The musings of Mr Monkeysized

Honesty and dishonesty in politics and public life… by monkeysized
April 17, 2010, 21:05
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So we’re past the first public debate and on towards the second, third, and Big Day. What have we learned?

Forget about the politicians, what have we learned about the electorate?

I’m sick of voters going on about how they want a decent and honest debate about the economic apocalypse on the horizon. Cameron tried that, and his poll figures went tits up. The conservatives, licking their wounds after losing a double figure poll lead – and the others – learned the lesson in obfuscating to the public. Yes Economic Apocalypse needs saying, but no the public can’t cope – how very monkeysized of them.

After all, as the saintly Tim Harford keeps pointing out, the parties have learned that they need to either ignore the subject or talk in un-monkeysized numbers, like billions, that will go through the brains of the super-sized chimps that we are as the electorate.

Moral hazard feeds into this – perhaps our economic system, and political system, means that our modern society is now so insulated from the impacts of our choices, that the basic choice architecture within which we make those economic and political decisions needs to be revamped.

It looks like a severe case of needing monkeysizing.

REPEAT AFTER ME: I am an ape, albeit a super-developed one. By chance I was born into a society far beyond what my meagre reasoning capacity allowed me to comprehend, particularly thanks to the last 10 000 years of spectacular societal growth. As a result I have lost the connection between my actions and the results – whether to me, or to abstract others such as others in my societies or the ‘global needy’. But recognising this disconnection is the first step towards righting the wrongs of being non-monkeysized. I will try harder to monkeysize my life. Amen.

Personal responsibility and Van Morrison by monkeysized

Unfortunately, despite the title of this blog, Van Morrison plays a tiny role in this blog post. It’s the first since returning from a well deserved holiday, and I’m glad to say that the therapeutic power of Mr Monkeysized’s blog worked wonders. No sooner had I listed two or so week’s worth of my internal morning jukebox in my last post, from the Soviet National Anthem to Black Heart Procession, than the jukebox switched itself off. Except this morning, when I awoke (a large quantity of work-bought red wine still sloshing through my system) to Van Morrison’s ‘Wonderful Remark’.

So that’s the music out of the way. Now – and I want to keep it short – onto the politics. It’s election season in Britain, and there is much to say and debate about. However, I want to focus on one simple thing. In a modern system there is very little difference between parties, except personalities, current record in office, and that eternal need to keep some kind of churn between parties to keep the democratic process healthy. This is no time to start mimicking Japan or Mexico in the Twentieth Century.

That said, it is sometimes possible to find a kernel of an idiological platform out there. Reject anybody who talks too much about right and left – that barely exists any more (calling the deeply socially liberal but anti-immigration party of Pim Fortyn in the Netherlands right-wing was always a bugbear of mine). Instead, in a world where the state is responsible for an enormous amount of spending in a modern western economy, the focus instead should be on whether the party deep-down trusts the state or the individual.

Being Mr Monkeysized, I have deep doubts about the capability of the individual. After all, it’s not many moons since we first wandered away from the plains of Africa, our ape past still evident in our lifestyle. However, I also have real doubts about the capacity of the state, that kleptocratic, bureaucratic edifice. After all, it’s hardly much more competent than the ape-like individual.

I suppose that what it comes down to – and here I win no prizes for originality – is that there are some things the state can do that society can’t: defence, foreign policy, dealing with macro-economic policy. And there are things that it really ought not to, for fear of giving those apelike humans in society an excuse for not taking responsibility for their own lives. I’m naturally inclined towards telling people to seize their own destiny, safe in the knowledge that they’ll never starve if they fail, but that wallowing about for a lifetime of clotted aspirations thanks to the intrusion of a state that overreaches itself is not an option for me.

The state isn’t going to disappear, so on that account I’d rather vote for more us, and less state.