As most of you know, The Slog began life as notbornyesterday.org, and finds itself primarily measured and judged as a politics blog. But if you audit the content, it isn’t really: there’s more here about human stupidity, economics, fiscal madness, crooked business, legal scandals and the odd bit of philosophy than there is real politics.
The Marxists, of course, would say that everything is political. The collapse and subsequent ridicule attached to all things Marxist has led its followers in a few cases to remain in steadfast denial and schism; but in a broader sense, this tradition of interference in everything we do, say and think lives on in human form as Harriet Harman. Ms Harman is infinitely more influential in politics and government than most people appreciate, and she has tens of thousands of equally unhinged people behind her – and in front of her. The frontman right now is Ed Miliband. But let’s not go there: let’s wait and see.
Earlier this week, the Blog awards put The Slog at No 38 in what it designated ‘right wing’ websites. Some of the readers were incensed by this definition, but few were surprised – least of all me. Our current Establishment truly cannot travel over the razor-blade in its path that goes from Left to Right, and I’ve come to accept that: it’s one of the reasons why the current clowns need to be cleared out.
However, one can’t build a body of thought on what one isn’t. If I may – for the benefit of both loyalists and those stumbling recently into this place – I’d like to outline exactly what The Slog’s affiliation is. And I’d like to do this primarily by using the subject of education as a social need.
Here and now, however, let me state clearly that this is a site designed to deconstruct bollocks in our lives. And that its criteria for identifying stuff as bollocks (bollockslog – gerritt??) is Benthamite.
I’d rejected the Marxist ideal by 1968. There was a brief and dope-addled summer in 1967 when some of us thought the organs of the State really were withering away as per Uncle Karl’s formula; we now know of course that they were just having a rest before moving onto the next level of incompetent control. But the real gaping hole in Marxism is this ‘everything is political’ nonsense. Iain Dale calls his associated site Total Politics, and even though Iain is a Tory and passionate supporter of the freedom to be left alone, he is a politics wonk. The name is the giveaway. Most politicians do indeed think everything stems from (or winds up in) their court.
This is bollocks. The thing at the heart of the form and contentment of every society is its culture. By culture I naturally mean in large part the media, but also the mores and standards: equality before the law that means something, honesty in commerce, innocent until proven guilty, a democratic franchise, individual liberty, safe streets, freedom of worship and belief – and a lowest-common denominator of fairness: if you like, welfare as a temporary walking stick rather than a lifelong crutch.
It remains my view that, with the probable exception of the last item above, none of this stuff should be the business of national politicians; I would go further and say the very act of them getting involved in these issues is why we are close to anarchy now.
The job of a politician is to argue a case for the best strategy for governance. To realise that strategy and define its objective, they need money. So they raise taxes. This gives them control of the purse strings – which is as it should be, for you can’t give people responsibility for something, but then withhold the power to make it happen. Citizens then make or earn money with greater and lesser degrees of success, and this produces disparities of wealth – sometimes genuinely cruel ones. Reaganomics taught us what we already knew anyway: wealth doesn’t trickle down, it gushes up.
As the people with the tax money in the land of the greedy, I expect my government not to redistribute that wealth, but to ensure that a good deal of it is invested in the good of the community. My beef with Friedmanite economics is that it encourages greed, and has no solution for infrastructural decay and abject poverty right at the bottom. My beef with the Left is that they still want to redistribute, but mainly they want to invest in jobs for the Union boys rather than progress for the community. And my disdain for the Orange-to-Red axis of fluffiness is that it has no commercial perspective whatsoever….as the current ‘austerity’ debate demonstrates to perfection. (I place austerity in inverted commas there because 95% of Brits wouldn’t know real austerity if it reared up and bit them in the neck).
Does this make me anti-politics? No: put three people in a house, and there will be three distinct Parties within days. A desire to defend one’s turf is wired into the currently available version of our species.
Does this make me apolitical? No – although the core of my outlook is that far more things ought to be apolitical. What it makes me is a bloke with a different approach to the problem. And the Establishment – even the blogospherics – can’t handle that. The Slog is ‘right wing’, and there you have it, take it, or leave it.
