Thursday, November 10, 2005

UK Terror Vote: Politics or Principle?

Yesterday Tony Blair suffered his first defeat in the House of Commons since he became Prime Minister in 1997. By a margin of 31 votes MP's voted not to grant the UK police the authority they requested to hold terrorist suspects for 90 days without charge... a measure which Blair had aggressively lobbied for before watching his 66 seat majority dramatically disintegrate with a final vote tally of 322 to 291.

The notion that this heralds doom for the Prime Minister is completely untrue... there is widespread support for this proposal in the wake of the July 7th attacks, Blair's popularity is likely to sharply rise amongst the British electorate for the first time in four years, and MP's voting against the measure have already been publicly decried as treasonous in the tabloid press. The latest You Gov poll says 72% of the British people support the 90 day law.

But the most notable facet of this defeat, at least to me, is that the largest proportion of those who voted against 90 days were members of the Conservative Party, including both aspiring Tory leaders, David Davis and David Cameron, who remain locked in a narrowing leadership election. Current Conservative leader Michael Howard remarked upon it as an illiberal law which threatened to exacerbate malcontent amongst British Muslim’s, potentially creating more terrorism... certainly not the type of argument you'd expect to hear from a right wing party.

While Tony Blair has successfully negated the vile and debilitating tabloid campaigns against the Labour party in the 80's and early 90's by governing as an authoritarian on crime, and a hawk on foreign policy, this step towards a more libertarian brand of Conservatism from the Tory party is something new... indicative of David Cameron's proposed brand of "Compassionate Conservatism." But, is it sincere? If the Conservative Party was in power would they really have taken this position on 28 days instead of 90? Would the self described law and order party have refused the requests of police because they were illiberal? I don't think so. Instead, on an issue that directly affects our ability to fight terrorism in the UK, a political calculation from the right was made to inflict upon Tony Blair his first parliamentary defeat. To me, at least the Labour rebels were voting on a point of principle. The Tories, by comparison, just wanted the opportunity to create a plethora of news headlines like these.

I support the 90 day law. Unlike using torture to interrogate terrorists, currently a big issue in the states, which I incidentally oppose, I don't think this law is an inhuman practice. I don't think we hurt our fundamental values by its implementation. As a stipulation every seven days a suspect is taken back to court to justify his or hers continued detention to a Judge. In all likelihood there would have to be substantial evidence suggesting they were planning to assist with or commit a mass atrocity against innocent people.

Personally, if the police say it takes 90 days to sift through information and computers, while tracking a suspect's connections abroad, and their links to religious institutions that are notoriously insular and difficult to penetrate... if the ability of the police to disrupt terrorist activities will be improved and the streets of London will be safer... I don't see how we can refuse to grant them these powers... at least for a predetermined time period pending review in something like twelve months.

If after that time there was an abundance of egregious incarcerations I could understand a vote like the one that took place yesterday. But, as things stand, I can't help but feel the "principled stand" we saw taken by Labour, Conservative, and Liberal MP's was in fact nothing more than petty party politics in disguise, directed at Tony Blair. To me, considering what's at stake, that's a pretty sad state of affairs.

Related Links:
BBC: Vote disappoints police.
BBC: Howard calls for Blair to resign.
Andrew Sullivan: Blair's case.
Times: Blair suffers wounding loss.

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Enigma said...

I'm opposed to the 90 day law though I don't know the feelings of the British people on this matter. To me, when I was there it seemed that British law enforcement was extremely skillful in all their activities unlike the "willy nilly" ways we have here in the states. The basis for my own disapproval of the 90 day law is because it giving into the terrorist by taking away protected liberties although I'm unfamiliar with UK laws governing these matters.

Enigma said...

And also, I oppose anything that has a possible basis of reactional emotion involved. Emotion often leads to regret, as in our detainment of Japanese during WWII.

Graham said...

Hey Enigma,

Thanks for your POV. I agree with your feelings about reactionary emotion... and especially about how impressive the UK police has been since the attacks, but the 90 day law isn't about a contrived emotional response to punish people. It's an immediate step to rectify a problem with terrorist suspects, for whom accumulating evidence worthy of a prosecution is very hard. We don't want tribunals or military combatants... we want criminal prosecutions and jury trials, we want to keep the integrity of our legal system... but it's just not possible to accrue evidence amongst a complicated, underground, almost impenetrable network of terrorists in such a short space of time when the most pressing concern is getting these people off the streets... these people who are willing to blow themselves up and murder as many people as possible. I think, rationally, this demands an alteration in the way our legal system works.

Thanks for your comment my friend :).

Graham said...

+ I hope you enjoyed the UK while you were here.

Lisa said...

Interesting subject. ;)

Yeah...I think that the reports of Blair's demise are highly exaggerated (or something similar to that). I hope that the British people are on board with what Blair's doing, as you suggest, because he's taking tough stands and sticking his own neck out to do what's best for the UK.

