It is worth prefacing everything I say here with a reminder about my feelings on ideology. You should never sign up to particular ideology or brand of politics 100%, because it’s foolish to think that it can never be wrong. So, read the below bearing in mind the proviso that there are limitations and exceptions to just about all of it. As there should be.
My place in the political spectrum
All things considered, it would be fair to say that I am on the left of the political spectrum. If you’re a fan of the two-axis spectrum, I am probably ‘middle-left’, in that I am somewhere between the authoritarian and libertarian extremes.
I believe in a relatively high-tax, high spend society. I am by absolutely no means a Marxist and I’ve got no issue with private enterprise and profit-making as a principle, but I think we can do a lot more to help the worst-off in society and I do think the better-off should shoulder more of a burden.
I am socially left-wing as well as economically and I see no issue with people living their lives however they like as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights and wellbeing of others. However, I am extremely wary of the obsession with identity politics with which a lot of the modern left is afflicted and I find it more harmful than helpful to the wider discourse.
I am a member of the Labour Party and have been since 2014. I became a member the day that Tony Benn died. I was somewhat inspired by the decency of his politics (which, as a 21-year-old, I didn’t know much about previously) and I do find it a rather fascinating case study of how he is still vilified to this day, simply for being further to the left than many wanted to be.
I have never voted for anyone but Labour, but that’s not to say I believe they’re infallible. As it happens, while I think it’s a real shame that trade unions aren’t anywhere near as strong as they used to be pre-Thatcher, I am far from convinced by the idea of a government existing to serve unions as a principle.
If a political movement on the left of politics that maintains most of Labour’s principles but has a fresh and modern take on how a left-wing party should be set up comes along, I daresay I may have a good look at it. However, in the meantime, I agree with the vast majority of Labour Party policy and I am very happy to remain a member.
Oh, and as it happens, I like Jeremy Corbyn and I agree with most of what he says but I am not one of those who think his elected was the Second Coming. Either way, just as I feel about Tony Benn, I do wish more people gave him credit for a decency and consistency that’s often missing in politics, whether or not you agree with him.
The European Union
I categorically hate the idea that (about) half of the UK are Brexiteers and (about) half of the UK are Remainers. A full investigation of how this bizarre identity situation has come about is beyond the scope of this piece, but I felt it necessary to put on the record.
As it is, I voted remain in the EU referendum because the economics clearly point to membership being beneficial, plus mutilateralism as a general principle is usually a good thing. Even if I thought I wanted to leave the EU, the disgusting tone of the Leave campaign may well have changed my mind, as I wouldn’t have wanted to vote for what it had turned in to.
Moving forward, I would like the country to have the opportunity to remain in the EU, but I’m also not obsessed with it. We would be able to survive outside the EU (although a no-deal scenario would be rather more tricky), but from my point of view it’s just a bit dumb to willingly go through with an act of considerable economic self-harm.
I suppose you might categorise me as a ‘remain and reform’ type, but I’ve got a little bit of an issue with that idea too. I think people forget that the EU is a political (and, let’s not forget, a democratic) project, so talking about ‘reforming’ the EU is a bit like ‘reforming’ the British government. If you don’t like its direction, win some elections, win the battle of ideas, and you can change it. It’s got quite a bit of inertia because it’s so big (a population of more than half a billion people), but it’s not unchangeable.
As I am only just starting my academic journey through economics, my opinion is likely to be shaped somewhat in the coming years. However, in a very general sense, you might describe me as a New Keynesian. I get how markets can be a powerful force for good, but I think that, since the late 70s, much of the Western world has forgotten that they have serious defects at times too. This inexplicably remained the case after the global financial crisis in 2008.
I believe in the principle – which, by the way, is supported by a huge number of economists – of government spending in tough times and stripping back in times of high growth. Needless to say, I’ve despaired at the austerity policies of the Coalition and Tory governments since 2010, which have hit the worst-off far more than the rest and only delayed the recovery.
I’m intrigued by the concept of universal basic income and an international wealth tax, proposed by Thomas Piketty. With both, I’m very happy to see where the evidence takes us, given that they are very novel ideas that really ought not to be rushed in to.
I guess you might call me a cautious wannabe Utopian. I have an unshakeable idea that there’s some really great idea out there which will change the world, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to get behind any new idea fully without a near-impossible level of supporting evidence.
So, there you have it
Now, next time you read any article I’ve written on politics or economics, you’ll understand the background of my opinions on the topic. If I never write anything that doesn’t, at least on a surface level, appear to clash with something above, frankly I’m not challenging my own ideas enough.