The Dim-Post

November 30, 2011

Ill fares the land

Filed under: economics,Politics — danylmc @ 11:25 am

Here’s an obvious question I often ask myself: if – as conventional wisdom has it – people vote based on their ‘back pocket’, ie on economic grounds, and the economic models of the right are demonstrably flawed and morally bankrupt, why are left-wing political parties the developed world over struggling to remain relevant?

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58 Comments »

  1. Because mostly those parties typically offer barely distinguishable economic policies in a misguided belief this makes them seem more credible. If they don’t, the press crucify them.

    Why would you as a voter choose the lite left version of banker-loving austerity when you can have the real thing from the right? It’s just as (in)effective in changing your life for the better, but since you’ve been told pain is good for you, best to choose something that really hurts properly.

    Comment by Stephen Judd — November 30, 2011 @ 11:31 am

  2. I don’t ask myself this as often as I ask lefties who think strong policy is the key to winning elections: if your policy programme objectively advantages a clear majority of the voting population (a proposition I broadly accept, for the NZ left), how come they don’t support you?

    The usual answer I get is a somewhat offended variation on “false consciousness” or “voters are too stupid” or “brainwashed by Crosby/Textor”, at which point the argument usually degenerates.

    L

    Comment by Lew — November 30, 2011 @ 11:33 am

  3. When the economy’s bad, people are too busy worrying about their own finances to pay attention to politics. This favours the right. Note the low turn out this election.

    Comment by pete — November 30, 2011 @ 11:38 am

  4. Because like the flawed economic models of the right, many people think in the short term.

    Comment by jamsteve — November 30, 2011 @ 11:40 am

  5. economic models of the right are demonstrably flawed and morally bankrupt

    Like religion, the only reason they haven’t done the business (yet) is that we haven’t been sufficiently pure in our approach to them. More dedication, greater sacrifice, harder work, more pain is all we really need.

    Comment by Neil — November 30, 2011 @ 11:40 am

  6. Lew, a less cynical second answer from me would definitely add that to the extent that left parties do offer something different, they mostly don’t get “sell the sizzle, not the steak”.

    Comment by Stephen Judd — November 30, 2011 @ 11:44 am

  7. Maybe because many are convinced that “the economic models of the left are even more demonstrably flawed and morally bankrupt than those of the right?” And those of the right are the lesser of two evils?

    Comment by Socrates — November 30, 2011 @ 11:44 am

  8. because the statement the economic models of the right are demonstrably flawed and morally bankrupt is false.

    some are, some aren’t.

    my theory is that the centre-left pulls one way and the centre-right pulls the other and we need a balance between the two. Although it’s hard to see how that applies to the euro and debt etc and perhaps the financial systems are now such a complex system that chaos will prevail.

    Looking and National and Labour, both oversold their economic policies. National would sell of some assets, Labour would borrow – essentially we have to do one or the other, we’re a bit fucked. Most likley there’s not a lot in it either way in the long term but it is possble that a particular set of circumstance could make one of those options the best choice for the future – but we can’t know that until it happens.

    in short, economics is about predicting the future, of trying to navigate through chance and hence no one political view can hope to be right all the time.

    Comment by NeilM — November 30, 2011 @ 11:44 am

  9. I’m boggled that you claim you don’t understand how money and power can have an impact in a democracy. You’re not trolling with this?

    Comment by taranaki — November 30, 2011 @ 11:46 am

  10. Counter-factual: Hone Harawira is now somhow P.M. today. How do you think the business class and corporate media would cope with that? They’d be destablising the country with a capital flight/strike and practically demanding a military coup.

    You forget that it took the Great War, the Great Depression, WWII and fear of the USSR to convince the capitalist ruling elite that mild socialism ought to be allowed a look in. Every adult who remembers the first three events listed is now dead or deep in a rest home and the last has vanished. Ergo, it is back to the nineteenth century for governance model the boss class likes.

