An Open Letter to Polly Toynbee

Kevin Dowd

I have never liked the Guardian. Before word processors became the norm, the spelling errors for which it was renowned were at least entertaining. Now it is just irritating. I then lost all respect for the newspaper nine years ago when it falsely accused a friend of academic fraud and showed no interest in the truth of the matter. I see from yesterday’s (October 28, 2008) Guardian that its standards have not improved since.

I am referring to Poly Toynbee’s hysterical rant about a letter of which I was a co-signatory that was published in last Sunday’s Sunday Telegraph. The letter itself was a politely worded criticism of the Government’s decision to adopt a Keynesian public expenditure policy to try to offset the recession into which the economy is sliding. It reads as follows:

“Further to your interview with Alistair Darling (October 19), we would like to dissent from the attempt to use a public works programme to spend the country’s way out of recession.  It is misguided for the government to believe that it knows how much specific sectors of the economy need to shrink and which will shrink “too rapidly” in a recession.  Thus the government cannot know how to use an expansion in expenditure that would not risk seriously misallocating resources.

Furthermore, public expenditure has already risen very rapidly in recent years, and a further large rise would take the role of the State in many parts of the economy to such a dominant position that it would stunt the private sector’s recovery once recession is past.

Occasional economic slowdowns are natural and necessary features of a market economy.  Insofar as they are to be managed at all, the best tools are monetary and not fiscal policy. It is inevitable that government expenditure and debt naturally rise in a recession but planned rises in government spending are misguided and discredited as a tool of economic management.

If this recession has features that demand more active fiscal policy, which is highly disputable, taxes should be cut. This would allow the market to determine which parts of the economy shrink and which flourish to replace them.”

It was signed by 15 other economists and me.

It is, I believe, a reasonable position: the last time we tried Keynesian economics we ended up with stagflation and had to be bailed out by the IMF in 1976. Keynesian macroeconomics was then repudiated by Labour PM Jim Callaghan. In my opinion, it doesn’t work, but I recognise that there are others who do not share that view and I make no claims of infallibility.

Most of the Keynesian economists I know would disagree with this view, but they would not regard it as self-evidently evil or stupid. Ms. Toynbee, however, seems to think otherwise.

Some of what she wrote is given in italics below, and the comments after them are my responses:

The gloves are off, and an epic ideological battle has begun. The enemies of Keynesian economics are launching a fight-back.

We agree on this, at least.

Hardly pausing despite the crashing failure of their wild, free markets, the old forces of darkness are back.

The causes of the present financial crisis need to be discussed in a calm and reasoned way, but your referring to those who do not share your views as the “forces of darkness” is uncalled for, Ms. Toynbee. The people who disagree with you are not evil: they simply disagree with you. Why can’t you debate the issues on their merits without the need to give gratuitous offence?

Opening salvoes from the vanguard of neo-conomics came in a letter 16 economists wrote to the Sunday Telegraph attacking the Brown-Darling plan to borrow and spend to ease what threatens to become a recession at least as bad as 1981. “Occasional slowdowns are natural and necessary features of a market economy,” they wrote breezily. Laissez-faire is the best policy, but if something must be done, “which is highly disputable”, then “taxes should be cut”.

This gives the misleading impression that we suggested that nothing should be done in the middle of a crisis. Read the letter Ms. Toynbee: we didn’t suggest that. Why don’t you debate what we actually wrote?

These people know what they mean: they have been here before. It flatters some of these crude marketeers to call them anything as grand as Hayekians – but that was the ideology of those who devised the catastrophic Thatcher-Howe 1981 budget they seek to reprise. It cut spending and sent unemployment over 3 million. They turned recession into social catastrophe and now Sir Alan Peacock, Professor Tim Congdon and Ruth Lea, along with the chief economists of Lloyds TSB and Cazenove, advocate making the same callous mistake again.

I am not aware of anyone who is going around saying “Lets make the same callous mistake we made the last time” and would certainly not agree with anyone who did. So why the need to undermine your arguments with this sort of sanctimonious abuse? As for the actual issues, my view is that the 1981 budget was a good one, but that the Thatcher recession was an avoidable mistake due to botched monetary policy. Of course, whatever the cause, no-one wants us to go through that again and you have no grounds to suggest otherwise.

