I enjoy the work of blogger Tom Pride. Last month (13th August) he wrote about an article which appeared on the Conservative Home website. It was titled ‘How to inoculate your children against Socialism’ written by Westminster City Councillor and member of the Adam Smith Institute, J.P. Floru. Now I cannot compete with Mr Pride in terms of humorous irreverence so I’m taking a more prosaic and personal approach. For a start, in my post I want to leave aside the issue of socialism as my parents had no wish to inoculate me against anything apart from major infectious diseases (OK, and maybe fascism, but they were caring!). Furthermore, Floru’s post is as much about ‘catching’ right-wing Libertarianism as ‘inoculating’ against Socialism.
In Floru’s post he explains how young people can be inoculated in four ways. Now, I have experienced each of these four ways so how did things turn out? Lets start with:
Floru claims that Jacob Rees-Mogg has made the astounding staement that teenagers are naturally rebellious. Thank goodness we have people like Rees-Mogg to tell us such things! Now, Floru does not actually recommend anything to counter this, so presumably he is as enlightened as Rees-Mogg. What did I take politically from my rebellious teenage years. I grew up in an eastern valley in South Wales where the Labour party had a monopoly on political power. There was a certain arrogance and complacency in their attitude and I did rebel. But it was against systems that gave absolute power to one group. Contestability and accountability are important to me (fundamental tenets of republicanism) and I am equally suspicious of, for example, Conservative dominated administrations. Look how well Kensington and Chelsea has turned out! Floru has little to say abou contestability. But as inoculation is all about conferring immunity I guess it does not factor highly!
2. Inoculation (the crux)
Michael Clark, a barrister, believes that children are effectively ‘innoculated’ by their parents. Long before they attend school, children from normal households will have heard the views of their parents.
This is not about counter-brainwashing your children into right-wing thinking, but rather making them aware that there is an intelligent argument for it, and that they have a choice.
In my case my father encouraged me to think for myself and he would debate politics with me for hours. Sometimes I agreed with him and and built those into my political thinking! He enjoyed the exchanges and he taught me to think for myself. Floru is correct in that I became aware that Libertarian thinking was based around an intelligent argument. But this only made me realise that I must be informed and focussed in opposing it!
3 Objective truth (!)
Free market economics work; socialism doesn’t. Marxism, that invented ideology which never worked anywhere, has a tough sell.
My conclusion? Free market economics is every bit an invented ideology as socialism and Marxism. It has its roots in the works of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke (the intelligent arguers!) and is based on a view of late seventeenth century economics. If it was invented then I concluded that it can be (has to be!) changed. Free market economics is not an innate and immutable consequence of nature.
4 Understanding personal economics
Parents can teach their children the values of work, saving, and financial prudence. Later, the children will realise that the state’s budget is but a macro version of their own.
My parents taught me about personal finance and I have budgeted all my life. But, wealthy people frequently inherit their wealth, start with an an economic or social advantage and live off the proceeds of rents and investments, not their own efforts . But they like to tell us mere mortals about hard work, austerity and being ‘self actualization’. Inherited wealth is driving ever greater inequality. Secondly, Floru is talking complete and utter rubbish. A state’s finances are nothing like personal finances and this myth helps promote the austerity confidence trick which is impoverishing millions
So the result? One way or another my parents allowed me to experience these four ‘ways’ and the result is somewhat different to Floru’s desirable outcome. In fact, if anything I was inoculated against Floru’s right wing Libertarian ideology, a stance which remains as firm as ever!