    My fear is it is going to take the utter collapse of the Western economies, and a huge war before you’ll persuade the capitalist class to give left wing parties another go.

    Comment by Sanctuary — November 30, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

  11. “ie on economic grounds, and the economic models of the right are demonstrably flawed and morally bankrupt, why are left-wing political parties the developed world over struggling to remain relevant?”

    Obviously the majority of people don’t think right wing economic policies are what you say.

    As for LW relevance.. its hard to be progressive, aspiring and really really clever when you have run out of other people’s money. The post war social model has simply overreached itself and now there are too few children to pay for the mistakes.

    JC

    Comment by JC — November 30, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

  12. Well people like Caplan would argue it’s because voters bear little cost for their decisions compared others choices in their everyday lives and this allows them to vote irrationally.

    Comment by Anthony — November 30, 2011 @ 12:11 pm

  13. Hey, it happened in 1932 as well.

    Comment by bradluen — November 30, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

  14. It may be that liberal democracy isn’t sustainable. In terms of the number of species that have tried it we’re in a significant minority.

    Comment by NeilM — November 30, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

  15. The success/failure of parties of the (slightly) left/right has more to do with local electoral cycles and incumbency-longevity than any global ideological picture.

    Spain has just voted the left out, Denmark has just voted them in. UK Labour’s time was up, so was Howard’s in Australia, so was Clark’s here.

    Soon Sarkozy will lose to Monsieur David Parker-Socialiste in France, and in editorials from Canada to Ireland, some Big Conclusions Will Be Drawn for their own backyard. They’ll mean little.

    Next topic: Democracy is Dying (low turnouts in the West), Democracy is Thriving (Arab Spring). Pick your pet theory, shoe-horn in your evidence.

    Comment by sammy — November 30, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

  16. > why are left-wing political parties the developed world over struggling to remain relevant?

    I’m not sure I agree with that statement – left wing parties seem to be relevant in many countries. I hear there’s a left wing government in Australia. And here the left-wing parties scored nearly half of the vote (though I’m not sure if that includes NZF).

    But in regards to voters looking after their own interests, I’m not sure what the answer is. My grandparents were anti-Labour and strongly so, yet they were working class. I never fully understood why.

    Comment by Ross — November 30, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

  17. > UK Labour’s time was up, so was Howard’s in Australia, so was Clark’s here…

    i agree that governments tend to be cyclical. We haven’t had many governments here that have done more than 3 terms in a row. National may be the next to do so but they’ll be hard pressed to go beyond that…unless their leader stands down in the interim and there’s a smooth transition. But I think some voters tire of governments.

    Comment by Ross — November 30, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

  18. Maybe people often vote for those they’d like to be?

    In highly corrupt countries as the extreme example, people often tend to live with the system as it’s too hard to change, and try to make the most of it. Those in government jobs are often envied more than reviled, because everyone thinks they might one day get to a position where they can take the going rates of bribes and sluice money away from the system, and that’s just how it works. By comparison I think NZ is extremely un-corrupt (whilst still having problems), but there’s still an element of wishful thinking and wanting to be a long way ahead like those guys. But you need the system to stay like that for there to be a chance of it happening.

    Comment by MikeM — November 30, 2011 @ 12:43 pm

  19. Because these parties have assumed that the GFC MUST be good for social democracy without thinking to articulate a vision for what this new social democratic politics should look like that is more convincing than the need to balance the budget.

    The Judt book you refer to in your title is a very good example of exactly this phenomenon; great on past successes of social democratic policies, great on the why the world’s current problems seem to call for a reinvigoration of social democratic politics, vague on how to inspire a new social democratic program.

    Comment by Andrew D — November 30, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

  20. Some people believe that what’s bad for them must be good and necessary for the economy. They believe that if raising the minimum wage and any sort of increased public spending was good for the economy it would be too good to be true.