And I am not a Hayekian, by the way.

She goes on to make the patronising assertion that “The truth is, few have changed their mind, apologised for past errors or learned any lessons.”

I take it you haven’t?

Gordon Brown seems unable to stop saying things so blindingly untrue that you wonder how he gets the words out.

I have wondered this too. But how do you expect a man who cannot tell the truth to win the confidence of the public and lead the country out of its current predicament?

What’s needed now to win trust is unvarnished truth.

Indeed, and you should take your own advice: your readers will have more trust in you if you stick to the unvarnished truth.

I quote one last passage:

Meanwhile, Hayekian commentators are sharpening their knives against “Brown’s misty-eyed Keynesian adventure”. The argument has not been won yet: Labour has to make the case eloquently, as opinion polls show profound scepticism of government’s ability to spend money well. Conservatives may be wavering, uncertain which way the public will jump, but Labour would be rash to think pro-Keynesianism was a done deal.

Do you even read what you write? – “opinion polls show profound scepticism of government’s ability to spend money well.” So why do you think that is? Are the public just stupid or are they onto something that you haven’t noticed?

And, to repeat my earlier question, how do you expect Labour (and I quote your own words) to “make the case eloquently” whilst under the leadership of a man who “seems unable to stop saying things so blindingly untrue that you wonder how he gets the words out”. How do you expect Labour to square that circle?

With arguments of this calibre, you are certainly right that the case for Keynesianism is not a done deal.

Issues as important as these need to be properly aired. I would suggest you cut the sanctimony and don’t assume that people who do not share your views are callously trying to recreate the Thatcher recession or are secretly in league with the Antichrist. You would also earn some respect by not twisting their arguments or presuming an infallibility or superiority that I know you do not have. But if you really want to help the debate on economic policy, the next time you are thinking of writing something on it: don’t.

October 29, 2008

More on metrication, the EU, and British home-grown fascists

David Davis

Earlier today I just flagged this up. I now have time to say something. (The original post is not only lower down your page but also here.)

The EU, with its usual disarming frankness about objectives, has gone on record as saying that it’s not really important if people here (or by inference elsewhere) go on using pre-metric, which is to say “Imperial” measurements. For one thing of course, these are still commonly encountered in all sorts of places on the continent of Europe.

The real subtext of the assault on “Imperial” measurement use in the UK is of course, and always has been, ideological and manichean. It is obvious, now that we know the facts. Those kinds of people who so publicly have championed “metrication” (and that also included the quite un-necessary and politically-motivated “decimalisation” of our currency) share a fully philosophical objective: what is this objective, then?

It is the exemplary punishment of Britain: especially, it encompasses an objective of the destruction of a place which they view as “England” – together with all its customs and traditions which act as a sort of conservative glue. The whole idea of “England”, historically, is essentially conservative. England’s history returns almost like clockwork, to a theme of looking to tradition and custom (as understood at the time of decision about the future) to decide what to do. This is mortally dangerous to gangsters like Lenin, Marx, Stalin, Hitler, Gordon Brown, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Il (who will continue to remain dead), Huggy the Chav, Ken Livingstone, Castro (who has been dead for some time) and whoever that bugger was who ran the Sendero Luminoso (I hope there won’t be a pop group called that any time soon.)

This stuff, this conservative glue, hard to create over the centuries, but easy to abolish with a Gestapo-sweep of A4 paper containing “enhanced statutory requirements”, holds a free people in friendships and relationships in a comfortable place, and confers order on civilisation. This of course is quite inimical to the fascist/stalinist concept of “more and faster change”, beloved of “management” “consultants”, or one of the other ones, which is “best practice in health and safety”.

Most importantly, it is because an essentially conservative civilisation is all that stands in the way of the intended destruction of what helps ordinary people to live and get better and better as time advances – that destruction which is crucial for the survival of wreckers, murderers, fascists, socialists and other theoretical idealists who have never inhabited anything more important (such as a factory or a mine or a ploughed field) than a room at a university. These latter groups know, with every fibre of their being, that their usefulness and significance diminishes visibly and fast, with the arrival of every person who can make his own way and decisions in his life.

