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Jeremy Corbyn is breaking down the neo-liberal Groupthink

It has been an interesting period watching the various ruses that conservatives are bringing to bear to attack Jeremy Corbyn and, somewhat unrelated, try to justify why the US Federal Reserve Bank should be raising interest rates. I will deal with the latter issue another day. Apparently, the grass roots rise of Jeremy Corbyn to leadership of the British Labour Party is actually a demonstration of the “rise of groupthink” in British politics and “threatens Britain’s membership of the EU – and the United Kingdom itself”. Indeed, more Corbynsteria as the terminology goes. This quietly-spoken British man seems to have a lot to answer for after having the audacity to intervene in the cosy little neo-liberal world of British party politics (Tory and New Labour). But the part that interested me was that the author – who is employed by the lofty sounding but usually disappointing, British-based Centre for European Reform (which gets funding because it is a mouthpiece for pro-European integration) – considers Corbyn has been the beneficiary of a new found groupthink. It beggars belief really.

Regular readers will know that my current book is entitled – Eurozone Dystopia: Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale.

The title was not accidental. I spent a lot of time studying the social psychology literature about group dynamics and patterned behaviour as well as learning about the use of language and framing from the cognitive linguistics literature.

The two strands of study led me to cast the Eurozone elites as exemplifying the behaviour that American social psychologist Irving Janis had referred to as ‘groupthink’ in his 1972 study Victims of Groupthink.

That book was revised and published as a second edition in 1982.

He did not invent the term though.

The first reference to the term was in the Fortune Magazine article (March 1952) – Groupthink – by William H. Whyte Jr., which was reprinted in the July 22, 2012 edition.

In the Fortune article, Whyte’s was on the increased emphasis of “social engineering” which he said was the “planned manipulation of the individual into the group role”. He defined Groupthink as;

We are not talking about mere instinctive conformity — it is, after all, a perennial failing of mankind. What we are talking about is a rationalized conformity- an open, articulate philosophy which holds that group values are not only expedient but right and good as well. Three mutually supporting ideas form the underpinning: (1) that moral values and ethics are relative; (2) that what is important is the kind of behavior and attitudes that makes for the harmonious functioning of the group; (3) that the best way to achieve this is through the application of “scientific” techniques.

The result is that “man” has become a “dismal fellow” because “Social Man” becomes “completely a creature of his environment, guided almost totally by the whims and prejudices of the group, and incapable of any real self-determination of his destiny”.

His essay was a long account of changes in American society that he considered amounted to the “smothering of the individual” and he argued that “Lest man become an ethical eunuch, his autonomy sacrificed for the harmony of the group, a new respect for the individual must be kindled”.

His solution was to foster study in the critical areas of literature – the humanities. He also encouraged the corporate sector to adopt “a conscious, deliberate effort … not only to accommodate dissent but to encourage it”.

But it was Irving Janis who led the research into the theory of groupthink some 20 years later. His case study was the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Vietnam War.

The two major references for Irving Janis are:

Janis, I.L. (1972) Victims of groupthink: a psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascoes, Boston, Houghton Mifflin.

Janis, I.L. (1982)Groupthink: psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascoes, Second Edition, New York, Houghton Mifflin.

In 1972, social psychologist Irving Janis identified group behaviour he termed ‘Groupthink’, which is a:

… mode of thinking people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in group, when the members striving for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action’ (Janis, 1982: 9).

Groupthink “requires each member to avoid raising controversial issues” (Janis, 1982: 12).

Groupthink drives a sort of ‘mob rule’ that maintains discipline within the group or community of decision makers. These communities develop a dominant culture, which provides its members with a sense of belonging and joint purpose but also renders them oblivious and hostile to new and superior ways of thinking.

Groupthink becomes apparent to the outside world when there is a crisis, or in Janis’s words a ‘fiasco’, such as the Global Financial Crisis.

Janis wrote that “one of the key characteristics of groupthink” is:

… that of remaining loyal to the group by sticking with the policies to which the group has already itself, even when those policies are obviously working out badly and have unintended consequences which disturb the conscience of each member. This is one of the key characteristics of groupthink.

So I considered the obsession with austerity even in the face of mounting disasters across Europe to be an example of this stubborness to abandon failed courses of action.

Broadening the application, the GFC was a powerful demonstration of the failure of the neo-liberal belief that self-regulating markets would deliver economic stability and maximise wealth for all.

