftie’, a socialist whose case is therefore unworthy of further consideration.

They seem not even to distinguish between Keynes and Marxism, seeing both as anti-capitalist. Adam Smith is usually touted as the father of economics by people who seem not to realise that their hero would disapprove of the state rescuing banks, or even of the security offered by limited liability.

Does my agreement with Smith on the first point spare me the soubriquet of ‘leftie’, or is that dispensation invalidated by my belief that Karl Marx’s views on the alienation of certain types of work had some merit and are perhaps relevant to employment practices in modern Britain? While on the subject, how does my concern over the objectification of labour (Marxist) square with my belief that Marx’s proposed solution was naïve, even potty. Complex, isn’t it? We can see why stereotyping is a much more attractive position to some, although adding left or right to Keynesianism or the laissez-faire of neo-liberalism actually detracts from our understanding of either school of thought. .

If such a variety of opinions on economic matters challenges the application of simple labels, the stereotype becomes positively ridiculous when we consider other areas of interest. My high regard for Keynes in the field of economics is matched in political philosophy by my admiration of J.S. Mill, the ‘father of liberalism’. To some, that news may simply reinforce the view that I am a creature of the ‘left’, but Mill, like me, was opposed to much of what passes today for left-wing thought. In particular, he rejected the notion that one had a right not to be offended. I doubt though that he would have agreed with my ‘right-wing’ views on crime and punishment or the right of householders to possess firearms.

In truth, we are extraordinarily complex creatures, perceiving different events and situations idiosyncratically so that our views often appear to conflict with each other. We may quite properly strive to diminish that conflict, seeking to develop consistency across the range, but consistency found by use of simplistic labels is lazy, and an obstacle to understanding and communication. It is an unnecessary barrier between us.
© Tom Kilcourse Sept 21st 2015

Tom Kilcourse

Critics of the present economic system are often called ‘anti-capitalists’, and perhaps socialists or Marxists. Most do not deserve such labels. Capitalism, like socialism, is a generic term covering widely varying systems.

More lifestyles

Share |


© Hackwriters 1999-2015 all rights reserved - all comments are the individual writer's own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.