Like I told you before, I'm not sure what Howard has to gain by continuing to oppose Blair. Michael Howard at this point just exists to be a thorn in Blair's side. But he amuses me, so I listen to his rants once in a while. Does Cameron's vote on this bill change your opinion of his candidacy or fitness to be PM?

Those tabloid campaigns against Labour may have been vile and debilitating, but I'm not sure that they were totally inaccurate. I don't know, because I haven't seen the write-ups. How did they portray the Labour party in the tabs, and how much might have been true? There were a lot of fringe elements in Labour's membership back then, as there are today, and it's only logical to question what Labour's core values were at that time.

I would also argue that Blair's brand of Labour drastically deviates from what it was in the beginning. At one point, even the Iron Lady (the original SCARY CONSERVATIVE!)liked what he was doing. But I suppose I'm getting off topic...sorry about that.

I completely agree with your argument for the 90 day law. It seems like there is nowhere to escape from petty politics anymore, not even the UK! LOL.

It is beginning to scare me how much we can agree on. Next thing you know, my VRWC card will be revoked. ;) But that's a risk I'm willing to take, I think...

Graham said...

Hey Lisa,

I think Michael Howard is a pretty effective critic of the Labour government. Like you I think he's great at Prime Minister's Question Time + he'll be a member of the shadow cabinet in three weeks when the leadership election is completed. As for Cameron I'll be happy if he wins the leadership, and I think he stands a better chance of any Conservative in 2009/10, but he's got a lot to prove to show he's fit to be PM. Although I'm not sure if I'm capable of being convinced... I'm a Labour Party man through and through after all.

Anyways, the way the Labour Party was treated by the Tabloid press in the 80's and 90's was not too disimilar to the way Talk Radio attacks liberalism... only the difference is that Tabloids are a massive part of the public discourse over here, and have much greater influence on public opinion. At a time when the British people were looking for an alternative in 1992, parts of the press and Tory smears successfully caused a dramatic last minute shift that won John Major that election. It was so effective that Bush 1 drafted in John Major's campaign staff to take Clinton down a few months later. That's why Clinton loves the UK Labour Party... on the war room marker board in 92, along with "the economy stupid" and "don't forget healthcare" they had "john major" scribbled down to remind them how an election can change at the last minute, and hope can suddenly be turned into fear. OK, now I'm digressing, lol, and rambling too....

I hope you're cool Lisa :).

Lisa said...

I hope the Labour party you support is more Blair than Benn. What annoyed me about Howard was that he totally supported the war in Iraq and even got fellow Conservatives on board with the war, and then completely trashed Blair for supporting it. I read this as hypocrisy, just like some of the stuff the Dems are doing now to trash Bush.

Talk radio attacks liberals because most of them have bad ideas. The fact that liberals say many stupid things and align themselves with people who do stupid things, well, that's just icing on the cake. I would have to disagree with the effect of talk radio here in the States...I think it's more powerful than you give it credit for.

You make an excellent point about the campaign staffs' involvement in elections. Clinton's team played a significant role in Labour's ascendancy and Blair's election in '97. Lesson #1: every campaign needs some good spin doctors/ message salesmen. So who's going to be that guy for the Dems in '08? Who knows.

Are you still up? Go to sleep. :P

Graham said...

I guess I support the Labour Party regardless. But in 83 I would have voted for the SDP, which was a splinter party for center left members of the party because it had drifted so far left. Of course I was only four years old at the time so my emotional immaturity might have made me like the Iron Lady, although I think I'd of been too discerning to vote Tory even at that age :).

Dem or Republican in 08? I think it's anyone's guess at this stage...

Yeah, I'm going to bed now with a West Wing DVD and my lap top. Nite Lisa :).

Enigma said...

"I hope you enjoyed the UK while you were here."

Are you kidding? LOL! Even the cabbies were polite. Every morning I got "knocked up" brought a smile to my face......I loved getting "knocked up" in London.

Fence said...

I'm not british, but I have to say that there is no way I could support a proposal to lock people up for 90 days without charging them. The argument that they need that time to go through encrypted computers doesn't hold. Why not inact a law saying that if the police have a warrent to search your computer then failure to assist will be a crime.

90 days is almost three months. It is a long, long time. Did internment work in Northern Ireland? No, all you succeed in doing is making people resentful. I'm saying it will turn anyone into a terrorist, obviously that is a ridiculous statment, however it would create an atmosphere of distrust in communities where the police and the government aren't exactly welcomed.

28 days should be sufficent.

Graham said...

Hey Fence,

You make some very good points. But to me the issue is not just going through computers... it's penetrating a terrorist network... a group of people whose intent is to commit mass casualties, without prejudice, or political cause, or any human consideration whatsoever. To the extent that accumulating enough evidence is difficult and takes time, I think we'd be crazy to leave people like this on the streets after 14 days, which is the current amount of time allowed. Their visciousness and intent to kill is unparalelled.

