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Bregman: Socialism is a great product

Written By: - Date published: 8:08 am, August 21st, 2016 - 147 comments
Categories: quality of life, socialism - Tags: , ,

Extracts from a long piece by Rutger Bregman in The Guardian:

Socialism is a great product. When will the left give it the hard sell?

It’s a perplexing question: why has so little changed since 2008? If your recall is a little hazy, 2008 was the year the world woke up to a banking crisis of epic proportions, a crisis borne of blind faith in market wisdom and an utter lack of public oversight. But in a bizarre twist, the parties who benefited from the bust were the conservatives (the people who glibly told voters it was all the government’s fault) and the xenophobes (who blamed it all on terrorists and immigrants, who steal our jobs yet are too lazy to work).

So why isn’t the left coming up with some real alternatives? There are volumes to be written about this conundrum, but I’d like to venture one simple explanation: the eternal return of underdog socialism.

It’s an international phenomenon, observable among legions of leftwing thinkers and movements, from trade unions to political parties, from columnists to professors. The world view of the underdog socialist is encapsulated in the notion that the establishment has mastered the game of reason, judgment and statistics, leaving the left with emotion. Its heart is in the right place. The underdog socialist always has his or her back against the wall. Warily they watch the neoliberals, the multinationals and the Eurocrats advance, but can’t bring themselves to do much more than whimper: “Come on guys, do we have to?”

The underdog socialist has a surfeit of compassion and finds prevailing policies deeply unfair – seeing the achievements of the 20th century crumbling to dust, and rushing in to salvage what he can. But when push comes to shove, the underdog socialist caves in to the arguments of the opposition, always accepting the premise upon which the debate takes place. “National debt is out of control, but we can make more programmes income-dependent … Fighting poverty is terribly expensive, but it’s part of being a civilised nation … Taxes are high – but each according to his ability.”

But the underdog socialists’ biggest problem isn’t that they are wrong. They are not. Their biggest problem is that they’re dull. Dull as a doorknob. They’ve got no story to tell; nor even the language to convey it in. Having arrived at the conclusion that politics is a mere matter of identity, they have chosen an arena in which they will lose every time.

What the underdog socialist has forgotten is that the story of the left ought to be a narrative of hope and progress. By that I don’t mean a narrative that only excites a few hipsters who get their kicks philosophising about “postcapitalism” after reading some deadly dull tome. The greatest sin of the academic left is that it has become fundamentally aristocratic, writing in bizarre jargon that makes cliches seem abstruse. If you can’t explain your ideal to a fairly intelligent 12-year-old, it’s probably your own fault. What we need is a narrative that speaks to millions of ordinary people. It all starts with reclaiming the language of progress.

Plenty to disagree with perhaps, but plenty to ponder too. Go read the whole thing in The Guardian.

147 comments on “Bregman: Socialism is a great product ”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    The cognitive dissonance of the Guardian is a wonder to behold. That story is a bit rich coming from a paper that has smeared and relentlessly attacked Jeremy Corbyn.

    Perhaps they think the only thing better than socialism is middle class socialists who are safe in the knowledge their “socialist principles” will never actually be implemented or cost them anything.

    • Garibaldi 1.1

      +100 Sanctuary. Hey let’s not forget the Right love Socialism – they actively privatise the profits and socialise the losses.

    • Bill 1.2

      It’s an opinion piece. Many news papers carry them and they have nothing whatsoever to do with editorial positions.

      I see that the post here has focused on the negative analysis contained in the piece, but I really liked the way he turned the ‘accepted’ narrative on its head when it came to reform, meritocracy, innovation, inefficiency, the nanny state and how he re-introduced the central idea of freedom.

    • “We must be bold! No, wait, not that bold, it’s scary. Hold me, Owen Smith!”

  2. OneTrack 2

    The left just need to set out some empirical examples of socialism working in practice. Venezuela? Nope. North Korea? Nope. Sweden? Yes? Well, they were a good example, but then they went full retard progressive and are now the rape capital of the world. So, that’s also a nope. Any other contenders that have been missed?

    • Bill 2.1

      Statism and socialism are mutually exclusive political propositions. All the examples you gave and all the examples I suspect you seek are rooted in statism. So why you’d expect them to offer up examples of socialism working in practice is somewhat beyond me.

      It’s interesting that Chavez tried to use the power of the state to undermine the state though. And sure, he made mistakes and was bloody naive to think that a state/market dependent business community would eventually “do the right thing” and help construct a better future – a 21st C socialism.

      • OneTrack 2.1.1

        I have seen many reports of Venezuela and Sweden being examples of true socialism, admittedly before they went pear-shaped. Ok, if they aren’t really socialism, that leads back to what are the examples of socialism working in practice?

        • joe90

          I have seen many reports of Venezuela and Sweden being examples of true socialism, admittedly before they went pear-shaped.

          Best you post a sampling of those many reports you’ve seen.

          • OneTrack

            In other words, you don’t have any examples of socialism actually working in practice. Maybe Bill can come up with something.

        • Bill

          Any time any decision is made with regards production or distribution or even just social organisation, and that decision is made by society (ie – those affected) and without any unjustifiable asymmetry of power coming into play, then that decision will likely be an example of socialism in practice.

          If you’re looking for examples at the nation state level, you won’t find any. And the reason you won’t find any was outlined in my original comment – socialism and statism are mutually exclusive (as is socialism and market forces).

          The best you will find at the nation state level is examples that are less authoritarian/bureaucratic – which is to say less undemocratic.

      • maninthemiddle 2.1.2

        “All the examples you gave and all the examples I suspect you seek are rooted in statism.”

        The problem with this is that statism has many different definitions, however in the sense that statism is defined as “The practice or doctrine of giving a centralized government control over economic planning and policy” (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/statism), then statism and socialism go hand in hand.

        Socialism (in it’s true sense) has failed. It destroyed Soviet Russia. It destroyed the economy of Greece, and it is destroying Venezuela. In fact it has failed everywhere it has been tried. It is a recipe for poverty (China has turned to market economics to alleviate it’s massive poverty) and for tyranny.

        • Bill

          Well, fuck me dead, but by the very definition you give, statism and socialism …. look. What don’t you understand about the contradiction that exists between “centralised government” and democracy?

          Statism, not socialism, existed in the USSR – even Lenin announced the intention to construct “state capitalism” in the USSR. Greece was a kind of social democracy when it wasn’t governed by a junta. Venezuela was a corruptocracy before Chavez and the attempted Bolivarian Revolution.

