There is still a meaningful left-right distinction

There was an article in yesterday’s Australian Financial Review (July 12, 2015) – Left and right labels wear thin, lose definition – which as the title suggests tried to argue that it is hard “to know who or what is left or right wing any more”. The article used a number of examples, including the so-called Communist government of China bailing out its (farcical) share market and the Greek ‘far left’ government agreeing to austerity and on-going debt demands from the creditors, to suggest that it is no longer easy delineating what is left and what is right and dubbing policies accordingly (one way or another) “provides little illumination”. This is a recurring theme in recent years and part of the neo-liberal attempt to blur what it going on and treat ideological stances as reality or factual assessments. It is still very clear to me what is a left-wing position. The rest of the article provides in his own words “little illumination” about the issue. The argument in this blog is that the categories remain influential and meaningful but are blurred through ignorance as to how the monetary system operates. Left-wingers fall prey to right-wing policies because they have bought the TINA myth. That is the only way one could explain the Syriza disaster, for example.

The denial of the utility of the left-right divide is one of a number of strategies that have been deployed over the neo-liberal period to deter fundamental dissent.

I have just finished reading a book – The Government and Politics and France (Fifth Edition) – by Andrew Knapp and Vincent Wright (published in 2006 by Routledge). It helped me understand some of the historical developments in Europe.

In historical terms, we learn that:

France invented the terms Left and Right early in the great Revolution of 1789-94 which first limited the powers of, and then overthrew, the Bourbon monarchy. Those noble members of the first National Assembly who wished to limit the powers of the monarch moved to sit with the commoners on the left of the Assembly; those who still supported the absolutism of what was shortly to become known as the ancien régime sat on the right, as seen from the chair of the presiding officer.

These convenient ‘seating’ labels “had passed into general political discourse” by 1900 although as the authors note, the “terms …. Left and Right … have meant different things at different times” and there are “some political divisions … [mostly related to] … to foreign relations, which have never fallen neatly into a Left/Right categorisation.

In the French context, the early meaning of the division related to attitudes to monarchy, the separation of Church and state, etc, whereas later in the C19th, the issues were extended to included fiscal policy design to “finance social reforms: shorter working week; factory legislation” and later, a broader perspective on whether the replace capitalism with socialism via reformation or revolution.

The French right believed in absolute monarchy, blurred lines between the Roman Catholic Church and the state, particularly in the area of education (a greater role for religion in schooling), and as time passed, “Laissez-faire capitalism”, curiously, tempered by the “protection of French agriculture and industry” and no income taxes or income support measures for the disadvantaged.

After 1945, the French right conceded on the need for some social security capacity to be maintained.

The evolution of the French political system helps us understand more generally what these terms mean and whether they have become so diluted that we should cease to use them.

I don’t plan to offer a full historical account of the evolution of these ideas. That will appear (perhaps next year) in a book I am working on about the current state of the progressive left.

I am also aware that the terms have both cultural and national variations. So, for example, the very useful – Political Compass – reports that Americans typically contest the meaning of the term liberal, confusing it with the political tag attributed to the Democratic Party.

They argue that the American usage of these terms overlooks “the undoubtedly libertarian tradition of European anarcho-syndicalism”.

They note that the term “libertarian” was used in the European discourse “ong before the term was adopted by some economic rightwingers”.

In other words, you can be a left-wing libertarian (I claim that status) or a right-wing libertarian, depending on your economic perspectives.

Personal freedom does not equate to a free market. A state can have a large government with tight regulation of capitalist industry yet strong ideals for individual freedom.

Advancing individual freedom as a goal does not have to compromise a solidaristic collective approach to resource allocation and income distribution.

The Political Compass helpfully contends:

… that Left and Right, although far from obsolete, are essentially a measure of economics. As political establishments adopt either enthusiastically or reluctantly the prevailing economic orthodoxy – the neo-liberal strain of capitalism – the Left-Right division between mainstream parties becomes increasingly blurred. Instead, party differences tend to be more about identity issues. In the narrowing debate, our social scale is more crucial than ever.