The response by governments – fiscal stimulus packages – also proved beyond doubt that the mainstream economics paradigm that had convinced itself and others that fiscal policy was ineffective in dealing with fluctuations in economic activity and that fiscal deficits would only drive inflation and interest rates up was patently false.

Yet, these interlinked myths form the basis of the dominant policy paradigm in economics.

In Britain, New Labour exemplified this adherence to neo-liberal Groupthink.

Groupthink emerges when group members become “soft headed” – there is a “deterioration in mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgments as a result of group pressures” but “hard hearted when it comes to dealing with out- group or enemies”.

His examples were military (Bay of Pigs, Vietnam etc). More recently, the neo-liberal groupthink embraced a new martial stance among the advanced nations that saw political leaders such as Bush and Blair justify the wholesale slaughter of citizens in Iraq “in the name of the noble cause of persuading an unfriendly government to negotiate at the peace table”.

The ethical dilemmas were put to one side because the Group was engaged in what they claimed was the defence of freedom – the highest morality a state could engage in.

As we have seen, the aftermath of that disaster has reduced the freedom of every individual in the world and expanded the threat to our safety.

Irving Janis developed an 8-point (symptoms) checklist that allows us to detect the existence of groupthink.

1. Invulnerability – leads group members to be “over-optimistic and willing to take extraordinary risks … [and] … fail to response to clear warnings of danger”.

2. Rationale – “victims of groupthink ignore warnings” and “collectively construct rationalizations in order to discount warnings”.

Of course, there are warnings and warnings. The hysterical response by the Blairites in the lead up to the leadership ballot led by none other than Blair himself was a ‘warning’ but hardly credible given its obvious self interest and denial of reality.

3. Morality – “Victims of groupthink believe unquestionably in the inherent morality of their in-group. This belief inclines the members to ignore the ethical and moral consequences of their decisions”.

The invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq … the focus on the technical side of the invasion (we all learned about different types of bombs and missiles and ammunition).

Irving Janis talks about the US military’s “ritualistic adherence to a standardized procedure induced members to feel morally justified in their destructive way of dealing with the Vietnamese people” and the “heavy civilian casualties” that followed.

4. Stereotypes – “Victims of groupthink hold stereotypes views of the leaders of enemy groups: they are so evil that genuine attempts at negotiating differences with them are unwarranted, or they are too stupid or too weak to deal effectively with whatever attempts the in-group makes to defeat their purposes, no matter how risky the attempts are.”

Irving Janis noted that the US military thought Fidel Castro was too stupid to deal with the “possible internal uprisings in support of the exiles”.

Slogans are used to reduce the opposition’s importance.

5. Pressure – This is the mob rule idea that “direct pressure” is placed on “any individual who momentarily expresses doubt about any of the group’s shared illusions or who questions the validity of the arguments supporting a policy alternative favored by the majority.”

Loyalty is paramount.

6. Self-censorship – “Victims of groupthink avoid deviating from what appears to be group consensus; they keep silent about their misgivings and even minimize the importance of their doubts.”

After all, being a member of the group is the goal and minor individual complaints are subjugated to retaining the favour of the group.

7. Unanimity – this follows from self-censorship – there is an “illusion of of unanimity within the group concerning almost all judgments expressed by members who speak in favor of the majority view” – tacit consent is often the way an individual who is uncomfortable can stay in the group and enjoy its benefits.

Unanimity is also interpreted as finding the “truth”. If all economists except that mad MMT lot believe that deficits have to be, at least, balanced over the economic cycle, then that must be true.

If all economists except that mad MMT lot believe that deficits will lead to inflation then that must be true.

And so on.

8. Mindguards – “Victims of groupthink sometimes appoint themselves as mindguards to protect the leader and fellow member from adverse information that might break the complacency they shared about the effectiveness and morality of past decisions.”

Advisors filter information that the group’s leadership receives. They arrange meetings with those who will reinforce the status quo and will defray any dissident viewpoints.

If you reflect on those characteristics it is a fairly safe bet that the Eurozone mess is a result of neo-liberal Groupthink among the European political elites who have appeared to have been in denial as to the crazy system they have created and then pushed to its logical extremes – which has resulted in millions of people losing their jobs, poverty rates rising, suicide rates rising, a significant proportion of youth disenfranchised from any chance of prosperity, cities and regions being hollowed out, and more.

When the Maastricht process was being debated, the major critics were from outside Europe which engendered a sort of xenophobic response. It was as if you had to be European and living in the cocooned world of the Brussels bureaucracy for you to understand the European Project.

