Monday, October 31, 2011

26 per cent of Brits support EU membership; 100 per cent of their political betters support it

And yet, facing imminent surgery for cancer, I'm still obsessed with European politics.

...polling makes the British public's position devastatingly clear (summary here). It shows that just 26 per cent view our EU membership as a good thing.

Yet this is the view of 100 per cent of the main parties in the House of Commons. There is a large democratic deficit here, a gap that might yet be filled by another party.

...these issues are complex, lawyerly – can we expect ordinary folk to reach an informed opinion based on a hunch? Does the bouncer's opinion count for as much as the barrister's?

To me, this questions cuts to the very nature of left vs right. I'm a free marketeer because I believe that the masses are smarter than the elites.

Stanford academic Thomas Sowell argues that the world is so complex that no one person can possess "even one percent of the knowledge currently available, not counting the vast amounts of knowledge yet to be discovered". So, "the imposition from top down of the notions in favour among elites, convinced of their own superior knowledge and virtue, is a formula for disaster".

Hence central planning, the Soviet Union, etc. As Sowell says, the real ideological fault line – rather than the diminishingly useful party political labels – can be drawn here.

How do you define knowledge? Do you see it as something that is concentrated (i.e. in universities and libraries) or spread across society? If you believe the former, then you're on the side of the Polly Toynbees and the Tory Paternalists who believe power (and money) should rest with an enlightened elite.

If you believe the latter, then you'll be in favour of transferring power to the many, not the few, and be against nicking their cash.

I think this is the problem with the whole left/right paradigm, as it is now manifest in American politics. I thought it was interesting that the OWS "protesters" used the term "Republican" exclusively as a political insult. I imagined what they would make of me, a right wing Anglo-Canadian who lives in Europe. I would obviously have had to correct them if the epithet Republican were aimed at me, because I am not an American and, frankly, don't know very much about the details of American politics (it's not my beat).

The idea that Fraser Nelson puts forward above shows a basically stagnant, and unwinable, situation in the political realms in Britain and the US. While in most of Europe, the "right" has failed and when one is presented with even the most extreme, fringe "right wing" parties like the BNP you find that a brief analysis shows they are still in favour of state-enforced wealth re-distribution that we used to recognise as socialism.

What is needed is a genuine new paradigm. I am not myself qualified to offer one, but I believe that the Catholic Church offers a solution that transcends the inescapable battle over class wars, top-down elites vs. freemarketeers. The trouble with the Marxian paradigm is not that Marxism, whether cultural or the more direct kind in China and the former Soviet Union, presents a threat to the "free world". It is that the Marxian worldview, the framework and terminology presented by the Marxist idea, has cornered the market on political thought. No one in the business of political and economic ideas seems capable of thinking outside the Marxist box.

No one, including the left in the Church, seems to have read the social encyclicals in the context of Catholic moral teaching.

I wonder, however, if a door and a path out of the interminable lockdown of the Marxist paradigm, can't be found by looking there.



Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Even as I know some of these kids down the street; more than a few are opportunistic anarchists and they have attracted a lot of sympathy from sympathetic people who ought to know better.

Calls to mind the CDF's "Instruction on Liberation Theology" from 1985:

18. The defenders of orthodoxy are sometimes accused of passivity, indulgence, or culpable complicity regarding the intolerable situations of injustice and the political regimes which prolong them. Spiritual conversion, the intensity of the love of God and neighbor, zeal for justice and peace, the Gospel meaning of the poor and of poverty, are required of everyone, and especially of pastors and those in positions of responsibility. The concern for the purity of the faith demands giving the answer of effective witness in the service of one's neighbor, the poor and the oppressed in particular, in an integral theological fashion. By the witness of their dynamic and constructive power to love, Christians will thus lay the foundations of this "civilization of love"....

Thanks Hilary.


Martial Artist said...

Miss White,

You might want to add a book or two by a particular Catholic historian to your reading list. The man is Thomas E. Woods, Jr., and the work most relevant to the specific topic you are discussing here, if you haven't already read it, is The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Market. I think you might well find it interesting.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

Anonymous said...

It was tried in Portugal and Spain and it was a disaster. Then again, one must consider the materials. - Karen

hjw said...

I'm not a fan of distributism. As I said, I don't know the solution, and I think that competent secular economists would do well to look to other sources for their ideas. The Church has been putting this stuff out for more than a hundred years. Even on things not directly related to faith and morals, an institution with 2000 years of experience observing human nature and human history first hand might have something fresh to offer.

Anonymous said...

There isn't going to be anything fresh until the clock strikes CAESAR. - Karen