They thus provide a four-quadrant assessment tool – with the horizontal extremes being the left-right economic divide and the vertical extremes being defined in terms of ‘authoritarianism’ (statist) versus ‘libertarian’.

The UK Guardian provided a breakdown of this framework for the British political system in this article (November 1, 2013) – Ukip has chanced upon the neglected part of British politics

The debate is highly topical at present given that the so-called extreme left Syriza party has seemingly fallen into line with a rather extreme right-wing policy framework, after its undoubted capitulation over the weekend.

While it might be difficult to pin down what a left-wing position is, the following propositions appear obvious:

1. A left-wing government would not accept policies that worsened unemployment.

2. A left-wing government would not accept policies that made the material standard of living of the most disadvantaged citizens worse off.

3. A left-wing government would not attack social welfare programs, including old-age pensions, minimum wages and housing subsidies.

4. A left-wing government would not seek to reduce job protections.

5. A left-wing government would not agree to privatise essential services (power, transport etc).

On all those accounts, the Syriza government is acting as a right-wing force in Greek politics.

A left-wing government would not aspire to be ‘pro business’ but rather realise that the relationships between workers and capital are antagonistic and the state has to act as a mediator between the two if the workers are to access the productivity gains of the system and enjoy income security.

I don’t necessarily consider that left-wingers have to support trade unions, especially in the current period where many trade union leaders have been found to have acted corruptly or questionably with respect to the trade union funds etc. In Australia at present there is a Royal Commission investigating trade union practices.

While the Royal Commission is a political stunt introduced by the Conservative government to undermine the reputation of the Leader of the Opposition, a former trade union leader, it is clear that certain leaders have done sweetheart deals with the bosses to advance their own material and political interest, while trading away the pay and working conditions of their members.

As long as there is a strong state which maintains full employment, strong job protection rules, occupational health and safety regulations, and effective anti-discrimination legislation, the workers will not be at a disadvantage.

Trade unions can help but only if they don’t become part of the neo-liberal corruption, which many seem to have fallen.

I realise that those on the left who also claim to be libertarian want more trade union control of workplaces as part of a move to decentralise power.

I have some sympathy for that view – especially the move to cooperatives and workers’ councils – but, first, the evolution of places like Mondragon are not confidence boosting (they have effectively falling into the neo-liberal vortex) and, second, and more importantly, an understanding of the monetary system, as provided by Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) requires the state to perform essential functions that cannot be taken over the decentralised entities without fiscal capacity.

That is one of the important insights that MMT offers. Whether one is of a left- or right-wing persuasion, one cannot escape the role that the state, as the currency-issuer plays in the smooth (or otherwise) functioning of the monetary economy.

Setting up a whole host of co-operatives does not reduce the need for appropriate fiscal functions at the national level, or in the case of the Eurozone at the federal level.

The essential problem of the Eurozone, as we all know now, is the lack of that federal fiscal function.

So an understanding of MMT, brings out the left and right divide into relief and allows us to see the on-going relevance of the distinction.

At present, because people generally do not understand the way the monetary system operates and the opportunities that currency-issuance bestows on the national government, politicians and commentators can base policies on myths and lies.

So we hear that the government cannot increase public employment because it doesn’t have enough money – and so higher than necessary unemployment becomes justified by appealing to a household analogy that there isn’t enough money to go around and sacrifices have to be made.

Even so-called progressives make that mistake and talk about introducing ‘fairer’ austerity, which is one of those vacuous political phrases that just tell us that the politician hasn’t got a clue.

The point is that if the population fully understood that the national, currency-issuing government ‘can never run out of money’ then the justification for maintaining higher than necessary unemployment is called into question.

It then becomes obvious that the politician making that statement must want unemployment to remain high for other reasons. Right-wing reasons, such as, disciplining pay demands to allow capital to receive higher real income shares than would be forthcoming if fairer (left-wing) distributions were made.

The political debate would become much more transparent again and the right- and left-wing divide would be clearer again to all.

At present, things are so-blurred by the outpourings constantly hitting our TVs, radios, newspapers, Internet outlets, etc by the neo-liberals that we have lost that sense of motive.

