The Left lacks courage and is riddled with inferiority complexes

When the British people voted to leave the dysfunctional European Union on June 23, 2016, I saw it as a massive opportunity for progressive forces to shed the neo-liberal chains that they have become enslaved by and narrate a new, inclusive manifesto for the future. The Brexit referendum was really a fork in the road for progressives – they could go one way and stay irrelevant and cede legitimacy to the rabid Right, or, go the other route, and reinvent themselves as the force of the future. The signs are they have opted to remain irrelevant. In doing so they have essentially conflated financial responsibility and competence with neo-liberal principles relating to the conduct of fiscal surpluses and the role of government in mediating the conflict between workers and capital. In the former sense, they have bought into the myths such as the need to run fiscal surpluses etc. In doing so, in relation to the latter, they have supported policy environments that are heavily biased in favour of capital and undermine the prospects for workers. And when the workers revolt, and, for example, use the Brexit referendum as a voice amidst their powerlessness, the progressives have turned on them accusing them of being ignorant and racist. The reality is that the lack of leadership within the political Left and their deep sense of inferiority (in the face the so-called mainstream economics experts who they mimic to sound smart) has left the door open for the Right to harness the working class anxiety and steer it in a very retrogressive direction.

The UK Guardian seems to be conducting a daily war against the Brexit outcome with its onslaught of articles each day about the doom that Britain faces if they do not reverse the decision.

In today’s edition, there are several anti-Brexit articles and in recent days we have seen predictions of that “Hard Brexit threatens global financial system”, “global economic growth at risk”, “brace for further Brexit price rises”, “UK at risk fo Brexit ‘catastrophe'” and so it goes.

The latest article (January 10, 2016) – The Brexit resistance: ‘It’s getting bigger all the time’ – is a pathetic, bleating story about Europeans who are worried they will be kicked out of Britain.

One German citizen, who has been in the UK for 10 years, didn’t take out English residency status, is now worried they will have to leave. She apparently loves England but “if the government starts throwing out EU citizens, I don’t want to live in this country any more”.

Which is a curious sort of reasoning. If the UK does act like that then what was there to love in the first place? But that is not the point anyway.

The article also questions the legitimacy of the actual referendum vote:

… a minority of the overall electorate voted to leave and that there is hardly the thumping mandate for leaving Europe some politicians talk about – and that, besides all that, Brexit will be such an economic and social disaster that it has to be avoided.

The strategy is, it seems, to throw in the disaster predictions as often as one can, even if they are not related to the point being made, which in this case was the turnout at the referendum.

When the referendum was put (June 23, 2016):

1. 17,410,742 voted to leave (51.9 per cent of the total votes cast).

2. 16,141,241 voted to leave (48.1 per cent of the total votes cast).

3. So there were 33,551,989 votes case out of 46,501,241 eligible voters – a turnout of 72.2 per cent.

4. There were 26,033 rejected ballots.

So what the UK Guardian journalist is now claiming, which is a popular refrain among those who voted to Remain, is that the Leave vote was only 37.4 per cent of the eligible electorate.

We could equally say that the Remain vote, using the same logic, was only 34.7 per cent of the eligible electorate – “hardly the thumping mandate” to stay in the EU.

We will never know how the ‘vote’ (leaning) of the 12,949,258 eligible voters who chose not to vote.

The Referendum was not binding on the British Parliament, which will have to legislate accordingly to give it operational meaning.

The notion of consent has long occupied the minds of political philosophers. The likes of John Locke, for example, argued that a citizenry is obligated to accept the dictates of the politicians only if they have given ‘free’ and ‘voluntary’ consent to the formation of that government.

In his Second Treatise of Government, Locke advanced his notion of tacit consent. He wanted to deal with the problem that not everyone actually (formally) gives their free and voluntary consent.

How does one determine whether what tacit consent is?

In the way Locke conceived it, tacit (or silent) consent means that if one accepts the benefits of government then they also accept the decisions (burdens) that government imposes on them (Second 119):

The difficulty is, what ought to be looked upon as a tacit consent, and how far it binds — i.e., how far any one shall be looked on to have consented, and thereby submitted to any government, where he has made no expressions of it at all. And to this I say, that every man that hath any possession or enjoyment of any part of the dominions of any government doth hereby give his tacit consent, and is as far forth obliged to obedience to the laws of that government, during such enjoyment, as any one under it, whether this his possession be of land to him and his heirs for ever, or a lodging only for a week; or whether it be barely travelling freely on the highway; and, in effect, it reaches as far as the very being of any one within the territories of that government.

[Reference: John Locke, J. (1823) Two Treatises of Government, London: Thomas Tegg. LINK]

The hallmark of ‘democratic’ systems, where voting is not compulsory (and even when it is sometimes), people decide for whatever reason not to formally cast a vote.

Those that do cast a vote, more or less agree to accept the outcome of that vote and obey the legislation that the winning party brings in.

What about those who did not vote – the silent ones? They haven’t formally consented to anything. So do they have obligations to accept the outcome?

An application of Locke would suggest that it is the right to vote (rather than the act of voting) that creates the obligation.

Accordingly, through their silence the non-voters are giving the government tacit consent to act on their behalf.

I understand all the controversies in political philosophy about the nation of consent – when you give it etc. But the British voters who didn’t vote but could have were not forced to do that. They chose not too for whatever reason in full knowledge that the Referendum gave them a chance to formally consent to one position or another.

Locke understood that no person is obligated to accept tyranny – but the Brexit referendum was hardly that.

Of course, all of this might be moot, given that free choice implies knowledge and one can hardly impute that many of the voters knew what they were letting themselves in for – either way.