So while the critics saw a system being designed that would fail at its first major test, the European policy makers, in total denial, preached subsidiarity and all the rest of the buzz words and concepts that accompanied their mad plan.

It was, and is, Groupthink exemplified.

Groupthink is usually associated with policy failure that is then denied. The evidence that points to this failure is ignored and new ‘facts’ are proffered to revise reality and make it appear that the policy structures are working.

Now think a little about what has just gone down in the British Labour leadership contest in relation to these checklist symptoms.

The writer from the British-based Centre for European Reform (noted in the introduction) has done just that, it appears, and thinks he has detected the “rise of groupthink” in British politics in the guise of Jeremy Corbyn and his groupthink besotted supporters.

In the article (September 18, 2015) – Jeremy Corbyn and the rise of groupthink – one John Springford writes that:

Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to the Labour leadership heralds an era of ideological contest that threatens Britain’s membership of the EU – and the United Kingdom itself.

Which implies, of course, that British Labour under the Blairites were in the same ideological camp as the Tories – a proposition I would have to agree with.

The doom predictions are another matter.

The author asks:

When does cosy consensus become groupthink? According to the social psychologist, Irving Janis, it is when the desire for conformity becomes so strong that alternative courses of action are not even considered, let alone taken.

Yes, Irving Janis did observe that when groups adopt an over-the-top type of “concurrence-seeking” among group members. The excess is judged by the group members valuing the group and their place in the group above other competing and importance considerations.

As Paul ‘t Hart wrote in the journal article – Irving L. Janis’ Victims of Groupthink – published in Political Psychology (Vol 12, No2, 1991):

This causes them to strive for a quick and painless unanimity on the issues that the group has to confront. To preserve the clubby atmosphere, group members suppress personal doubts, silence dissenters, and follow the group leader’s suggestions. They have a strong belief in the inherent morality of the group, combined with a decidedly evil picture of the group’s opponents. The results are devastating: a distorted view of reality, excessive optimism producing hasty and reckless policies, and a neglect of ethical issues. The combination of these deficiencies makes these groups particularly vulnerable to initiate or sustain projects that turn out to be policy fiascoes.

For the Centre for European Reform Author, Jeremy Corbyn has become a surfer who has come from Labour Party obscurity to the top job “on a wave of groupthink”.

How does his argument stack up against the 8 characteristics noted above that Irving Janis considered were indicators of Groupthink?

First, the author says that “The British left never fully accepted Blair’s Third Way – and his greatest mistake, the Iraq war, provided the pretext for their demonisation of him. Corbynistas disparage the party’s centrists as “red Tories” – a process Janis defined as “stereotyping” opponents as spiteful and biased.

My understanding of the rising of Jeremy Corbyn is that he has not just relied on the “British left”, by which we must take to mean the old industrial union guard, who clearly despised the spivs who pushed the New Labour agenda.

He seems to have invigorated a new generation of political activism, particularly among the young, who have become ‘political’ in the more formal sense.

They are rejecting the claims that the neo-liberal era has been successful. They see the evidence in the unemployment queues and the food poverty. Corbyn’s popularity is on the back of the clear failure of the existing consensus that the Tories and New Labour formed.

It also seems that in a political environment, which is adversarial by definition, there will always be conflictual attitudes displayed towards one’s political opponents. If disparaging the New Labourites is the only thing that Corbyn’s supporters have done, then it stretches the meaning of Groupthink – makes it a rather lame concept devoid of any real distinction.

Progressive people have been let down by the New Labour policies which did buy into the neo-liberal consensus (that is, Groupthink) that the Tories would claim is their natural ideological terrain.

The CER author recognises that once again their is an ideological struggle going on whereas under New Labour, the differentiating characteristics of the two major parties were minimised and Labour became Tory-lite. Why vote for the imitation when you can have the real thing.

Second, the CER author claims that the “British left has always seen itself as the guardian of political morality, leading to a state of total certainty in which the risks of the group’s decisions – withdrawal from Nato might endanger the country’s security, for example – are reflexively dismissed.”

That appears to be an assertion rather than an evidence-based assessment. One could easily claim that the Tories cast themselves as the defenders of freedom and that this was a moral stance.