Under the 90 day proposal every seven days a suspect's detention has to be justified to a judge in court. I think the difference between extending 14 days to 28 days and not 90 days doesn't make any sense to me. A month is effectively a prison sentence, and recognizing that it will require a serious amount of evidence to justify detaining someone for 90 days, I don't see how the difference is suddenly going to create terrorists, upsetting an entire community. I think this is such an unlikely scenario, but if true, like I said, if there was an abundance of egregious incarcerations I could understand retrospectively saying 90 days is too long, but at this stage its just speculative, + completely unsubstantiated, and I don't think that's how we should be protecting ourselves against attacks like 7/7... and the point of my post was to say that it is also politically motivated.

The one main problem I have with the law is that if you take it to its logical conclusion you could conceivably argue that suspected serial killers, or child abusers, or rapists should also fall under a law like this. I think they have something like this in Holland of all places. That's the most compelling argument against 90 days for me. What's the difference between an individual that potentially intends to commit a heinous, non-discriminating act, and could kill or harm so many in the process of accumulating evidence to assertain their culpability? Doesn't it take time to investigate and prove this, and in the interim could they not be doing terrible things?

I would not have supported a law like this for the IRA, and I would not support it for serial killers, or child abusers. I guess I'm one of those people who believe the threat posed by Islamic Fundamentalism really is unique. For all their political masquerades about Iraq, Afghanistan, troops in Saudi Arabia, or Israel and Palestine, their intent is no more than to unleash their hatred upon us and violently damage our way of life. It could have been 100 lives on 7/7, or 10,000 even, and they would not have cared, such is their perverse rationale. The IRA or Basque seperatists or freedom fighters in South America would not have committed a crime so inhuman like 9/11, where in an instant 3000 innocent people's lives were taken. This threat IMO stems from the most extreme brand of religiosity and requires different rules. Hence my support for 90 days. That's just my opinion though, and like I said, I totally respect the Labour rebels, and liberals for voting their conscience... I just don't respect Conservatives discovering new libertarian tendencies out of nowhere when their real intention is to damage Tony Blair. That's just wrong to me.

Thanks for your comment Fence, and for reading my blog. Cheers to you over in Ireland :). I saw Serenity btw, which I think you were looking forward to, and thought it was pretty cool, although I found it difficult to understand what Southern captain guy was saying half the time. I also thought they cast it like a TV show, and should have got proper movie stars for it, although I imagine you might strenuously disagree with me there.

Anyways, thanks for still visiting the site :).

Graham said...

Enigma... ok, getting "knocked up" as far as I know is still getting, y'know, "knocked up"... pregnant and all. Obviously, I'm getting old and this is British slang for something else, unless you are actually female and you were simply enjoying promiscuous behavior... I think I'm pretty sure you're a dude. You've left me scratching my head a bit there, Enigma. + polite cabbies! You did well my friend. They don't treat the natives so well.

Fence said...

I've been reading regularly, but not commenting all that much.

I think you are being too generous to the IRA. I am sure that if they thought it would achieve anything they would very easily kill how ever many of thousands of innocent lives. They just knew that those who supported them, but weren't active would not have continued to had they acted on such a large scale.
Let's not forget that they forced innocent people into becoming suicide bombers in their day.

And I totally agree that those Conservatives who voted purely on the basis that it wasn't what Tony wanted are in the wrong.

And as for them changing the cast of Serenity! I'm shocked that you could suggest such a thing ;)
They used the same cast as those from the TV series Firefly, and no one else could possibly have done a better job. imo of course.
Glad you enjoyed it though.

Graham said...

I see. I thought they looked like actors from Deep Space Nine or something like that :). Ahhh, DS9, those were the days. I haven't followed much TV sci-fi since that and B5. I thought Serenity was cool, though. I'll have to check out Firefly.

Lisa said...

I'm going to have to agree with Fence on the IRA, although I do believe that Al Qaida is much more dangerous.

I can't comment on Firefly/Serenity, because I haven't seen either one. :)

Enigma said...

Dammit, I probably look like an idiot to the natives. I understood getting "knocked up" was slang for waking up.....LOL, thats funny....

Graham said...

Hey Lisa, how r u doing today. I see Alito's been getting himself into some schtuck with promises he made not to sit on certain cases. It looks promising :P. + I wasn't trying to underestimate the brutality of the IRA, rather identify why there is a difference between terrorism with a clear, tangible political goal, and terrorism that is fuelled by a maniacal religious hatred that dehumanizes everyone, and consequently IMO knows no bounds.

And Enigma I imagine the natives might have found that strange, although they probably thought you just had been with a lot of birds during your stay, which I imagine isn't the worst thing to project :).

