Polly, I think I\’ve spotted your basic error here

The party may now have time to regret the one reform that would ensure this essentially social democratic nation is never again governed by Conservatives on their own.

I really don\’t think that England is a social democratic nation.

We simply do not trust our rulers in the manner necessary for us to be one:

I simply don’t think that Britain is fundamentally a social democratic society. It might be possible to persuade me that the Celtic fringes are, but not I think England.

We simply don’t have, as a social or cultural bedrock of the society, that belief that the men with clipboards know what they’re doing or have our interests in their hearts. That belief being the necessary underpinning of the sort of deference to government that makes social democracy work.

I really don’t think it’s a surprise that the lessons of public choice economics are more readily heeded in the so called “Anglo-Saxon” economies. For I think that to a large extent they’re just the formalisation of what the culture itself already believes, in a way that isn’t true in places like Germany or the Nordics.

That basic thought is why so many of us really don\’t buy the idea that government should run our lives. And it\’s at the heart of what so many find entirely lunatic about much of what government currently does. We make fun of jobsworths, those men with clipboards. We don\’t nod approvingly as government makes yet another law to insist that we do this, that or the other ….for our own good of course. We tell them to fuck off.

I\’m told that in Germany, a country which is really socially democratic, that local by laws can and will insist that you sweep your driveway once a week. And that the majority thoroughly approve of such laws and that there\’s a great deal of social enforcement of them.

Sure, it\’s a trivial example, but can you even imagine that being proposed, let alone enforced by the society at large here?

No, I can\’t either. And that tells us that there\’s something rather different about the two societies, doesn\’t it?

11 thoughts on “Polly, I think I\’ve spotted your basic error here”

  1. I suspect we are two nations. About a third are indeed social democratic at heart, perhaps half are conservative, and the rest swing between the two.

    Trouble is, the social democrats are growing in number, as the state expands in size and range, increasing the proportion of people who suck on the taxpayer’s teat. I mean not only the benefit claimants, but those who are formally employed by the state, who are passing their dependency from generation to generation like those on the sink estates., and contributing little or nothing.

  2. She makes a sweeping assumption that under a proportional system, people would continue voting exactly as they do today. The evidence from the European elections seems to indicate otherwise. The Tories’ 26 seats and UKIP’s 13 represented 54% of the total available in 2009. Repeated domestically, they would be in a position to form a coalition government if they could agree the terms.

    Obviously, the specific issues surrounding European elections and the lower turnout will have an impact on voting patterns, but it does show that Polly’s assumption that proportional representation will deliver perpetual social democratic coalitions is shaky at best.

  3. That’s a very good point Paul.

    Shortsightedness (that changing the system won’t change behaviour) leads to unintended consequences. A large rump of voters who have no voice under fptp would have a good reason to vote.

  4. “Sure, it’s a trivial example, but can you even imagine that being proposed, let alone enforced by the society at large here?”

    There hasn’t been much protesting about separating rubbish into recylable and non-recyclable.

  5. Brian, follower of Deornoth

    Sorry. Perhaps the point is a bit subtle, but what reform is it that is to ensure Toynbeeism forever? Or until complete economic collapse, whichever is sooner.

  6. My mother said that when she lived in Germany, there was a law that said you had to have net curtains in your windows.

    As for PR and Toynbee’s nightmare of untrammelled Conservatism: her rabble might or might not be turfed out on May 6th, but if they are whatever replaces them will not be in any recognisable sense Conservative.

  7. The money quote here

    “But with the Tories still set to be the biggest party, there will be no electoral reform: they would prefer any number of elections to a fair voting system that would prevent the rightwing minority ever taking control again.”

    Let’s change the voting system to lock out our opposition! And assume they will always be a minority and that it will never come back to bite us…

  8. Jeff Wood wrote:

    “I mean not only the benefit claimants, but those who are formally employed by the state, who are passing their dependency from generation to generation like those on the sink estates., and contributing little or nothing.”

    My parents both worked for local government and they really, really wanted me to follow in their footsteps (they would have viewed the Civil Service as a step up, and the NHS or similar would have been OK). They hated it when I went self-employed.

    Yes, it is indeed passed down to the next generation.

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