Monday , November 30 2020
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The nub of our disagreement

Summary:
Danny Finkelstein writes of the Ralph Miliband book that John McDonnell seems to be using as a blueprint. Just the one detail of which explains our base disagreement with the particular flavour of socialism being promoted:From this combination, Miliband expects social harmony to be achieved. This harmony would be produced by universal civic virtue, in which people “would find no great difficulty in the cultivation of a socialised individualism in which the expression of their individuality would be combined with a due regard for the constraints imposed upon it by life in society”. People will stop being cruel. There will be “a community of interest” between everyone.As we’ve pointed out before we’ve no problem with - indeed celebrate - voluntary what we might call economic socialism. That

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Danny Finkelstein writes of the Ralph Miliband book that John McDonnell seems to be using as a blueprint. Just the one detail of which explains our base disagreement with the particular flavour of socialism being promoted:

From this combination, Miliband expects social harmony to be achieved. This harmony would be produced by universal civic virtue, in which people “would find no great difficulty in the cultivation of a socialised individualism in which the expression of their individuality would be combined with a due regard for the constraints imposed upon it by life in society”. People will stop being cruel. There will be “a community of interest” between everyone.

As we’ve pointed out before we’ve no problem with - indeed celebrate - voluntary what we might call economic socialism. That John Lewis is owned by the workers is just fine. The cooperatives that were the Friendly Societies we regard as admirable. For while we might say that they’re socialist in one meaning of that word they’re also those little platoons getting on with solving some of life’s problems as they, the platoons, wish to see them solved. A rather conservative idea even if possibly socialist.

We do, after all, believe in voluntary cooperation and voluntary association.

Our problem with the Miliband - and thus McDonnell - version is that it presumes, assumes perhaps, something we don’t think will happen. That a change in the economic arrangements of life is going to change human beings and their motivations.

Our insistence is that the task is entirely the other way around. Humans are as humans are. The task is to build a system in which those impulses, urges, reactions to incentives, are harnessed to the aggregate good. Voluntary association, voluntary exchange, the price system and all the other bits and bobs that go with them. Rather than this idea that if only humans could be changed then the new rational order would work.

After all, New Soviet Man never did turn up despite a certain long lasting and intense pressure to force him to do so. We don’t think New Socialist Man will either. Which is why we’re not with a plan that depends upon, assumes, he will.

We’re pragmatists, above all, thus insisting upon the system that works the clay we’ve got as an input, not demands that unobtanium that doesn’t exist. However glorious that socialist future might be it’s not going to come to pass with homo sapiens sapiens. It’s therefore not a viable option while we remain what we are, that hom. sap.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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