Enigma said...

the birds? Is that slang or are you talking about Trafalgar Square? Some of my friends received a healthy hand of bird feces at Trafalgar. LOL

Graham said...

lol!!! I was gonna say something dodgy but I think I won't, although pretty close to Trafalgar Square such things certainly go on for sure...

Just to bookend the thread I found this quote on Andrew Sullivan which runs counter to my argument, but is pretty compelling stuff:

"I fear you do not fully comprehend the danger of abridging the liberties of the people. Nothing but the sternest necessity can ever justify it. A government had better go to the extreme of toleration, than to do aught that could be construed into an interference with, or to jeopardize in any degree, the common rights of its citizens," - Abraham Lincoln

Even though I support the 90 day law, which admitedly has a lot to do with the fact I'm a Londoner, I recognize that any alterations to the rights we provide citizens should be taken very, very seriously indeed.

avereragebusinessman said...

Watching this from acrosse the pond with interest.

Brad said...

Do you think this turn against Blair is a reaction in any way to what the British people may feel is a relegation of their nation as a "junior partner" of the United States, especially in light of the Downing Street Memos?

Just a thought.

Lisa said...

Darling Graham... :P

If that's all you've got on Alito, he's getting confirmed, and there's nothing you can do about it. HA HA.

I like the Lincoln quote, and I agree with it 100%. Did you like my JFK quote?

Graham said...

Hey Average Businessman, thanks for your comment. This is pretty much a done deal, but the knives are most certainly out for Blair, and Gordon Brown, our chancellor, is already making his move to rally backbenchers to support him.

Hey Brad,

I think people turned against Blair a significant while ago. I think Iraq certainly played a part in that, but there's also a healthy dose of cynicism involved too... By the end of this parliament, if Blair lasted that long, he would have been in power for 12/13 years. I also think the Conservatives are desperate to see him go ASAP because they believe his absence will finally allow their own party in the UK to re-emerge.

And Lisa... honestly, I don't know what to think about Alito yet. I hear a lot of bad things and some good and I'm still kinda working my way through it all. I know you like him a lot though :P. Yeah, the Lincoln quote rocked... I'll go visit your blog now to see your JFK quote.

Fence said...

I've not been a fan of Blair since he got elected oh so many years ago. Something about him just seems so false. But then again he is a lot better than anyone the Tories have had as leader.

And on the sci-i issue, DS9 was my favourite of the Star Trek's although I probably saw more of NG. I'd say I hated Voyager with a passion, but I didn't invest that much emotion in it :)

Graham said...

Hey Fence, without wishing to turn this into a sci-fi blog, lol, I have to agree with you about Voyager. Voyager was the flipside of NG and DS9 in that the first season was excellent and then it all went downhill from there. NG and DS9 were pretty poor at first but around the third season really kicked into gear with the Borg and Dominion respectively. I haven't watched any episodes in years... it's pretty sad to think there's no Star Trek series on anymore.


I'm a big fan of Blair. I'm pretty moderate on most issues, and I dig the way he has fought the Labour Party to bring about change in public services, and our approach to economics and taxation. On virtually every single issue Labour polls 10+ percentage points above Conservatives including the economy and foreign policy which was unheard of until Blair. His boldness as a leader is a pretty rare thing. We'll miss him when he's gone me thinks, but then that is probably just my biased opinion. A constantly growing economy, low interest rates, low inflation, record low unemployment, while still having massive increases in investment in our public services, and improvements in our schools and hospitals is not something we should take for granted. Cause without Blair's stewardship, it might be gone soon.

Lisa said...


Count me in as another member of the Blair fan club. However, I do think Gordon Brown deserves a little bit of the credit for the economic stuff, even if he's just following Blair's orders. I suspect Brown is more of an economic wonk, and Blair is an overall big picture guy, which is an important quality to have in a PM.

Do you really want to admit liking Star Trek in a public blog? You're a brave guy. I do admire that, although die-hard Trekkies make me nervous. ;) They are even more scary than progressive/

Anyway...that's all I have to say about that.

Graham said...

Hey Lisa,

I'm a brave man, lol. And Star Trek rules :P. Although I haven't watched an episode in quite a few years.

Gordon Brown certainly deserves most of the credit for UK economic stewardship, but Blair deserves credit for, like you say, the bigger picture, and the way in which that economic prosperity has formed a cohesive part of how we've moved forward as a society. We'll see soon how well Brown operates without Blair's political ideals constraining his own sentiments towards government spending and borrowing.

I think it's very similar to Robert Rubin and Bill Clinton in the 90's. Rubin IMO was the mastermind behind the successful economic strategy of the Clinton Administration, and the conscience who forced their tough decisions... but it was Clinton's political vision that ultimately made it all possible, and allowed it to benefit the most people.