Remember John Major’s – Back to Basics speech – at the Blackpool Conservative Party Conference on October 8, 1993 where he claimed that:

The old values – neighbourliness, decency, courtesy – they’re still alive, they’re still the best of Britain. They haven’t changed, and yet somehow people feel embarrassed by them. Madam President, we shouldn’t be. It is time to return to those old core values, time to get back to basics, to self-discipline and respect for the law, to consideration for others, to accepting a responsibility for yourself and your family and not shuffling off on other people and the state

Any number of references to the Tory claim to moral superiority can be found.

The point the CER author wants to make is really about his own belief that membership of NATO is essential for British security, which any reasonable person would consider to be a contestable hypothesis.

Opposing it does not constitute an expression of blind morality.

Further, as far as I understand, Jeremy Corbyn has agreed that there is no public support from withdrawing from NATO, so where is the “threat”?

Third, the CER author claims that “excessive optimism” characterises the Corbyn camp and “the British left imagines that the surge of Corbyn backers signing up to vote will be replicated in the broader electorate, despite the fact that no leader from Labour’s left has ever won a general election”.

As a matter of history, Clement Atlee’s political positions were what we call ‘left-wing’ by any stretch. He was a socialist who oversaw the introduction of the full employment era for Britain in the immediate Post World War 2 period.

He believed in public ownership and redistribution of income to improve the lot of the working class. He created the NHS in 1948.

He was committed to the nationalisation of basic industries and public utilities. He nationalised the Bank of England.

He introduced the Welfare State in 1946 and provided subsidised public housing to low income workers. Many improvements to working conditions occurred under his stewardship.

So Mr Springford might check his understanding of British history a bit.

But more importantly where is the evidence that the “Corbyn camp” thinks it is now a shoe-in at the next election and that the votes he gleaned in the leadership contest are reflective of the British electorate generally?

My reading of the situation is that the Corbyn Camp now realises it has five years to take this ‘New politics’ – the grass roots uprising against the smug neo-liberal consensus that the New Labour formed with the Tories – to the people and to use the construal capacities of human cognition to alter the way people think about politics and economics and everything else.

It is clearly the nature of politics to be optimistic – why would a player be otherwise? But that hardly constitutes the sort of Groupthink dynamic that Irving Janis identified.

Fourth, the CER author then seems to get lost in making his case that Corbyn’s rise to British Labour leadership is a demonstration of Groupthink rising to subvert the “stable liberalism of the pre-2008 period”.

He says that:

Between 1992 and 2008 there was consensus over the big policy questions of the age: that the state should reflect and nurture the country’s social liberalism, and provide more rights and opportunities for minorities and women; that it should intervene in markets only to correct obvious failures; that pro-work redistribution through tax credits and a minimum wage should counter poverty and inequality; and that more should be spent on improving public services. Now, Britain’s parties are retreating into ideological comfort zones, ignoring or attacking evidence that contradicts their prior beliefs, and choosing policies less on a careful analysis of outcomes than on tribal orthodoxies.

Yes that is true. But the “consensus” as he calls it had more Groupthink characteristics than the grass roots support from Jeremy Corbyn.

The fact is that this “stable liberalism” created the conditions that led to the GFC. It looked good for a while as the financial engineers ran amok under the ‘light regulation’ of New Labour. The boasting and denial reached fever pitch around 2006.

We heard about the ‘Great Moderation’ and leading mainstream economists declared the ‘business cycle to be dead’.

Please read my blog – The Great Moderation myth – for more discussion on this point.

But the storm was building and when it broke the gains of the ‘market friendly’ policies were quickly diminished and the global economy is now stuck in a stagnant malaise with millions unemployed.

The neo-liberal Groupthinkers in the Tory Party and the New Labourites want to inflict more of the policies that created the mess in the first place.

Finally, the masses are responding to their exclusion from the political process by the elites. They are sick of being told that pro-business, pro-market policies which undermine working conditions and prosperity are the only way. They are rejecting the TINA mantra.

Jeremy Corbyn is a reflection of that grass roots uprising which has stunned the entrenched political elites. Rather than the Corbyn rise being a rise of Groupthink, I would cast it as being a movement that is demonstrating the fiascos of the neo-liberal Groupthink – the Tories and New Labour – it is tearing that denial group of elites apart.

We normally consider groups that succumb to Groupthink to be elites, with status and power to protect.

I don’t see the support base of Jeremy Corbyn to be of that ilk. He is giving voice to the dispossessed who know the neo-liberal approach has failed and is hurting them.