TINA claims deny motive because the proponent doesn’t want us to know that their motives are such that we couldn’t possibly support the policy.

By making it out that there are no alternatives, we are less able to reject policies that damage us.

That is one way I am seeking to understand what has happened in Greece in the last few weeks. It is clear that the Greek people mostly want to stay in the Euro and the so-called left (not) government has taken that as an iron clad priority and partnered with the extreme right-wing (Troika) and agreed to a horrendous suite of policies that will inflict further deep harm on the population.

The question then is – is the preference to remain in the Eurozone rational and informed?

My view is that it is not an informed viewpoint. None of the political parties in Greece appear to understand what the alternatives are. Some individual politicians seem to realise that an exit is not rocket science and requires a set of procedures which are well known and relatively easily implemented to be followed.

The population has little understanding of the nuances of monetary systems and have been bombarded with lies about the alleged ‘catastrophic’ consequences of reintroducing their own currency.

The arguments about Greece having to remain in the Eurozone to be part of Europe are equally ill-founded. Given the behaviour of the European elites in the last weeks, one wonders what the ‘European Project’ has become anyway.

But a left-wing position has to support the sovereignty of each nation, by which I mean the capacity to issue one’s own currency, to float it on international markets and to set one’s own interest rates.

That is the only way to guarantee that the state can advance the traditional left-wing interests of pay equity, income security, freedom to associate, full employment, and more recent ambitions such as environmental sustainability.

By entering the monetary union, each nation surrendered that capacity and I would argue all political parties that supported the Maastricht Treaty and have implemented it since forfeited their left-wing credentials and became part of the neo-liberal right-wing machine.

It is thus clear to me that the terms – right and left – still resonate, once we pare away the sleight of hand that the mainstream use to discredit differences of opinion and policy alternatives.

The TINA mentality clearly requires a conflation of ideas into the ruling ideology for its success.

The strengthening Groupthink among policy makers around the world, developed to a high form among the European political class, has clearly sought to suppress dissent, destroy any rogue political parties and maintain an iron grip on economic policy so that it advances the aims of capital, first and foremost.

A left-wing position would consider it a primary goal of society to advance human development irrespective of race, gender or age.

The right-wing deny there is a thing called society.

Left-wingers want policies introduced that break down barriers to such advancement.

The Troika advances policies that negate human development, discriminate against age (the entrenched youth unemployment tells you that), and they build barriers to subvert such advancement.

An examination of the British fiscal statement last week (which I am still reading about) tells us that the state has moved against its youth.

The TINA myths, are akin to the situation in the late 1990s, when mainstream economists started claiming that the “business cycle was dead”. Remember the so-called Great Moderation, which purported to deny a role for government in terms of fiscal stabilisation policy and concentrated the policy debate onto microeconomic reform, which meant – deregulation, privatisation, outsources, welfare retrenchment etc.

Please read my blog – The Great Moderation myth – for more discussion on this point.

A decade later (or so) the GFC proved the business cycle was not dead and that the claims that a self-regulating free market would deliver wealth for all was a myth of the most insidious type.


So for me – I consider it essential that people understand the way the monetary system works so that the deceptions that clothe the ideological persuasion of the person, cannot be hidden with smokescreens and lies.

Then it will be obvious to all whether they are ‘right-wing’ or ‘left-wing’.

A little aside

A number of people have railed against the anger I directed at ‘Germany’ and to a lesser extent Finland in recent posts. I don’t resile from that anger. The evidence coming out is that German delegates (Finance Minister, Chancellor) dominate EU meetings and have used bullying tactics to deliver unreasonable outcomes for Greece to say the least.

There was an interesting comment in this regard by a German commentator Henning Meyer who is “Editor-in-Chief of Social Europe and a Research Associate of the Public Policy Group at the London School of Economics and Political Science” in the Op Ed article (July 13, 2015) – What Are The Consequences Of The Greek Deal?.

He wrote:

The suspicion of Germany is back. This is very painful for me as a German but I am afraid that Merkel’s and Schäuble’s politics have been nothing short of a disaster for Germany too (in addition to Greece and Europe). For years, the population has been fed a wrong narrative of what the real problems are and the ruthlessness with which a purely national view was enforced has nothing to do with European partnership anymore. Especially Schäuble has become a real liability. He should pack up and leave office immediately.