    Others, rather than thinking the right only caters to an elite few at the top, believe the left only caters to a few at the bottom. They might be on minimum wage, but they think a vote for the left will mean they’ll be worse off because they’ll be paying more to support the unemployed.

    And then there are those who like the Right cos they’re ‘Tuff on Cwime’

    Comment by NN — November 30, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

  21. More to the point: what difference was there between the economic models of Labour and National? Both agreed that the public debt was the big issue, and that tackling it, at the cost of some short-term pain, was a more urgent priority than action on jobs or growth or whatever. Sure, there were policy differences. Labour wanted capital owners, and not just wage earners, to share in the pain. But that’s a value judgement, not a refuted ideology. The only point of difference in the models was on asset sales, and even there, National’s 49% plan makes the losers worse off only very indirectly.

    On the other hand, ACT and Mana offered models distinguishable from the status quo, and they both got creamed, although arguably for reasons other than the models themselves.

    Comment by bradluen — November 30, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

  22. “14.It may be that liberal democracy isn’t sustainable. In terms of the number of species that have tried it we’re in a significant minority.
    Comment by NeilM — November 30, 2011 @ 12:26 pm”

    True, we could be like the bees, ants and the Soviet Union: treat the majority of the population as drones and most of the rest as soldiers? I guess everyone’s basic needs could be met. Mostly.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — November 30, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

  23. recession promotes strong leadership and war. Democracy is potrayed as weak. Perhaps. Causes of the second WW.

    Comment by sheesh — November 30, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

  24. The reason you are confused is because none of your assumptions and observations are correct.

    Comment by swan — November 30, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

  25. Whether it is a swing to the right or the left there is one constant that needs to be accepted. More of the poulace than you realise are total fucking morons.

    They know as much about the relative merits of Hayek or Keynes than you know about laying a multi option, boxed accumulator on the 3.16 from Awapuni.

    Comment by King Kong — November 30, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

  26. Economic theory predicts economists will only publish papers that make others act in the interest of people who write economic papers. It is not in the interest of any economists to point this out.

    Their basic theory of self-interest may be right, but one of the side-effects of it being so must be that money beats out truth and reason. Left-wing Politicians (and union bosses, for that matter) are well paid, and by acting in their self-interest they will naturally act to support the well-paid ahead of the poor.

    Why is the left struggling? Because there is no left. The old miners and activists are long dead. Even the Greens had to get rid of their activists to get the money they needed for a coherent message; and now they’re all university educated, successful, and well-paid people, who will naturally tend to act in their own self interest, and thus the interests of the rich. Mana? 1% vote for the 99%, 99% vote for the 1%.

    It’s not like Labour kicked up much of a fuss when National kicked a bunch of poor folk off the electoral roll in the runup to this election; why would they when it’ll never happen to them and theirs.

    Comment by tussock — November 30, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

  27. This is an enormous question, Danyl. There’s way more to voter choice than economics, for starters. But I think the point that the economics of both sides aren’t substantially different wrt the GFC is a fair cop. I don’t think either of the main left/right blocs in developed countries have a real vision for how to deal with globalization redistributing wealth to the developing world. It doesn’t fit into either capitalist or socialist models because under both systems, the developed world still loses as capital rushes to the cheapest labour. If anything, the socialist model accelerates that because it makes cheap labour scarcer. That might be a partial answer.

    I don’t have an alternative economic answer, though. It’s a global problem, there is little individual countries can do, even ones as powerful as the USA, Germany or China. In a global sense, it’s not even clear that it’s bad – poor people in Africa might get more from working in sweatshop than starving in the street. This international inequity has previously been maintained through violence, but more recently the rich and powerful have simply not cared to maintain it at all, they really don’t give a fuck if their own society has desperate poverty. America has led the charge on this, with dizzying extremes of wealth and poverty. Admittedly being an impoverished bum in the USA is probably much better than being a starving African peasant.

