There is a persistent association between free-markets and the political right. James Garry challenges this orthodoxy and argues that free-markets help to continue the effects of the 1960s cultural revolution.
The Conservative Party is a left-wing party. As my Politics On Toast colleague ventilatorblues wrote earlier last week: there is no difference between the Tories and the left . Yet there are still people who refuse to admit, in spite of the Tories embracing of egalitarianism via the comprehensive school and waging liberal interventionist wars, that they are a party of the right.
It should seem obvious that this is so. But I have had debates with people who concede that the Tories have adopted Labour’s policies and still they think that the Tories are right-wing. This belief requires the mind to perform cartwheels of casuistry. Their spurious rationale is as follows: Tony Blair inherited Thatcher’s right-wing free-market genes and David Cameron’s Tories cloned themselves New Labour; so the Tories are, in fact, right-wing because they possess the un-mutated Thatcherite free-market DNA in their genetic make-up.
This is incorrect. New Labour were always left-wing darlings, never right-wing. Scrapping Clause IV did not make them right-wing. They still practised The Big State, they still impelled everyone’s children but their own to attend egalitarian comprehensive schools, they still commanded us to worship at the altar of multiculturalism. Conversely, embracing free-markets did not make them right-wing.
Free-markets are not right-wing.
Many of the consequences of free-marketeering dovetail neatly with the wishes of the left. The high-street stores that market sexualised clothing to young children are operating free-market principles. Consider the t-shirts for toddlers emblazoned with the inscription “future porn star”. Compare this to the early sexualisation of children in the education system where primary-school children are exhorted to chant the synonyms and colloquialisms for the genitalia. There is not much difference. Children are being primed to accept the results of the ’60s sexual revolution before they have the critical faculties to understand or evaluate it.
The free-market sexualisation of children is profit-lead and the sexual “education” of children is ideology-lead. Yet they go nicely together.
There is a misguided belief that free-markets regulate themselves. That if something is unpopular, offensive to the national sensibilities, or contrary to its morality then it will not sell. This is not true. A product does not need a democratic mandate to sell. It does not need more than 50% of the popular vote. It will sell so long as it makes a profit. Many people issuing disapproval of a product does not automatically make it unprofitable. Far from it.
Popular culture is constructed by those to whom it is easiest to sell and those who are keen to spend their money. Teenagers fulfil both these requirements and free-markets create a popular culture that is perpetually pubescent and obsessed with crushes and dejection.
Even though the infatuated, sexually urgent part of love lasts only a matter of months, this confused, hormonal stage is a constant in the world of pop. How many popular songs play on the radio that are not about adolescent love? If not love, then popular music plays on a teenager’s curiosity about drugs. Suffusing popular culture with sex and drugs is more in keeping with the left than the right. Sex and drugs were, after all, the selling point for the ’60s revolution.
Television is not immune from market pressures either. The BBC which, due to its unique funding arrangements, could resist the general worsening of standards chooses to go down the helter-skelter into the same rubbish heap with the commercial channels. Why does not the BBC resist if it can resist the dictates of commercial television? Because the lowering of televisual standards brought about by free-markets suits the left – And the BBC is staffed mostly of Guardian reading, metro-liberals.
Or how about mass immigration? The free markets tend towards cheap labour from abroad to reduce staff wage bills and maximise profits. The left enjoy mass immigration because, to paraphrase former Labour adviser Andrew Neather, it attacks the very foundations of the conservative Britain that the left hate so much. The wealthy left (as well as the wealthy right) also enjoy the cheap labour of imported workers – just ask Baroness Scotland who got herself into a spot of bother by employing an illegal immigrant from Tonga as a maid (NB. the Baroness insists that she did not know the Tongan below-stairs was illegal).
Then we have the campaign to legalise vices such as cannabis. Many on the left are in favour of legalising stupefying and mind-corrupting drugs because they believe they should be able to do whatever they want. You would expect strong opposition from the right.
But the intellectually-bankrupt right now only operates within the comfortable parameters of free markets and libertarianism.
This is a dangerous mixture because it brings us to the precipice of cannabis legalisation. The right are assaulted with the following formulation: If you’re a libertarian, surely you should advocate the legalisation of cannabis. Besides, think of all the money that goes into the black market because of our attempts to prohibit it.
Many members of the Tory hierarchy are unashamed – or conversely too coy – about their past dalliances with cannabis. The Tory party certainly has not waged any sort of “war” against cannabis even though its use is pervasive in particular parts of society. The absence of a major, supposedly right-wing political party which decries the effective legality of cannabis is an indication that the “libertarian” argument is won. All that remains now is for the short-sighted “free-market” argument to be won (i.e., look how much money we could recover from the black market if cannabis were legalised) and there will be cannabis on sale in the local newsagents.
Then there is free-market sloughing of morality when it comes to cheap alcohol. I remember having an argument with a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party. I suggested that there should be a minimum price for alcohol. My contention went as follows: The alcohol drank by loutish youths which contributes to antisocial and criminal behaviour is the cheap stuff that barely anyone but loutish youths drink. If we have a minimum price for alcohol it would only affect the price of alcohol drank by loutish youths. The law-abiding, sensible drinkers who buy more expensive alcohol anyway, would be unaffected by the raising of prices.
“But you can’t interfere with the markets!” Was my interlocutor’s angry response. Such an expostulation belies a morality no more sophisticated than that espoused by Gordon Gecko: “greed is good”.
In the murky world of childhood vaccinations we find a similar unholy alliance between the left’s Big State and the right’s Big Pharma. In the last decade we have seen a greater number of childhood vaccinations rushed onto the market before adequate, long-term research is conducted to discover the side-effects of vaccines – all in the name of maximising profit. The Big State is complicit with Big Pharma because it is hungry for these new vaccinations and have another means to bully and cajole the populace into dependence and subjugation.
Free markets, if judged by their consequences, are not necessarily right-wing. They are associated with Margaret Thatcher, which is another thing altogether. This does not mean that there has been a general migration to the political “right”. Thatcher was hardly “right-wing” about the social or moral problems of Britain. Indeed, the effects of the free-market and some of the dicier bits of capitalism – of which she was a champion – help support the cultural revolution instituted by the left fifty years ago.
It certainly should not be seen as strange, or right-wing or Thatcherite, for the left to embrace free-market capitalism.
To operate a free-market economy we must have a strong, moral system in place based on pre-1960s morality. That morality must be Christian and conservative. When this traditional morality is too weak to regulate the free-market economy, the free-market produces a morality that naturally defaults to the left rather than to the right. All the time conservatives (and Conservatives) accept their narrow purpose is solely as free-market libertarians, they are playing into the left’s hands.