That is why the ‘ugly German’ is back at the centre stage.

He also said:

A senior official in the room believed that Germany was now the country that appeared to be acting in bad faith …

Along with the lackeys (Finland and Slovakia), the behaviour of German politicians, who represent the nation in international affairs has been deplorable.

They have used scaremongering and played on the socio-pathological fear of inflation among the German population domestically to exact cruel and harsh penalties on Greece.

As the Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Fico claimed yesterday – Greece is now an “EU protectorate” aka a German colony.

That is why I invoked the ‘ugly German’. The behaviour is manifesting differently than in past historical epochs, but the treatment of fellow European citizens by the German state remains deplorable.

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It is a long book (521 pages) and the full price for the hard-back edition is not cheap. The eBook version is very affordable.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2015 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Bill,

    > Then it will be obvious to all whether they are ‘right-wing’ or ‘left-wing’.

    I agree that the outcome of the latest agreement would go against basic ‘left-wing’ principles. But I don’t think that demonstrates that Tsipras and his colleagues have a right-wing ideological persuasion. The more plausible hypothesis is that they are just incompetent. Of course, they are also dishonest, because the reason we have arrived at the current situation is that they refused to explain to voters the incompatibility between their two main election pledges. But the dishonesty was not an attempt to deceive in order to impose austerity; rather, it was just a means to maintain political power for a little while longer.

    So while you might judge people on a left-right and a statist-libertarian axis, politicians and governments need to be judged on a competent-incompetent axis as well. The government of Samaras would have delivered a better outcome to the Greek people than the one they will actually get.

    And just to throw in another axis for good measure, to form a political orientation hypercube, the one principle that the SYRIZA leadership have consistently tried to maintain is one of Internationalism, rather than nationalism, and although this is often associated with left-wing principles, as your quote from Knapp and Wright says “foreign relations […] have never fallen neatly into a Left/Right categorisation.”

  2. “It is clear that the Greek people mostly want to stay in the Euro”

    Do you have any evidence to support this comment, because I am not convinced it is true? The referendum did not ask this question and I have not seen any polls published that support this. A recent BBC report showed an interviewer asking people in a bank queue what they thought. One woman said that Greece should revert to the drachma, but the interviewer swiftly moved on.

    As you quite rightly point out, the general populace don’t have the tools to make an informed decision anyway.

  3. “the one principle that the SYRIZA leadership have consistently tried to maintain is one of Internationalism, rather than nationalism”

    Disagree. They have maintained European Nationalism, which is a new and disturbing viewpoint.

    European Uber Alles – despite locality being near meaningless in a modern world.

  4. “Do you have any evidence to support this comment, because I am not convinced it is true?”

    Particularly given the accuracy of the Greek polls prior to the referendum.

  5. Dear Bill

    In foreign policy, the left has to be consistently anti-imperialist because imperialism is by its very nature inegalitarian. Only some states can practice imperialism, just as only some people can own slaves and only some people can be very wealthy.

    When only about 15% of the work force is unionized and when those 15% are generally the best-paid workers, as is the case in Canada and the US, then a policy of strong support for unions is more rightwing than leftwing. North American unions don’t do anything for the legion of poorly paid workers in the service sector.

    Responsibility and control have to go together to a certain degree. If I am responsible for you but have absolutely no authority over you, then I’m at your mercy. This implies that libertarianism and solidarism are contradictory. Solidarity means that we are responsible for each other. If we are are, then we must also try to have some control over each other. That’s why I favor seatbelt laws and am not opposed to drug prohibition in principle. It is of course possible to oppose drug prohibition on pragmatic grounds because they are unenforceable. We can’t take the position: “You can do whatever you like and if things go wrong for you, then we will bail you out”. Our position should be: “We are responsible when things go wrong for you. Therefore we have to insure that you behave prudently”.

    Regards. James

  6. @Neil

    I don’t think internationalism has a sufficiently clear definition to allow the distinction you are trying to make. A cynic might define it as a preference for foreign elites over local elites, and I think this would explain much of the ‘Club Med’ members attitudes towards Europe.