I'm obviously a Blairite, and not yet a Brownite.

Lisa said...

That's the real question I think. I will resist the obvious UPS pun here, and simply ask it this way: Does Gordon Brown have a vision for the UK? Can he exist outside of his complimentary bubble of admirers? Can he be the PM everyone thought he would be before Blair came along?

The answer to me (right now) is a big fat I DON'T KNOW. As to your point about Rubin, I guess you could make that argument. I just think that economies are too cyclical to give any President or Congress total credit for its success or blame for its failure, although some economic policies may have a more severe impact than others. I'm not sure that I want to give Rubin as much credit as the Republicans who pushed for some of those changes in economic policy. We can disagree on this minor point, I suppose.

Graham said...

Well we could get into a whole big debate about economic policy...

...while there are absolutely cyclical tides of economic expansion and recession (although in the UK we have had year in year out economic growth for the first time in decades ever since New Labour came to power... throughout the US recession, throughout international instability)... you can also quite easily discern that the Republican strategy of the 1980's and 2001-05 of trickle down, supply side economics, in addition to racking up massive amounts of debt has created a less stable and secure economic reality than the one enjoyed in the 1990's. I think there's obviously two clear, distinguishable modes of economic governance with two very different results there.

It's the same in the UK with the boom and bust economics of the 1980's and early 90's contrasted to what we've enjoyed since. A five year old can get an economy to grow by cutting taxes while allowing government to keep spending more and more at the same time, which has been the hallmark of Reagan and Bush 2. It's harder to create growth that lasts.

Both Republicans and Democrats deserve credit for the 1990's IMO. Remember Gingrich didn't get to cut everything he wanted to cut, and the surplus could have done great things for social security but the Bush economic doctrine demanded comprehensive tax cuts. Sound, lasting economic growth in the UK has allowed us to make huge, historic investments in public services, which we all depend on here, and our continued growth hasn't required us to cut taxes over and over for the very richest out of some ideological zeal about what works in theory.

Brown is definately an idealist, and he has his own vision of the bigger picture... it's just a lot more theoretical, and much more divorced from popular political rhetoric than Tony Blair. I worry more about his ability to communicate and sustain support for his decisions than the actual decisions he will make... although I am concerned he might spend too much and need to raise taxes to cover all the money he'll need to borrow.

We'll have to see, I guess. Hope you're good Lisa :).

Lisa said...

Lower taxes + no spending cuts is economic chaos. That doesn't mean that lower taxes are not a good economic policy. There should be a balance of both. Did we handle that perfectly in the 80's? Probably not. However, Reagan didn't spend all of that money by himself. He had lots of Democratic help there. Also, it would have been foolish back then to make serious cuts in some areas like military spending. The Cold War was still in progress after all.

I think the key here is to encourage consumer spending, which happens when we can keep more of our money. Government spending doesn't drive the economy, at least not to the extent that the average taxpaying consumer would with their retail purchases...especially the big ticket items (houses, cars, etc). I suppose you could make the argument that government military spending could be a significant contributor to a good economy. I can see that possibility. But otherwise, I think the credit shouldn't belong to government spending.

Low taxes benefit everybody. It's not a finite pie. Have you ever looked at the numbers on what % of taxes the rich are actually paying into the system? It's a significant amount of taxes, at least in my opinion. Rich people are just as worthy of low taxes, if not a little more than the rest of us. Why? They create jobs. They create opportunities for economic growth. This is a good thing and we should encourage it. Ok...enough defending the rich.

That's exactly my concern about Brown too...the communication thing. But you are supporting Cameron anyway, aren't you? :P

As far as my day is concerned, I won't depress you with the details here. :(

Graham said...

Okay I'm not supporting Cameron. I want to make that absolutley clear, lol. I'll always be Labour through and through :).

+ I didn't say anywhere that lower taxes were not a good thing. But, "lower taxes" is rhetoric. "Lower taxes," is very general terminology... of course every, single individual wants government to take less of his/her money... they'd also like their private expenses to be less, like Gas, and Healthcare premiums. The justification for dramatically expensive cuts for the very richest in society, as part of what is referred to as "lower taxes" needs to be isolated and argued on the facts.

The point isn't the proportion of the pie they pay into... cutting taxes on earners over $500, 000 for instance isn't a act of humanitarian consideration... it's about whether that money is best spent that way to stimulate the economy, and sustain growth in the economy... we both agree that consumer spending is the crucial key to sustained economic growth, but it's how you create that best and then keep it that way. Is giving money back to the most successful the best means to create more wealth for everybody? + it's not just about economic growth, it's also about economic progress that helps people from all backgrounds help themselves... that gives everyone access to opportunities... and improves everyone's standard of living.