    Maybe this just has to play out. If so, it’s going to take a loooong time to lift the average wage in Ethiopia and drop it in Europe, until they are actually equal. I highly doubt that it’s really what most people in the developed world want, but they are unaware of the problem, I think, because they consider their pay rates to be fair, by virtue of their superiority to third world workers. They don’t know how low it can really go.

    I’m still waiting to hear of the model that can work differently. In the past, I’d have said that a powerful industrial complex should mean developed nations can produce more, cheaper, to remain competitive. But these complexes are fully transportable. And the labour is totally transportable, indeed there’s a steady stream of cheap labour always seeking to relocated into the developed world. In my own business, software, there’s no physical complex at all, so I’m competing directly with indian labour right now.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — November 30, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

  28. The majority of people vote along purely tribal lines. That’s why the whole red vs blue thing is so entrenched across the Western world. It’s also why those on the left still talk about “Tories” even tho’ the Tory party hasn’t existed since 1832.

    You can even see the tribalism extend to the “red” and “blue” blogs Public Address and Kiwiblog. You have to sign up and submit to the authority of the tribal chiefs before you can express an opinion. It’s also why you see Russell use the term “people like us” from time to time.

    Comment by R Singers — November 30, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

  29. 1) Unions are now more likely to be viewed as promoting the interests of a special few rather than the average worker (especially public sector unions WRT gold plated pension packages)
    2) The EU – flash buildings, big budgets, lavish salaries and perks, paid for by EU taxpayers who just keep getting shafted
    3) The UN – (see 2)
    4) (specific to NZ) National sits to the left of Obama

    Comment by Fielding Norris — November 30, 2011 @ 4:08 pm

  30. I should add 5) The world hasn’t warmed enough in recent years for the masses to believe that only more taxes can save the world

    Comment by Fielding Norris — November 30, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

  31. >You can even see the tribalism extend to the “red” and “blue” blogs Public Address and Kiwiblog.

    If you go to the Democracy Night thread, you’ll notice that Public Address is apparently a Green site. I don’t know who the main independent Red blog is. The Standard?

    Comment by Ben Wilson — November 30, 2011 @ 4:26 pm

  32. “people vote based on their ‘back pocket’”
    …except for the people who didn’t vote.

    Comment by Roger Parkinson (@RogerParkinson) — November 30, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

  33. >“people vote based on their ‘back pocket’”
    …except for the people who didn’t vote.

    I think they’re often the MOST aligned with their back pocket – they just got offered nothing, and many have the “rational voters paradox” afflicting them – their tiny proportion of the vote isn’t even worth the gas to drive them to the polling booth.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — November 30, 2011 @ 4:40 pm

  34. @Ben Wilson I stopped paying much attention to Public Address years ago so you’re probably right. But then again the Greens are more red than ecologically-green most of the time. And there’s only so much you can do with a one dimensional paradigm for rating political systems :-)

    Comment by R Singers — November 30, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

  35. >But then again the Greens are more red than ecologically-green most of the time.

    Times, they are a-changing.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — November 30, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

  36. True, we could be like the bees, ants and the Soviet Union: treat the majority of the population as drones and most of the rest as soldiers? I guess everyone’s basic needs could be met. Mostly.

    probably bit too much of a genetic cap to (d)evolve into ants. Elephants, maybe.

    Comment by NeilM — November 30, 2011 @ 5:41 pm

  37. the economic models of the right are demonstrably flawed and morally bankrupt,

    Can’t you be more specific with your economic models of the “right”? How do you define “right”? Name a specific economic model. Maybe your first mistake is adhering to irrational one dimensional dichotomy:

    The terms are largely arbitrary. They can mean anything or nothing, and often do. What is “left” to you may be “right” to me, or to my grandpa, or to a person in another state or country or in a different language….

    At the root of this confusion is the very concept of an aggregated, one-dimensional left-right spectrum of positions itself. It is inanely childish, an oversimplification to the point of being worse than nothing. (Worse because it creates artificial division, confusion, groupthink, etc.) If it were an accurate representation of the differences between human positions on the sociopolitical world, imagine the epiphanic moment of its discovery: “My God! A line!”….

