Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pragmatists vs Ideologues

Who says this?

So what is it with the church and the political Left that it attracts people only too keen to judge others’ beliefs? I guess it comes from the fact that both Christianity (and any other religion) and socialism are based on faith — faith in God or, in socialism’s case, faith in the basic good of mankind, in moral absolutes and in economic concepts. Once those beliefs are codified and acknowledged as The Truth, it becomes easy to identify those who stray from the One True Path.

The political Right is blissfully unencumbered by such rule books, preferring a more pragmatic approach to politics.
It is of course, Tom Harris MP and I have to say I really don't get this whole battle of the pragmatic righties vs the intransigent ideological lefties. I'd have to say that further to this I find it rather depressing that a Labour MP seems to swallow this particular piece of rightwing mythology hook,line & sinker. Especially since it seems to me that the right have been equally guilty of putting ideology before practical concerns.

For example, I as a muddle headed, ideological leftie believe that the pricing signals of the market can be useful in the unconcious coordination of economic activity but believe that it is a thoroughly foolish to put believe that such unconcious pricing signals should be the primary determinants of how economic activity is coordinated. This view of how markets work seems, to me at least, a far more practical way of viewing the activities of the market than the right wing view which seems to ascribe the market almost supernatural wealth creating powers.

I would also argue that they have too much faith in the benefits of competition. For example, I would argue that the introduction of competetive tender in certain services such as hospital cleaning introduces a lack of flexibility and accountability to the service due to the arms length relationship between the contractee and the contractor. I would follow that up by pointing out that there is little scope for increased productivity through innovation in this field meaning that only scope for financial savings can be found through lowering the cost of labour. Essentially the only thing opening such services up to competition ever did was reduce the wages of some already very low paid workers, the benefits from competition in such a situation are minimal.

The point here is that the right is equally guilty of putting ideology before practical considerations, as left wingers we are often apalled by the political consequences of many rightwing policies. The counterargument usually presented by the right is that while the political consequences may be undesirable, the policy is still worthwhile because of the practical benefits (it saves money, promotes gowth, creates wealth etc). I do think that far too often we give these claims of pragmatism the benefit of the doubt, in truth we should be far more skeptical of these claims.

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