Worth Reading 169: The absurdity of fatalism

14 things I desperately want to hear a candidate say before this campaign ends – And they’re 14 things Jonn Elledge probably won’t hear.
The Cambridge Election: Princess Bride Style – Excellent exploration of an individual voters dilemma in choosing who to vote for.
Mediamacro myth 6: 2013 recovery vindication – Simon Wren-Lewis’s latest post on bad reporting and understanding of economics issues, but you should read his entire series of posts.
Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless – Robert Reich on an issue I’ve been thinking about recently – how the modern economy and modern society leaves so many feeling they have no power over anything.
Sacked for speaking your mind? Don’t expect the free speech brigade to help – An Australian story, so some of the references might not be clear, but the important point is about how libertarians obsess over state power while letting corporations do whatever they want.

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You may recall that when I started regular blogging last year, the spur for that was writing about Conrad Russell’s An Intelligent Person’s Guide To Liberalism. The key to Russell’s liberalism is that it is a creed that always challenges and seeks to break down unaccountable forms of power. The other side to that coin – and a key difference of liberalism and libertarianism – is the recognition that power isn’t solely the preserve of the state, and can be exerted on us by a number of unaccountable forces.

One of the main sources of unaccountable power in Britain is the nexus of it that exists in the City of London, where the City’s own cloistered system of government reflects the corporate and banking power that is exerted from there over all of us. It’s the sort of unaccountable power that needs to be confronted and challenged to make it accountable to the people whose lives it dominates, and yet much of British politics exists in its thrall, scared to offend it in any way. Which leads to this:

Not a challenge to the power of the City, the ‘markets’ or big business, but a capitulation to them, using their fears as a motivation to get people to vote. It’d be a weak message for the Tories to use, but for liberals to just roll over and willingly spread the message of an unaccountable few is just wrong.

We’re supposed to be a party that challenges power, that breaks it down and takes it back to the people. Instead we’re dancing to someone else’s tune in the hopes of a few crumbs from their table. We need to do better than this.

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Democracy happens more than once every four years

Thanks to Chris Black for linking to me yesterday and reminding me to write about this story (also covered in the press here).

It’s stories like this that make me realise that, for all David Cameron’s cosmetic changes on the surface, the Tories haven’t changed underneath. Maybe they’re good at presenting their caring, sharing face elsewhere in the country but give them raw power like they have in Essex (where Colchester is the only Council they don’t control) and the velvet gloves are swiftly removed. When I went to a County Council meeting last year, one of the Tory Councillors declared ‘democracy in Essex belongs to the Conservatives’ which is scary either in its ignorance of the meaning of the word or its utter contempt for the process.

And that’s why I don’t expect anything different from Cameron and the rest should they get into Government. Just like Blair, it’s easy to talk about caring, sharing, consensual government when you’re in opposition, but then you win an election, find yourself in possession of something close to absolute power and why would you ever want to give any of that away?

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