But the point is that non-voting is an action and the Remain lobby can hardly claim that the 37 per cent who didn’t vote were all in their camp.

As an interesting aside, Article 12(2) of the Rules of Procedure of the Council of the European Union (the governing body) says:

On the initiative of the Presidency, the Council may act by means of a simplified written procedure called “silence procedure” …

Which means that a “no response from a member of the Council by the time a set deadline expires implies acceptance of the adoption of the act in question”

Silence gives legitimacy. That is what John Locke’s notion of tacit consent was all about.

My view is that the Brexit vote was easily won by the Leave camp (1,269,501 votes) and the non-voters chose whatever outcome was generated in their ‘absence’.

Whether either side knew the ins-and-outs, lied, misrepresented might be an indictment on the state of British democracy but given the rules doesn’t alter the outcome.

The thing that really stands out has been the elitism of those who still want to deny the outcome.

For example, late last year (December 1, 2016), American commentator Barry Ritholz wrote “Popularism” as Farce where he intoned that:

Popularism is slowly being revealed as a farce, a grift of the uneducated, low information voter, coopted to vote in many ways against their own interests. This includes women, minorities, medicaid consumers, Obamacare subscribers.

A ‘grift’ is an American terms for swindle.

He was railing against the election of Donald Trump. As if the election of his competitor would have been a victory for the dominant elites in the financial markets etc who also swindle the common citizen.

But there is this sense that votes against the current establishment are ill-informed and cast by ignorant (poorly educated etc) voters who don’t have the same quality of judgement as the educated, middle-class who accept the advice of experts (including a raft of neo-liberal economists) that Brexit or Trump or whatever will be disastrous for the nation.

The term ‘popularism’ is now a perjorative term used by the elites to put down ordinary folk who have the temerity to vote according to what they feel and see in their own lives rather than the ‘equilibrium’ and ‘optimisation’ that the economists tell them about or the ‘growth’ and ‘jobs’ that the neo-liberal politicians tell them about.

The UK Guardian article (January 10, 2017) – One blunt heckler has revealed just how much the UK economy is failing us – by Aditya Chakrabortty (who typically makes sense), is worth reflecting on.

While the so-called ‘progressives’ point the finger at the hoy polloi as they sip another latte and suggest that popularism is a ‘right-wing’ movement built on racism and fascism, the reality is quite different, in my view.

That reality is that millions of workers are feeling let down by the system that the neo-liberals contrived to wrest any residual power that those workers enjoyed that allowed them to achieve better shares of the national growth process.

Not content with most, the top-end-of-town wanted more.

Aditya Chakrabortty’s article recycles a graphic that shows the regional growth performance in the UK since 2007. It is a salutory graphic account of why those outside of London are in the mood to take back control of their lives.

He summarises:

On statistical aggregates the UK is enjoying a recovery. But in reality this has been a recovery for owner-occupiers in London and the south-east. It has locked out those without big assets, such as the young, and those renting in the capital. It has penalised the poor. And it has impoverished those who have been forced on to zero hours or bogus self-employment.

But for the so-called ‘progressives’, the protest movement that is forming is just a snivelling mass of uneducated racists who should be silent.

I noted the other day that I have been reading about the demise of the Scottish clan system and the highland clearances, which followed the slaughter of Scots at Culloden in April 1746 and continued with the introduction of the Cheviot sheep onto the large estates (that had been amalgamated by clearing out families who had occupied the lands for centuries).

Clearing out is a really unfortunate euphemism. The traditional occupiers of the land (small farmers, crofters etc) were beaten, murdered, raped, exiled, tortured and more by the British upper class who wanted to accumulate more wealth from the land they expropriated.

The point was that the elites got away with it because the poor Scots did not have coherent leadership. They had anger, courage and resisted but their lack of strategic leadership led to their terrible demise.

The same could be said now, as the ‘popularism’ is not well thought out and the progressive side of politics has failed to step in and provide leadership to people who are the natural cohort for change but who they dismiss as mindless racists or somesuch.

Just today (January 11, 2017) there was an article in the EUObserver – The 89ers and the battle against populism – which traces the ‘populist’ backlash back to “Poorly planned globalisation, occurring from the 1980s onwards” that “has impoverished small communities whose economies long-relied on one or two old-world industries. The damage was caused not by globalisation itself, as radical leftists contend, but by the form which it took, and also its speed.”

In our new book (to be published by Pluto Press later in 2017), we argue that commentators like to conflate globalisation and neo-liberalism as if they are the same process.

But the worst damage has been done by neo-liberalism not the rising global character of supply chains and increased commerical linkages between nations.

These ‘populists’ are apparently “nationalist” and “anti-EU” and the:

… left-right divide is sliding into insignificance, with the real conflict now between those who believe in an open, free and global society; and those who do not.

So if you protest against the ravages of neo-liberalism that has led to flat real wages growth in many nations, a massive redistribution of national income away from wages towards profits, mass unemployment, rising underemployment, degraded public services etc – you just don’t “believe in an open, free and global society”.

You are just an ignorant nationalist, racist dolt.

And, you need to be saved by the so-called “89ers” – the cohort of “European citizens born around the year 1989 and growing up in a Europe that is relatively peaceful and prosperous when compared with other periods”.

This was the year that the 1987 Single Market changes forced several nations, including France and Italy to abandon capital control, which had been the only policy tool they had to help maintain domestic stability in the context of the unworkable exchange rate mechanism they were tied to.

At that point they lost their macroeoconomic freedom and biased policy towards recession.