  7. Schauble is a lawyer, not an economist. So his frame of reference will differ and be more legalistic that that of an economist.

  8. JD, true but so is Bill Black. Not an excuse for policies that harm people.

  9. Good post, Bill.

    My personal test for whether a policy is progressive or conservative is “who does it benefit or empower?” Does it empower the poor and working class, or does it empower the elites ?

    BTW I think the Political Compass left/right & authoritarian/libertarian concept is useful, but their test questions are weak and I often disagree with results. For example, it puts you as a left libertarian but I think of you as a left authoritarian, particularly with regards to your advocacy of a not-so-voluntary JG.

  10. Niel, “Particularly given the accuracy of the Greek polls prior to the referendum.”

    I’ll take your word for that as I don’t have the benefit of having seen any of these polls. However, if it is the case, the Greeks must be brainwashed – presumably by their press. I would also mention that I generally distrust polls, as evidenced by the fact that in the UK all the polls were forecasting a hung parliament this Spring, whereas in fact the Tories won (admittedly just about). Same went for the Scottish referendum. Having been involved in marketing in my time I know that the samples just aren’t big enough to extrapolite over the entire population.

  11. Dear Mr Schipper,
    I usually enjoy your comments at Professor Mitchell’s blog however you are wrong that support for unions in Canada, at least, is more “rightwing than leftwing“ because they “don’t do anything“for poorly paid workers in the service sector. Canadian unions have tried to unionise workers in the service sector but it is notoriously difficult to do. In Quebec there have been successful union organising drives at Walmart, McDonald’s and Canadian Tire stores. Unfortunately powerful employer opposition has made it very difficult to hang on to these gains. MacDonald’s and Walmart have shut locations rather than allow a union from gaining a foothold and Canadian Tire has done everything it can to prevent successful negotiations. Indeed the Supreme Court of Canada ruled last year that Walmart had violated the Quebec labour code for its closure of a store. There were also two attempts to unionise thousands of Bell call centre workers which ultimately failed despite coming very close.
    Nonetheless there have been successful and continuing examples in Ontario of gas station workers and thousands of workers in private seniors`residence being unionised. Similarly in Quebec the workforce in the St Hubert restaurant chain is also unionised. No doubt there are many other examples. Of course the vast majority of service workers remain unorganised due to the many, many difficulties involved, primarily very hostile employers, but also the dispersion of service workers in many workplaces with few workers..

    In addition, and at least as importantly, the Canadian labour movement has been the greatest supporter of all organised groups in the country of maintaining our public healthcare system and expanding it to include pharmaceutical drugs. The labour movement has also lead attempts to double the public Canada/Quebec pension plan despite the fact that most unionised workers are covered by private pensions. While all Canadians benefit from these social programs, it is the least well-off, including “the poorly paid“service workers“, who benefit the most from these public programs.
    As an aside, Canadian labour, including workers in the tar sands and oil refineries, also strongly supported the now defunct Kyoto agreement to limit greenhouse gases.
    All the best

  12. One can only define Syriza’s politics by the policies they’ve agreed to, if they agreed to them voluntarily and I don’t see that as a realistic description of what has just happened.
    They certainly believe the majority of Greeks wish to retain the Euro, correctly or not but I suspect they know more than most the rest of us on this. it would not be surprising, people are generally wary of currency change & the Greeks had some poor experiences in the past that might make them more inclined to such a view than most. I suspect a desire not to be at odds with the electorate on this ends up dictating many of their actions
    The extensive on line writings of Yanis Varoufakis would certainly have the vast majority of people identifying him as left and if his views were significantly at odds with those of his party one would expect him to have mentioned it. His own position on Euro membership can probably be accurately summarised as he’s much rather they hadn’t joined and recognises the potential for better recovery outside but is fearful of the process, this may be disingenuous on his part but I think that’s for others to prove that if they think he’s not being honest.

  13. On the contrary current events (given their in your face nature) have proven how fake the left / right wing split truly is both past present and into our future.

