Miliband & the Graeme-Xin syndrome
There’s a delightful symmetry in the fact that Corrie’s Graeme and Xin storyline climaxed on the same day that Ed Miliband complained about “those on benefits who were abusing the system.” That speech produced what Sue calls a “gasp of horror” from the disabled and the Left generally.You shouldn’t need me to point out that complaints about benefit abuse is an example of the right’s “small truth, big error” rhetorical trick. But I will:- According to the last DWP accounts, benefit fraud cost £1bn in 2008-09. That’s less than the cost of the DWP’s own administrative errors, and much less than the amount of benefits that people are entitled to but do not claim.- From a Keynesian perspective, benefits serve a useful counter-cyclical function in stimulating demand. They are a roundabout way of boosting the profits of Lidl and Primark.- Insofar as people don’t want to work, it could be that this what Jon Elster called an adaptive preference. Having tried and failed to get work, people reduce their cognitive dissonance by coming not to want work. People aren’t unemployed because they don’t want to work, but instead don’t want to work because they are unemployed.So, why did Miliband ignore all this and instead take cheap shots at the worst off?The defence of him is that this is the sort of political posturing a Labour leader must undertake in a world in which floating voters and the gutter press have irrational prejudices. As Septicisle says, “I suspect, and hope, that Miliband doesn't really believe this.”Which brings me to Graeme and Xin. As you know, they pretended to get married in order to get Xin a visa, but ended up falling in love.The message here is that people can - and do - end up becoming the roles they play; this is why arranged marriages often become loving ones, and why economists are more selfish than others.I fear that this problem might also affect leftist politicians. Yes, they might start out by merely pretending to bash the poor. But as with Graeme and Xin, the pretence ends up becoming reality. Similarly, they might start out by trying merely to play a role by climbing up a hierarchy, but they end up supporting that hierarchy. As I’ve said, office determines character more than character determines office. The result is that leftist politicians so often disappoint their more radical supporters. It’s in this sense that we should worry about Miliband’s attack upon benefit claimants. Such attacks might start out as mere noble lies intended to pacify the mob - but they don‘t end there. All of which leads me to endorse a point made by Phil:
The Labour party is and always has been a party within the capitalist system and…trying to change it - rather than bypassing it in an attempt to change society - [is] a waste of effort.