Thursday, 16 April 2015

The multi-dimensional political spectrum passes through Grimsby

You will be familiar with the fact that  'right-wing' and 'left-wing' have to do a lot of work, covering attitudes to tax policy, immigration policy, social values, etc etc. It's interesting and perhaps surprising that, broadly speaking, they manage to do the job: why should what you think about gay marriage be correlated with what you think about the minimum wage?

Matthew Yglesias here mentions the recent debate about whether there are any libertarians in real life. He then goes on take a quick survey of the world and concludes that there does seem to be a natural link: you tend to get a right-wing political party that is a bit more religious and business-friendly, and more pluralistic, labour-friendly left-wing party. Yglesias has some brief thoughts on how the link might work, e.g., "Women are poorer than men, so maybe it's natural for redistribution to bundle with feminism and anti-redistribution to bundle with patriarchy."

Well, perhaps. But perhaps one way of looking at the decline of the share in the vote taken by the biggest two parties in the UK (and in other countries where the same has happened) is to say that that seemingly natural link has become broken. 

Immigrants (and potential immigrants) are poorer than natives, so maybe it's natural to bundle pro-immigration policies with redistribution? Not now. Here is the ever-readable James Meek in the LRB going to Grimsby to talk about UKIP and other such matters, and finding characters such as "Val O’Flynn, the ex-Militant Tendency candidate for the radical left-wing Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition ... The open door immigration policy, she said, ‘suited the capitalist because it increases the labour force, it has a downward effect on wages, and immigrants are much easier to exploit...’" O'Flynn is engaged to a UKIP chap who "was a Labour member for many, many years. I was at Orgreave and I was a steel worker at Scunthorpe during the strike of 1980, on the picket lines".

The Economist has a fun quiz showing how similar many Green and UKIP policies are. The similarities include anti-elitism, increased state funding for education and healthcare and using state powers to open up empty houses. That's to say, they have both spotted a gap in the political market for left-wing economics. What other gaps in the market are out there?

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