Facebook discussions with an old socialist

My dad’s friend Martin is an old-school Labour man. I’m his friend on Facebook. It’s nice being in touch with such people. Whilst they’re not always right, sometimes they are.

[Martin R]: The poor are dangerous.

Some people: “this is patronising”. Me:

The poor *are* dangerous. This is clear from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Western liberal-ish states were built on understanding that, understanding that Marx wasn’t wrong, and transferring enough of the money to the working class to stop the poor being actively dangerous. Note the extent to which governments started serious wealth-transfer schemes after WWI, once the USSR had emerged as a serious threat.

Enough Republicanism/Conservatism, and the poor will become dangerous again. There’s only so far things can go before revolutions start happening.

Other chap, who’s not wrong:

The poor can also be wrong. They are most dangerous when they resort to fascist ideologies


…and they’re most likely to resort to fascist ideologies when living in deeply unequal and unfair societies, where fascists lie that they’re poor because of [Jews/Blacks/Muslims] and that’s the reason why they’re poor. And most likely to be engaged with society when the benefits of economic growth are shared with everyone across the income scale.


Arguments about fairness are different. And I don’t suggest that people are right because they are poor. But poor people have little to lose. They can rise up if pushed hard enough. They may not vote, or participate in the political process, but guarding against the possibility of revolt is and undercurrent in every political system. This government seems to have forgotten it.

Sometimes, I think that those of us on the liberal/libertarian side of things forget this. Liberal politics is fundamentally borne out of the desire of both the upper class and the wealthier classes to not have our heads cut off. Yes, if you’re a computer programmer, or an accountant, or any kind of middle-class private sector job that’s going, you pay some tax, and people who are poorer than you don’t, and many people who are poorer than you even get paid benefits from the tax that you pay – but do bear in mind that as a result, they aren’t marching through the town with your head on a spike.

Which, if you take the sheer “fittest will survive, others will fail” creed of right-libertarianism at its word, is what will happen.

I’m quite happy to have a well-paid job and pay a sizeable amount of tax. Not only for the sheer, base point that in Somalia, I’d be unlikely to have an internet connection and sell anyone business advice [*] but also for the extra “non-scary” points that living in a Western country buys you.

I respect the US position of taxing you on your global income (minus taxes already levied in non-hostile countries) on the grounds that it’s the difference between “fair tax” and “danger money cos we’re gonna get you out when you’re in trouble”. The way I’d modify that, were I in charge of taxation for anywhere, is “tax is on your global income ignoring anywhere you’re a citizen of”, given that anywhere you’re a citizen of, you don’t get any help defending you from.

So in Libya – we had a bunch of people with British passports out of there. Awesome; skills. They were being paid US$100k+ tax-free, meanwhile, the average UK taxpayer earns less than GBP25k per year. Should we have left them to die? Hell, no. Is it reasonable that the operation was subsidised by the average UK taxpayer and they paid nothing towards it? Hmm.

This piece is a giant ramble; I’m aware of that. But I have a blog and that’s what Having A Blog is for. And whatever the state may be for, I’m pretty convinced it’s not about ensuring that people who mostly don’t believe in The State can go to foreign places, dodge tax, and then be rescued by gunships at The State’s expense.

[*] I live in Australia, but the taxation regime is very similar to the UK’s and I spent the previous 10 years paying a fair amount of UK tax, and will happily defend any points based on difference to the death.

10 thoughts on “Facebook discussions with an old socialist

  1. 9/11 happened as a direct result of Western policies in the Middle East. Keep corrupt governments in power, play one dictatorship off against another, arm the wrong sides, keep the poor (e.g. Palestinians) powerless and in poverty … and what do you get? Islamic terrorism, that's what. And all in the name of the Great God Oil.

    Meantime, disabled people (who aren't dangerous at all, let's face it) can have their benefits cut, services taken away, and be subjected to humiliating assessments, just so that gutless, weak, pathetic, wasted containers of blood and organs that are our politicians can play to the hateful populist galleries sponsored by The Daily Mail (itself a loathsome, xenophobic, rabble-rousing, anti-semitic, islamophobic, anti-feminist, cheap, nasty, hysterical, piece of used toilet paper passing itself off as a newspaper).

    Life in the UK today. Who wants it? Who has it?

  2. “tax is on your global income ignoring anywhere you’re a citizen of”. So stay-at-homes wouldn't pay any income tax? Shome mishtake, shirley. Or have I misunderstood, again?

  3. I think you'll find it was actually British foreign policy for there to be a lot of expats in Libya. What fraction of the total FTSE100 divvy pool is BP again? You can hardly bend your policy into a morality pretzel in order to advance your commercial interests and then complain that loads of your citizens have gone there to, y'know, do some commerce.

  4. What fraction of the total FTSE100 divvy pool is BP again?

    Well, the dividend is now a bit of a moot point given the Deepwater Horizon fiasco…(Slowly retreats)…

  5. This is rather more of an issue when it comes to piracy: it is apparently very important for the Royal Navy (and the US navy and others) to be off the coast of Somalia protecting ships whose owners have registered them in Panama and Sierra Leone and Mongolia, in order to avoid paying UK taxes and following UK maritime safety rules. The South Koreans had to storm Samho Jewelry even though it was registered in Malta. The US did the same with Magellan Star, which was registered in Antigua. The Russians did the same with Moskovskyy Universityet even though its home port is Monrovia. And so on.

  6. This is rather more of an issue when it comes to piracy

    I doubt it. Piratae hostes humani generis sunt.

  7. Order and property rights are better than anarchy for all classes as was exceedingly obvious for most of history. The King`s Peace was loved and valued and not because anyone feared the popor , they feared the other rich powerful people
    Libertarians in real life are Marxists ,who try it(Kibbutz )or juvenile Conservatives who don`t and outgrow it .
    The poor cannot find their own arses with both hands far less organise a revolution. The working classes included many who we would now think of as exceedingly privileged and these middling ranks pulled down Feudalism,old Tory England and ( now) post war socialism.
    The lumpen proletariat were just an embarrassment to Marxists and Fabians who wanted them exterminated . We throw money at them out of guilt not fear thats why no-one much cares if it does any good.

    When posh people get misty eyed about the poor I laugh. They are ugly idle fat-arsed feckless thieving incontinent scum bags whose lives are so self harming that until this century they didn`t live long enough for anyone to have to worry much. Revolution …ha ha ha.

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