          China? Well, that’s kind of state capitalism in action. Ironic that it’s Chinese economic activity that keeps market capitalism afloat, eh?

          Capitalism always creates poverty as a side effect the inevitable mal- distribution that results from having production and distribution determined by market mechanisms. And tyranny, or the potential for tyranny, comes with any and all forms of governance that embrace levels of authoritarianism.

          Given that socialism at heart is about democratic governance and (among other things) equitable distribution…yup, none of your claims about what would happen in a socialist society make any sense whatsoever.

          • maninthemiddle

            “What don’t you understand about the contradiction that exists between “centralised government” and democracy?”

            I understand it perfectly. I’m commenting on reality, not theory. Socialism struggles to exist anywhere without statism, simply because it requires the (at least) partial suppression of human intuitive, and the support of mediocrity.

            “Statism, not socialism, existed in the USSR’

            No, it was both, actually, see my point above. Lenin’s comment means nothing, because it was precisely what didn’t happen.

            “China? Well, that’s kind of state capitalism in action.”
            Well it isn’t state ‘socialism’ is it?

            “Ironic that it’s Chinese economic activity that keeps market capitalism afloat, eh?”
            Not sure you can really sustain that argument. But even if you can, it is only because of market policies.

            “Capitalism always creates poverty as a side effect the inevitable mal- distribution that results from having production and distribution determined by market mechanisms. ”
            All economic systems contain poverty, but market economics reduce poverty, as they are doing in China and many other places. Socialism produces poverty. Economic, social, moral, spiritual and intellectual.

            • Bazar

              Well spoken maninthemiddle

              I keep hearing from the left: If we only had true socialism, we’d all be much better off.
              But history is littered with the desiccated remains of countries that tried.
              They tell us It’s never the socialism that failed, but the corruption inside that caused it to fail.

              I only wish they’d acknowledge that when who is rich and who is poor is decided by bigwigs rather than by the market, corruption is going to be systemic.

              As for this article, its a joke.
              It’s proclaiming that socialism’s reason for being unpopular is that it tries to win debates with facts, and that is its downfall. That it should instead be trying to win arguments not with facts, but with emotions.

              Sounds like a snake oil salesman to me. Don’t provide actual facts about the oil, just tell ’em it’ll cure cancer, the common cold, and restore lost hair.

            • Stuart Munro

              Market economics have increased poverty in NZ MiM.

              We have a stupid, backward and corrupt government and are retreating on every significant social indicator.

              A properly regulated market can be constructive – but there is nothing inevitable about it. Housing would be a prime example.

              • maninthemiddle

                “Market economics have increased poverty in NZ MiM.”

                Do you have any evidence for this? Sure, you can demonstrate how the definition of poverty has changed to suit your left wing narrative (interesting that, in light of comments about the unemployment data, eh?) but the level of real need deprivation in NZ is negligible.

                • Stuart Munro

                  Of course, many of the indicators have been massaged by the despicable incompetents of the current government, like unemployment. Not paying benefits has not increased employment.

                  And, you will be at pains to deny the abundant evidence of failure in terms of the widespread poverty that results in massive increases in homelessness and suicide.

                  But they are of course confirmed by robust data like sharply decreasing home ownership, rising age at marriage, and so forth.

                  Market economics in tandem with widespread corruption never achieves anything of value. Only scrupulously regulated and honest markets are ever anything more than a curse.

                  Honest market practices do not generate sinecure opportunities for worthless vermin like Otakaro Limited.

                  • maninthemiddle

                    “…many of the indicators have been massaged by the despicable incompetents of the current government,”

                    So you can’t support your claim, without claiming the data is fake. You really are pathetic.

                    • Stuart Munro

                      Way to ad hom.

                      But your lies will achieve nothing – just like the lie than unemployment has fallen.

                      Home ownership has declined dramatically – this is not because NZers are wealthier.

                      Age at marriage went up ten years after Roger Douglas – pretty significant change – economically driven.

                      These even vicious and vindictive compulsive liars cannot deny.

                      But you should just fuck off, Man in the Middle – we are sick of your lies.

                    • maninthemiddle

                      “Age at marriage went up ten years after Roger Douglas…”

                      You seriously are a fwit. I ask you to support your claim that “Market economics have increased poverty in NZ” and you come back with some bs about manipulation of data. You spend most of your time here making claims you cannot substantiate, and that, even on first reading, sound like utter bollocks.

                      Now you blame a rise in the age of people marrying on the (necessary) economic reforms of the 1980’s, reforms that have revitalised NZ. You really are a muppet.

                    • ropata

                      it’s normal to get defensive and angry when your precious belief system is proven to be a sham MITM


                    • Stuart Munro

                      I’d be really sorry MITM, that you are so obtuse that you don’t understand the significance of major life shifts between cohorts – were you not routinely abusive and insincere.

                      You give RWNJ a bad name and you lower the standard of discourse here on the Standard.

                      Roger Douglas’s record is one of theft and dishonesty, not performance. Like Chernomyrdin he created a thoroughly corrupt oligarchy that looted the state. NZ has gone backwards since he took power. I understand why, as a festering sore masquerading as a human being, you find him admirable, but as an MP, as a New Zealander, and as an economist Douglas failed. Prior to his palace revolution NZ maintained practical parity with Australia – something we have not approached since – again a robust objective datum that your spleen and microcephaly will move you to reject.

                      Weep for him Standardistas – this is actually the best the Right have to offer.

                    • maninthemiddle

                      “it’s normal…”
                      …not to rely on an opinion piece on wikipedia to form your world view.

                    • maninthemiddle

                      “Which of the measures you listed changes frequently?”

                      Not the MEASURES, the DEFINITION. The left use whichever measure suits their narrative. Many of the measures are meaningless (such as the 60% rule), and are actually having the effect of discouraging attempts to assist the less well off.

                    • maninthemiddle

                      “Roger Douglas’s record is one of theft and dishonesty, not performance. ”

                      Stuart this is just the latest in a long line of false claims you have made.

                      The economic policies of the 1984+ Labour government transformed this country into one that competes above it’s weight within the world economy. We have more choice, more opportunities, and more collective wealth than we would ever have had under the protectionist policies you seem to support. You clearly were not resident in NZ in 1984 to see the impact such policies had had on NZ, the hours the country was from default, the economic disaster that had been wrought by the previous National and Labour governments, who had failed to prepare the economy for life beyond dependency on the commonwealth. I pity your ignorance, I really do.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      …I met Mr. Krüger, the Transvaal president. His Excellency received me cordially enough; but my friend Judge Beyers, the gentleman who presented me, by mentioning that I was on a voyage around the world, unwittingly gave great offense to the venerable statesman, which we both regretted deeply. Mr. Krüger corrected the judge rather sharply, reminding him that the world is flat. “You don’t mean round the world,” said the president; “it is impossible! You mean in the world. Impossible!” he said, “impossible!” and not another word did he utter either to the judge or to me. The judge looked at me and I looked at the judge, who should have known his ground, so to speak, and Mr. Krüger glowered at us both…

                      Captain Joshua Slocum.

