Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The F Word

"Fiscal". As in "fiscally responsible". Or "fiscally conservative".

It is a longstanding argument of mine that those who define themselves as in those terms are not, and cannot be, moral, social and cultural conservatives, nor can they be patriots. But more than that needs to be said. They are not in fact fiscally responsible, either. Privatisation, globalisation, deregulation and demutualisation have turned out, in the most spectacular fashion, to be anything but fiscally responsible. The same is true of a generation of scorn for full employment, leading to the massively increased benefit dependency of the 1980s and the institutionalisation of that mass indolence down to the present day.

The transfer of huge sums of public money to ostensibly private, but entirely risk-free, companies in order to run schools, hospitals, railways, rubbish collections, and so many other things: is that fiscally responsible? Bailing out the City at all, never mind so that it can carry on paying the same salaries and bonuses as before: is that fiscally responsible? Even leaving aside more rarefied academic pursuits, is it fiscally responsible to allow primary education, or healthcare, or public transport, or social housing to fall apart? Is that good for business?

Will it be fiscally responsible to allow the private health insurance companies to charge the American taxpayer whatever they like, because the absence of a public option or a single-payer system was the price of the votes of Blue Dogs who still voted against the Bill anyway and of wavering Republicans who turned out not to exist at all? Would it have been fiscally responsible for Tony Blair and Patricia Hewitt to allow accountancy firms to sell the very services that they were also paid to audit? Would it have been fiscally responsible for Tony Blair and Patricia Hewitt to limit those auditors' liability if and when they signed off dishonest accounts, a move only blocked by the intervention of the Bush Administration - yes, the Bush Administration? Are wars of aggression fiscally responsible? Are military-industrial complexes?

And what of the term "fiscally conservative"? The definition of politics in terms of economics is called Marxism. Anything economic, including anything fiscal, is conservative insofar as, but only insofar as, it conserves, for example, national self-government, the only basis for international co-operation, and including the United Kingdom as greater than the sum of its parts. Or local variation, historical consciousness, family life (founded on the marital union of one man and one woman), and the whole Biblical and Classical patrimony of the West. Or agriculture, manufacturing, and small business.

Or close-knit communities, law and order, civil liberties, academic standards, and all forms of art. Or mass political participation within a constitutional framework, the age-old Tory cry of "King and People" against the Whig magnates. Or respect for the absolute sanctity of each individual human life from the point of fertilisation to the point of natural death. Or the constitutional and other ties among the Realms and Territories having the British monarch as Head of State (or other such constitutional links), the status of the English language and the rights of its speakers both throughout the United Kingdom and elsewhere, and the rights of British-descended communities throughout the world. Or, indeed, sound money, and a strong defence capability used as sparingly as possible, only ever to its properly defensive purpose, and always within a rigorous framework of parliamentary and wider accountability.

We see the full, horrific effects on each and all of these of privatisation, globalisation, deregulation and demutualisation. Of the mass benefit dependency that is the absence of full employment. Of PFIs, PPPs and the like. Of collapsing or collapsed public services. Of morally and socially disruptive wars, with their engendering of Baby Booms, and with their creation of new enemies and their entrenchment of old ones for lucrative, anti-constitutional, anti-democratic future reference. Not by coincidence have those who have insisted on a Healthcare Bill without the public option also insisted on a Healthcare Bill with less protection for the child in the womb. In the same spirit did Margaret Thatcher give Britain abortion up to birth, entirely of a piece with the rest of her legacy, which is of unconservative irresponsibility, fiscal as much as every other kind.


  1. Fantastic post, really can't add anything myself, you said it all. The only thing I will mention is watch out for calls for massive austerity in the industrialized states if things don't get better soon.

    A lot of "conservatives" especially in the U.S. (can't speak for other countries) will undoubtedly cheer it on in the name of "fiscal conservatism" and "small government" even while the austerity is applied to things that actually help people like public employment, pensions, health care, etc., while leaving intact the more onerous aspects of statism, like corporate welfare and the surveillance state.

    And to think all of this could have been avoided had we never dumped proper social democracy ("New Dealism" in U.S. terms).

  2. "The definition of politics in terms of economics is called Marxism."

    If you say so, the rest of us use the term political economy.

  3. Speak for yourself.

    But you do an illustrate an important point: the assumed priority of economics, really only a matter of means (and not the only means) to higher ends, is now presupposed even by people who think that they are conservatives. They are not. They are Marxists.

    And they are only half-baked Marxists, at that. Proper ones are fully open to quite different means, and have preferred them for some years now.

    However, the "free" market is nevertheless a very serviceable weapon in their armoury for destroying the family, private property, and the State.

    So, alongside all their other such weapons (social, cultural, constitutional), they use it as such. To only too devastating effect.

  4. "all forms of art"

    Really, you are against censorship and in favour of the Obscene Publications Act, 1959? Surely not!

    "Of morally and socially disruptive wars, with their engendering of Baby Booms."

    At the end of the last world war about a third of births were illegitimate and a few years earlier (late thirties) thirty percent of marriages were 'gun shot' - in other words occurred because of pregnancy. (See Ross McKibbin's "Classes and Cultures: England 1918-1951" if you need confirmation.) Nothing new about 'immorality' since the 1960s, just people's attitudes matching behaviour - and contraception reducing unwanted pregnancies. You object to "powerful drugs" in that sphere, but are silent when they are used for altering other medical situations. Why?

  5. The material to which you refer is not art.

    The Baby Boom and the (later) explosion in illegitimacy are two different things.

    And a chemical which stops the body from working properly, from doing exactly what it is supposed to, is not a medicine, but the very reverse. That is why such recreational drugs are not free in any country except this one.