02 January 2007

You awful, awful man

Sorry, I don't really mean to get personal. I'm sure Ben Rogers of the Institute for Public Policy Research (New Labour think tank) is no worse than a lot of other leftists working in the overlap between Labour politics and "research" on "social welfare" (= statism studies).

But I was mildly sickened to see two horrible articles by him in a row. First, via the current Prospect, comes his assessment of the recent advances in including social engineering in the objectives of state schools.

With studies showing that early-years experience is crucial in shaping character and capacity, nursery care and schools have become the new frontier not only of the "welfare state" but the "opportunity state"
he notes approvingly, and goes on to conclude that
by and large, the new expectations being placed on schools represent a reasonable reaction to [recent social changes].
Of course it is all nonsense, and demonstrates why you cannot have education provided by the state. A welfare state will never restrict itself to duplicating the services offered by the private sector (which roughly correspond to what people actually want). So not only is the actual real teaching provided by state schools rubbish, because it is completely immune to market forces. You don't even get decent education being aimed for, but rather some vague nebulous programme of making things fairer, improving chances, promoting inclusion. To the extent this comes out as anything other than mere chaos and anarchy, it means indoctrinating children with pro-state ideology.

Then, clicking on the next available article by the same author, I was appalled to find that it consisted of Dr Rogers promoting compulsory voting. (His paper on the issue can be found here.)

Compulsion seems to be the currently fashionable option (= "counsel of despair") favoured by lefties who realise that all their tinkering to produce justice, fairness or whatever else they spout about, doesn't actually achieve what it's supposed to and in some cases results in the opposite. This is partly because their goals are unachievable (e.g. making the working class produce the correct proportion of university graduates) and partly because their policies aren't really motivated by, say, wanting to see clever children from poor backgrounds do well. (See earlier post.)

Thus, for example, since there is still too much educational disparity between the classes, working class children are to be forced to stay on at school after 16.

In the case of voting, the ideology which has inspired New Labour - phoney democratisation, expressed as dumbing down and style over substance - has resulted in fewer and fewer people having enough confidence in the political process, or belief in the importance of principles such as civil liberties, to be bothered with voting.

Solution? Try to address voters' concerns and suspicions? Rethink the current political ideology? Perhaps consider the possibility that recent attempts at populism were unrealistic and disingenuous, and therefore bound to be phoney? No, force the buggers to vote.

Which, according to Rogers, "does not violate any important liberties". Well, they may not be important to you, Ben, but they're important to me. And I don't care one iota that Belgium already does it. Belgium has done some pretty dodgy things in its time, such as human rights abuses in the Congo. Even if a majority of European countries did it (they don't), that isn't really an argument in favour. You have to consider a proposal to tinker with civil liberties on its own merits. In 1942, most of Europe was busy organising or condoning the extermination of Jews.

More detailed analysis of Rogers's article is over at Not Saussure.