    With regards to the substance of sociopolitical positions, political spectra in general and the “left” vs. “right” dichotomy in particular are non-concepts. They add absolutely nothing to the discussion. They distract and confuse everything, turning a means-ends discussion into a signalling battle of personal identities and group loyalties… and in a perfect world they would have been abandoned long ago.

    Perhaps what you mean in the free market. Then one might say look at the indices of economic freedom and similar systematic analyses that clearly demonstrate the positive link between economic freedom and higher income and the alleviation of poverty. Economic freedom correlates positively with a higher income level for the poorest ten percent, with higher women’s income and human development. The evidence that shows that poverty reduction is closely associated with institutions and policies consistent with economic freedom and indicators of economic freedom such as openness to trade and small size of the government are robustly associated with poverty reduction in developing nations. You could look at specific cases of free market reforms (China, India, Hong Kong, South Korea, etc) which have resulted in the fastest elimination of poverty in human history. For the reverse see the numerous examples of societies that became significantly more statist and implemented state socialist economic policies (Cambodia, North Korea, Somalia under the Barre regime, other past Marxist-Leninist African regimes e.g., Benin, Ethiopia and of course the Soviet states) and the human misery that resulted from such experiments.

    Perhaps it is because parties like for instance the Green Party in Britain come up truly awful policies that would clearly destroy their economy in short order that people don’t really trust their economic judgement.

    Comment by Quoth the Raven — November 30, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

  38. “I’m not sure I agree with that statement – left wing parties seem to be relevant in many countries. I hear there’s a left wing government in Australia…”

    You have the same problem as Danyl. Your definition of “left” is warped. ALP is NOT left wing!

    Comment by K2 — November 30, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

  39. “Elephants, maybe.”

    yeah, but elephants (indeed most animals other than humans and perhaps pathogens) don’t ever seem to get ahead in life, they don’t see an improvement in their living standards from year to year or generation to generation. Once you are happy to walk away from ongoing improvements in lifestyle, then I guess you are happy to walk away from the human capitalist system.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — November 30, 2011 @ 6:55 pm

  40. Left is an ambiguous term, but, at least under Rudd, the ALP were offering something easily distinguishable from the neoliberal orthodoxy. Not so much under Gillard, which I guess is the point.

    Comment by bradluen — November 30, 2011 @ 6:59 pm

  41. >The success/failure of parties of the (slightly) left/right has more to do with local electoral cycles and incumbency-longevity than any global ideological picture.

    Politics certainly is cyclical. But the cycles aren’t totally regular, and can for long periods lean in one direction or the other. So instead of 6 years in 6 years out, you can get 9 in 6 out, or even 1 in 9 out (Rowling vs Muldoon). NZ has been under sustained neoliberal pressure for nearly 30 years now. This was set up by the fact that the supposed left-wing party started it. That effect has lasted to this day – I have never lived as an adult in a non-neoliberal NZ, and I just turned 40. It was a real fucking shock to me when I lived in Ozzie for 5 years to find that their Liberal party was economically to the left of our Labour party. I was paying over 50% of what I earned in various taxes, levies, and the super scheme. It didn’t do the Australian economy any harm, and it didn’t really do me any harm either – I accumulated quite a big pile in my super fund.

    But gradually, Oz pulled to the right, during the loooong Howard incumbency.

    Socially, Oz is more right wing, though, then and now.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — November 30, 2011 @ 7:14 pm

  42. Ben – It was the Australian Labor governments which preceded Howard, the Hawke/Keating governments, which deregulated banking, privatised state assets, ended centralised wage fixing, lowered tariffs and all the rest of the “neo-liberal” reforms. What major reforms did the Howard government bring in?

