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Someone want to help me start the Equality Party?

March 27, 2012

We all know, now, three years after the release of The Spirit Level, that inequality causes suffering in so many ways. We live it every day. We know things need to change. 

Our parliament would like us to believe that we can choose our way out of this. That we can make 'informed choices' as 'empowered consumers'. But some of us know, and many more of us suspect, that this is a false choice. Reading Richard Murphy's recent book The Couragous State helped me understand this, and I recommend it unreservedly.

So how do we fix it?

I think the time is right for a new political party. And here are some things I think it should do:

  • Rather than pushing the responsibility for education onto the individual, it should acknowledge the state's role to grow the workers of the future, in all fields and at all levels, on the public purse, for the good of us all. 
  • Rather than asking the markets to magically and inexplicably innovate for the good of mankind, it should acknowledge the state's responsibility to fund research and incubate good ideas into viable industries.
  • Stop fiddling around the edges of the climate change challenge and work wholeheartedly for a zero-carbon energy solution.
  • Require residency and full tax reporting and compliance for all companies wishing to do business in the UK. No pussy-footing, no fines – if they don't comply, they can't trade here.
  • Acknowledge our role and history in the continuing humanitarian crisis across the developing world, and work with (not dictate to) them and their governments to make the world fairer and to help the human race move beyond collonialism and slavery.
  • Make politics a vocation, not a job. If you are elected to central government, you can never hold another job or receive any other income from any source, ever, from the day you are elected. This would cost us in pensions for politicians who have lost their seats, but would effectively make it impossible to bribe those who are meant to be our servants. 
  • Acknowledge that a person's worth is not limited to their financial income. Some people cannot earn a wage. That doesn't make them worthless. As fellow human beings, we have a duty to support them. 
  • Support the NHS as a national, state-funded institution providing restorative and preventative care to all, free at the point of need. It is one of the best things this country has ever built. (If you truly believe that nationalised healthcare is a bad idea, I'm not really sure I want you in my species.)
  • Make use of new technology (much of which has transitioned to a post-scarcity state) to improve democracy and political responsiveness.

Most of these ideas are not mine. I can't do this on my own, and if it was just me, then that would be proof that it was the wrong thing to do. I think this is a good set of ideas. A good starting point. What do you think? 

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9 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink

    I like your ideas, they resonate very strongly. I am, as you know, a member of the Green Party for many of the reasons you state above. Perhaps the only thing stopping you being a Green is your stance on nuclear. You really ought to get that blog written so we can have a good discussion.
    As for starting a new political party, there are already tons out there, many on the left, as yours would also be. I agree we need to change things and quickly, but I’m fairly certain we need to be coalescing on the left, not undergoing further fragmentation. It’s always possible that a new party could capture the public imagination and take off, because it carries no baggage. But even if it does, you’ve got to be aware that chancers will come aboard and may well ruin it.
    Nevertheless, hold on to your thoughts, see what you can do.

  2. Tony Kennick permalink

    The fourth point needs refining, I’m fairly sure that as written we would have to leave the EU.
    Point six has merits but possible negative consequences as it means we can never reform the two houses of Parliament properly and still attract a ood crosssection of people as the idea of forced retirement would put them off. This clause also has issues around breaking the two party lock on Westminster, if secure majority governments were rare as we transitioned from BAU to a new co-operative world and this was in place it wouldn’t attract go-getters.

  3. Tony Kennick permalink

    Peter, if you don’t mind me asking: how are the green party these days on evidence based medicine and evidence based policy in general?

  4. quietsilver permalink

    Yes, ok, our science policy was a mess. It’s getting better. It takes time to rewrite policy, then go through the whole ratifcation at conference thing. You’ll still find loads you can laugh at, but it’s a work in progress. One day…

  5. Anonymous permalink

    Hi! I intend to write a more detailed reply to this that actually addresses your suggested policies, but I am working til midnight every night at the moment so I don’t have time for the next couple of weeks.

    But quickly – I really like a lot of your suggestions. Some really interesting ideas here.