The CER author claims that:

Corbyn’s policies engage in a debate with a spectral Margaret Thatcher: re-open the coal mines that she closed; subordinate monetary to fiscal policy; unpick the privatisation programme that she started. He has no programme of progressive structural reforms – to property, land and retail finance markets, or to the tax system – which would be efficient ways to reduce Britain’s troublingly high level of inequality and raise its weak level of productivity. Confronting past enemies, the left does not notice the alternative roads it might travel.

Which is a selective interpretation of what the policy platform will emerge as under the new leader.

First, empowering fiscal policy and downgrading the importance of monetary policy is not a throwback to a failed past. Rather it is sound economics.

The nations that deployed the largest fiscal stimulus packages around 2008-09 are now growing faster than those that embraced austerity. Even the Tories under Cameron abandoned their ideological obsession with austerity in 2012 when it was clear the British economy would triple-dip back into recession.

Privatisation has also failed to deliver on the promises that were made by the conservatives. It makes sense to reverse the worst of these acts of vandalism.

But beyond that I understand Jeremy Corbyn to be advocating a range of progressive paths in education, housing, health etc that are clearly “alternative roads” to the current policy consensus.

Corbyn wants to break with the austerity and austerity-lite that are the only choices the British people have had in the recent period.

Conclusion

The CER author fails to establish that Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to the top of the Labour Party is all down to Groupthink. I consider the grass roots movement that extends well beyond what we would call the traditional British left is, in fact, a challenge to the existing neo-liberal Groupthink.

This challenge has endless possibilities to break out of the narrow confines that British politics has been stuck in since the late 1970s.

It has the capacity to challenge many of the policy positions that demonstrably favour the high income and wealthy groups in Britain.

It is up to the skill of Jeremy Corbyn now to harness his popularity into an outward-looking grass roots movement that provides inclusive policies to benefit the vast majority of British citizens and breaks the hegemony of the existing Groupthink.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2015 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    This Post Has 24 Comments
    1. Bill is quite right about the power of “group think”. Another name for that phenomenon is the “Overton Window”. The Overton Window refers to the fact that in any society, only a very narrow range of ideas are acceptable.

    2. Groupthink has a long and tragic history that is well document—-A remarkable study of this was done during the 1930’s by Wilhelm Reich in his contemporary account of the popular rise Nazism in Germany called, “The Mass Psychology of Fascism.” This book has slipped into the dustbin presumably because each following generation of human beings assigns themselves greater consciousness then the preceding generations. It is precisely this arrogance that allows groupthink to continue to be the psychological safehaven for our consciousness. Safety in the comfort of companion thinking, but dangerous in the tyranny of wrong headedness.

    3. Ralph, I disagree with your equation of groupthink with the Overton window. While you are right that the Overton window is about what a group will find acceptable, groupthink is more coercive in its implementation.

    4. It sounds like this is a classic case of “muddying the waters”. Take a concept that is becoming popular and understood, then find some way “spin” the words to make the concept itself look foolish.

      This is also called “brand jamming”, and sometimes it has to be done, but only in retaliation, and only to “un-spin” things to the correct way round.

      Jeremy Corbyn’s phrasing of support for business as “corporate welfare” is an example of jamming the “welfare” brand, to undo its negative connotations, and to return our understanding of welfare back to its true meaning.

    5. I have lost count of the number of times I have witnessed this group think dynamic at work in my life, and just as Bill points out it always results in a decision that fails in the end, which just leads to yet another round of group thinking. When will people learn that a decision arrived at this way is not a consensus of opinion?
      As the American comedian Jon Stewart pointed out “The best defense against BS is vigilance” “If you smell some say something”.

      It’s possible that the tendency toward group think is nurtured both by the time constraints placed on decision making processes within organizations and the bullheaded types who tend to shut down other members of the group. At the end of the day apathy prevails just as it does in modern politics.

      I’m beginning to wish we had someone like Jeremy Corbyn leading a party running in our elections in Canada. Everything still sounds pretty neo-liberal so far. In fact the party that claims to stand for the working poor (NDP) admit to being driven by Chicago school thinking and promise a “balanced” budget. At least the Liberals seem to understand the need for further deficit spending but still want to tax the rich more in order to help the middle class, so they are still clueless or in denial about MMT realities.

