One of the common arguments thrown at me is that I am out of touch with “reality” and that all my economics comes “from a textbook” (which is odd, since all my economics has been learned on the job). Specifically, I can’t know what the effect of unemployment means to the people to whom it happens. This is especially true when I argue against Labourprotection. Of course to a leftie, all Tories are only in it for the benefit of “the rich” and the poor are simply a source of sustenance (as we eat their babies). This is an example of brute prejudice of the lefty, but it needs dealing with.
First up. Left wing “economics” usually puts motivation above effects. So you get a minimum wage which I believe destroys the life chances of the most vulnerable and traps people on benefits. Lefites, by supporting this policy hurt the poor, whom they claim to be helping. Then the left argues that anyone opposing this policy is “in league with fat-cat bosses ” or “wanting to recreate the workhouse” or some such arrant nonsense. This crap usually comes from highly privileged lefties, often who’ve got significant private wealth, and a secure, professional job. They are almost always university educated, and wouldn’t know a hard days labour if it smacked them in the face.
I am not of the working class. I am a public-school educated stockbroker. I would be the last to deny my privileged upbringing. My parents made enormous sacrifices for my education. But I did not take internships in offices when at university, I worked on Building sites as a hod-carrier (go on. Find me a harder job…), I mowed lawns for the council, I worked as a Courier and rickshaw driver in Edinburgh and I have worked in a factory. Lest I give the impression that I am a horny-handed son of Toil, the factory in question was owned by my father. This does not mean I got an easy ride, quite the opposite. It means the Foreman delighted in giving me the shittiest jobs, then telling dad about it, and if I didn’t work harder than others, it reflected badly on him. Something to pick up at Chettles, a meat rendering plant where the air is thick and emetic? Guess who’s going to be driving there, scraping the rotting residue of carcass off a motor, then doing the preparation when it gets back to the factory? I once spent 3 days inside a Boiler scraping soot off the inside before it could be serviced. I sweated black for a week. I know working people do this every day. But this means I do know the honest satisfaction in standing your round after a hard day’s work. I am also a currently a non-commissioned Officer in the British Army. The Idea I have no idea about what the working class thinks, or that I exist in some “ivory tower”, is ridiculous.
If there is one thing about what the working class thinks, it isn’t what lefties think they should think. The contempt the actual working class is held in by the average Hampstead leftie is proportional only to the degree with which they romanticise the workers’ struggle, of which they know nothing save that which comes from books written by other Hampstead lefties. The people who have the most extreme opinions of those living off the benefits system, for example are the benefits recipients’ neighbours. The working class are almost universally economically protectionist, anti-immigration and socially extremely conservative. Lefties don’t like this. They don’t like this at all. The working class have never been forgiven for failing to rise up and destroy “capitalism”.
So. My belief is that a booming economy is the best protection for a worker. That high taxes and high government spending slow growth and reduce the surplus which can be spent on working conditions. Minimum wages hurt the poorest most. Job protection reduces the number of jobs.
I don’t hold these opinions because I am unaware of the suffering of unemployment or hard industrial working conditions. I know both from personal experience. I’ve been made redundant more times (3) than any of the lefites who accuse me of being “out of touch”. I just got on with it, and always found another job. And this leads to an important thing to know about unemployment. It isn’t a lump of people, out of work permanently. 10% of unemployed people find work every month, even in a recession. The unemployment number is rather the pool between two fast-flowing streams: people losing jobs, and people gaining them. People lose jobs at a relatively constant rate over the business cycle, it’s job CREATION which fluctuates wildly. So, broadly, while the left focuses on protecting jobs, they ignore that policies to achieve this reduce job creation by making people riskier and more expensive to hire. I think this focus wrong.
I hold these opinions because I believe them to be the best way of delivering the results – full employment and high wages – we all want. There are no answers in economics, only trade-offs. So you want high minimum wages? You must accept unemployment. You want job protection? Then you must accept lower job creation. Is that a “price worth paying”? You can have high debt-financed public spending, but this tends to slow growth, reducing the pie to be shared, to the detriment of all. Suggesting that a recession has positive effects on productivity doesn’t mean I think unemployment is a “price worth paying”, merely a short-term inevitability. Generous, means tested benefits damage the incentive to work & save. So much left-wing rhetoric denies the existence of these trade-offs, believing passionately in a free economic lunch courtesy of high taxes on “the rich”.
I wish lefties could stop using the ad-hominem argument of questioning the motives of the “right wing” and focus instead on the effects of policies and debating where the trade-offs should be. The problem for the left is that to acknowledge the existence of trade-offs would destroy the rhetorical defences they’ve built. Economics isn’t a dry subject, only of interest “in theory”. It is the study of the use of scarce resources, the effects of incentives in the real world. Denying economics exists, and denying the existence of trade-offs it studies makes debate very difficult.