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Inhumane Brexit January 11, 2017

Posted by larry in Brexit, democracy, social justice, social policy.
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“One German citizen, who has been in the UK for 10 years, didn’t take out English residency status, is now worried they will have to leave. She apparently loves England but “if the government starts throwing out EU citizens, I don’t want to live in this country any more”.

“Which is a cuious sort of reasoning. If the UK does act like that then what was there to love in the first place? But that is not the point anyway.” [From Bill Mitchell’s blog, billy blog.]

No, it isn’t the point. Yet it is. Her reasoning may be considered to be unusual, but her situation is not. There are many people in exactly her situation or more complex ones and have complicated reasons for wishing to continue to live in a country where they have lived for perhaps 30 or 40 years, which is true of many “deportables”. Many of those considered to be deportable have children and spouses who have a right to reside in the UK. To deport such a parent, and thereby potentially break up such a family, violates the UN convention on the rights of the child to which the UK is a signatory. The Home Office is either not aware of this, which is scandalous in itself, or doesn’t care, which may be more scandalous. And that spouse or child may not have an automatic right of residence in the country to which the parent in question is being deported.

My problems with Brexit have nothing to do with economics and everything to do with humanitarian issues, social justice, workers’ rights, the environment, the NHS, social care, security, and the like. Of course, any properly constituted government, whether in or out of the EU (but not in the Eurozone), could deal with these matters properly. But the UK does not have such a government, nor has it had one for some years. The UK currently has a government comprised of xenophobes, buffoons, and economic fanatics. To take one example, this government has already said that as soon as the UK is out of the EU, it will “address” workers’ rights, which effectively means to remove as many of them as it can get away with.

To take another, the NHS is currently facing a crisis, which the International Red Cross deems to be a humanitarian crisis. Whether one considers the language to be OTT or not, what the UK has is a health secretary who is going around and effectively saying, Crisis? What crisis?, and blaming A&E problems on the public. The former is despicable and the latter disgusting. But these are the sort of government ministers the public is faced with. The previous NHS crisis with which the current one is being compared took place during the nineties. Both have occurred after considerable periods of Tory rule. It appears as though Tory rule is bad for your health, physical or mental.

Is there any reason to think, given who is in charge, that these situations will be improved after Brexit? I don’t see why. There is every reason to think that they will worsen. As for whether the referendum vote is legitimate, I think the Guardian article over-eggs the pudding.

It can be argued and has been that a population deserves what government it happens to elect. I don’t think this is as simple as it looks. It is all too possible to believe you are voting for A but get B instead. Or get C in addition to A, which you didn’t vote for and didn’t know was part of the package. Because such scenarios take place all too often, and many times involve a tyranny of the majority, I consider the argument to be specious. Locke’s arguments are not always logically sound. A people do not always deserve what they get nor get what they deserve.

Getting back to the deportables, I know of families who are frightened for the reasons mentioned. And they don’t know what to do. The government could easily provide an amnesty to all those who are currently resident in the UK. But this is not on the table even though it would be the most humane action to take. There is every reason to think that the other 27 countries faced with citizens returning from the UK because they have been deported will do exactly the same thing to UK citizens, possibly violating the same UN convention. Some of these countries have already said that they will do exactly this.

Because of this situation, among others, a number of anti-Brexit groups have been popping up around the country. Membership of these groups is usually comprised of younger people. These groups are not anti-Brexit per se, but anti an awful Brexit, like the kind in question. Some of these groups present alternative Brexits that are worthy of consideration.

Is Brexit responsible for any of this? Of course not. What concerns me is that the Tories will attempt to get away with more inhumane policies than they have been able to heretofore. While the Eurozone features of the EU have been an unmitigated disaster, not everything EU has been disastrous. Maybe it CAN change.

It is true that the EU as presently constituted is ridiculous, but there are politicians in Europe, like Emmanuel Macron, who see what the problem is and see a need to address it. At present, there are not many Macrons, but I see no reason why they can’t proliferate and begin to alter the narrative. There is time. Not a lot, but there is some. Of course, nothing may happen. Then it will be bye-bye Eurozone, missing you already, Not, and perhaps the EU with it.

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Capitalism, democracy & taxation: McDonnell & Varoufakis January 26, 2016

Posted by larry in Abuse of power, Bill Mitchell, democracy, economic inequality, economics, Varoufakis.
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I believe the current UK Tory government to be the most dangerous in living memory, at least for its own citizens and residents. This is why.