                      Please try and keep up.

                    • maninthemiddle

                      “Captain Joshua Slocum.”

                      Call the men in white coats.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  the definition of poverty has changed to suit your left wing narrative

                  Nope. The IMF and UNICEF and the World Bank are not generally considered to be of the Left, nor has the definition of poverty changed.

                  Nor, for that matter, has the fact that the right are on the wrong side of every issue from slavery to rheumatic fever.

                  • maninthemiddle

                    “…nor has the definition of poverty changed.”

                    Wrong. The definition changes frequently. There is extreme poverty, absolute poverty, the poverty limit, the poverty line, the poverty threshold. There is purchasing power parity, primary poverty, secondary poverty. And of course the poverty line, a concept that dates back to the early 20th century, and was defined as the minimum amount necessary for a family of 4 or 5 people to subsist on (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_threshold). Subsist. Not do without sky tv.

                    “Nor, for that matter, has the fact that the right are on the wrong side of every issue from slavery to rheumatic fever.”

                    Well you’ve got a serious contradiction with your claims the world is in some neo-liberal grip, because poverty is falling faster than ever before in human history (https://ourworldindata.org/world-poverty/).

                    “At present the percentage of the global population living under extreme poverty is likely to fall below 10% according to the World Bank projections released in 2015.”

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      “Changes frequently”.

                      Which of the measures you listed changes frequently?

                      I note that the IMF et al state that neo-liberalism stunts economic growth. When have I claimed that it is ubiquitous? Why do you tell so many lies?

                      I further note that when a measure is proposed, and used, say, by UNICEF, to measure the doubling of child poverty in percentage terms between 1984 and the present, you reject the measure and then deny the problem, so your word isn’t worth shit.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Explain in your own words why the “60% rule” is meaningless. That ought to be good for a laugh.

                    • maninthemiddle

                      “Explain in your own words why the “60% rule” is meaningless.”
                      Because poverty is not defined by income, but by deprivation.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Meanwhile, on Earth, Treasury uses a similar measure.

                      The poverty line is set at 50% of the median equivalised income unit…

                      As previously noted, your word isn’t worth shit.

                    • maninthemiddle

                      “Meanwhile, on Earth, Treasury uses a similar measure.”

                      So becasue Treasury us it it must be right? Nah, it’s rubbish as a measure of poverty.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Nope, I think the fact that Treasury uses it indicates that it’s useful.

                      As a proxy for the level of deprivation, for example.

                      However, it has its limitations. In measuring individual income, for example, you might conclude that Treasury’s model shows that 100% of children are poor. That’s why household income is also a useful proxy for deprivation.

                    • maninthemiddle

                      ” I think the fact that Treasury uses it indicates that it’s useful.”

                      Really? So when Treasury spoke of a decade of deficits Labour left behind in 2008, do you consider that ‘useful’?

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Why do you tell so many lies? National blamed Labour for a decade of deficits that hadn’t happened yet, which Treasury said were likely because of global economic conditions.

                      You may have swallowed National’s line, because you’re an idiot. Bill English didn’t: he spoke of “the rainy day the government has been saving up for”, but that was to an informed audience, which you’re not.

                      I note your abject failure to address the substance of my argument.

                    • maninthemiddle

                      “National blamed Labour for a decade of deficits that hadn’t happened yet, which Treasury said were likely because of global economic conditions.”

                      Of course they hadn’t, they were predicted. But what was the 2008/09 deficit? Labour’s lasting legacy to NZ? A 3bn deficit.

                      As to why…you’re making shit up.


                      “Unfortunately our external accounts – large trade and current account deficits and net international liabilities of nearly 90 per cent of GDP – are really bad by international standards.”

                      “We are up to our nostrils in debt to the rest of the world at a time when creditors globally have become a lot less indulgent. And now the Crown accounts have turned red too.”

                      “Stronger growth in wages will be almost swallowed up by higher inflation and, with households focused on reducing debt, little will be left for firms chasing the consumer dollar. Private consumption growth is expected to be zero in the year to next March and feeble the two following years.”

                      That was written in October 2008. High inflation and a tanking economy. Remarkable incompetence, even by Labour Party standard.

    • Garibaldi 2.2

      Onetrack. There’s a fair bit of Socialism in NZ. It’s just that it has been derailed by Neoliberalism.

  3. b waghorn 3

    ”If you can’t explain your ideal to a fairly intelligent 12-year-old, it’s probably your own fault. What we need is a narrative that speaks to millions of ordinary people. It all starts with reclaiming the language of progress.”

    or an under educated 45 year old.

  4. david 4

    Politics and the English Language

    It appears that the author of the article is imploring socialists to sell their ideology better with more hopeful messages and manipulation of language.

    George Orwell said it well: “Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, ‘I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so’. Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:
    ‘While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.’”

    Sharing implies positive connatations: community, voluntary and charity. In reality socialism is an coercive system of redistrubution from the ‘undeserving’ to the ‘deserving’ but mainly to its leaders and its loyal followers. Stalin, Castro, Chavez, Mao never lived like the ordinary man. More like billionaires but with ultimate power.

    • Bill 4.1

      No option but to say this again – statism and socialism are incompatible. All the examples you give are examples of statism, not socialism.

      Let’s try it like this. Socialism implies decisions being made at the social level – by society (ie – democratically) Statism implies decisions being made at the state level – by the state (ie – bureaucratically) .

      You see how one contradicts or negates the other?

      • Damn Stalin for being such a good marketer, right?

        The problem is that people have to realise that Stalin talking about socialism is much like America today talking about Democracy. He built a bunch of socialist trappings to hide an authoritarian regime.

        That doesn’t mean that socialism implies authoritarianism. Quite the opposite, in the long term, it should reduce the need for centralised power structures if it can be pulled off. But what it does require is a surplus of resources.

        • Bill

          No point in finger pointing Stalin. He was a natural enough consequence of the Bolsheviks (under Lenin) seeking to establish state capitalism (Lenin’s term for it and also the critical term used by socialists outside the USSR who were condemning the Bolsheviks)

          Here’s a thing that’s never really touched on.

