Election 2017: Back to Basics?

This year was supposed to be the ‘Brexit election’ with the issue of the EU dominating every campaign leaflet, TV debate and radio interview.

Rather surprisingly Brexit has taken a backseat to more routine issues of debate such as the economy and health care.

In the run up to this election pollsters and pundits alike were eager to stress that the new battle lines would be nationalism versus globalism. Recently pitched as ‘anywhere versus somewhere’. Although I am certain that leaving the EU will influence the election this divide is not as prominent as many thought it would be.

Everyone is keen on the idea that there is a definite identity issue around Brexit. Similarly, in the years preceding this election ‘identity politics’ looked like it would take centre stage in any future political struggles. Particularly in America but also over here in Britain

Indeed Hilary Clinton’s whole campaign seemed to be pitched along identity lines- aimed at women, African Americans and Latinos. However as we now know the politics of identity was not a massive vote winner for Hilary.

Despite assertions that a different kind of discourse is redefining our political nexus I have heard very little about it recently. In fact when you read the Labour Manifesto there is remarkably little concerning ethnic minorities. >

The Labour slogan ‘for the many not the few’ adequately summarises Mr Corbyn’s campaign. He is running on an old fashioned Marxist platform. His key issues are a more distributionist economic system, living standards and the quality of public services. It is not until the penultimate chapter in their manifesto that the Labour party specifically addresses equality for minorities.

Whether this absence of identity issues in politics is an interlude or a permanent state of affairs is uncertain. I will also leave the reader to make up their own mind as to whether black lives matter, the new feminism and the LGBT movement constitute positive or negative forces in politics. I am merely noting the absence of these forces from our current debate.

Regardless of how this election pans out the contour lines or British politics are shifting somewhat. The extent to which this change will demolish older more established divisions is difficult to tell.


  1. Yes Mr Lee – Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are Marxists and are running on a “fair shares” agenda.

    And it is a popular agenda – thus showing that the brainwashing of the public by the education system and the media (especially the entertainment media – with its endless attacks on “the rich” and “big business”) at least partly works.

    Of course the rule of Corbyn and co would end in starvation – but the left have such power over the cultural discourse that many people do not see (or do not care) about that. The egalitarian agenda is just “morally right” – no matter how many people die because of it.

    Even if the Marxists are defeated next week – they will be back in 2022 (and stronger – due to the collapse of the Credit Bubble economy that is bound to occur at some point) I fear our civilisation is doomed, the left (the “fair shares” brigade) have such a stranglehold on moral thought.

    As you know F.A. Hayek traced this back to human evolution in hunter-gather packs – our very instincts are socialist (they are those of the “fair shares” pack), only by reason can we rise above our savage instincts.

    Rather oddly Hayek was rather negative about reason (even denying Free Will – moral personhood, agency). Hayek did not seem to see that his own philosophical position (the determinism he had been taught in Vienna) would make socialism inevitable – as we would have no Free Will to CHOOSE to do other than we do, no way to REJECT what our instincts tell us to do. No way to prevent falling back into the savage hunter-gatherer pack.

    Like his hero David Hume – Hayek stressed custom and habit (which he formalised as “cultural evolution”), but custom and habit are like a house of straw when hit by the hurricane of instinct (of our savage, bestial, instincts) – only moral reason (free will – the very thing Hayek denied) gives us any hope of, with real effort, resisting the power of evil.

    The view of humans presented by Thomas Hobbes and David Hume (or F.A. Hayek) makes humans non-beings – machines or brute beasts rather than moral agents. It denies the “I” not only in the religious sense, but also in the non religious philosophical sense of such common sense philosophers as Aristotle and Alexander or Aphrodisias (see his “On Fate”) and such Common Sense (capital letters this time) philosophers as Thomas Reid (the real Scottish Enlightenment – David Hume being the arch OPPONENT of the Scottish Enlightenment) and James McCosh, going on to Sir William David Ross and Harold Prichard of the 20th century Oxford Realists (in their own way Tolkien and C,S. Lewis take the same position on moral reason – on human agency, free will).

    The denial of human personhood (the agent – the “I”, free will) is found in too many conservatives – people who who look back to David Hume, or even the open supporter of despotic tyranny Thomas Hobbes, rather than to Dr Johnson and Edmund Burke, and such an anti free will view of what people are would make the victory of collectivism inevitable.

    The “people” presented by Thomas Hobbes, David Hume and (yes) Jeremy Bentham and his followers are not persons – they have no moral reason, no real agency (free will) their actions are predetermined like machines. How would it matter if the socialists did starve such vile non-beings to death?



  2. Britain was a very traditional society till at least World War II – in many ways it was a traditional society up to the 1960s. The same is true of the United States.

    Yet in this traditional society, dominated by habit-custom-tradition, the size and scope of government exploded from at least the 1870s onwards in the United Kingdom. And the traditional culture of the United States did not prevent the explosion of government under the New Deal – or the reelection of Franklin Roosevelt by 60% of the vote in 1936 (after he had used the Constitution of the United States to wipe his backside).

    The intellectual argument was lost – indeed it was never really engaged in. Relying on habit-culture-and-tradition was a proven FAILURE before F.A. Hayek wrote a word (but he never seems to have understood this). It was absurd as trusting the “Cambridge Spies” because they dressed well, had gone to “good schools”, and liked cricket (so bleeping what – when they did not believe in the basic principles of private property based liberty).

    It is pointless to say “this is how we do things here” or “we have always done things this way” unless one can say WHY the way things are done is good. Even in the Roman Catholic Church when the defenders of tradition could not (or would not – or could not explain loudly enough) explain WHY it was good – traditional practices (such as the Latin Mass) collapsed in the 1960s under radical attack. Something may be good – but unless people can explain WHY (make the argument – and convince people) then it is lost.



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