Friday, May 22, 2015

One Hundred Years Ago....

Some time in the last millennium, just after t.c Blair had become Prime Minister, I wrote the following. It is worth re-reading, because absolutely nothing in it still applies today. 

If I wrote it now, I might say that the Red Party supported "sharing" or "fairness" rather than "equality". I might also push the idea that the Red and the Blue are rather like Moorcock's Lords of Order and Chaos: both sides can look like "goodies" and both sides can look like "baddies" but the really important thing is that neither side ever be allowed to gain the upper hand. I suppose that means Vince Cable is the Cosmic Balance and Nick Clegg is Elric.

I thank Mike Taylor for reminding me of this piece. Go read his blog . His stuff on the election is better than mine. It contains facts and evidence and everything. (He also wrote a good thing about Doctor Who.)

British Politics Explained

Once upon a time, there were three political parties; a big party, a medium party, and a little baby party, which, due to the vagaries of the first past the post system, stood no chance of getting elected and can be ignored for the purposes of this discussion.

The other two parties, let's call them The Red Party and The Blue Party, had different points of view from each other. (That was why they were different parties.)
The Red Party said, 'We believe in Equality, in particular Economic Equality. We think that the Poor should be a bit Richer, and the Rich should be a bit Poorer. We are prepared to sacrifice a bit of Freedom in order to bring that about.'
The Blue Party said, 'We believe in Freedom. We think that people should be as far as possible be left alone and allowed to do whatever they like, and we are prepared to sacrifice a great deal of Equality in order to bring that about.'
They often had quite sensible discussions around this point.
The Blue Party would say 'But if I have sufficient wealth to live on, why am I necessarily harmed by someone else being richer than me? And since the very rich often pay wages to the very poor, won't taking money off the rich have a long term effect of making they poor even poorer?'
But The Red Party replied 'But since your capacity to do what you want is very largely defined by how much money your have, the very poor are, in fact, not Free: Freedom at the expense of Equality is self defeating.'
There were a small number of people in The Red Party who said, 'What we want is total Equality! Everyone should have the same amount of money as everyone else! Nationalise the banks! Eat the rich!' and a small number of people in The Blue Party who said, 'What we want is total Freedom! The state should not interfere with people at all! Everyone is Free to own guns! No taxation at all! Society does not exist!' But everyone ignored them.
One day, there was an election. For some reason…I don't know, let's make something up…say, because the leader of The Red Party had red hair, or was bald, or wore a shabby coat in church, something like that…but anyway, The Blue Party won the election, and set about trying to make the country more Free but less Equal.
All the bad, wicked institutions which The Red Party had set up in order to make people more Equal, like trades unions, nationalized industries, comprehensive schools, railways, laws, the health service, etc, were abolished or run down, and clever new words like 'competition' and 'entrepreneur' were invented to make it all right to be very greedy. Sure enough, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.
After about a hundred years, the leader of the Red Party got a haircut and bought a smart new suit, and the leader of the Blue Party got old, went mad and turned grey. So The Red Party was allowed to win an election.
But, once he was safely sworn in as President, the leader of The Red Party admitted that he now agreed with the Blue Party about absolutely everything. No one was quite sure how that had happened. Perhaps the leader of The Blue Party put a spell on him, or perhaps he made a pact with the devil. Or perhaps The Blue Party won him over because it had much cleverer arguments; or perhaps it was just that so many people in The Red Party had done well under The Blue Party, and acquired lattes and television sets and didn't want to give them up.
This left the leader of The Red Party in a bit of a quandary. He could no longer have arguments with the leader of The Blue Party about Freedom versus Equality, because they both now agreed with each other that Freedom was more important. They disagreed about European Integration and Fox Hunting, but when they talked about that, everyone fell asleep.
But from time to time, wicked people asked the leader of The Red Party what he believed in. First, he just said 'Look' and 'You know', but they asked him again.
Next he tried listing lots of numbers. Some of them were almost true, like 'Our school children are the best in the world', (provided you didn't ask what 'best' meant, and who decided). But some of them were a load of old codswallop, like 'The rate at which crime is increasing is speeding up more slowly.' But it didn't make much difference, because when he used numbers, everyone fell asleep.
So instead, when people asked him what he believed in, he said that he believed in Goodness; or, when pressed, in Fairness and Social Justice. (When he was asked if he believed in God, he squirmed, and looked embarrassed, and said 'Look' and 'You know' so much that people took pity on him and didn't ask him any more.) He said that these had always been the Values of the Red Party, and very good Values they were too; but that all that talk about Equality was horribly out of date and not Modern. And in any case, by Equality, they had never meant Economic Equality, which meant everyone having the same amount of money as everyone else. They had always meant Equality of Opportunity, which meant everyone being Free to make as much money as they wanted to all by themselves. 
Most people listening drew the conclusion that, since the Red Party was the party which believed in Goodness and Fairness and Social Justice, the Blue Party must be the party which believed in Wickedness and Unfairness and Injustice: because otherwise, why would there be two parties at all?
So all the Good people voted for the Red Party, and the Red Party changed its name to the Good Party, and the Blue Party changed its name to the Bad Party and, after having some drinks and insulting a few black people, they disbanded. So the Good Party was allowed to do anything it liked, and everyone and everyone lived happily ever, after apart from the poor, who never voted anyway.

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