John McDonnell, the Labour shadow Chancellor, was interviewed on Channel 4 News last night and on Newsnight later on, Monday evening, 25 January. Even though the Channel 4interview raised the same old chestnuts, he showed he really doesn’t “get” the functions of taxation. He made a big point about how taxes are needed in order to pay for schools, hospitals, &c. And he made an even ghastlier mistake at the end of Osborne’s autumn statement last year, sounding like Balls, how the Corbyn Labour Party would bring down the deficit but slower and in a fairer way. Ye gods!!! Don’t just believe me. Have a look at Beardsley Ruml in 1946 – “Taxes for Revenue are Obsolete”: http://home.hiwaay.net/~becraft/RUMLTAXES.html. McDonnell doesn’t “get it”.

McDonnell may have been listening to Varoufakis, possibly on taxation, too much, methinks. The only things V cares about are Greece and his European democracy project, which are good things to care about. But Varoufakis has bad reasons for counting Osborne as one of his “friends”. I think McDonnell has also talked to Wren-Lewis, a neo-Keynesian, which won’t help. V contends that there hasn’t been much austerity in the UK; compared to Greece, I think he means. Well, Osborne I think has applied his austerity mostly in ways that usually do not affect GDP. The people he usually attacks make no appreciable impact on GDP and therefore would not show up in the overall statistics. So, when GDP drops, he realizes that he may have made a mistake and attacked the “wrong people”, and he adjusts. A tad. No reason Varoufakis should know about this, but then to make the statements he does seems to me to be irresponsible.

What this shows is that GDP in itself is insufficient for assessing the degree of austerity being imposed on a citizenry. You need to know where the cuts are being implemented. So, if where they are being implemented will not affect GDP very much, you will not see much change there and could conclude that not much austerity has been implemented. Which would be a grave error. Welfare payments constitute only about 0.7% of the UK’s GDP, which is not much. In addition, if you believe that taxes pay for this, you will undoubtedly think that money that could be used otherwise has been lost. However, once you grasp that taxation, and thereby taxpayers, do not fund government spending, then you can see that there is no Peter-Paul situation at all. And that spending on welfare does not affect anyone else at all.

As for the European project, Varoufakis has some fascinating and possibly controversial things to say about the relationship between capitalism and democracy. It is only the UK’s singular position he seems to be misled about.

When Varoufakis gets to the relationship between capitalism and democracy, he gets into interesting territory. In the early part of the 20th century, it was often felt that democracy was a consequence of capitalism. The evidence for this was that they arose in tandem and seemed to develop together. Bertrand Russell among others put the view forward that it was capitalism that made democracy possible. Max Weber, a little earlier, put forward a somewhat different argument. He contended that capitalism was the inevitable consequence of Calvinism. Both confused correlation with causation.

Varoufakis does not make that mistake. Although Varoufakis develops his argument in the context of Europe, it applies as well to the UK, virtually without modification. To show by example what I mean, let me go by way of a recent work by Nick Davies, an investigative journalist, published in 2014, Hack Attack: How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch. It did, and nothing seems to have changed. Murdoch wants to further invade the UK communications network and, I would contend, further destroy it. Cameron has met with Murdoch a number of times. One would have thought this could not or should not have been happening.

The explanation Varoufakis would provide for this is that the political sphere has been swallowed up by the economic sphere, a scenario in which corporations rule the world in a democracy-free zone. Though he doesn’t say this, one could conclude from this perspective that democracy, if not a complete sham, is for the “little people”, while the rich and the multinational corporations can do whatever they want (an example of which is TTIP) with politicians as their servants rather than their regulators. In such an environment, could one be forgiven for wanting to be rich, even thoughtlessly so?

For Varoufakis, there is no inherent connection between capitalism and democracy. They are independent developments. And the evidence for this lies in Singapore and China, which have successful capitalistic economies devoid of democratic elements. For a good discussion of what democracy is, have a look at Robert Dahl’s How Democratic is the American Constitution? (2nd ed. 2003). Or view Varoufakis’s TED talk from last December: http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2016/01/26/capitalism-vs-democracy-vs-capitalism-my-ted-global-talk/. Varoufakis believes Europe is on the cusp of becoming undemocratic, which would have the most drastic consequences. The ultimate cause of this is the structure of the Eurozone, a currency structure that is completely unworkable. It has only appeared to be workable because it had not faced any volatile stressors until 2008, the GFC, when the world’s banking systems collapsed. Varoufakis’s argument is not very deep but he had only about 20 minutes to put his case, hence my recommendation to look at Dahl’s analysis.

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