On government spending, interestingly enough it has driven a very large part the of Bush economy because it has been responsible for many of the jobs he has created since over 6% unemployed. It's not just the military... Government spending of all kinds also increases consumer spending ... all of this money that Congress puts out there is a job for someone, and not always a low paying job either... it's always an important element of economic growth in any society, but it needs to be a small part because if becomes too much, and people depend too heavily on the state it can stagnate a society as you see all across continental Europe, in both France and Germany, where they desperately need free market reforms.

But one of the ironic things about Republican Party rhetoric, in addition to the fact it says you can trust Republican Congressman as opposed to Democrats with your taxes better(record deficits, record national debt that eventually someone is going to have to pay) is that they repeatedly say that the best engine of jobs, and prosperity is the free market, as if they have a monopoly on this self evident fact. But, then they go and rely heavily upon government spending to stimulate the economy and create jobs to offset their poor economic performance.

Rich people are worthy of low taxes???? Yikes. I don't like the phrase "rich people" because it's almost derogatory. I like successful people. I want to be a successful person. But, if I'm fortunate enough to have a disposable income of hundreds of thousands of dollars (dreaming I know) I hope I'll have the intelligence to recognize that a ten thousand dollar tax cut to me could do more good invested in retraining unskilled workers, or helping the long term unemployed get back into work, or being saved by government to pay back the national debt, or help the nation at a time of war.

Unlike Conservatives I believe a stable economy is built up from below... we build people up... we don't leave them to wait for scraps to fall from the table.... we get involved, "invest and grow," rather than just leaving it all to an economic ideology of what works in theory, and yet is never supported in reality.

Ok... vent over. Sorry if it sounds like I'm going on and on about it... I just feel like Conservative economic ideology is hard to take when you contrast it to the reality of its implementation.

Sorry your weekend sucked.

Lisa said...

Wow. That's what I get for making such a weak argument. I didn't mean to inspire such a long rant. :P I changed my mind...go for the extra beer.

I think now you are mischaracterizing what I said. :P I'm not accusing you of being against lower taxes, just lower taxes for rich people, which you hinted at when you said, "... our continued growth hasn't required us to cut taxes over and over for the very richest out of some ideological zeal about what works in theory."

The rich already pay an incredible amount of taxes already. Do some of them abuse the system? Yes. That shouldn't be excused. Tax cuts only become "dramatically expensive" when they aren't paired with spending cuts. That's true for all tax cuts, not just the ones for the rich people.

If the question is whether the government could spend the money we give it to cure these societal ills and spur this economic growth better than the private would give the government the edge in this effort? Interesting. I think we have given the government way too much responsibility for the limited role it was designed to play in America.

P.J. O'Rourke:
"Government is an abstract entity. It doesn't produce anything. It isn't a business, a factory or a farm. Government can't create wealth; only individuals can. All government is able to do is move wealth around. In the name of fairness government can take wealth from those who produce it and give wealth to those who don't. But who's going to be the big Robin Hood? Who grabs all this stuff and hands it back out?"

Yep. I'm much more comfortable with giving money back to the individuals/businesses who do create wealth and provide jobs and opportunities to those people you are referring to. Government isn't effective in what it does, except occasionally during wars. The government should make it easier for people to succeed to reducing the red tape they are subject to, and this includes businesses.

Not to echo myself here, but I certainly don't want the state of our economy to be determined by government-created jobs, whether directly or indirectly. I agree with you about France and Germany though.

The Republicans have screwed up. They have lost their nerve to do what they need to do on spending and in other areas as well. I'm not happy with them right now myself.

Perhaps the choice of phrase was a bit provocative. What I meant to say was "lower" taxes. The derogatory term did not originate with us, but with the Democrats. It's some kind of sick game with them to criminalize wealth. If you can point to a successful retraining program for workers, or a program that is very effective in getting people jobs, that is run by the government, I will concede your point. I don't believe that you can. :P

The theory works when properly applied. The Republicans and President Bush haven't applied it properly.

Graham said...

I agree with you about criminalizing success. There's nothing wrong with succeeding in life, and the spirit of enterprise is what drives a growing society.

I don't believe government creates jobs better than the private sector. I cited government investment in retraining programs and getting the long term unemployed back into work, in addition to paying down the national debt, and sensibly paying for the war as an alternative to the top bracket of the Bush tax cuts. That doesn't make me a socialist undermining the value of free markets domestically or throughout the world. I would also include targeted tax incentives, qualified by encouraging investment in poorer areas, or in enterprise amongst young people, or breaks for small businesses, and that sort of thing. It's all gov't activism I guess, but government programs are just one part of what I was suggesting.