It was the year that Jacques Delors, who had long before abandoned any pretence to holding progressive ideas, took the neo-liberal Delors Report to the Commission. It was the blueprint for the disastrous Eurozone, which was accepted a few years later at the ill-fated Maastricht conference.

The writer’s is not joking (unfortunately). The ’89ers’ are now 28 years of age. Some of them might never have worked – given the crisis began nearly 9 years ago and youth unemployment rates in some European nations topped 60 per cent and remain around 45 per cent in Spain and Greece.

The parents of the 89ers went along with the monetary union plan foisted on them by the elites who designed a system that favoured the big financial interests and the top-end-of-town but would never deliver lasting prosperity for the bottom layer of society and would eventually eat into the well-being of the middle class.

The 89ers have every reason to feel dudded by the whole show rather than being vigorous supporters of the European Union and the monetary union in particular.

At least the EUObserver author recognises that:

… the EU is no longer able to provide the prosperity and security that was once its hallmark.

And the logic according to this journalist is that because the “elders are disinclined to embrace the European spirit, the responsibility falls to the 89ers to deliver the ideas and actions that will regenerate it.”

Well, the first point that the 89ers should grasp is that there is a difference between the EU, Europe and the Eurozone. These are often conveniently lumped together to divert attention away from real debate.

If Spain or Italy leaves the Eurozone it does not cease to be European. Membership of that and the European Union is not the qualification necessary to be European.

And note the ageism in the article – “the elders” don’t like what the elites are doing to them but their children will.

If we really want to get rid of influential right-wing, xenophobic, racist political voices then leadership is required.

The reason these voices have ears listening to them is because neo-liberalism has ravaged peoples’ lives and guaranteed their children a bleak future.

That is fact – the data tells us that. The graph that Aditya Chakrabortty recycled isn’t a chimera. It is real and the manifestations of the lines in the graph impact severely on real people.

The fact that they are mobilising politically now and being diverted into other broader struggles (anti-immigration etc) reflects the total failure of the political left to lead.

The political left has been too willing to be cute and embrace neo-liberal macroeconomic narratives that they think makes them look financially competent that they have failed to see that those very same narratives are why there is a problem in the first place.

Thinking one is financially competent because they seek fiscal surpluses etc is just a sign that the Left has an inferiority complex.

There is no valid case that can be made for pursuing, for example, as a rule, a balanced fiscal outcome across an economic cycle.

Thinking that makes one sound cool and competent is a delusion.

The only way that the popularism will be channelled into progressive ends is if the Left shakes off that inferiority and starts to articulate a non-neo-liberal macroeconomics as provided by Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

Then people will understand that it is not that one opposes “an open, free and global society” but, rather, that national borders, which define optimal currency areas and empower the currency-issuing government to advance the well-being of all, are sensible constructs.

An open society is one where everyone has an opportunity irrespective of where you have come from. But, it doesn’t mean that everyone has the right to go to which ‘nation’ they choose.

Governments have to be entrusted with a population policy that allows the natural environment to sustainably support the social and economic settlement.

For example, Australia has a very sensitive ecology – it is an arid nation and frequently succumbs to drought. It is a large land mass that is incapable of supporting a commensurately large population.

That has to be understood.

That doesn’t mean that our government should ignore our international responsibilities to reduce poverty and hardship. But migration is only one way to pursue that objective and probably in many nations not the best way.

To say those things does not mean I oppose “an open, free and global society”. But I recognise the limits of national currency sovereignty.

They went well beyond those limits when they created the Eurozone and didn’t even try (for ideological reasons) to make the creation work properly (for example, by creating a federal fiscal capacity that is the hallmark of all successfully functioning federations).

Conclusion

The Progressive side of politics has to jettison its simplistic idea that popularism is anti-democratic and essentially racist.

In fact, the opposite is the case. It is the underlying machinery of democracies starting to work again after being muted by the self-serving manipulation of the elites.

The lack of leadership on the Left side of the debate is allowing the Right to pervert the angst that a failed, neo-liberal economic system has created among the workers.

It is not a sign that the workers are dolts, rather than the Left is gutless and riddled with inferiority complexes.

The series so far

This is a further part of a series I am writing as background to my next book on globalisation and the capacities of the nation-state. More instalments will come as the research process unfolds.

The series so far:

