Politics is partly about opinions and persuading others to vote for those opinions, but it is much more about truth. In an election we are faced with a choice between Labour and the Conservative parties. Each puts forward a set of policies and personalities and the voters choose between them. It’s partly a matter of taste. Do you prefer the Left to the Right? But much more importantly its about the truth. Which policies actually will lead to this or that outcome and which will not?
The same of course goes for Scotland. The SNP puts forward at each election a vision of what Scotland would be like if only we voted for independence. But while this might seem to be a matter of opinion, there is a fact of the matter, there is a truth of what would happen.
There is a tendency in politics to try to please everybody or at least as many voters as possible. It is this tendency that sees political opinion grouped in the centre.
Labour has moved back towards the centre with Keir Starmer being a sort of duller Tony Blair. But many Labour voters and MPs still believe in socialism. They prefer public ownership to private enterprise. They distrust the market. Their instinct is always to increase public spending rather than lower it. But Labour knows that it will struggle to win an election with an honest socialist manifesto, so it is toned down, made more palatable and more moderate.
But what matters is the truth of whether socialism will lead to economic prosperity. You can call it social democracy, or democratic socialism or something else, but will increasing the size of the state make Britain wealthier or not?
The same goes for the Conservatives. Free market economics is unpalatable to the electorate. British voters like free things. They like ever higher public spending on their beloved NHS. Whenever something goes wrong, they want to be bailed out by Nanny. So, Conservatives always move to the centre too.
We end up with a choice between watered down socialism and watered down free markets or in Scotland watered down independence (i.e. devolution).
While crowding round the centre and adopting each other’s policies may make sense politically, because the task is to persuade voters that your opinion is palatable, it only works long term if your opinion is true.
You can give voters what they want, you can increase public spending and pay them to stay at home. You can give them free meals and free beer and they will love you for a while, but if you make them poorer by doing this, they will kick you out no matter that they once loved you.
Socialism is a theory that has been tested to destruction. It is contrary to human nature and contrary to the natural way in which we conduct business with each other. People have traded with each other since time began in order to make a profit for themselves. They have worked to help themselves and their families, not for people they have never met. Our goal has always been success for ourselves and our families. We have never worked for equality with strangers.
But we are attracted to the idea of equality. It makes us feel good, noble and virtuous and so we keep giving socialism a chance. But if socialism is contrary to human nature, then watered down socialism will also be contrary to human nature. It won’t work as badly as socialism proper, but neither will it work well, because it is contrary to the natural economics of barter and exchange.
Everywhere in the world where there are genuine free markets without corruption there is an increase in prosperity. Trade may be selfish, but it benefits both the seller and the buyer.
What this means is that theoretically if you could only arrange society to allow the freest possible markets you would have the most prosperity.
At the heart of Conservatism is an economic theory that goes back to the beginning of time, which has always worked. But Conservatives never quite dare to introduce it. Conservative Governments invariably spend far too much trying to please the British public who are socialists at heart. This means that we end up with public services that are mediocre and inefficient. We don’t allow the market to determine wages, but rather set a minimum wage and we never do what we could do to make Britain more profitable, because it would in the short term be unpopular.
The choice then is between a true theory (laissez faire capitalism), that has been tried and tested for centuries, except we don’t dare to fully try it and a false theory (socialism) which remains false even if it is mixed with a bit of capitalism.
The task is to shrink the size of the state and lower public spending to around 30% of GDP. Having lowered public spending, it will be possible to lower taxes. People will then work harder, earn more and spend more.
People are not naturally idle, but if you give them enough to live for free then they may forget that they are naturally capitalists. It is necessary therefore to encourage them to cease to be idle, while looking after those who genuinely cannot earn for themselves.
Brexit will theoretically make Britain richer, because the EU is a protectionist organisation and leaving it ought to enable Britain to make more free trade deals around the world than we lost by leaving the Single Market. But it will only work if we are willing to undercut the EU and make it cheaper to do business here than there. Naturally the EU wants to stop us doing this, the folly is that we have allowed them to.
Some argue that picking a Tory moderate would enable the Conservatives to appeal to Lib Dems and Labour voters. It might. But at the cost of being wrong. Free market capitalism would make Britain richer, imitating the Lib Dems and Labour would make us poorer because these parties essentially want to make markets less free. That is what Government spending the profits of capitalism does. Leave capitalists, i.e., us to spend our own money.
The EU with its rules and regulations and its social charter and its protectionism that stops French farmers facing competition is a grand social democratic theory that has sent its member states into gradual decline. Leaving it is the equivalent of Thatcher’s revolution in 1979, but only if we have the courage to take advantage of the opportunity.
Just as Thatcher was able to move us decisively away from the failed experiment of nationalisation and rule by the trade unions so there is a chance to make Britain genuinely less protectionist and freer economically. This will work, but it needs time and the courage to do what is necessary even if it is in the short term unpopular. Cutting public spending will hurt some people and the Labour supporting media will go crazy.
But the prize is this. Ten years from now Britain could be much richer. Just as we were much richer in 1990 than in 1979. By following truly right-wing free market thinking, we could pull ahead of the EU and in doing so destroy by means of prosperity the SNP’s dream of breaking up Britain. If the EU were worse off than the UK then the SNP would be homeless. If you make the UK prosperous enough no one will want to leave.
Perhaps just perhaps Liz Truss has the guts to do this. Rishi Sunak by contrast as chancellor spent more than Jeremy Corbyn planned to do.
This posted was originally published by the author on her personal blog: https://www.effiedeans.com/2022/07/in-liz-we-trusst.html