And yet, I would say this. It's an easy political conceit, and a clever piece of rhetoric to say individuals and businesses create jobs and not government as a justification for an economic strategy which essentially comprises nothing more than comprehensive tax cuts. The market does not on its own create a perfect society. The market has deficiencies, and the notion that government must do nothing to redress those deficiencies because "individuals and businesses create jobs" demeans the depth of the reality. Gov't activism isn't inherently wrong, but the reality of the modern world is that it must change... as Billy rightly said, the era of big gov't is over. But, what leaving it to "individuals and businesses," practically equates to is government doing nothing, when in small ways it still can make a positive difference without constraining our liberties, and while actually positively stimulating the economy.

It's also hard being told by Republicans that government must do nothing to intervene and help rectify the inadequacies of the market... the pockets of poverty it doesn't reach... the industrial towns progress leaves behind... when our attempts to do so under Clinton did nothing but good, and our inaction under Bush, short of comprehensive tax cuts, has produced record deficits, record levels of non-defense discretionary spending, while the national debt has reached 8 trillion dollars. It's not about curing societies ills. It's just about progress.

My point is that trickle down economics doesn't work. It has never once worked for very long. And, it's not working now. If government had not spent so much the US economy probably wouldn't even be in better shape than it is today... we haven't even really started to feel the effects of the defecits and debt. Fiscal discipline is vital, ABSOLUTELY vital, but it's only one part of the story.

Leaving it to "businesses and individuals" is a nice turn of phrase but what it actually amounts to is a failing economy that doesn't help either businesses or individuals. This compelling sentiment casts a shadow on anything but a tax cut in the eyes of the electorate... but it's actually "nothing but tax cuts" economics which is responsible for the mess we are in.

As a famous Democrat once said, "We believe in only the government we need but all the government we need." I think the fact we are not bound by economic ideology is one of the Democratic Party's greatest strength's moving forward.

Lisa said...

I'm not calling you a socialist. Calling people socialists is fun, but it doesn't accomplish much of anything. As for your economic proposals (which weren't clearly spelled out in the beginning of this argument), I would be in favor of all of that. It's just that too much government activism scares me, and we should keep its desire for social engineering to a minimum.

Are you sure you don't want to be an MP in Parliament? All this brilliant logic is wasted on us commoners. :P I'm not assigning magical powers to the free market. We do need some government intervention, but I don't believe that it accomplishes very much the way some government programs are currently administered. I'm ok with effective and efficient government intervention/programs. I just don't see the evidence that they exist on a large scale basis.

I agree that we need a better economic policy than just tax cuts and fiscal discipline, but both of those things together would be a good start toward that better economic policy. If that's JFK again, I'm not exactly sure where he was going with that quote. I don't know how you can have an economic ideology. That's a weird phrase, when put in current context. Hopefully the Dems have some ideas about fixing the might help them win some elections. It could happen (but probably won't. :P)

Let's move on now and stop boring the other people reading this blog. :)

Graham said...

The quote was Mario Cuomo from the Convention speech in 84, although I don't know if he was quoting someone else. What I take from it is that just because you believe in a lean government, doesn't mean you don't want to make the most of the difference that government can make.

We'll have to see what happens with the Dems and policies they put forward. By economic ideology I just meant applying a theory, and rigidly & dogmatically believing in that theory, without retaining the flexibility to do more, or make alterations, and be more practical about things.

I also agree that we need to limit the ways in which we depend on government as a society... government should definately only ever be a helping hand, so people who can can help themselves.

+ I think you'll find that I'm the commoner...

+ I'm sure your brilliant logic will go to good use getting that Republican elected in SC.

Lisa said...

All this makes sense. Your flattery will get you nowhere, however. :P

Gert said...

Graham, your assertion that the defeat of the 90 days was purely party-political is a gross exaggeration and you know it (or you're very naive).

In votes of this type, whatever the bill at hand, some party politicking always comes into play but most MPs actually voted according to their conscience, which is unusual in a whipped vote.

As regards polls, we can trade them if you like: all kind of figures are being bandied around, depending largely on the perspective of the surveying body: it really proves very little. YouGov, well yes, the Politburo had its uses too...

As regards Blair, I'm not surprised you like US politics so much but over here we have less regard for presidential-style governing, which is so typical of someone like the PM.

The more I listen to Blair, the more I get the impression this is someone who not only is quite autocratic, he's also not really the sharpest tool in the box. Big on rhetoric and message delivery, small on actual content. A "great communicator" with relatively little to say.

The latest eductation reforms proposed are a nightmare waiting to happen. Unless you're a caviar-socialist of course. Perhaps that label fits you?

I see your undying love for the Dear Leader remains forever unabated and uncritical as ever...

Graham said...

Hey Gert,

Yes, I blindly follow thou leader :). Is it possible to like Tony Blair, must I be blind to reach that conclusion when during his premiership things have relatively speaking gone well. Of course we can speculate as to the actual causes of sustained economic growth, or whether there have been improvements in our public services, but when Blair leaves we'll be able to actually discern the truth via what things are like by contrast. Foreign policy is more complicated, but I admire his boldness, and don't view his deep conviction in reform at all as autocratic.

