WHEN in 1991, from the corrosion of communism’s internal contradictions, the Iron Curtain rusted and perished, when at the same time under the weight of peaceful public opposition the Berlin Wall came down, the economic case for socialism was forever lost.
Political parties of the left all over the world have struggled ever since to rebuild their ideology.
Their attempts to control the economic freedoms of people and thus dictate the shape of society had failed, big style. No matter how communism was attempted, through various mutations of socialism – democratic, authoritarian, or totalitarian – it failed. And not for the want of trying.
Communism, socialism, state capitalism, the “just society” all of them, by their own terms, just failed. Time after time after time.
Workers who thought they would gain the levers of industry to spread a more even wealth found their goods overpriced, overdue and – like their jobs – eventually unwanted.
If anything typified socialism, it was the rationing and the queues that we can still see in remaining planned public services that eschew markets.
We are told that markets cannot deliver the necessities of life and yet it is markets – represented by the combination of an infinite number of decisions by individuals trading with each other in any given sphere – that ensure we all now have shoes. Even the poorest can aspire to and own the most expensive trainers. Nobody in Britain or indeed the Western world should be without shoes. There is no National Shoe Service.
Where markets do not work effectively, it is nearly always because government regulation and subsidy, often full of good intentions, has distorted them and created shortages and price rises.
Meanwhile, for all of this intervention, the very wealthy stay very wealthy but the aspiring working and middle classes, to use socialist terminology, are taxed to the hilt and given poor public services for their trouble. Unable to advocate higher personal taxes for fear of electoral revolt, collectivist politicians have had to turn to hidden taxes, properly branded stealth taxes, to try to raise revenues to meet the cost of their mistakes.
But they cannot square the circle, and must resort to public debt finance – even in the “good” times, passing the cost on to our children and grandchildren. A greater scandal, between current generations who have the vote and can elect for more benefits and future generations who have no vote but will have to pay for this selfishness, could not be conceived.
Trying to pay for these debts, these bills now rendered, is why we have a form of economic austerity. It is the price of democratic socialism that, like communism, simply could not be made to work.
So what then can Labour do in this landscape of ever lengthening rationing and queues in our NHS, as well as other public services? Faced with the ideological meltdown of economic socialism in all its forms, it cannot advocate higher taxes – except for the wealthiest, who mostly will up sticks and leave anyway.
This week the future was revealed, and it is just as pernicious and just as likely to damage the interests of the masses rather than the elite – it is called public health intervention. It means yet more laws to criminalise the use of not just alcohol and tobacco but fats, sugar and salt too. Having been rumbled for the failure of economic socialism, Andy Burnham has unveiled Labour’s lifestyle socialism that will use the force of law to control the taste of the food and drinks we like, through control of ingredients.
This will, of course, be done in the name of protecting our children. Without a blush of hypocrisy these will be the same children that Labour would wish to pay for all of its past public debt and the same children that Labour believes can make responsible decisions on sex, marriage and voting – and yet thinks they cannot decide for themselves if they should have two bowls of Sugar Puffs or any zero calorie Red Bull.
Some will say this is exaggeration, but as someone who monitors how politicians around the world seek to introduce “soda taxes” on soft drinks, ban free toys that come with children’s meals in fast food outlets, outlaw toy guns only for kids to make their own from Lego, I can assure readers there is no limit to how politicians will seek to intervene in our lifestyle choices if we let them. It is all about ending our choice and leaving it with them.
This may seem small beer compared to the dire consequences of economic socialism but the outcomes will be just as disastrous.
Plain packaging of cigarettes will result in the plain packaging of whisky and other spirits, then the next logical step will be restrictions on how Diageo, McDonalds and Coca-Cola run their businesses.
The economic ramifications will be lost jobs, lives ruined and the masses turning to the uncontrolled and more dangerous black market. Children will not be saved – they will be sacrificed.
Although not yet in power, the Labour Party is already drunk on power. The question remains if the Conservatives are drinking in the same pub as them? I, for one, pray they are not.