    Social creditors have been more or less proven 100% correct on the present social , economic, political ( they are anti political in the conventional modern sense) and spiritual attack on the individual , family and village cooperative structure.
    The euro is the logical conclusion of capitalism , it carries forth the destruction previously done by the banking state known as the nation by many.
    Now the invented concept of the nation is on the chopping block.
    The French banking state of the 19 the century destroyed the regions and the current demonic project will carry this torch of destruction to its final conclusion.
    The liberal materialists of which Bill is a member have served their function for now.
    The total centralization of all life during the 19th and 20 the centuries means that presently the real agenda can be comfortably accomplished in open view as people do not have access to life support systems outside the monetary loop.
    Looks like humanity is toast.
    Bill should stop reading Goldstein’s book and look at the present reality.
    There is really now no progressive agenda. ( the liberal fascists have done all the damage required of their masters and also are beginning to seem redundant now given their “success” in destroying the bedrock of society.
    Its now simply us ( the people without access to the monopoly of credit) and them. ( the people who nurture it for their own twisted goals)
    The people with the monopoly of credit control all life – they simply seek continued massive destruction so as to sustain their place at the top of the table.
    Its a logical tactic because if they stop the subjected section of humanity will eat them alive.

  14. Dear Dan (at 2015/07/15 at 1:15)

    Thanks for the ‘personalised’ assessment.

    No-one would be forced to undertake a Job Guarantee if I was running it.

    But in Capitalism, we are all forced to do something to gain income if we do not own capital independently. The JG does not introduce any extra coercion and frees individuals from unemployment.

    best wishes
    ps there are several questions in the Political Compass that I have to lie about because they assume the currency issuing government is financially constrained. I know what they are wanting the answers to be and so I have to fudge my response and deny the reality.

  15. Nigel Hargreaves: You are right not to be convinced. That is one of many dubious contentions about the situation based on insufficient evidence or worse, but widely believed because of frequent repetition.

    Here is Gallup International End of year 2014 poll
    Page 4: 52% of Greeks prefer national currency over the euro, supported only by 32%.

  16. Bill,

    Have you posted or will you post on the various myths that are perpetrated about Greece and Greeks? These myths are perpetrated in an attempt to debunk macroeconomic explanations of the current Greek tragedy.

    For example, it is said that the Greeks are lazy. The stats I have found indicate that;

    “… according to the OECD , the average Greek worked 2,120 hours in the crisis year of 2008. That is 690 hours more than the average German, 467 hours more than the average Brit, and 356 more than the OECD average. (8.) Greeks do not work fewer days either. They were guaranteed 23 days of paid holidays in that same year, Brits 28, Germans 30. The average Greek retired at the age of 61.7 years, which is above the average of the Germans, the Italians, the Brits and the EU27 average. (9.)” – Pogatsa Zoltan.

    It is said that Greece is excessively corrupt but the data shows Greece is not really any kind of egregious outlier. It could be better but then so could a lot of countries. And what about US corruption for example? Savings and Loans scandal, Enron, Bernie Madoff, derivatives scandal, junk bonds, Lehmann brothers. World wide what about LIBOR rigging, huge bank scandals etc. etc.? It seems that perception of corruption and consequent name-calling is very subjective and selective.

    “Transparency International publishes annual corruption perception indices about a great multitude of countries. In the Eurozone decade before the crisis, Greece scored somewhere between 4.2. and 4.6 points, continuously improving, on a scale where ten is perceived to be the least corrupt. This put Greece in positions 42nd to 56th, on par with countries such as South Korea, the Czech Republic or Slovakia, not usually perceived as particularly corrupt. (12.) Some other countries that have been hyped as success cases in the initial crisis years, such as Turkey or Poland, were to be found around position 65 (with Panama and Ghana) and position 70 (along with Burkina Faso, Lesotho and Syria) respectively in 2005.” – Pogatsa Zoltan.