    Comment by Quoth the Raven — November 30, 2011 @ 7:39 pm

  43. Hi Danyl,

    The evidence from political science seems to suggest that for *some* voters the economy matters. When it matters it tends to matter retrospectively (i.e what happened in the last term of govt x; not what they think’s going to happen in the next term), and it seems to matter generally more than specifically (i.e. people are more likely to choose who to vote for based on the overall employment rate, rather than whether they’re employed or not).

    Moreover, most voters tend to vote on basic economic performance rather than the credibility or not of particular models, with impact being predominantly that when the economy’s performing poorly voters are more likely to vote the incumbents out, regardless of whether the incumbents are left or right wing, fabians or neo-liberals.

    So, to answer your question, Labour’s problem here is that the economy isn’t the only thing people vote on. The Socialist’s problem in Spain is that the country’s economic performance is dire enough to make it a major issue and voters aren’t pondering the viability of particular models – they’re simply angry with the present situation. Similarly, in the US Obama’s problem is probably predominantly unemployment. In Australia, the problems of the left seem to be more of political economy — the govt there has picked fights (rightly in my opinion) with some very powerful interests and possibly also some more fundamental issues within the ALP, as well as ‘social’ issues such as migration, which appear to be perennial fodder for the conservative scare machine.

    Comment by terence — November 30, 2011 @ 9:05 pm

  44. Horizon Polling collect a lot of information when you sign up as a member. The information collected could be an interesting basis for finding out why each voter votes as they do. Self interest, idealism, status, obedience, ignorance. What a great research project that would be. But of course what a dangerous weapon that knowledge would be in the hands of unscrupulous politicians.
    Hey! Perhaps it is such knowledge collected from focus groups for instance being used against us now? Including what levers to pull to get voters to not vote.

    Comment by xianmac — November 30, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

  45. I’m no political scientist like the bulk of your readers but the answer is pretty straight forward.

    In recession workers vote with fear of losing money. In good times voters have confidence so vote to make the lives of others better.

    That doesn’t explain the fact that National got the same amount of votes as 2008. What’s different is how everyone else voted or didn’t.

    That also doesn’t explain left wing govt in Aussie.

    Maybe it’s just cyclic.

    Comment by Myles Thomas — November 30, 2011 @ 10:00 pm

  46. Very simply it is my opinion, and obviously (can’t argue with the most representative poll there is – an election) the majority of voters think the only “demonstrably flawed and morally bankrupt” economic polices are those of the left. Name 1 country that has adopted truly socialist policies that have been successful? The fall of communism and the failed economies of southern Europe (fairly socialist France being next) has shown that voting/stealing money out of an ever decreasing amount of ‘rich’ people’s pockets to give away does not work. Neither do economic bubble economies like Ireland or Iceland, so the the ‘right’ doesn’t hold the moral high-ground.

    It is my considered opinion that the “left” want is the:
    – closeness and sharing of the small isolated village, but without the nastiness and enforced conformism it has to have to survive in the long term.
    – all the benefits of a global economy, it’s tolerance of individualism, the technology and cheap consumer goods, while trying to ignore that that prevents the small village closeness, thus allowing free loaders to exist in large numbers.

    Frankly, at least 50% of those that voted do not think the right is morally flawed – I am one of them – and most think quite the reverse, but they also don’t see the left as morally flawed either. Most of the voters see their voting decision as the choice between two possible options that are neither moral/immoral, good/evil just as two different approaches, like taking a cab or a shuttle to the airport. So unless the political activists on left are able to act like adults and see things in terms of this spectrum of possible solutions, not as the immature teenager’s black/white view of the world with it’s “moral good” vs. “immoral evil” [now I lump those on the 'right' with the same attitude as equally immature] I doubt, you and any other political activist will ever understand why your “message” is not being understood. Basically my premise the message often exclaimed by the Right or Left, [or "insert politician/policy of choice here"] – i.e. the end of the world as we know it – unmitigated evil – soul destroying [or other hyperbole] – is too simplistic, and is treated by most voters as they treat a child tantrum when they don’t get what they want.