I agree with you about opinion polls. I wasn't using them to justify my opinion on the 90 day law, I was using them only to remark upon the political implications for Blair. I don't think that is unfair. As for Conservative MP's voting their conscience, Michael Howard was not declaring a victory for civil liberties he cherishes in the aftermath of the vote. He was calling for Tony Blair to resign.

I respect your views on 90 days greatly Gert. I respect the views of Labour Party rebels, and Liberal MP's as well, including Tories like Dorrel, and Clarke who may have conceivably felt this way if they had been in government actually responsible for these policies. I do not respect a politically calculated effort to undermine Tony Blair by the Conservative Party as a whole. I don't think the likes of David Davis, William Hague, and many others would have voted this way under different circumstances. I also don't think I'm blind or anything else for reaching this conclusion.

Like I said, the fact that the Conservatives came out swinging for Blair's resignation because he suffered a parliamentary defeat says everything about some of their motives.

Gert said...

Sure, progress on Public services has been made, undeniably so. Of course, compared to old-style Tories, that's hardly an achievement. Still, I'l grant you that.

As regards the economy, I believe Brown's done a good job indeed. But we musn't forget that when things go well economically Governments claim victory but when things turn sour they blame world economics, oil prices and whatever else springs to mind. Our economy is indeed interdependent on the outside world.

That the conservatives came swinging out for Blair's resignation is true. Had the situation been one of a Tory Government defeat, Labour would of course have done exactly the same thing.

The real test lies with the Education reforms where the proposals are in line with the Conservatives thinking. How wil they vote then?

Talking to younger people they seem to me unable to grasp the negative effects of privatisation. Let me give but one example.

My wife, an NHS staff nurse, needs to go on some courses. So she enrolled on one for the cost of £400. The course is organised by a private company, the UK Heathcare Education Partnership Ltd (UKHEP Ltd, see also

Well, this way it's easy to have a low tax economy. Tax at 25%, then make people pay separately for what should be publicly funded. It really is no more that channeling taxes to private companies.

Of course there needs to be some independent abjudication of these pirates, which in itself cost more tax money. On paper it all looks very slick, in practice it's inefficient except for those at the receiving end of this flow of funds...

Neovo said...

I'm glad the 90 days were thrown out, if anything i'm suprised there wasn't more coverage.

On a lighter note i do like the new design/look of things on here.

Graham said...

Hey Gert, what you describe about the NHS worries me too. I used to be rabidly anti-privatisation when I was younger. As time has gone by, principally because I know somebody who works in local gov't housing and tenant participation, I see the ways that greater private sector involvement can just get things done, and provide services greater flexibility to improve and meet people's needs. Turning away from this now would be stagnating progress dramatically because we can't really afford to raise taxes any further, and lib dem proposals of creating a new tax bracket for very wealthy earners I think will hinder the money that the treasury derives from year in year out growth which is historically unprecedented.

I've written about the NHS somewhere, maybe on another blog, and I'm strongly against people paying separately for the sake of a low tax economy. We are really in between the US and Europe and I think in many ways it suits us perfectly. We take so much for granted in many ways... in the US I had a chest infection for something like two months because visiting a doctor cost me $60... and even then I was lucky that the doctor gave me a test sample of anti-biotics for free. This can be the case also for people who have insurance, who sometimes have to pay thousands of dollars as part of examinations and operations. It's awful to think that millions of children have no health coverage.

It can be a cruel system in the US, but privatization, freedom, and choice is fundamentally part of the fabric of their society. + it's a lot harder to have a socialized healthcare system for 300 million people in a nation as big as the US than it is for 60 million in the UK.

In the UK I think we should focus on improving our services... the only way I could see having no private sector involvment would be to have a hypothecated NHS tax... but I just don't think the will is there anymore. I have really bad breathing problems and I'm always being referred for tests and (even though I'm politically biased) the difference since I've been back, and four/five years ago is really noticeable. I get so much more time with consultants, and tests like CT scans within a couple of weeks. Very cool stuff.

Somehow we have to try and find ways to pay public servants like your wife what they're worth, that is the real challenge. I have a friend who is an ambulance worker who earns 24,000 a year. She told me she'd just started and that was up quite a lot from what it used to be.

Sometimes I just think we have too many people on this island Get. We have something like 1/5 to 1/6 the population of the United States and 1/20 or something the space in which to live. I think how densely the Uk is populated, especially in the south east, has everything to do with the problems people confront, like housing prices, and the cost of living outpacing what some can afford. I always think this a lot when I'm squished on an underground train... it's not the train or service that's the problem, it's all the other sods riding the damn train at the same time...

Hope you're well Gert :).

Graham said...

Thanks nauk, I'm glad you like the design. I'm definately getting use to it.