          Mussolini coined the phrase ‘fascism’ in the 30s. And all he really did was dilute the example given by the USSR – so that there was space for a modicum of democracy and, of course, space for the market to operate.

          If you read old socialist literature, the Bolsheviks are condemned for trying to establish, what they, the socialists of old called ‘state capitalism’. Had the term ‘fascism’ been around in the 20s, I’m not sure they wouldn’t have used that term instead to accurately describe what the Bolsheviks were up to.

          But whatever, Mussolini proposed and instituted a somewhat modified, but essentially lighter, more freed up version of what the Bolsheviks were doing, and yet a very large part of the political body that calls itself ‘left’ ran with the basic ideas proposed by the Bolsheviks while at the same time condemning Mussolini.

          Before you ask – I condemn both, being that they’re much of the same thing, and have condemned both ever since I sought any political understanding of the world.

          For what it’s worth, I think that what misleads many people who’d like to think of themselves as ‘left’, is a misplaced notion that anything aligning itself with the political left embodies some intrinsic benevolence … so the USSR could have done things better “if only”…whereas Italy was always going to be monstrous “just because”.

          • Matthew Whitehead

            That’s a lot more in-depth than I’ve gone into the reasons why authoritarianism and socialism are fundamentally incompatible, but it all rings true. 🙂

            Stalin is definitely the example most people are thinking of when they confuse authoritarianism with socialism, though.

      • BM 4.1.2

        So Labour and the Greens are statists not socialists?

        • Bill


        • I’m not sure I’d personally categorise the Greens as statist given that they believe in decentralised decision-making, and the primacy of representation over bureaucracy, but that’s certainly a fair description of Labour, who haven’t even really been effective social democrats since the 80s, let alone socialists. There’s a lot of very different political philosophy that goes into big-G Green movements that make them very distinct from other schools of thought.

      • Bazar 4.1.3

        “Socialism implies decisions being made at the social level”

        I don’t agree with that definition of socialism, and i don’t know any who would.

        The common definition of socialism is the distribution of wealth and services to everyone or the poor. This is usually achieved at the cost of great debt or transferred from the rich.

        ACC for example is a socialist policy. Everyone benefits, but it’s paid for by business owners.
        State housing is another social policy. The poor benefit, but everyone else, mostly the rich pay for it.

        The definition of statism is (from wikipedia):
        “statism is the belief that the state should control either economic or social policy, or both, to some degree”

        So when you say they are incompatible, i have no idea what the hell you’re talking about, because it’s literally impossible for socialist policies to be implemented without calling it statism.

        Personally i think you’re using some fancy mental gymnastics to work around the problem that recognizing that all socialist countries become inherently corrupt.

        • joe90

          Everyone benefits, but it’s paid for by business owners.

          So I don’t need to pay my ACC earner premiums or the ACC levy I pay as part of my motor vehicle registrations?.

  5. burt 5

    The sub prime mortgage crisis was caused by socialism. Government instructing state lenders to extend their lending to people who would not normally qualify to make social indicator stats look good. The intervention of good intentions in typically flawed socialist fashion. Then the lovers of social engineering claim it wasn’t their social engineering that wax the problem the same complete half thinkers that blame the US for the complete ( as expected based on every previous example ) failure of socialist Venezuela.

    You rampant social engineering socialists shpuld just once see the horrible failure in the mirror is the reflection of your ideology rather than perpetually blame others and just try one more time with an ideology that’s never worked.

    • joe90 5.1

      The sub prime mortgage crisis was caused by socialism.

      Yeah, nothing at all to do with greed.

      Declaration: Summit on financial markets and the world economy


      Root Causes of the Current Crisis

      3. During a period of strong global growth, growing capital flows, and prolonged stability earlier this decade, market participants sought higher yields without an adequate appreciation of the risks and failed to exercise proper due diligence. At the same time, weak underwriting standards, unsound risk management practices, increasingly complex and opaque financial products, and consequent excessive leverage combined to create vulnerabilities in the system. Policy-makers, regulators and supervisors, in some advanced countries, did not adequately appreciate and address the risks building up in financial markets, keep pace with financial innovation, or take into account the systemic ramifications of domestic regulatory actions.

      4. Major underlying factors to the current situation were, among others, inconsistent and insufficiently coordinated macroeconomic policies, inadequate structural reforms, which led to unsustainable global macroeconomic outcomes. These developments, together, contributed to excesses and ultimately resulted in severe market disruption.


    • No, the US “sub-prime mortgage crisis” was caused by a real estate bubble, it’s just that defaulting sub-prime borrowers made a convenient scapegoat. (The data backs this up- most lenders were prime lenders, and there should have been enough cushioning from prime lenders to cushion the defaults, if the banks had set up their investment portfolios with some resilience) The whole market was structured around the assumption that property prices would never go down- a moronic assumption that was crying out for a correction.

      People seem to have similar ideas about house values not deflating here in New Zealand. I’d caution them of the same thing: values falling from time to time is necessary to avoid bubbles, otherwise you invite a hard crash. We’re on the way to one right now.

      • burt 5.2.1

        Of course. The state lenders having been told to lend more to low socioeconomic people then just used them as a convienant excuse…, of course there was no political pressure for the socialist lenders to be more socialist and fail like all well meaning but fatally flawed social engineering always does.

        • Oh, I don’t deny that pressure to make subprime loans on Fannie May and Freddie Mac helped overleverage the two companies. The issue was the overleveraging, however, not the existance of subprime loans or even the rate of default, and would have happened even if they only made prime loans. Ergo, the policy of helping people in worse financial conditions into home ownership, while definitely the wrong way to go about things, was not to blame.

          (Incidentally, socialism generally goes wrong in one of two ways: either rich countries flirt with it and mix it into capitalism, getting the worst of both worlds, such as with sub-prime lending, or poorer countries go whole-hog with socialism and face shortages, an inevitable consequence of a political philosophy that’s contingent on an abundance of resources being implemented by those with a shortage. Neither of those doom socialism as a whole, nor justify the wrongs of capitalism. Socialism probably has its own wrongs somewhere, but as it’s not really been tried by the countries equipped to do it, we don’t know what they would be.)

          You seem somewhat confused between social engineering (which is about liberalism and conservatism, so things like allowing gay marriage could be termed “social engineering”, as equally could allowing religious schools) and socialism. (which is arguably the opposite to capitalism) This was a slightly more socialist approach to mortgages, not social engineering.

          • burt

            I completely disagree gay marriage is social engineering. Quite the opposite in my opinion. Having it illegal for same gender people to live together is social engineering. In the case of gay marriage the church used it leverage on law makers to legislate its agenda. That is sicial engineering. In my opinion you have this completely backward which somewhat explains why you think socialism works I guess.

