The danger is real. The military, egged on by right-wingers, is plotting to suspend Parliament, behead Boris Johnson and impose martial law.
So says William Hague, the former leader of the Conservative Party. Or at least that’s what I inferred from the title of his article, The Real Danger Is Insurgency on the Right.
To my relief, the body text explained that Lord Hague didn’t quite mean that the way it sounded. People like me, those cursed with literal minds, didn’t realise he meant it figuratively. Politicians mean everything figuratively.
“Conservatism,” explained Lord Hague, “is being redefined. That is unavoidable.” Like death and taxes, I suppose.
But fair enough. Everything in life, including conservatism, is in flux. Things change and every change is for the better, goes the principal premise of progressivism. Lord Hague seems to swear by it. Hence he welcomes the evolution of British conservatism that “is redefining itself to create a more interventionist state…”.
Creating a state more interventionist than we have already may be desirable to some and deplorable to others. One way or the other, it has nothing to do with conservatism, however redefined.
The overarching political conflict of modernity is one between those who wish a state that’s as small as sensible and those who want one that’s as big as possible. The former are called conservatives, the latter socialists.
Therefore, we can paraphrase Lord Hague’s observation to say that British conservatism is redefining itself as socialist. This is an oxymoron, but not to Lord Hague.
Still, where does “insurgency on the right” come in? You’ll notice that I ended my previous quote with an ellipsis, leaving the tail end out. Here it is: “…and it is feeling the internal tension of doing so.”
It’s clear now. Some members of the party insist on taking its name at face value. Lord Hague doesn’t stigmatise those ‘insurgents’ the way Lenin did. He doesn’t call them ‘scum’, ‘prostitutes’ or ‘noxious insects’. But if he were less civilised, he would.
Lord Hague was a Thatcherite when it suited him, but it no longer does. Hence he writes: “Free market philosophy triumphed in showing how to create prosperity but it struggles with how to make that prosperity more equitable, sustainable or resilient.”
The last two adjectives are disingenuous. For even a cursory glance at world economies will show that free markets are perfectly capable of not only creating wealth, but also of making it sustainable and resilient.
It’s the word “equitable” that’s the crux of Lord Hague’s argument. “Without government intervention,” he explains, “a globalised economy leads to clusters of great wealth while other places decline.”
This is economic thinking at its most ignorant and fatuous. For the implication is that some places, and presumably people, get poorer because others get richer. Tossing aside verbal chicanery, this premise is unvarnished Marxism – as is the proposed curative of an omnipotent state reducing the inequitable gap.
I’m sure Lord Hague could cite reams of statistics showing that the gap between rich and poor regions (and people) is getting wider. Yet such statistics are mostly larcenous.
The larceny starts with the definition of ‘poor’ and ‘rich’. Usually it’s expressed as the top and bottom percentiles, say 10 per cent in each case. Even discounting the fact that today’s British ‘poor’ would be solid middle class not only in most other countries but also in relatively recent British history, such percentages are meaningless.
Since we agree that everything in life is fluid, so is our economic status throughout life. Youngsters just entering the market may well find themselves in the bottom 10 or five per cent. However, as they gain wisdom and experience, their incomes grow.
Within a year or two they may climb out of their percentile and steadily approach the top 10 per cent. (For example, 95 per cent of Americans have been in that group at some age.) Few people are frozen in the same income category, high or low, they find themselves in at the moment economists whip their calculators out.
There’s another problem with overemphasising income gaps. What should matter is that we have enough money for our needs – not that others may have more.
Let’s say we compare two families of four. One earns £20,000 a year; the other, £200,000. The second family is comfortable, while the first struggles to pay even essential bills.
What if both families triple their income? The ‘rich’ family is now on £600,000, and the ‘poor’ one on £60,000. The income gap between them has grown from £180,000 to £540,000. However, the ‘poor’ family is no longer poor by any definition.
I wonder if Lord Hague can name a single period in history when incomes were distributed ‘equitably’ among or within countries. I certainly can’t – too many factors go into income production to be homogenised across the board.
However, I could name countless examples of governments trying to ‘level up’, to use Johnson’s phrase, and only managing to level down. Yet they never learn, and neither does Lord Hague.
There was a flaw in my calculations above: I was talking about people who act in the market. Yet some don’t, and their number is growing exponentially.
About 30 per cent of British families derive more than half of their income from welfare, and 64 per cent receive some kind of benefit. That’s 20.3 million families, of whom only 8.7 million are pensioners.
That’s why, writes Lord Hague with palpable approval, “Ministers are reported to be discussing a new tax to pay for the estimated £10 billion a year cost of social care.” Actually, social benefits currently cost the Exchequer £212 billion, so I assume he only means some subset.
Shining through the article is Lord Hague’s conviction that a Leviathan of a welfare state is as inevitable as death, taxes and the Conservative Party converging with Labour – and that it’s self-evidently a Good Thing.
Well, that had better be self-evident, for it’s not borne out by any empirical data. These show that, both in Britain and the US, the welfare state has done incalculable harm both to the target group and to society at large.
Before the advent of the welfare state, the poor lived in modest but dignified housing. Today they live in the hellholes of ghetto estates, hotbeds of crime covered with graffiti and full of drunk, drug-addled single mothers, each with several feral, illiterate children by several absentee fathers.
This has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the entitlement culture churning out several generations of families in which no one has ever had a job, nor sought one. By way of illustration, a recent study compared the school test performance of low-income whites with that of African and Bangladeshi immigrants in the same bracket.
The latter groups met the required standards 60 per cent of the time; the former, a mere 30 per cent. That same group used to score close to 80 per cent before the state got to look after the less fortunate by dispossessing the more fortunate.
This systematic creation of a lumpen underclass has equally disastrous consequences for the whole society. For example, the welfare state is directly responsible for the uncontrollable growth in crime rates.
In both Britain and the US, crime rates had been going down steadily for years, only to rise stratospherically in the second half of the 20th century – when the welfare state got going in earnest. In 1954, when firearms were readily available, there were 12 armed robberies in London. In 1991, when strict gun controls were in place, there were 1,600.
The cost of the welfare state goes way beyond the public funding it requires. We are all paying it not just through our taxes, but also through the misery visited on our cities by crowds of alienated youths taught no respect for decency and indeed humanity. “We are showing the rich people we can do what we want,” said a young rioter interviewed by the BBC in 2011.
The culture of share-care-be-aware is driven not by facts, and certainly not by genuine compassion, but by ideological biases fostered in the past only by the left and bearing no relation to reality, morality or common sense.
But left and right have now converged, and Lord Hague is living proof. So, if there is indeed an insurgency under way, count me in.
P.S. Government intervention so beloved of Lord Hague is about to deliver a lethal blow to the construction industry by criminalising wolf whistling and catcalling. Those building sites are guaranteed to run out of staff in short order.