The Left now aims to make ordinary people poorer. By Janet Daley.
We are living through the most startling political realignment in more than 100 years. Never since the advent of modern socialism in the early 20th century has the Left openly advocated making ordinary people poorer, thereby leaving those on the Right to defend the spread of mass prosperity. …
It is the radical young who now tend to be most adamant that the freedoms and comforts that come with widespread disposable wealth should be prohibited, while the traditionally conservative older generation is left to fight for what used to be the Left-liberal doctrine that higher income and the independence it brings should be spread as widely as possible.
Where organised protest movements in the past have been inspired by the idea that the masses were too poor, now they promote the idea that most ordinary people are too rich. …
Big government is everywhere:
The fundamental tenets of Left-liberal belief — that the state should be responsible for equality, wealth distribution and social welfare — are now universally accepted in advanced democracies.
However strong a country’s commitment to free market economics, the basic social democratic package is thought to be a core of decency which any prospective government must accept if it is to be taken seriously. …
There is no going back from this. The Left won that argument hands down, just as capitalism won the argument about free markets being the only way to create wealth. The only political discussion that made sense in the wake of those conclusions was how to get the balance right between competitive markets and welfare provision.
Climate change is the left’s weapon:
Until very recently, there was no respectable voice calling for an end to the spread of prosperity to the developing world, as well as in the advanced nations. Now it is not just the juvenile Left making this extraordinary demand. Politicians of the centre-Right who had adopted pretty much wholesale the doctrine of social justice — which is to say, everybody having an equal chance for economic self-determination and a materially comfortable life — find themselves having to justify penalising ordinary people for heating their homes or for travelling beyond their own neighbourhoods.
The consequences for those populations in the short term are carefully elided with fuzzy rhetoric and unsustainable government subsidy. Somehow a vague dream world is created in which the immediate deprivations become just a transitory stage leading to a utopian paradise in which all these apparently insoluble problems will be resolved. Even if this is feasible — the ultimate carbon-free heaven in which energy is supplied without sin — it is a very long way away.
Nobody is venturing any figures for what the cost — in misery, financial privation, hypothermia, lack of mobility and choice — is going to be to those who will endure the first experimental stages. In truth, most of the radical permanent solutions are in their infancy and many of them involve practices that the Left would once have regarded as unacceptable like the exploitative mining of minerals in developing countries. Finding practical policies for mitigating the effects of climate change is the rational way forward, but that scarcely satisfies the demonic crisis demands which most Western political establishments have embraced.
The leftists who make policy are no longer ordinary people, having hauled themselves out of the working class over the last 150 years. Hence the change in direction.
I was reminded of the observation by Kim Beazley Snr of the Labor Party in in the early 1970s:
“When I joined the Labor Party, it contained the cream of the working class. But as I look about me now, all I see are the dregs of the middle class. When will you middle-class perverts stop using the Labor Party as a cultural spittoon?”