            • Matthew Whitehead

              …I also disagree that gay marriage is social engineering, hence the scare quotes. What I’m saying is that what that criticism applies to (ie. social policy settings) has nothing to do with mortgage lending.

              You are clearly the one who’s confused.

              As to socialism, I make no judgements if it’s flawed or not, as it’s never been tried. Unlike other political philosophies, marxist socialism is an actual hypothesis that in an abundance of resources an eventual revolution will occur in which ownership of capital is disestablished. Nobody’s actually tried it yet as it was actually set out, so I can’t tell you if it’s successful. I’d be keen to see it tried and would have no objection to living in such an environment.

              What we’ve had instead is social democracy, which as I said, is basically flirting with socialism and usually you can point to the capitalist side of the equation as the reason it fails. (because we have a lot of experience with capitalism failing, such as poverty, inequality, boom and bust, and housing shortages)

              • burt

                Let’s put it to the crowd.

                Allowing two same gender adults to engage together in a legal partnership – social engineering ?


                Saying it’s illegal for same gender adults to engage together in a legal partnership – social engineering ?

                • Uh burt, nobody here is saying it actually is social engineering. I’m saying that’s the KIND of policy that people HAVE levied that criticism at, as an example to try and get it into your ears that economic policies aren’t “social engineering,” they’re market interventions.

                  • burt

                    You’re wrong again. I was saying having gay marriage is social engineering. You said I was confused – now you’re backing down.

                    But ok, back to the love of other people’s money koolaid. This socialism thing, make home ownership stats look good by intervening in the mortgage market causing a global financial crisis – are you sill saying that’s not socialism or are you going to back down on that too ?

                    • burt

                      Saying making gay marriage illegal is social engineering ….

                    • Colonial Viper

                      this socialism thing, make home ownership stats look good by intervening in the mortgage market causing a global financial crisis

                      Are you calling the shareholders and owners of the big banks and mortgage originators who made $$$hitloads from this mortgaged back security scam “socialists”?

                    • burt []

                      No, I’m calling the state lenders being instructed to lend to low socioeconomic people who wouldn’t get mortgages socialist intervention.

                    • I said that a government lender is “more” socialist. As in it edges vaguely into social democracy, which is basically Capitalism With Some Socialist Icing On Top. The whole thing is still based on capitalism, even if it has a little socialism mixed in to make it taste a little more bearable to the average voter.

                      Burt, I’m gonna assume your reply is clarifying that you think maintaining marriage as a straight-only institution was social engineering. Fine, I actually agree with that. But It’s not relevant to why you were confused. Your confusion is that you think economic intervention is inherently social engineering. It isn’t. Social engineering is about policies that are designed to change social values. Sub-prime mortgage lending was about conserving existing social values like house ownership for the entire middle class, without acknowledging the economic realities of soaring house prices, and it was essentially a purely economic policy with no social effect, to the degree that the two things can be seperated, at least.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      No, I’m calling the state lenders being instructed to lend to low socioeconomic people who wouldn’t get mortgages socialist intervention.

                      But the shareholders and managers of the financial industry massively profited from that decision and drove ahead causing all the fraud and fall out resulting.

                      The financial industry also believes in socialism as it received government bailouts and guarantees in the wake of the crash to the tune of trillions of dollars.

                    • burt []

                      The fact people made profit from lending has got zero to do with the fact it was a socialist intervention. A poorly managed one, like they all normally are.

                      And of course people make pigs of themselves with other people’s money. It’s human nature and the stupidity of socialists is pretending it won’t happen then blaming something other than their repeated stupidity when it happens.

                      But hey, how’s that list of sustainable economies this ‘great product’ has produced coming along.

                    • Stuart Munro

                      You’re just trying to get the freemarket crooks off the hook – the folk who rebundled subprimes as a product made a killing and created the conditions for the crash. The state should’ve gone after them with a vengeance – but a generation of weak regulators has got out of the habit of effectual government.

                      We see the same incompetence in housing – this government chooses not to be more than epiphenomenal. The public will not tolerate this kind of failure indefinitely.

                    • “People making profit off it” is indeed the basic objection. You see there was capital, (property capable of generating wealth) and it was bought using government backing, then the debts were repackaged and sold for a profit while removing the risk. The concept of saleable debt doesn’t even exist in a purely socialistic system- everyone is expected to be indebted to everyone else, because you’re all doing unmonetized favours and creating gift and obligation constantly, improving each other’s lives. Like charity, except nobody is expected to feel overly pious for giving, or ashamed for needing help. There is property rights, but only to things that don’t generate wealth. So you can own a raincoat, but not a tailor shop. A door, but not a house. An oven, but not a bakery. etc…

                      I would disagree that the financial services industry believes in socialism, though. They believe in corporatism, whose mantra is essentially “privatise the gains, socialise the losses.” Charter schools are a great example.

          • Nic the NZer

            I am afraid your understanding of the causes of the GFC is not good. The actual cause is not the sub-prime lending or leverage at all. It was the pervasive behaviour of fraudlent lending. The crisis occurred when the practice of writing liars loans (as they were known in the industry) meaning loans where the borrowers income is not verified (though it could have easily been verified) caught up with the major financial players involved.
            This looks like lending with excessive leverage (because if there was sufficient reserves put aside the accounts would show the institution losing money, the expected value of the loans was negative), but its the underlying fraud driving the problems.
            It doesnt make sense to think of this as excessive risk because there are a bunch of sure things involved,
            * the institution will in the short term report extreme profits
            * the executives will be rewarded by modern executive compensation with large bonuses
            * the institution will lose money when the true value of the loans becomes recognised.

    • Bill 5.3

      What strange expression of socialism is it that could exist in the context of a market economy Burt?

      I’m fascinated!

      • burt 5.3.1

        Big state lenders are not a result of the market economy. They are an instrument of state intervention. And they failed…. Gee, wow, it’s not like we’ve had More than a century of watching state intervention fail so we could never have know it would end that way.

        So funny you guys see big state lenders as a market driven thing. I bet you think NZ social welfare is a market force too.

        • Colonial Viper

          stop kowtowing at the temple of the free market gods. They are false gods promulgated by the 0.1% and their top 10% professional servants.

          • burt

            So, no chance you can list the sustainable socialist economies them – just take a shot at me it’s easier and you don’t need to admit you’ve got not one single example to hold up for this ‘great product’ you’ve seen fail over and over but want to believe in.