    Overall, however, my interest is to make a party that is not just about equality but is more generic left wing or social democrat (or just “old Labour”). Equality is one branch of that, but it isn’t the only one, and as a concept it seems a bit loose and easy to abuse to me. I’ve read masses of neoliberal right wing material claiming that THEY are the ones promoting equality through privatisation, free markets etc (Particularly IMF/ World Bank stuff on poor countries. Half of mainstream economics is an exercise in trying to prove that everything is its opposite. So if you want to help the poor you must take from the poor. If you want to get money from the rich you must cut taxes on the rich. If you try to help someone you will end up harming them. Every left wing person should understand that that is what they are fighting, so it is no good saying things like “we want less poverty” because the enemy say that too, and then say that the way to get less poverty is to cut benefits, minimum wage etc).

    I’d like to start a party that is explicitly saying:

    a) That the market is good in some places but not in all, and some areas of life should be kept entirely free of competition, private investment, “market principles”, the profit motive etc. One of the things that this does is promote more equality, but it isn’t the only one. It also creates a different culture, and allows different ways of living. As Thatcher said “economics are the method. The object is to change the human soul”.

    b) For God’s sake tax the rich. A lot. Like we used to.

    On the Green Party – the big problem for me is that although I know that the Green party has good policies on lots of things, the name – and to a great extent the history and the members – ensure that in the public mind it will always be seen as just a single issue party concentrated on the environment. And I don’t see it as ever likely to get anywhere much because for most people the environment isn’t their overriding concern.

  6. quietsilver permalink

    There is something in what you say about the green party; we have a perception gap to fill.Nevertheless, I would contend that, just like Labour’s policies when it was formed all derived from protecting workers against capital, all our policies derive from our stance on the environment. It’s no surprise that we have arrived at similar analyses of the current situation to others on the left whose environmentalism is an “add-on” policy, in that we believe the environment is at risk from the ordinary everyday actions of the market, and that the market is equally responsible for the depradations to social policy.Some of us are anti-capitalists, some of us are control-the-market people.Our view of climate change is that it poses a very real threat to human civilisation unless we can reverse the flow of co2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere; because we do take this – scientifically backed-up – view, our main emphasis has to be the environment.These aren’t excuses, they are reasons. That the public hasn’t got it yet is partly our fault, partly their fault, but mainly the fault of mainstream media and political parties.

  7. Anonymous permalink

    Forgive me, I’m tired from overwork and in such a situation I have a tendency to get both unfocused and argumentative, so this comment is kinda off-topic and may be worth ignoring.

    But when you say “these aren’t excuses, they are reasons” you imply that if climate change was NOT a threat, you’d be quite happy with Thatcherism? If that is not so, you agree that environmentalism is not the sole source of your political beliefs? If it IS so, then I don’t think I could trust you to run the country for me, as I couldn’t be convinced that your commitment to social causes runs that deep. What if someone did a very convincing piece of analysis that showed that the best way to tackle climate change was through the free market and screwing the poor?

    That isn’t entirely theoretical. Environmentalism is a bird with a right wing as well as a left wing. Neoliberals are able to slot environmentalism very neatly into their obsession with increasing “efficiency” – just substitute energy efficiency for financial efficiency. The Green Party represents a left wing environmentalist tradition, but being left wing does not automatically follow from environmentalism.

    P.S. I’m not meaning to slag off environmentalists – I am one. I work in the area and I cowrote this: http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com/. I just think that environmentalism is not sufficient on its own as a basis for a whole political ideology.

  8. quietsilver permalink

    No, not one bit. The environment doesn’t belong to us. Acting as if it does – which is what the market does – is what I’m against. I would go so far as to say I absolutely don’t believe the market can do anything to solve any environmental problems. It’s too short-termist, and to egotistical to do that. Those who believe in the market think the market knows best – that’s why they’re trying to “get government out of the way” at the moment. The market self-evidently doesn’t know best – the crash of 2008 and the subsequent failure to recover shows that. Unless, of course, you happen to belong to the top tranche of people who have become much richer as a result of it.And yes, I DO believe that a left-wing stance is inevitable from this kind of environmentalism. If you start with the viewpoint that everyone should be fairly equal, the spoiling of the environment for some and not for others is unacceptable. Even Marx was an environmentalist, had he but known it.

  9. Pixelsnbits permalink

    Need to ask why there are so few google listings for “inequality causes suffering”.
    Need to work on getting more such listings.

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