1. Friday lay day – The Stability Pact didn’t mean much anyway, did it?

2. European Left face a Dystopia of their own making

3. The Eurozone Groupthink and Denial continues …

4. Mitterrand’s turn to austerity was an ideological choice not an inevitability

5. The origins of the ‘leftist’ failure to oppose austerity

6. The European Project is dead

7. The Italian left should hang their heads in shame

8. On the trail of inflation and the fears of the same ….

9. Globalisation and currency arrangements

10. The co-option of government by transnational organisations

11. The Modigliani controversy – the break with Keynesian thinking

12. The capacity of the state and the open economy – Part 1

13. Is exchange rate depreciation inflationary?

14. Balance of payments constraints

15. Ultimately, real resource availability constrains prosperity

16. The impossibility theorem that beguiles the Left.

17. The British Monetarist infestation.

18. The Monetarism Trap snares the second Wilson Labour Government.

19. The Heath government was not Monetarist – that was left to the Labour Party.

20. Britain and the 1970s oil shocks – the failure of Monetarism.

21. The right-wing counter attack – 1971.

22. British trade unions in the early 1970s.

23. Distributional conflict and inflation – Britain in the early 1970s.

24. Rising urban inequality and segregation and the role of the state.

25. The British Labour Party path to Monetarism.

26. Britain approaches the 1976 currency crisis.

27. The 1976 currency crisis.

28. The Left confuses globalisation with neo-liberalism and gets lost.

29. The metamorphosis of the IMF as a neo-liberal attack dog.

30. The Wall Street-US Treasury Complex.

31. The Bacon-Eltis intervention – Britain 1976.

32. British Left reject fiscal strategy – speculation mounts, March 1976.

33. The US government view of the 1976 sterling crisis.

34. Iceland proves the nation state is alive and well.

35. The British Cabinet divides over the IMF negotiations in 1976.

36. The conspiracy to bring British Labour to heel 1976.

37. The 1976 British austerity shift – a triumph of perception over reality.

38. The British Left is usurped and IMF austerity begins 1976.

39. Why capital controls should be part of a progressive policy.

40. Brexit signals that a new policy paradigm is required including re-nationalisation.

41. Towards a progressive concept of efficiency – Part 1.

42. Towards a progressive concept of efficiency – Part 2.

43. The case for re-nationalisation – Part 2.

44. Brainbelts – only a part of a progressive future.

45. Reforming the international institutional framework – Part 1.

46. Reforming the international institutional framework – Part 2.

47. Reducing income inequality.

48. The struggle to establish a coherent progressive position continues.

49. Work is important for human well-being.

50. Is there a case for a basic income guarantee – Part 1.

51. Is there a case for a basic income guarantee – Part 2.

52. Is there a case for a basic income guarantee – Part 3.

53. Is there a case for a basic income guarantee – Part 4 – robot edition.

54. Is there a case for a basic income guarantee – Part 5.

55. An optimistic view of worker power.

56. Reforming the international institutional framework – Part 3.

57. Reforming the international institutional framework – Part 4.

58. Ending food price speculation – Part 1.

59. Ending food price speculation – Part 2.

60. Rising inequality and underconsumption.

61. The case against free trade – Part 1.

62. The case against free trade – Part 2.

63. The case against free trade – Part 3.

64. The case against free trade – Part 4.

65. Moving on from the post-modernist derailment of the Left.

66. The Left lacks courage and has become riddled with inferiority complexes.

The blogs in these series should be considered working notes rather than self-contained topics. Ultimately, they will be edited into the final manuscript of my next book due in 2017. The book will be published by Pluto Books in London.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2017 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    34 Responses to The Left lacks courage and is riddled with inferiority complexes

    1. Neil Wilson says:

      “So what the UK Guardian journalist is now claiming, which is a popular refrain among those who voted to Remain, is that the Leave vote was only 37.4 per cent of the eligible electorate”

      Tiresome that isn’t it.

      My response is that 65.3% of the electorate didn’t vote to stay.

      Two can play percentage games.

      You’ll note this is the same trick as saying that unemployment is ‘only’ 5%, rather than focussing on the millions of people whose lives are damaged every single day.

      When the left start using these tricks you know that they doubt their position has merit and are resorting to ‘true belief’ type tricks you usually see used by religious evangelists.

    2. Neil Wilson says:

      “My view is that the Brexit vote was easily won by the Leave camp (1,269,501 votes) ”

      Just to put that in context. The population of Birmingham – the UK’s second largest city – is 1,101,000 people.

    3. dnm says:

      The term ‘popularism’ is now a perjorative term used by the elites to put down ordinary folk who have the temerity to vote according to what they feel and see in their own lives


      Do ‘ordinary folk’ feel and see the separate effects of the European Union and their own government, or do they impute them based on their own prior opinions and what they glean from the media?
      In the UK, voters have consistently voted for governments espousing neo-liberal views. Labour only came to government when it made the neo-liberal turn. People are perfectly capable of determining whether their local community is doing well or not, but very often they fail to work out what is driving the changes they see. We knew all this before the Brexit vote.
      I don’t intend to defend the use of the word popularism as a perjorative term, but the current political situation is entirely predictable. With regard to the economic situation, Bill suggests that probably little will change. We’ll just have to wait and see. I think the best thing that can happen is that the government will be force to ‘own’ its own policies once it can no longer use the “EU made me do it” excuse. Maybe some political changes will flow from that.

    4. Neil Wilson says:

      The activist Left is trapped in a false ideology that is rapidly becoming a religion.

      It appears that the problem stems from the philosophy, which swallowed the neoliberal myth hook, line and sinker. So not only is the economics nonsense, but all the philosophical principles built on top of that are nonsense too.

      The left cling to an Open Borders, One World, One Government, One currency viewpoint – extreme centralisation – run by elite, indoctrinated hierophants in perpetuity. Democracy is tolerated to quell the masses but really they don’t want any genuine democratic state at all. Tax is a statement of how morally pure you are – a religious devotion that shows sacrifice. Hence the obsession with taxing anything that isn’t nailed down. It is a purifying device to drive out sin – like fire was to the medieval priest. The poor are patronised in an act of virtue signalling rather than genuinely helped out.

      But worst of all you are judged and categorised solely on prejudicial attributes rather than your own actions.

      Until this insular entitled clique is ejected from the temple, progress is going to be difficult.

    5. Simon Cohen says:

      “When the British people voted to leave the dysfunctional European Union on June 23, 2016, I saw it as a massive opportunity for progressive forces to shed the neo-liberal chains that they have become enslaved by and narrate a new, inclusive manifesto for the future.”

      Crikey Bill-it didn’t seem like there was much chance of that here in the Uk! The brexit vote was largely for ‘unprogressive’ reasons fanned by UKIP providing knee-jerk bullshit explanations for why people were feeling pissed of and alienated. If anything, the Brexit vote was a vote for prot-fascist false consciousness. Very, very few, in my view would have voted from a conscious ‘Lexit’ perspective.

