UK: Conservative Party of libertarian ideologues? As if. By Daniel Hannan. Although most of our readers are from the US and Australia, what’s going on the the UK is instructive for us as well.
A myth is taking hold — a myth so preposterous that a moment’s thought shows it to be nonsense, yet so widespread that it is starting to have malign real-world consequences. The myth goes something like this.
“The Conservative Party has been taken over by libertarian ideologues. After decades of plotting in their Tufton Street think tanks, these revolutionaries finally got one of their agents into Downing Street in the shape of Liz Truss. Her budget delivered the free-market fundamentalism they had always dreamed of: smaller government, tax cuts, deregulation. …”
Hmmm. Look around you. Does Britain feel like a country that has been in the grip of libertarians? Taxes are higher than in any year since 1949. Every policy, from trade to government investment, is measured against the goal of net zero. The rich gas deposits under our feet are placed off-limits by a moratorium. Leftist lobby groups, including Migrant Help, Stonewall, Refugee Action and Hope Not Hate, receive state funding.
The money-printing that was supposed to be an emergency response to the 2008 crash has become semi-permanent. There are five million economically inactive people of working age during an acute labour shortage. State employees expect to be paid without leaving home, and the attempt to shift 91,000 of them from the revenue-consuming to the revenue-generating bit of the economy has been dropped. …
We require more paid holidays and the like than Brussels does, as well as more stringent eco-targets. Benefits are rising faster than wages. Windfall taxes are coming.
Even if Truss’s budget had been implemented in full, spending would still have been around 15 per cent higher than at its highest point under the last Labour government. Yet her plans were denounced as extreme neo-liberalism, not just by BBC commentators, but by some Tories.
Curious language, you might think, to describe a budget that, at most, would have reduced the share of the economy controlled by the Government from 36.5 to 36 per cent. But, be that as it may, the budget did not happen.
All the ideas that had been proposed by the free-market think tanks — or libertarian madrassahs, if Halfon prefers — were dropped. Easier fracking, more house building, fewer EU laws, lower corporation tax, a penny off income tax and an end to the IR35 nightmare for self-employed people.
So, the globalist establishment is lying big time and threw Truss out — but why?
“Ah,” sneer a thousand sophists, “so you’re saying that real capitalism has never been tried?”
This is a play on an anti-socialist meme, which mocks the refusal of socialists ever to allow their creed to be measured against its real-world applications.
Every Leftist revolution — Venezuela, Cuba, the USSR itself — follows the same pattern. First, Western observers gush over it — they’ve seen the future and it works. Then, as things begin to go wrong, they blame saboteurs and plead for time. Finally, when the revolution ends (as they all end) in hunger and labour camps, they insist that it was never properly socialist in the first place, and that “real socialism has never been tried”.
But that is emphatically not what supporters of free-market economics did over Liz Truss or, indeed, what they do in general. Those Tufton Street think tanks … are generally obsessed with data. Their recommendations are almost always based on established practice, drawn either from what works overseas (Swiss healthcare models, Chilean pensions, Hong Kong fiscal reforms and whatnot) or from what worked in this country in the 1980s. The salient fact about Trussonomics was not that it was subsequently disowned. It’s that it was literally never tried — it was thrown out by MPs who were simply not prepared to countenance short-term unpopularity in pursuit of long-term growth.
Big government, more bureaucracies, more power concentrated in the hands of the professional/managerial class. Looking after themselves, thank you.