You can’t, if you are a statist, allow people essentially to better themselves and their lives…and then you just go home and grow stuff or watch TV. The hog won’t slaughter itself.

There will come a time when they won’t need you or your “help”, and they will be able to know it. If they are armed, then you are toast already (so you’d better have got their guns off them quite early on.) If they are unarmed, then you will still have a difficult time, and you may have to shoot the right people (they didn’t in this case), but you may get through if you can manufacture a scare or two, preferably together, and hobble them further.

I think that British statists, being cleverer and more (what Stalin called) “serious” than continental ones (their weather is better and the food and girls are nicer, so they don’t really have to concentrate so hard) are far, far more finely-tuned to the threat of incipient liberty arising in a population, than their European conterparts.

I shudder to think with what ruthless efficiency the Police authorities in the UK would have complied with Nazi orders to round up people and have them “resettled”. Anti-Imperial-measure-police-and-Soviet-staff are merely taking a “directive” at its face value, and applying it to the letter, together with their own ingrained (ought I to say “institutionalised”?) racism against a civilisation which they (rightly) see as the one which has done most to try to make them as redundant as possible.

Hardly credible

David Davis

UPDATE….amd I think that The Landed Underclass spotted it before I did.

!!! “It is thought Islamist extremists are concealing messages in digital images and audio, video or other files.

Police are now investigating the link between terrorists and paedophilia in an attempt to unravel the system.”

This article seems to be suggesting that “Islamic extremists” may be (I presume, steganographing?) material to do with their activities in “child pornography”, and specifically in images, audio or video files.

I cannot think that this is so. Kiddie-porn and associated subjects are so, so very very monitored these days by the world’s police forces (who have probably archived the largest collection of it on the planet with originating IP addresses, for just the purpose of identifying suspected users, and which is fair enough) that if one was a terrorist, then the best way to invite failure and disaster for one’s cause would be to use these highly-visible and well-tracked materials to hide your stuff in. No, sorry, I don’t think so.

And I’m sure the Police know about steganography.

What I do think is that the planted article is a trailer or smelly-foxtail, designed to draw more people (who are of course more or less against kiddie-porn) into the opinion-box that says on it; “we are in favour of the war on terror, and in favour of even more intrusive State-monitoring-methods on the internet and elsewhere”.

If I was a terrorist, then I would steg messages in something really really unworthy of notice, such as a picture of Polly Toynbee.

The poor sad woman really is in another world

David Davis

Poor Polly Toynbee comes in for a good scragging (not a shagging) from Curious Snippets. Even I would not wish that on her from Mr Curious! But either she is comletely higgorant, or she is astonishingly evil, to be able simultaneously pull Gordon Brown’s bollocks out of the fire (when she was so enthusiastically badmouthing him last year and calling for David Miliband or someone like that) and blame all this nonsense on Thatcher (again.)

Why does she not just go round the corner, (in relative distance terms for someone like me) and assassinate thre poor old woman?

Samizdata quote of the day (yup, let’s all be horrid to Polly Toynbee, again, as is right!)

Great quote via Brian Micklethwait, on Samizdata:-

My dad was a newsagent, I went to state school, I’m Asian, I work in the city and I earn loads of money. I do it so my parents and future children can have something close to the only kind of life Toynbee has ever known. Me explain my position? How about she explains her right to speak for the poor?

Peter Hoskin singles out that comment by Raj Chande on an excerpt from Polly Toynbee and David Walker’s book entitled Unjust Rewards

AND HERE is a great aside by The Remittance Man, about socialism, Polly Toynbee, and camel trains….of all things! I wish I had either the ability, or the time, to compose essays, be they ever so short, like his.

Glasgow East….Getting what they deserve…or what the stalinists decree?