      Witness the sad scenes of those outside parliament wrapped in Union Jacks chanting ‘take back control.’ A total failure of the political class to offer cogent, intellingent explanations to the public.

    6. James Schipper says:

      Dear Bill

      The Conservatives are now governing the UK with a parliamentary majority, which they obtained by receiving 36.9% of the votes cast, which is 24,4% of the eligible votes. Instead of railing against the legitimacy of the Brexit outcome, maybe The Guardian should aim its editorial guns at the unfair, distortionary British electoral system.

      This is the first time that I see the term popularism. I normally see populism. Strictly speaking, all democratic parties should be populist, but there is a problem with parties that are called populist. They tend to operate with a trichotomy. There are the masses, then there is the elite, which is betraying the masses, and finally there are the populists, who are the only true defenders of the interests of the masses and are hated by the elite because of it.

      Regards. James

    7. Simon Cohen says:

      James- Parties like UKIP here in the UK are dominated by stockbrokers and Investment Bankers and use people like their present leader, Nutall (who has a Liverpool [scouse] accent) tp pretned he’s ‘one of the lads.’ These people are as much a part of the elite as any of the others and want to dismantle the welfare state. So you have Frage (a stockbroker) doing his ‘fag and a pint’ in the pub nonsense as if he’s ‘one of the boys’ whilst doing diddly squat to explain the nature of the system that hes is very much part of and which is causiong the discontent he is massaging and manipualting.

      here in the UK , as in the U.S the whole political class is a dead loss.

    8. Tony says:

      Agree….totally, 100%

    9. James Schipper says:

      Dear Simon

      I quite agree with you that UKIP, as a libertarian party, is pseudo-populist, just as the plutocratic Trump is a pseudo-populist. Trump is not going to govern for the benefit of the white majority, to whom he owes his undeserved victory, but for the benefit of the rich minority, as good Republicans nowadays do. Any party that claims to represent the masses but at the same time espouses neoliberal economics is fraudulent. Marine Le Pen comes much closer to being a genuine populist.

    10. Andreas Bimba says:

      Given that much of the wealth gains of the affluent few in London and the South over the last few decades were through speculation in commodities (real estate and shares) and the great expansion of the financial services sector at the expense of sectors like manufacturing, further devalues any of the apparent gains made under the last 30+ years of neoliberalism. Such speculation will (or has) eventually hit a limit that can no longer be sustained and often ends in a destructive collapse that damages much more than those directly responsible. Such speculation also disproportionately imposes a cost of living burden on those less wealthy and increases destructive wealth disparity that decreases total consumption demand and economic growth. Most privatisations have also led to increased costs and inferior services and have been more about exploiting monopoly positions for private gain. The fact that much of the middle class has been forced into debt servitude to the banks to buy a home, or to maintain spending capacity whilst incomes have stagnated and job availability, security and worth have declined shows that neoliberalism always was a crock of shyt.

      Manufacturing can still have a bright future in the UK as it is a core wealth earner, employment provider and technology driver for many advanced nations like Germany, Japan, South Korea, China and even the U.S.; and the UK has been a particularly innovative manufacturer in the not too distant past. Given the current ultra competitiveness of East Asia and also Germany due to economies of scale, innovative design, elaborate government support structures and a conveniently low value Euro; some moderate level of trade protection, or equivalent form of government support, would in most cases be necessary for the UK so that at least highly automated and capital intensive industries can be sufficiently profitable to justify the needed levels of ongoing investment. Moderate trade protection ensures foreign and local competition are still sufficient to drive innovation and productivity improvements thus avoiding stagnation and ensures that exports can remain competitive whilst vitally also providing sufficient stability for ongoing production or product improvements that often require decades to fully implement. A ‘Goldilocks’ point of not to hot nor too cold but just right applies to trade protection for most nations. Even highly competitive nations like China initially protect or support newly establishing industries. A business incubator and ongoing innovation environment such as the highly successful Japanese approach administered by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) would suit the UK. Elite higher education and state and privately funded R&D are also essential components for success but much greater personnel and technology transfer between business and these institutions is necessary to ensure relevance, rapidity of uptake and the harnessing of any spin off opportunities.

      The Conservatives are unlikely to support moderate trade protection for key industries preferring their default neoliberal position of totally free trade even if the UK currently has moderate trade protection from nations external to the EU, and Labour still appears to be much the same. Now is the time for the progressive side to seize the current opportunities as the tide has turned against neoliberalism, that is failing in all areas, and to deal with the world’s major challenges such as dysfunctional democracies, stagnant wages, high unemployment, extreme wealth inequity and hardship, environmental destruction and global warming.

      http://www.meti.go.jp/english/aboutmeti/data/ahistory.html

    11. Neil Wilson says:

      ” The Guardian should aim its editorial guns at the unfair, distortionary British electoral system.”

      The electoral system is perfectly fair. In every constituency those who get the most votes win and form an electoral college called parliament.

      Progressives want a different electoral system simply so that nobody ever gets a majority and the balance of power is shifted down to minority groups with axes to grind. In other words them.

      No thank you. We like to get things done here in the UK.

      In our system minority groups with axes to grind are ignored completely for failing to join a grand coalition *before* the election. Hence why UKIP has next to no MPs – it should really be part of the wider Tory party.

      We always know what we are voting for in the UK. It’s very rare that there is any after election negotiation by politicians.

      The older I get, the more I prefer the organic and messy UK system and the less I like the ‘intellectually pure’ contrived structures that ultimately end up being far, far worse.