            • Colonial Viper

              It’s not about following historical examples, it is about realising that your kowtowing at the temple of capitalist free markets is destroying every ecosystem in the world.

              The wealthy power holders of the worlds have gutted the financial and monetary markets of the world simply to pump up the numbers games for their own portfolios.

              Stop embarrassing yourself pleading on behalf of this venal priesthood.

            • Matthew Whitehead

              Tell you what Burt, next time you come up with an idea, how about we all come along and follow you around, ensuring nobody really tries to do it how you intended to do it, take over anyone making serious headway and turn your idea into something completely different, oh, and illegally detain anyone who makes any progress towards actually achieving it despite those challenges.

              That’s basically what’s happened to attempts at socialist governments throughout history. If people had screwed over early capitalists so much, there wouldn’t have been any functioning examples of a capitalist society, either.

        • State lenders are absolutely part of a market economy if they follow the market rules. It doesn’t matter where their setup capital comes from if they operate as a lender as opposed to a social welfare agency. They would have made the same mistakes even if they weren’t biased towards subprime lending due to the capitalist policy that even helping people into homes needs to be managed through loans, as opposed to building cheaper homes!

          • burt

            State lenders are part of the market economy because … Oh I know why – because they lend to people the market wouldn’t then they wonder why their loans were being defaulted on – just like people would do with their own money… You don’t get the distinction between people using their own money and the state using other people’s money to intervene in the market.

            • Matthew Whitehead

              The state IS us. The state investing in something is us collectively as a nation deciding, through our representatives, to invest in something.

              There’s a distinction, sure. It’s government involving itself in markets, sure. But it doesn’t cease being a market just because one of the competitors is owned by the government, so long as it follows at least as many rules and regulations as everyone else. And if a few more are added, so what? The same could happen at any corporate strategy meeting or by the direction of an owner in an single-owner business. What it does become is a social-democratic market instead of a purely libertarian market, but here’s the thing, both of those are capitalist markets, because social democracy is a subset of capitalism, not a subset of socialism, primarily because it still believes in market capitalist solutions like mortgage lending.

              • burt

                We’re making progress. We’ve gone from state lenders being the market to acknowledgement they are an intervention in the market. A few more small steps and the reality that intervention was actually the root cause of the crisis will start to become clear. See, if political pressure to improve home ownership stats in low income groups didn’t force the lenders to lend to them – there wouldn’t have been catastrophic levels of default. Furthermore, giving people who couldn’t afford to buy a house mortgages would, and did, inflate the market compounding the problem.

                • An intervention in the market is still participating in a market-based system, Burt. You’re not making any progress at all. It only ceases being a market-based system when the government achieves monopoly over a service. (and arguably, it still is a market-based system if it’s still user-pays when provided by the government, like say Telecom or the postal service were)

                  Our government intervenes in the market in any number of ways, (and I mean specifically the National Government here, not “all New Zealand governments”) and it’s usually only the most corporatist interventions that cause market failures or exacerbate booms and busts. Leaving a market unregulated or untaxed to too high a degree absolutely causes its own problems, for instance the housing market in Auckland and Wellington is overheated, in part due to a lack of taxation on capital, financial transactions, and a set of rental regulations that’s reasonably friendly to and flexible for landlords.

                  That said, I do agree with you that subprime lending helped inflate the market. But the same crash would have happened without subprime lending- it was merely an accelerating factor on a market that was about to crest the hill and head back downwards, not the straw that broke the camel’s back. It basically just pushed up prices even faster for the prime lending that had been done assuming no property deflation ever, which was the real problem.

        • Bill

          You miss the comments I’ve made on this thread where I point to the incompatibility of socialism with both statism and market economies?

          Maybe I need to don the mod cap and get rid of all the trolling smash you’ve scattered over this thread and fling you into the sin bin? Or maybe you’ll start to actually read stuff and respond to what’s being said instead of marching out that army of wee straw men?


          • burt

            You don’t like it when people disagree with you. Sorry about that.

            • Bill

              No Burt. What I don’t like is when people insist on peddling half baked bullshit off the back of deliberate mis-representations.

              I quite like disagreement – things can get learned or understandings can get improved off the back of disagreement.

              • burt


                If you don’t like people peddling half baked bullshit then please explain how there is a post calling socialism a great product when nobody seems willing to list all the sustainable economies it has produced.

                By all means trash the thread and remove my comments, I seldom come here now and having some jumped up lprent style mod throw the threats around is what I expect. Happy to stay away for another year or 2 when that sort of bully crap happens here after half a dozen comments in a single thread.

                • Bill

                  There are informal “socialist” economies in operation around you right now Burt – they’ve persisted in spite of tweedle dee and tweedle dum (the state and the market) essentially capturing almost all avenues of economic activity across the entire globe.

              • stigie

                Pity you didn’t read Burts comments properly, you may have learnt something.

          • mikesh

            “You miss the comments I’ve made on this thread where I point to the incompatibility of socialism with both statism and market economies?”

            Market economies are economies in which economic decisions are made in accordance with market forces. I suppose one might imagine a continuum with full central planning at one end and complete laissez faire at the other, but with most countries lying somewhere in between. Of course these in between countries would be ones with regulated economies, with some things provided collectively while other things are left to the market. The trouble is that if we get rid of market forces altogether and move to central planning we end up with statism; and a move in the other direction is a move towards anarchy.

            I don’t know where socialism lies on the continuum, but I suspect it’s something we would feel our way towards in small steps. I suspect the first step would be to try and eliminate unearned income, or rentier income.

            • Bill

              Socialism doesn’t lie anywhere on that state/market continuum.

              Like I say, I’m of the opinion that many good people who would think of themselves as ‘left’ endorse some quite misanthropic political propositions on the mistaken belief that if the propositions are labeled as being ‘left’, then some intrinsic benevolence or goodness must be a part of the mix.

              But the only thing ‘left’ about statism is the label that’s gets attached to it – there is nothing intrinsically benign or worthy about it.

              • mikesh

                “But the only thing ‘left’ about statism is the label that’s gets attached to it – there is nothing intrinsically benign or worthy about it.”

                Perhaps not, but we are not going to wake up one morning – the morning after an election, perhaps – and say to ourselves that while we were capitalist yesterday, from today we are socialists. This means we would be operating within the continuum for a while, and making small changes.

                It is difficult to imagine any sort of society, socialist or otherwise, operating outside the continuum. Even Cuba, which is probably the nearest thing we have to socialism, has a government. And unless we can imagine a non-capitalist, non-statist society it is difficult to see how we would get there.