But the Sun headline of my approach is very easy to express: Benthamism – the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Keep politics out of everything that isn’t Defence of the Realm. Let the politicos raise taxes, but reform the tax system drastically to make it both fair, and an instrument of change. Give much more power to small communities (I don’t mean local government) – because in a small community, things affect people so directly, most of them have no choice but to get involved. And above all, change the culture through education. Not brainwashing and pc mantras: on the contrary, restoring the ability to weigh, judge, think, suggest and create. Schools to create open minds, not glorified open prisons.
This last thing is the mammoth in the understairs cupboard, is it not? Education must have standards, must have commonalities, and must be socially (even medically) proactive while being politically neutral. How can that possibly be provided, I hear you ask, without government involvement?
I don’t believe education is a human right, because I don’t think anything is a right for one species just because somebody says it should be: that whole idea is a ridiculous confection formed from human pomposity. But I definitely believe that any advanced and civilised culture should aim to not just educate all its citizens, but also maximise their personal potential for fulfilment. To do otherwise is to quite deliberately keep at last part of the citizenry in obedient ignorance: indeed, this is a central tenet of social organisation in Islamist countries. link.
The problem is that education has, since the early 1970s, become hugely politically biased. Defenders of it (the Labour Party, and teachers) would naturally dispute this, demanding that evidence be shown of specific political bias. But this is the mark of the Left now: to want everything to be political, but deny that it is political. Or put another way, deceit in the face of the known unpopularity of what they’re up to.
But there is no reason at all why this has to continue – or indeed why government needs to play any part in it. There is a need to fund the system (there is a need to reform it radically too) but this could be done by a body entirely separate from Westminster….and no, I don’t mean a Quango.
Put simply, my belief is that an apolitical education system is every bit as important as an apolitical Judiciary. (Recep Erdogan doesn’t agree, but we can all see where that’s going).
As I keep saying – and the Cameroons keep discovering – there is a cultural shift to be undertaken in the important societal institutions like the police, the health service and education. I believe in a free education system up to the age of 21 for everyone who both wants it and is good enough intellectually to benefit from it after the age of 16. The University ‘funding scandal’ is another problem both caused and exaggerated by the Left: a degree is not the be-all and end-all of employment criteria, and is not necessary for many in the population. Confine University entrance to where it should be based on merit, and the Universities’ funding problems are not only over: everyone who went there from whatever walk of life could have a generous grant so to do….as they used to when sanity prevailed.
The existing teacher universe has not the slightest interest in promoting this idea – and every intention of opposing it at every stage. This is a result of their political bias in many cases, but chiefly because they lack the talent, skills, training and application to put it into practice for the benefit of all. Teaching is a calling, not a set of qualifications. Like the doctors, the educationalists have lost this part of the plot entirely.
The beneficiaries of such an apolitical, pro-social, health-aware and higher quality education system would be, obviously, include most private members of the community – but primarily the companies, businesses, professions and corporations who need excellent candidates to help them in turn grow the national wealth. These latter should therefore be the primary source of funding, and in return for this they would gain huge tax discounts – in some cases, exemption from them.
There are two reasons for this. First, the larger corporate sector pays a risibly small amount of the total tax collected in the UK. And second, an education system run with a commercial perspective – further enlightened by the broad social good – would be (no matter how myriad its faults) infinitely superior to one administered by overpaid target freaks and stat-benders in Whitehall.
The details will be hard to figure at first; personally I loathe the idea of direct sponsorship for dozens of reasons. What I’m talking about here is the principle.
There’s little or no chance of me getting my own blog-sector next year under ‘Benthamite’. But a Benthamite is what I’ve been since I first read his works forty-four years ago, because it represents no special interest group and has but one idealistic – yet realistic – objective: the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
The actual number of us is one problem Jeremy Bentham didn’t have – and one even James Delingpole in the end will have to face: there are far too many of us on the planet for the amount of water available and the continued good working of the ecosphere. But that’s another debate for another day.