      The ability to compromise and form a consensus that people will vote for is prized above all other things.

    12. Simon Cohen says:

      ‘We always know what we are voting for in the UK’

      Neil-apologies if I’ve mis-remembered but I have a vague recollection of you writing that you were in favour of a ‘no party’ system with every candidate as an independent who would then have to form a kaleidoscope of changeing coalitions depending on the issue – you may have changed your view of course.

    13. Keith Newman says:

      Neil Wilson at 19:36;
      While I think you are being a bit harsh, sadly I mostly agree with you.
      Neil Wilson at 0:12;
      I disagree. In Canada we have the British electoral system and sometimes it works well. Often it does not. We have just come off a 9 year period of Conservative government elected with around 38% of the vote. It managed to inflict quite a bit of mischief on the country in that time. This has led to talk, and a Parliamentary committee, on changes to the electoral system. We’ll see where that goes.
      The system has led to an increasing number of people no longer voting as it seems pointless since no matter who you vote for nothing much changes. I have always voted in our elections and often worked for candidates whom I know personally and are honest and not opportunists. Nonetheless this is getting increasingly difficult to do. In our last election, the ostensible social democratic party, originally ahead in the polls, campaigned primarily on balancing the federal budget, illustrating Bill’s point. It lost most of its seats and was deservedly relegated to 3rd party status. Currently no-one in Parliament speaks for me so my interest is pretty minimal. In a system with proportional representation I could vote for someone who would speak for me. A big plus.
      With respect to UKIP having almost no representation, I do not see this as a positive. Its numerous voters have grievances that should be dealt with, ideally in a progressive way.

    14. Keith Newman says:

      Simon Cohen at 20:50:
      “Witness the sad scenes of those outside parliament wrapped in Union Jacks chanting ‘take back control.’ A total failure of the political class to offer cogent, intelligent explanations to the public.“
      Sorry, I don’t understand your comment. Isn’t this what the Brexit vote was about, taking back national control from a remote political organisation? It seems to me they got it exactly right.

    15. larry says:

      “One German citizen, who has been in the UK for 10 years, didn’t take out English residency status, is now worried they will have to leave. She apparently loves England but “if the government starts throwing out EU citizens, I don’t want to live in this country any more”.

      “Which is a curious sort of reasoning. If the UK does act like that then what was there to love in the first place? But that is not the point anyway.”

      No, it isn’t the point. Yet it is. Her reasoning may be considered to be unusual, but her situation is not. There are many people in exactly her situation or more complex ones and have complicated reasons for wishing to continue to live in a country where they have lived for perhaps 30 or 40 years, which is true of many “deportables”. Many of those considered to be deportable have children and spouses who have a right to reside in the UK. To deport such a parent, and thereby potentially break up such a family, violates the UN convention on the rights of the child to which the UK is a signatory. The Home Office is either not aware of this, which is scandalous in itself, or doesn’t care, which may be more scandalous. And that spouse or child may not have an automatic right of residence in the country to which the parent in question is being deported.

      My problems with Brexit have nothing to do with economics and everything to do with humanitarian issues, social justice, workers’ rights, the environment, the NHS, social care, security, and the like. Of course, any properly constituted government, whether in or out of the EU, could deal with these matters properly, but the UK does not have such a government, nor has it had one for some years. The UK currently has a government comprised of xenophobes, buffoons, and economic fanatics. To take one example, this government has already said that as soon as the UK is out of the EU, it will “address” workers’ rights, which effectively means to remove as many of them as it can get away with.
      To take another, the NHS is currently facing a crisis, which the International Red Cross deems to be a humanitarian crisis. Whether one considers the language to be OTT or not, what the UK has is a health secretary who is going around and effectively saying, Crisis? What crisis?, and blaming A&E problems on the public. The former is despicable and the latter disgusting. But these are the sort of government ministers the public is faced with. The previous NHS crisis with which the current one is being compared took place during the nineties. Both have occurred after considerable periods of Tory rule. It appears as though Tory rule is bad for your health, physical or mental.

      Is there any reason to think, given who is in charge, that these situations will be improved after Brexit? I don’t see why. There is every reason to think that they will worsen. As for whether the referendum vote is legitimate, I think the Guardian article over-eggs the pudding.

      It can be argued and has been that a population deserves what government it happens to elect. I don’t think this is as simple as it looks. It is all too possible to believe you are voting for A but get B instead. Or get C in addition to A, which you didn’t vote for and didn’t know was part of the package. Because such scenarios take place all too often, and many times involve a tyranny of the majority, I consider the argument to be specious. Locke’s arguments are not always logically sound. A people do not always deserve what they get nor get what they deserve.

      Getting back to the deportables, I know of families who are frightened for the reasons mentioned. And they don’t know what to do. The government could easily provide an amnesty to all those who are currently resident in the UK. But this is not on the table even though it would be the most humane action to take. There is every reason to think that the other 27 countries faced with citizens returning from the UK because they have been deported will do exactly the same thing to UK citizens, possibly violating the same UN convention. Some of these countries have already said that they will do exactly this.

      Because of this situation, among others, a number of anti-Brexit groups have been popping up around the country. Membership of these groups is usually comprised of younger people. These groups are not anti-Brexit per se, but anti an awful Brexit, like the kind in question. Some of these groups present alternative Brexits that are worthy of consideration.

      Is Brexit responsible for any of this? Of course not. What concerns me is that the Tories will attempt to get away with more inhumane policies than they have been able to heretofore. While the Eurozone features of the EU have been an unmitigated disaster, not everything EU has been disastrous. Maybe it CAN change.