    Better for the message, which I personally think the Green’s do very well, to be – “we are are proposing this solution, which we see as being better than the alternatives, for these reasons…” Adults are capable of putting others before themselves, but most dislike being told that if they do not choose to vote fo you they must be ‘baby-eater, benefit bashing, immoral, etc…” Reason not hyperbole will win you far more voters – something I think the Green’s are learning, and have shown to be doing well.

    Comment by Stephen — December 1, 2011 @ 7:54 am

  47. Quoth the Raven, there were many highly right wing moves under Howard:

    *The ten point plan limiting the Wik Decision
    *Introducing GST and dropping income taxes
    *Huge spending cuts
    *Privatisation of Telstra
    *Openly opposing moves to become a republic prior to the referendum
    *Resolute refusal to symbolically apologize to the Aboriginals for their near genocidal fate
    *Refusal of asylum to Tampa refugees
    *Unwavering support for the American wars in the Gulf
    *The creation of giant detention centers for refugees

    I don’t deny that Labour also moved to the economic right. But it was much slower and later than NZ. Keating was responsible for the highly progressive introduction of the super savings scheme there that has formed the backbone of their powerful stockmarket penetration into the wider population. Nearly every Ozzie owns shares of some kind. I own a bunch of Ozzie shares myself, by virtue of being forced into their scheme when I worked there for 5 years.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — December 1, 2011 @ 10:15 am

  48. Name 1 country that has adopted truly socialist policies that have been successful?

    Sweden.

    Comment by Gregor W — December 1, 2011 @ 10:21 am

  49. @ Gregor W

    No… Not Sweden, socialism has been rejected there. They had a ‘right-wing’ government for 4 years and likely the next 4 years as well, from the BBC:

    Sweden narrowly re-elects centre-right alliance

    PM Fredrik Reinfeldt greets supporters PM Fredrik Reinfeldt says he will not make a deal with the far-right Sweden Democrats Sweden’s governing centre-right alliance has been re-elected, but is short of an overall majority, official preliminary results show show PM Fredrik Reinfeldt’s four-party coalition won 173 seats out of 349 in parliament.

    The far-right Sweden Democrats are said to have gained more than 4% of the vote, enabling them to enter parliament for the first time. Mr Reinfeldt declared victory and said he would seek support from the Greens.

    The Greens are currently allied with the centre-left Social-Democrats. Green Party spokeswoman Maria Wetterstrand said the opposition bloc remained united.

    Social Democratic leader Mona Sahlin has conceded defeat.

    Comment by Stephen — December 1, 2011 @ 11:48 am

  50. there is a theory that most people don’t vote based on self-interest at all – they vote for whichever party they think is most in touch with reality. This means in practice that they vote for the party whose world-view is most similar to their own. If this is the case, the fact that people often do vote for the party that sticks up for their self-interest is just because people’s self-interest often affects their world-view, because everyone wants to believe that they are good and deserving.

    George Lakoff wrote a book about this (‘Don’t Think of an Elephant’), in which he described voters’ ideas of how a country works in terms of traditional ideas of how a family works.

    Comment by Kahikatea — December 1, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

  51. @ Stephen

    No… Not Sweden, socialism has been rejected there.

    For arguments sake, lets modify your premise.
    “Name 1 country that has adopted truly policies that have been successful?

    Over time, all policies are ‘rejected’ as a result of the cyclical nature of politics.

    So while electoral socialism may have been rejected relatively recently (given the project has been going since the 70s I think in Sweden?), social-democratic institutions remain heavily entrenched. I would mark that as a success.

    Comment by Gregor W — December 1, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

  52. Stephen wrote: “No… Not Sweden, socialism has been rejected there. They had a ‘right-wing’ government for 4 years and likely the next 4 years as well, from the BBC:”

    That doesn’t change the fact that Sweden has pursued more socialist policies than most other countries over the past century, and has done quite well on both economic and social indicators. And even their current government is only right-wing by Swedish standards, not by world standards.