    Much is made of Greece’s supposed rigging of accounts to enter the Eurozone. However, Wikipedia tells us;

    “An error sometimes made is the confusion of discussion regarding Greece’s Eurozone entry with the controversy regarding usage of derivatives’ deals with U.S. Banks by Greece and other Eurozone countries to artificially reduce their reported budget deficits. A currency swap arranged with Goldman Sachs allowed Greece to “hide” 2.8 billion Euros of debt, however, this affected deficit values after 2001 (when Greece had already been admitted into the Eurozone) and is not related to Greece’s Eurozone entry.[89]

    A study of the period 1999-2009 by forensic accountants has found that data submitted to Eurostat by Greece, among other countries, had a statistical distribution indicative of manipulation; “Greece with a mean value of 17.74, shows the largest deviation from Benford’s law among the members of the eurozone, followed by Belgium with a value of 17.21 and Austria with a value of 15.25″.[90][91]” – Wikipedia.

    Note that Belgium shows a nearly similar deviation from Benford’s law.

    Overall, Greece does not seem to be an outlier of laziness or corruption. The statistics show the Greeks are hard working (in hours) when they can get a job and that Greece is merely middle-of-the-road in the corruption stakes when one looks at all the world.

    People are grasping at straws to make these the arguments for Greece’s problems. How did the Greeks have an economic miracle in the sixties if they are lazy and corrupt?

    “The Greek economic miracle is the period of sustained economic growth in Greece from 1950 to 1973. During this period, the Greek economy grew by an average of 7.7%, second in the world only to Japan.[1][2]” – Wikipedia.

  17. Dear Keith Newman

    I agree with you that the Canadian labor movement is not in bed with the neo-liberals and that they generally support progressive policies, which also benefit non-unionized workers. That is the political side of it. However, my point was that, as unions, they don’t do much for the majority of employees. For instance, a few years ago there was a strike by bus drivers in Ottawa. Was this beneficial to the employees of Canadian Tire, Walmart, Tim Hortons in the Ottawa area? I doubt it very much. The more money city bus drivers make, the more a bus ticket may cost. What is good for unionized workers isn’t necessarily good for all workers, even if the unions are staunch defenders of egalitarian policies.

    Regards. James

  18. Great post professor.

    “A left-wing government would not aspire to be ‘pro business’ but
    rather realise that the relationships between workers and capital
    are antagonistic and the state has to act as a mediator between
    the two if the workers are to access the productivity gains of the
    system and enjoy income security.”

    I would add that any government of either persuasion should only aspire
    to be ‘pro society’. Whether its “Lefties” motivated by of social cohesion or “righties”
    motivated by their “faith” in an unmanipulated “free market”,(it ain’t free
    if its manipulated by ‘pro business’ policies). In a society run for the
    benefit of its members businesses benefit from the aggregate demand of fully
    employed/engaged populace.
    On the telly the other night they said business confidence is up and consumer
    confidence is down. Unless the business have their orders books filled with
    orders from overseas, I’m a little puzzled.

  19. And now they are going for the trade unions:

    The UK Tories have now set their sights on removing Labour Party funding as well as severely restricting labour’s ability to protest. Read this morning’s edition of the online Guardian for the latest UK Tory outrage.

    And the worst thing about this is that the Tories got a majority in large part due to the ridiculous electoral system that is in place in the UK, not because the population generally like them or their policies.

  20. Some Guy. Thanks for that. It supports my supposition perfectly. And it’s a big enough gap to exclude experimental and sampling inaccuracies. Interesting that all countries – including Italy – support the euro. If only they knew what it actually means they might change their minds. The Greeks are getting real evidence in their living standards as to what it means.

  21. I think there is a simple test to differentiate between political left and right.
    Do you want a more just and equitable distribution of real resources?
    Egalitariansm is the badge of the left.
    Democracy and fraternitiy is claimed by many different traditions.

  22. Nigel Hargreaves: More evidence from the important and enlightening Sebastian Budgen interview of Stathis Kouvelakis in Jacobin Greece: The Struggle Continues:

    So it’s completely irrational to say that the people voting for No were not in the very least taking the risk of a possible exit from the euro if that was the condition for saying “no” to further austerity measures.

    The idea that this was not more or less a referendum on the Euro presupposes the people of Greece are idiots, especially in the classical Greek sense of that word!

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