      It is true that the EU as presently constituted is ridiculous, but there are politicians in Europe, like Emmanuel Macron, who see what the problem is and see a need to address it. At present, there are not many Macrons, but I see no reason why they can’t proliferate and begin to alter the narrative. There is time. Not a lot, but there is some. Of course, nothing may happen. Then it will be bye-bye Eurozone, missing you already, Not, and perhaps the EU with it. No one with a brain should miss the Eurozone.

    16. Damian Penston says:

      Excellent article!

      “As if the election of his competitor would have been a victory for the dominant elites in the financial markets etc who also swindle the common citizen.”

      Should this be “as if the election of his competitor wouldn’t have been a victory…”?

    17. mahaish says:

      “The political left has been too willing to be cute and embrace neo-liberal macroeconomic narratives that they think makes them look financially competent that they have failed to see that those very same narratives are why there is a problem in the first place”

      the neo liberal paradigm is going to fall apart, because its based upon a all kinds of distortions and lies.

      you have governments and their advisors who believe this nonsense, and they are having to create more and more loosers within the electoral system, to reach their unreachable targets.

      eventually the truth is going to be self evident and no ones going to believe them , and the first politician that embraces an alternative paradigm and has a message like bills to offer, will be in power for a long long time.

      in this country atleast , I see the splintering of the right , and the left will at some stage get off their backsides and embrace mmt’s ideas.

    18. bob hart says:

      Great Post Prof,
      To be a racist, like to be a sexist, you are at the very
      least, guilty of a logical fallacy. Any statement you make about race
      needs to be based in evidence not prejudice. For example, the evidence
      from human genome project shows how we developed our racial
      characteristics in response to our varying environments. Nevertheless,
      the races of humans are more closely related than any other species due
      to our recent appearance in the fossil record. Indeed most people
      couldn’t identify the difference between the different races of Tiger,
      ie: Amur, Bengal Indo Chinese etc, yet these are genetically much more
      distinct than the human races.
      While Brexit and the Trump phenomenon may have attracted
      the odd “throwback”, it is disingenuous to label any movement outside the
      status quo as racist without evidence. To use the word in this way also
      devalues its currency when it really is warranted,eg: Apartheid,
      Segregation etc. The neoliberal pigs with their noses in the trough,
      apologies to the Suidae (pig) family, are running out of excuses and have
      resorted to name calling to preserve their privilege. Its very interesting that
      the momentum for Brexit did not come from the City Of London.

    19. Daniel D says:

      The UK Guardian apparently answers to a higher authority these days.


      For years the Guardian was a captain of journalism in a sea of corporate monopoly media. No longer and many of its renowned journalists have abandoned ship or been thrown overboard. Their alleged crimes were mutiny against the establishment?



      Russian Spies Behind Every Christmas Tree

    20. derrida derider says:

      Bill, I really don’t get it. I can certainly understand your spleen against the Euro – you don’t have to subscribe to MMT or even be a progressive to see the damage it did (some of the loudest economist voices against Maastricht came from the extreme neoliberal wing – “optimal currency area” ring any bells?).

      But on any objective reading of postwar economic history the main problem with the EU is that its political and legal integration failed to keep pace with its economic integration. Something you can see by who among the Tories were/are Brexiters – the ones who pine for Empire, who want Australian au pairs rather than Polish plumbers, and who most vociferously object to interference by the European Court of Justice in legislation designed to keep terrorist wogs (and, incidentally, ordinary working class natives) in their place. Just because something is bad news for the City does not automatically mean it is good news for workers.

      Brexit is a triumph of reaction, not progressivity – why are you cheering it?

    21. derrida derider says:

      PS – Larry says at more length what I was trying to say. The actual consequences of Brexit in the UK will be more, not less, repression of workers; more, not less, xenophobia and racism; and much more, not less, austerity.

      So it’s a bit infantile to cheer it just because the City doesn’t like it or because it proved once again that the macroeconomy is unforecastable.

    22. /L says:

      allowing the Right to pervert the angst that a failed, neo-liberal economic system has created among the workers.”

      I don’t believe that is correct, it has probably been successful beyond expectations for those who was the core neo-liberal revolutionary’s. They have probably achieved on a scale they didn’t even dreamed about when they started the revolution.

      Its one of the big flaws in left-wing discourse to repeatedly point om neo-liberalisms “failures”. Right-wing politics fail when it doesn’t archive a good living for everyone? But only immensely for the few?
      As if the goals of left and right wing politics is identical. That was the lefts main scapegoat to join the neo-liberal revolution, the self-delusion that “also” the neo-liberal right only wanted what was best for everyone.

    23. /L says:

      Franklin D Roosevelt, 1938 (?)

      “The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerated the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism: ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power.”

      That is exactly what EU have enforced in the Maastricht treaty, and cast in reinforced concrete as EU constitution in Lisbon treaty. It wasn’t hidden in anyway when Maastricht was discussed, they said it openly, financial market should restrain democracy, the people and populism.
      Fascism according to FDR:s definition is the legal framework of present day EU. And most other nations today adhere more or less to it by CB and budget legislations.

    24. /L says:

      As Chomsky ones explained all these red states in US, the only one that really did address all these people’s daily trouble and concerns about the future was right-wing talk-radio and alike. Even if to say the least with distorted analysis and solutions. But they did talk to them, the only ones that did, something US latte-liberals stopped doing long ago.
      As Frank in “Whats wrong with Kansas” described how John Kerry flew in Ivy League students to the Appalachian to campaign for Democrats. While the core Republicans was present on an everyday basis all time by trustworthy citizens like local shopkeepers, entrepreneurs and so on.