    • The New Student 5.4

      Socialism does not permit sub-prime mortgages. These people would have been better supported to home ownership, negating any need for such risky traps.

      • Bill 5.4.1

        With socialism we’d probably seek to ensure that we all had homes. But home ownership? Nah.

        Home ownership implies some type of market economy, and as pointed out in a few comments, we can’t have both a market economy and socialism.

        On the same note, we don’t have socialism if some state run apparatus is providing everyone with a home.

        • burt

          Can you explain how the state proving people homes isn’t socialism.

          • Bill

            States operate through bureaucrats. The asymmetry of power that defines the relationship between an individual or a community and a bureaucracy is pretty marked and flies directly in the face of socialist principles of democracy.

            So, you’re ‘favoured’ or have ‘connections’ in a society managed and ordered by a state? You’re home arrives quicker or is better located etc, etc.

            Want a more marked example?

            • Phil

              he asymmetry of power that defines the relationship between an individual or a community and a bureaucracy is pretty marked and flies directly in the face of socialist principles of democracy.

              This is great ‘n’ all, but we live in 2016. Life is complicated and choice (for some more than others) abounds.

              How on earth are you going to implement any kind of socialist system that co-ordinates and delivers acceptable (to you) outcomes without a bureaucracy?!

    • Nic the NZer 5.5

      If that is actually your belief Burt (as opposed to a position you take to troll left wingers) then you have been bull shitted by people actually responsible for the crisis in a self interested arse covering exercise.


  6. burt 6

    If socialism is a great product then list the sustainable economies that are proof. Perhaps use Twitter because 140 characters will still leave plenty of room for smiley faces etc.

  7. coffee connoissuer 7

    And change the paradigm.
    There have been debt jubilies in the past.

    Forgive debt.

    Change from a debt based currency system to a non debt based or positive monetary system.

    get the system Generate an income for every person

    enable everyone to
    product hubs and service hubs using mobile app based technology (Ensure everyone has the right to a smartphone)

    develop a single user interface to connect to existing product hubs (Trademe, ebay, amazon, Ali Expressand servicehubs for every person. (make it personalisable).

    Connect suppliers to a single User Interace that easily enavbles them to upload stock intems and manage orders.

    expand DOC.
    have unemployed trained in horticulture and permaculture
    epand recycling
    build parks
    grow food.
    make the food available for free.

    automate and expand the transport system.

    Focus the system on delivering personal freedom for everyone

    Have the system enable people to live the lives they want to live

    actively automate peoples jobs but enable people to still be able to do them as well should they desire.

    Life is about experience! What is the experience you want to have….?

    There’s no rules people. Theres only those you choose to follow.

    Its time to build a better world.

    Imagine a would with no borders no boundries just freedom and the time to explore.

    Imagine the world as our playground.


    • burt 7.1

      Just let me know when you plan this social engineering of forgiving debt because I’d like to borrow a few billion just before that.

      • coffee connoissuer 7.1.1

        I’m sure everyone would.

        See the thing is Money is simply the system we use to live.
        but it is a barrier to being able to obtain the things we want and more importantly need.

        To overcome the barrier in the current system you have to get a job and give up your time. Your life to make money. To pay for simply living.
        To lead a normal lifeyou have to be enslaved by costs that keep you working.
        If you do well even more is taken from you.

        Its probably the dumbest system you could design for mankind in this day and age with the technology we have.

        Noone said it (The monetary system) has to be derived through debt and the redistribution of wealth.

        Or would you rather work s a slave for the rest of your life. And your children too.

        As there are more people on the planet and the cost of Labour goes down whilst automation continues to increase. each future generation will become more enslaved through debt than the last.

        Wake up to the reality you live in.

        Everyone has a choice live the rest of your lives like you are now. Or make the changes that enable you to be free.

        Imagine only needing to work 3 days on and having four days off,
        Its possible now with available technology and would increase over time with a focus on automation.

        but to do it. you need to ensure everyone can have the things they need in order to live.

        If your goal is to free people why keep them enslaved by debt

        • BM

          but to do it. you need to ensure everyone can have the things they need in order to live.

          That’s the tricky part there.

          • mauī

            I don’t think it’s hard at all. If we wanted to we could provide basic housing for everyone very cheaply. We could do the same with food, with people growing their own and removing barriers to get the rest of our food for next to nothing. With those needs met people can do something more constructive with their lives than the current work they’re in. Which in most cases is wasting resources and destroying our environment for some negligible feelings of wealth.

        • burt

          Did you recently leave the minister of finance role in Venezuela ?

          Your idealism is good and hang onto it, but do try and remember we live in a real world not an ideological fantasy where everybody can have everything they need if we just write ourselves a few cool rules.

          The state of humanity didn’t just arrive at today based on some silly rules your hated 1% made up for themselves – they too climbed the framework that was in place and it’s not something we can just rework based on ideals that have never previously produced sustainable economies or social order.

          • Stuart Munro

            Makes a superficially plausible story – but the current world economy isn’t sustainable anyway – hence collapsing trade volumes and negative interest rates. It’s going to have to change.

          • Matthew Whitehead

            Actually many of them merely inherited their wealth, so no climbing involved, most of them never produced or even substantially contributed to producing anything sustainable in their life, so go troll about sugar shortages in Venezuela somewhere else.

        • In Vino

          Just asking, Coffee, is there a reason why ‘Connoisseur’ is misspelt?

      • bwahahaha

        Forgiving debt isn’t social engineering, it’s economic policy. Please crack open a textbook or an encyclopaedia if you want to sit at the big kids’ table, you’re embarassing yourself.

        Good luck persuading anyone to loan you a billion anything, with or without debt forgiveness on the table. Especially if you can’t tell the difference between social policy and economic policy.

  8. Paul 8

    Does anyone else see striking similarities between the followers of fundamental religion and the slavish supporters of neo-liberalism who come on this site?

    • Reddelusin 8.1

      Oh the irony in your comment Paul, I think the difference between RWNJ and LWNJ is that by far the majority of righties have probably been lefty at some time, young and stupid as they say but eventually grow up and have a bit of balance and contrast, hard left unfortunately not so , the indoctrination, stupidity, institutionalisation, hate and green monster is just to strong. saying that you do get sense from the likes of Cv and Bill ( statism vs socialism is thought provoking)

      • RedLogix 8.1.1

        I must be wired wrong. I started out quite the little Tory snot and been heading left ever since.

        • burt

          Wealthy parents ?