    6. A list of the CER’s corporate donors might provide a clue to the motives of their author and his article:
      (http://www.cer.org.uk/corporate-donors#sthash.6zAGgd6K.dpuf)

      Accenture
      AIG Europe Limited
      Airbus
      American Express
      BAE Systems
      BAT
      Barclays Bank
      Bayer
      BG Group
      BP International Limited
      BT plc
      Centrica
      Clifford Chance
      Daily Mail and General Trust
      Deutsche Bank AG
      Diageo plc
      The Economist
      EDF
      Fidelity
      Ford
      General Electric
      Goldman Sachs
      Google UK Limited
      HSBC
      IBM
      JP Morgan
      KPMG
      Lloyds Banking Group
      Macro Advisory Partners
      Montrose Associates
      NM Rothschild
      Nomura
      North Asset Management
      Prudential
      PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
      Rio Tinto
      Rothschild
      Shell
      Standard Chartered
      Statoil
      Tesco
      Vodafone

    7. I have abstained so far from this debate but I think that I need to add a few words from a completely different (and probably rotten for some) perspective. First of all we are all humans and the majority of us are herd animals like sheep so we cannot escape “groupthinking”. Secondly, while Jeremy Corbyn seems to be doing a good job in breaking the neoliberal consensus about fiscal policy and economics in general, he is to me (born in Poland on the wrong side of Iron Curtain) a typical example of left-wing “fellow traveller” or a mythical “полезный идиот” (the phrase formerly thought to be coined by V. I. Lenin). Let’s concentarte on one easy point. Corbyn has proposed scrapping British nukes, Trident missiles and submarines. Why? Because he follows the “groupthink” of the anti-war movement from the 1970s and 1980s created with the help of the Soviet intelligence, which morphed into anti-Iraq war “coalition” (and briefly had some merit). I am sorry but the so-called “progressivism” is an evil twin of “neoliberalism”. How substantially does it differ in terms of not being a mass ideology even if it is stripped of its wooden Marxist heart? The stance on Trident makes Corbyn a saboteur acting against the strategic interests of the United Kingdom and the generalised West (including Australia and Poland) in general. He will never be the PM of Britain, period. Why? Because the PM of UK is supposed to act in the national interest of the UK not to represent interests of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. There are multiple ways to prevent Corbyn from getting elected but this may not be even needed as the majority of people in the UK simply do not share his views on many fundamental issues such as Islamism, immigration, multi-kulti, Irish nationalism, defence policy, property rights, etc. I know that this is about “framing” or whatever. But what “framing” does Corbyn propose and hasn’t he framed himself enough already? For Corbyn “us” are members of the so-called working class wherever he finds this endargened species. For people like me (and I think that for the majority of people who vote), “us” are simply citizens of the Western countries. For the “progressives” (I am sorry, they were simply called “Marxists” in the past) the main fault line is between the unemancipated “99%” and the “capitalists” and “banksters” who morphed onto “1%”. The enemies of 1% are their allies. For example Islamists (Hamas) – they help destroyning the “white” nationalistic bourgeoius post-Christian liberal culture. This is what multi-kulti and unchecked Muslim immigration are for. That’s why the so-called progressives got offended when Femen feminists staged a topless protest during an Islamic conference. Make no mistake, the so-called “progressives” are effectively against individual liberty even more as neoliberals allowing multinational corporations and finance sector to gain influence over individuals. Personally I still prefer Goldman Sachs to Sharia law or Chinese Communist Party. For the “non-progressives” the main fault line lies between National Interests within our Western civilisation and the entities which go against our interests – such as generalised Islamists and resurgent China-Russia axis. Obviously when Jeremy Corbyn is finally personally destroyed, humiliated and forgotten, one may wonder whether the whole experiment has yield any value. I think that he may contribute to restoring sanity to macroeconomic debate by the very fact that he injected the “people’s QE” idea to the debate but he may also be used as a scarecrow. I would be extremely careful in siding with him as very soon people who supported him might be found “gulity by association” in pushing subversive ideology which aims at weakening and later dismantling Western statehood and destroying Western liberal civilization. This is how Mr Corbyn is framing himself and making life of his enemies in the Conservative party easy. I would not bet on the red horse – he is heading straight to Abbotoir. Let’s think about something new rather than recycle old stuff from the 1980s.

    8. Meanwhile here in Australia we don’t even have Jeremy Corbin’s challenge to Neo liberal groupthink. We are still firmly stuck in the paradigm that the federal deficit must be reduced as part of the “taxes fund expenditure” mantra. As far as I am aware all the parties including the Greens, believe that the federal government is limited by “revenue” so it’s no wonder the average person accepts this without question.