    25. Geoff Davies says:

      I agree the formerly progressive parties have betrayed us. I just wish you wouldn’t call them the Left.

      The Australian Labor Party ceased being Left in 1983, with Keating and Hawke. Blair and Clinton followed in due course. NZ was a little ahead of ALP. They are NOT LEFT. They are Right. The others are extreme Right.

      There is hardly any discernible Left anywhere. btw I’m not Left, I think we can transcend that false dichotomy.
      https://betternature.wordpress.com/better-oz/beyond-free-markets/move-beyond-free-markets/

    26. mahaish says:

      @derrida derider

      “But on any objective reading of postwar economic history the main problem with the EU is that its political and legal integration failed to keep pace with its economic integration”

      if history is any guide, what they are trying to achieve is an impossibility.

      gold standard systems like the eu monetary framework , inevitably leads to deflationary pressure on the trade deficit nations . at some point these deflationary pressures become politically unsustainable within the domestic economies effected, especially given the insanity that prevails in terms of fiscal and central bank rules which conveniently get re defined from time to time, which put restrictions on any compensatory mechanism that might be used by domestic governments and central banks.

      its a farce, and it will break up, and my bet is Italy is going to go before anybody else.

    27. derrida derider says:

      But Mahaish, the UK was never part of the EU monetary framework – they learned their lesson in 1992. Plus for all the pain it will cause Italy (I agree the next country to be overrun by the German banks) the great majority of Italians will want to stay in the EU just as the great majority of Greeks did and do (that’s the reason Syriza had no negotiating clout in the Greek crisis). Because they know that the alternative for workers is worse.

    28. Andreas Bimba says:

      Derrida derider, perhaps the majority of Greeks and Italians would prefer to remain in the EU especially considering most of the mass media that is controlled by the wealthy elites promote this view but it is the common currency and EU imposed austerity that is causing so much harm to tens of millions of Europeans due to extreme levels of unemployment, cuts to government services and economic stagnation. Most European workers, except German workers, can only benefit from healthier national economies if the Eurozone is abandoned. Democracy has more chance of working at the national level than at the international level in my opinion but clearly democracy is not working well at any level for most Europeans at the moment. Fix national democracy and workers rights and welfare will soon follow.

    29. Peter Martin says:

      @Bill

      “16,141,241 voted to leave”

      That should be voted to remain.

    30. Jake says:

      @derides derides

      The EU directives enforced the privatisation of postal service,rail (it was just brought through earlier in the UK), it pushed TTIP,forbade any type of state aid,pushed for labour market flexibility(zero hours),paid subsidies to wealthy landowners,subsidised the transfer of UK based factories to elsewhere in the union,was outragously corrupt (money stolen,no audits done),a disastrous fishery policy,the EU even had legislation that was pushing for privatisation of education and healthcare.it was the European neoliberal union

      @Neil,I’m not sure what ‘left’ your describing but the real issue is that ‘left’ has been supporting private finance initiatives,privatisation,lowering of worker conditions,ignoring an exploding financial sector and excessive leverage in the economy.abandoning any form of intelligent industrial policy ‘left’ was centre right neoliberal economic liberal,

    31. kevin harding says:

      Bill i know you are not dull so are you being disingenuous ?
      You really thought Brexit put the ‘left’ at a crossroads?
      That it could choose an MMT manifesto? Out of its ass?
      Neil did you find the insular entitled clique in the temple or in the mirror?
      The real entitled clique use their power to protect their interersts in or out of the EU.
      The populists will bow even lower to the power of their temple.
      My progressive friends and children barely contain there repulsion at my out vote I do
      not have any elite friends or family.
      They just disagree , I think their being illogical but their fear of populism is making them ill with worry?
      Economic fear is the lest of it .
      Bill had it right in a great recent blog, heuristic affect ,their gut is for internationalism.
      Their gut is loss averse. Their gut fears UKIP,Trump and xenophobia.
      Corbyn is hardly economically coherent but he is still left with egalitariansm in his gut .
      Whatever manifesto he puts out decimation will be the best the labour party can achieve
      in the next election stuck between labour supporting outers and populist haters he will
      never satisfy both .

    32. kevin harding says:

      By the way I am using populism in the sense that those who fear it think.
      I still dream of a coherent progressive populism and a government by and for
      not simply of the people but now is the time of the reactionary right lets hope
      that they do not revert to historical dictatorial type.

    33. derrida derider says:

      “… but it is the common currency and EU imposed austerity that is causing so much harm to tens of millions of Europeans.”
      Exactly. But the UK is not in the common currency and its austerity is consequently ENTIRELY inflicted by its own government. My point is that the UK has voted for a continuation of that austerity, plus a whole raft of serious anti-worker institutions and laws unconstrained by less rabidly neoliberal Europeans.

    34. Some Guy says:

      The logical problem of derrida derider and larry above is that “less rabidly neoliberal Europeans” is quite false. It is living in the past. Today’s (continental / Eurozone) Europeans are clearly and significantly more rabid neoliberals than the UK (or even quite arguably the USA). UK austerity is bad, but not by Eurozone standards. Millions of people have shown the truth of this by voting with their feet to the UK.

      Also, it is clear from the referendum and polls that the Greeks – at and before the time of the referendum and its absurd betrayal by the brainwashed fool Tsipras – rationally preferred to leave the Eurozone, because they correctly saw that the suffering they are experiencing now is quite a bit worse than the temporary blip followed by a “robust recovery” (Weisbrot) of a Grexit.

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