        • Reddelusion

          There are always outliers red, as per burt maybe wealthy parents (thus rebel syndrome) and possibly catholic guilt complex ? 😀

          • b waghorn

            Or maybe he opened his heart as well as his brain, to be a good right winger you have to believe that the poor deserve it .

            • Paul

              He’s trolling.

              • b waghorn

                trolls are a great opportunity to wack them around their heads with their own belief systems, never let them offend you or the dicks will think they are winning.

            • Reddelusion

              Citation please beyond self serving lefty poop literature Righties care about the poor more so than Chardonnay socialist hence their fight to keep as such away from the levers of power as to not increase the cohort of poor through idiotic discredited iideology, social and economic policy, while at the same time helping out but not hand out to those who need it . The we care moral arguement, with other name calling ( facist, troll ) is lefty default argument when the absurdity of thier views become apparent

              • b waghorn

                At least that comments slightly more coherent than yesterday’s , sober sunday is it?

                • ropata

                  RD thinks record levels of child poverty and homelessness is actually good for society. He thinks we should do nothing because he “cares for the poor”.

                  We are so blessed to have RD’s words of wisdom.

          • BM

            You’re on the money there, RedLogix has been quite open with the fact that he’s never had to struggle.

            • RedLogix

              Yes … and for that I’ve always been aware of how fortunate I am.

              My parents were never wealthy. My father lived the first few years of his life in a tent in Ranfurly Rd, Epsom. Yes a tent. And then went on to be orphaned not once, but twice. My mother’s life was no easier, and when they married they had less than 10 quid between them.

              But both were intelligent and responsible people who worked to gain a sound education. Both started out as teachers and were able to work their way modestly up the middle-class ladder. But never was there any money to splash around.

              I grew up in Epsom with all that educational and social head-start that implies. Yet it was never Remuera either. Anglican church, scouting, tramping, sports and few adventures. It was in many ways a sheltered upbringing; but not an insulated one either.

              While University was relatively cheap, I still cleaned my way through most of the toilets in downtown Auckland to pay my way. A stint at Westfield, a summer working in shearing sheds, another drilling holes in printed circuit boards. Little was ever handed to me on a plate, and enough to gain a respect for real working class people who have to do these hard, shitty jobs all their lives.

              weka would say I’m privileged, and from her perspective I can see why she’d say that. But it rarely felt that way. And this small safe world I was lucky to grow up in is mostly gone now, but I’ll bet it’s one that is very familiar to many of the lefties here. It was a world where the social gradients were nowhere near so steep, and there were still ladders with rungs close enough to work your way up. Twice in my adult life I’ve been reduced to virtually nothing, but neither could I say I struggled. I’ve enjoyed good health and a skill set I that would find me an income if I worked at it.

              Here’s the PencilSword which precisely encapsulates this for me:


              So no to struggle. But equally yes I was brought up with empathy for those who do and when I got to the last panel of this it hurt.

              • Ad

                You need not apologize to anyone for your life.
                Terriffic to hear there are still stories of upward social mobility out there.

                Great link.

                • RedLogix

                  I really didn’t see it as an apology. It would be too easy to reply to redelusion, BM or burt in kind. We’ve all indulged in that plenty. I just don’t feel like so much of that point scoring at the moment.

                  The last para from the original Guardian article the OP references nails it for me:

                  But first, the underdog socialists will have to stop wallowing in their moral superiority. Everyone who reckons themselves progressive should be a beacon of not just energy but ideas, not only indignation but hope, and equal parts ethics and hard sell. Ultimately, what the underdog socialist lacks is the most vital ingredient for political change: the conviction that there truly is a better way.

                  • BM

                    With two parents as teachers you had no chance of being anything but left.

                    Hard to overcome that sort of ingraining, you poor sod. 😛

                    • RedLogix

                      Actually no … the big leftie influence in my life was another man. Someone probably wealthier than John Key in purely cash terms.

                      Your stereotypes aren’t serving you that well.

                    • In Vino

                      Well done RedLogix. You have illustrated a healthier society that we used to have. The cynicism of those who accused you of always having been well off is exposed, and they expose themselves as shallow spin-artists. Trolls, in fact. But we all knew that…

              • weka

                “weka would say I’m privileged”

                Would she? Everyone has privilege (it being relative) but it’s not the first thing that comes to mind reading your story.

          • burt

            Neither of those. Quite the opposite.

  9. Ad 9

    “The biggest problem is that they are dull.
    Dull as a doorknob.”

    That is a really dumb comment.

    Dullness is often rewarded in politics, because people rarely want a lot of change in their lives. Just to speak for New Zealand, the reason we have MMP is to ensure our politics is dull – it’s a system designed to ensure that another Structural Adjustment never ever happens again. We are consigned to mild politics, by design.

    Dull people gravitate to politics on the left because they have an inevitable worthy sense of their own righteousness. That makes them dull before they even exhale. (Make no mistake the world would not become good without such dull people). But don’t expect Elvis the Comeback Special out of Labour. (In Canada last time the socialists were a sitter, but then Elvis Trudeau arrived)

    Corbyn is dull. Hillary is dull. LIttle and the Australian guy is dull. Hollande is dull dull dull.
    Their collective dullness has little to do with whether they will win or lose.

    Analogue reverse: Trump is exciting, and that new nut-job in the Philippines is exciting. But their exciting nut-job-ness is simply not appropriate on the left.

    Better question: can they lead people? Do people follow them?
    Watch them lead, then watch them win.

    As for Socialism, if all you want to do is boil that into a bromide of “share with people”, then anyone who gives up their seat on a train is a Socialist. Dull and dumb.

    IMHO the left would do better if it concentrated whole lot less on policy engines like “socialism”, and started putting into practise some leadership skills inside its own party.

    • Bill 9.1


    • ropata 9.2

      You should be pretty happy with the current level of clickbait politics then. You could be the next Mike Hosking with such deep insight.

      Meanwhile boring old Steve Hansen keeps the AB’s ticking over and winning everything in sight

      • Ad 9.2.1

        Dullness has nothing to do with success in anything in politics.
        The columnist is wrong.

        Little is winning, despite being dull, because he can lead people.

  10. Siobhan 10

    “Ultimately, what the underdog socialist lacks is the most vital ingredient for political change: the conviction that there truly is a better way.’…such an odd comment.
    Corbyn for one is all about ‘conviction that there truly is a better way’. And he is convincing. The last hustings illustrated that, when exposed to his so called ‘dullness’ the majority of undecideds moved to his side.

    Seems to me the only people who lack conviction that there is a better way are the endlessly compromising so called lefties of the neo-liberal variety. They seem to suffer total panic attacks when someone with a new plan comes along.

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