David Davis

This piece from Devil’s Kitchen contains perhaps the most thoughtful and insightful comments from respondents that I have seen recently about this sad place. Here’s one in full, with which I can personally agree from experience of having to teach some of these poor, miserable, robbed youths:-

” …if you live in shit and continue to elect the people who keep you in shit simply because, historically, your family has always voted for shit, then possibly all you are going to get is… well… shit. “Yup. Exactly. And Tories and Liberals are exactly the same. I’m nearly 56, pity it took me more than 45 years to learn that for myself.I bitterly regret the day I first picked up a copy of the Guardian; and the same for the day I first watched the beeb. Long time ago now.Too late for me … but I’ve taken to talking to gangs of youngsters when I come across them hanging around on street corners. I was shocked (really) when I first discovered that almost none of them even know the names of any political party other than Labour (really). Shocked to discover that none knew anything at all of our pathetic electoral processes. Don’t you learn Civics in school? Politics? No. Don’t you do Citizenship classes? Yes. What do you do in them? Islam. Yes, seriously – I’ve been told exactly this. And I do not ask leading questions.

Then they start asking me questions, always questions. And naturally enough, I give them answers  🙂 . I’ve been as long as an hour trying to get away to get back home – but there’s always one more question.

These kids aren’t stupid. They KNOW that something’s wrong in their lives, but they don’t know enough to know what it is (LA italics). No adult ever takes them seriously, and when someone like me comes along and does take them seriously then they start asking their serious questions – give them straight unpatronising answers and they can’t get enough of it – every answer leads to more questions.

They aren’t thick – they’ve just been kept deliberately ignorant. And they know it.

7/13/2008 03:33:00 PM  

Brilliant hammerblow, Devil, well done. Here’s Peter Hitchens, on the same tack. I’ve also flagged him in a post to appear in the future, since blogs enable time-travel.

Where did it all go wrong? … cry the Polly Toynbees and other stalinists…

Here’s where. ZANU-Laborg made the deeply, deeply iniquitous moral choice to be, at one and the same time, deliberately-wrong-and-evil, plus listening-to-metrosexual-PR-men-and-other-spin-doctors.

David Davis

We however are now, at one and the same time, both heading for a New Dark Age in Britain (especially and deliberately caused on purpose by the above buggers (q.v.) if we are not careful and vigilant, and also possibly for the first true Libertarian Government of a state … if they play their cards right and don’t tell lies in manifestos. The mob in the link are my friends, ideologically-speaking, so I’m sure they won’t do porkies.

But they will have, from about 5.00 am on DAY ZERO (socialist imagery, but the Devil has all the best lines) a hard task of pruning, or perhaps chain-saws would be better. the New-Laborg-Votariat of state-stipendiarized dictocrats will have to be neutralised before any state-reducing-measures can be effctively carried to competion, or they will be stopped.

Yes, you can close and lock their buidlings, shred all their records (of themselves – and of us, created by themselves) steam-roller all their hard disks, terminate their “salaries”, and the like. But insurance has to be taken out against not just a socialist party and executive coming back (ever), but also a socialist mind-set (perhaps we’ll have to clear out the school and minicipal “Libraries” and start again?)

You see, the eternal back-and-forth ratcheting-and-reversing, between socialism advancing and a sort of Heath-Robinson-temporary-reversal of (some of) the damage done by the lefties, that we have to devote resources to and allow for, is just so damaging and wasteful. Worse, it interrupts and degrades, over time, English liberalism – the only civilisation and culture that properly reflects what human beings are and how they behave in co-operation, and which teaches the world how to live.

Even a few, desultory, Heath-Robinson liberal measures to mitigate the baleful results of 70-odd years of socialism, as under Margaret Thatcher, show how effective liberalism, liberty and the Market can be. But it’s all so distressing, time-wasting and unnecessary. This time, a final reckoning has to be had, and socialism has to be rubbed from the face of the planet (along with Al Gore’s paperwork, copies of his silly film, and records. the gold from his Nobel “Peace” “Prize” medal could be recycled into teeth, for poor-people who have to drive cars for a living.)

No, the first task of a Libertarian Administration will be to zap away the levers-of-power which can be used by the opposition.  The second task may be to agree an enlarged Defence budget, as I don’t expect that these measures will go down well when viewed by collectivist states in the light of their own foreign policy. But I hope that’s not the case: however, we should Praise the Lord, and Keep our Powder Dry.