    Comment by Kahikatea — December 1, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

  53. sorry, that should read:

    “Name 1 country that has adopted truly policies that have been successful?

    Comment by Gregor W — December 1, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

  54. fucking html

    “Name 1 country that has adopted truly insert ideology here policies that have been successful?”

    Comment by Gregor W — December 1, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

  55. Ben – The arguments above show the vacuity of the left-right spectrum. One person says the ALP is “left wing” another insists it is “right wing”. One person says Sweden’s current government is “right wing” another says it isn’t by world standards. This merely emphasizes the point above that “The terms are largely arbitrary. They can mean anything or nothing, and often do. What is “left” to you may be “right” to me, or to my grandpa, or to a person in another state or country or in a different language….”. So whether the Howard government was “right wing” to me is a hollow question. My point is that the neo-liberal reforms of the Hawke-Keating governments in Australia if contrasted with the Howard government make the latter pale by comparison.

    As to your specific points I don’t see the relevance of many them. Opposing becoming a republic isn’t a reform it’s the opposite. The refusal of asylum to Tampa refugees and the creation of detention centres maybe “right wing” to you it maybe “leftist” to another, but in terms of neo-liberalism what is it? It is most certainly not free market which upholds the right of the free movement of labour. The substantive points are those on tax, the privatisation of telstra and government spending. On the latter government spending in real terms in 2006 dollars grew from $174.7 billion in 97/98 to $264.1 billion in 07/08. According to the Australian Treasury “Excluding GST payments to the State and Territory governments, real government spending has grown faster in the period from 2004-05 to 2007-08 than in any other four-year period since the 1990s recession.” As a percentage of GDP it declined however the report said “Australia’s recent terms of trade increases have led to a significant rise in nominal GDP, reducing the effectiveness of the spending to GDP ratio as a measure of government resource use”.They conclude that “Despite cyclical savings in spending, total government spending has grown significantly over the past decade and in particular since 2004-05. Much of this growth may reflect the strong fiscal outlook.” So wherever you see the truth lying there it is difficult how anyone can see “huge spending cuts” in it.

    Comment by Quoth the Raven — December 1, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

  56. why are left-wing political parties the developed world over struggling to remain relevant?

    because communism failed.

    Comment by pollywog — December 1, 2011 @ 9:57 pm

  57. Too much competition for the so called centre leaves a lot of people marginalized.

    Too much competition for the so called centre leaves a lot of people muddled.

    The use of terms like “left” and “right” are now meaningless and irrelevant.

    Political parties are going to have to spell out what they intend to do rather than rely on vague “policy” positions pushing
    emotional left right buttons.

    MMP has its faults but the one great virtue it has it that it forces parties to be honest, (less devious, might be a better phrase. remember Prebble’s “Save Rail” slogan under FPP?).

    National always said it would go easy in its first term, not strictly true, but assorted spin doctors and besotted “political commentators”
    have certainly helped their cause.

    Certainly National have pleased the very wealthy and gouged the poor with their tax fiddling.
    This appears to be more on ideological grounds rather than reality (it probably repaid wealthy backers who bank rolled National’s campaigns.)

    The very existence of a variety of political parties exposes the irrelevance of “right” and “left” rhetoric.

    It is not just “back pocket” or “wallet ” politics that govern voter behaviour.
    Real people in the real world have values other than those espoused by Economics 101 text books.

    “Right” or ” Left” is irrelevant. What we want as a society matters.

    We need truthful politicians to start with.

    Now that is problematic.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — December 1, 2011 @ 10:19 pm

  58. POSTSCRIPT to 57.

    I meant to add that our 3 year term is not helpful to political parties or governments.

    A 4 year term would add some sanity to our situation.

    A 5 year term could be excruciating.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — December 1, 2011 @ 10:25 pm


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