      A few of us here grasp the essentials and try to offer a better explanation of economic reality but in many cases people fail to “get it” or mutter about hyper inflation, or regard you as a slightly unhinged eccentric.

    9. Dorks definition of current austerity is rationing so as to direct any surplus to the consumer war economy.
      Corbyn or Mitchell’s policies will therefore fail as they do not recognize the problem.

      The UK is located in the heart of the system.
      Its physical economy has been structured to accept the surplus from the world hinterland.
      It cannot change the system as it is the system – its core.

      I suggest yee guys look at the film “The triple echo”
      Its a quite wonderful depiction of the previous war economy.
      It a true depiction of the concentration of labour and capital for purely financial ends.

    10. Foreign policy failures have been anything but.

      You are judging these outcomes using humanist measures .

      The goal of capitalism is obvious.
      Concentration at all costs.
      Refugees pouring into cities is therefore a wild success.

      American soldiers in the England of 1944. (War economy)
      Syrian refugees in the England of 2015.(consumer war economy)
      From a capitalist perspective it is pretty much the same thingy.

      The ultimate goal of today’s society is to get a yield on these automans.
      We are clearly not dealing with humanist production / consumption systems.

    11. Matthew B, quite te opposite. We cannot escape neoliberal “groupthink” by embracing progressive “groupthink” infested by ideas planted by the Soviet secret service in the 1970s-1980s. If you as an individual want to escape “groupthink” just develop critical thinking on your own and keep equal distance from both Scylla and Charybdis. This is not so difficult.

    12. Some one should do an article on groupthink in Australian Politics. I think that we have seen most of these points on display for the last two years with the Abbott government.

      Bill I would love to see you on Q and A. You should try to get on their.

    13. @Dave.

      I agree. We have seen much groupthink in Oz. I also would love to see Bill on Q&A to have a genuine debate on debt and deficits, to challenge the prevailing paradigm. On so many media the Neo liberal views are regularly spouted with very little disagreement. Bill has had at least one article on “The Conversation” though this site mainly features Neo liberal economist views.

      It will not be easy to frame MMT principles in that environment and to express the key ideas in relatively easy to understand language.

    14. AdamK,

      I’m a little confused about your references to Soviet secret service agendas. It sounds as though you’re suggesting any modern anti-war sentiment is largely the result of anti-western propaganda embedded in the populace during the Cold War. That movements supporting Nuclear disarmament or an end to interventionist foreign policy are not positions held by individuals through their own values, but through the influence of a foreign power’s agents?

      Progressives are a broad church, just as conservatives are. But I’m not sure how you get to the position that progressive ideals are ultimately headed towards a breakdown of western liberal society.

    15. Fugue,

      Please read about “Active measures” on Wikipedia. These are facts which were disclosed when the Soviet Union collapsed.

      I won’t write about what the Soviets were doing to my family – until 1991. A lot of people suffered more. Because of family experience I have no problem understanding how Soviet KGB and GRU operated in Western Europe. I also understand why a lot of decent people were against Vietnam War or why they hated British conservatives but one thing is to be a social-democrat and another is to be a radical leftie. Unfortunately Corbyn long time ago aligned himself with the so-called radical Left that’s why he has a problem or rather he is a problem for these who support him.

      About the so-called broad church progressives:
      It is quite interesting what the real goal of groups like “w2eu.info” – “Welcome to Europe” are. “We welcome all travellers on their difficult trip and wish you all a good journey – because freedom of movement is everybody’s right!”
      They clearly don’t care about the fate of these migrants who drown trying to reach Europe – these poor individuals are just cannon fodder in the fight against state borders and as a consequence Western states and Western civilisation.

      All these fringe groups can achieve is that near-fascists, ultra-nationalists and Catholic integrists are going to be elected and rule forever in all the countries in Central Europe.

    16. I read the following interesting take on the Federal Reserve’s thinking –
      http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/federal-reserve-end-of-monetarism-by-anatole-kaletsky-2015-09

      Given the IMF also broke ranks with the Troika over Greece in the last bailout package, I wonder if it is true that America is moving away from monetarism, while trying not to make too big a deal out of it (which would involve admitting the errors they have made over the past decades)?

    17. AdamK,

      I think this discussion is going off topic for the blog, but I don’t think you can assert that a group like Welcome to Europe “clearly don’t care about migrants” or are using them as cannon fodder. They are challenging the migration system as it stands because they don’t believe a nation state should use military force to keep asylum seekers out.

      In Australia our own immigration department has been shifted from its original intention of assisting migrants with integration into the country, towards screening applicants in order to ensure approved persons are those who can contribute to our country (e.g. the already wealthy or those who have skills we desire) and reject others, irrespective of their circumstances. Our migration intake is celebrated, but we’re really just picking and choosing what suits us.
      The colloquial term for this is NIMBYism – Not In My Back Yard – which is intended to convey the image of someone who in principle supports a cause, provided it has no impacts on them personally.
      Clearly if all countries are only interested in allowing the educated and work-ready people into their borders, masses of people will be left without a place they are welcome. None of this has any bearing on the fate of western civilisation, however.

    18. Bill thanks for the detailed explanations on groupthink. Very useful information to ponder.

      Adam K, while I understand that not all progressives are correct in everything they stand for and we need to be very careful about the same problems of groupthink. I disagree that all progressives have the same goals in all areas. It’s a constant fight to get the best ideas ideally based on facts and logic to the forefront of progressive ideas and policies. Most progressives I think other humans as human beings and are against the dangers of having nuclear weapons. That doesn’t mean that progressive policies can’t take into account the realities of how many refugees are possible to take in. It also doesn’t mean that the need for nuclear weapons can’t be seen either. It’s up to progressives to stand up and state the facts as they are. It’s a battle of ideas. I certainly don’t back down in my presentation of views with other progressives. It’s not always easy but it’s absolutely necessary. Trying to convince people who don’t know much about economics that MMT from a very small number of non-mainstream economists is the truth and should be policy is very hard. But I’m not going to give up as I believe the truth will win out.

      I’m a little worried you may be guilty of some defeatist negative groupthink that things can’t change for the better yourself? Maybe you’re right but you sadly will most certainly will be right if we just give up.

      I’m just incredibly happy to have the conversation starting to head in the right direction from Bernie Sanders and now Jeremy Corbyn. It gives me hope. Yes there’s a hell of a lot further to go and a lot of damn hard work but at least the huge super tanker if the human race is staring to veer in a slightly different direction. Moving a supertanker takes time. Let’s keep all collectively helping to steer it further where we want and need it to go. :-)

    19. And additionally hopefully it will inspire more future leaders to keep fighting that battle in more and more countries and changing the discussion of more and more people. Hopefully Australia next!

    20. One of the best things about MMT and this blog is that it allows us to look at what is and is not political choice with respect to economic policies without resorting to political arguments which frequently comprise of BS. There are real needs in life and then there are wants/desires. In this respect economics is not a game and neither should politics be.

      Adam, I think it’s more than a little naive to think that left leaning/progressive views are all the result of propaganda, or that such “active measures” have only ever been used unidirectionally. Despite the group think which tends to dominate within formal organizations, common experience is all that is really required for an idea to resonate within a group of unconstrained and cognizant individuals, and that is what democracy is supposed to protect, nurture and use as the basis for action. Change from within is healthy and necessary at times; what works today may not work tomorrow.

      Humans tend to form not herds like grazers but packs of hunters more like wolves. At any rate neither wolves nor sheep actively work against their own kind the way some among the minority at the top end of town do; that is a pathological condition. The health of the pack has to be at the heart and soul of everything even an alpha does or the health of the pack will suffer and they may even perish as a group if things get tough enough. They can’t survive on their own and neither can any of us.
      Even among great apes like chimpanzees, who are more like us, there is a limit to the abuse the group will take from a dominant animal. If you make food accessible to them only by means of a ladder, the dominant ape will use his strength to monopolize the ladder until the rest of the pack senses a threat to their survival at which point they pull him off the ladder by what ever means necessary and take their sustenance.

    21. Denial is a very potent force for groupthink.Someone is advocating policies
      outside our concensus and their the ones infected by groupthink!
      Whether the term is appropriate it is people’s QE which puts Corbyn outside
      the current political economic concensus.I hope he puts flesh on the bones.

    22. It’s wonderful to hear some of the things Jeremy Corbyn has been saying. It’s been many years since the UK’s media has conveyed anyone saying those things. It’s been too long.

      However, Jeremy Corbyn is a dyed-in-the-wool EUrophile. The EU is more Neoliberal than not. The EU is a GroupThink phenomenon. Jeremy Corbyn’s willingness to create change is severely narrowed by this.

      Jeremy’s election as leader of the Labour party is superficially interesting, but the edges of this ‘change’ are soon reached. Unfortunately it really is a case of ‘Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.’

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