Wednesday, 22 September 2010

In praise of Vince Cable

... Only joking. What a twat!

Damn, and I was going to do a serious piece, critiquing his conference speech. I was toying with the title 'straining out flies and swallowing camels', which is part of the problem. I also want to deride the mainstream reputation Cable enjoys for 'being right about the economy'. No, he was a quarter right, and not when it mattered. All he did was point a finger out the window and say it's raining. He didn't see the storm clouds gathering, neither did he mark the crimson tinge to the sky that fateful morn. Even less did he check the forecast from reliable sources.

Rhetorical question: Is it too much to ask for a government minister, for business no less, and a self-proclaimed 'liberal' to understand what the word 'capitalism' means? Or to use it in a context not wholly pejorative?

Capitalism and laissez-faire yet again trooped out for straw-man assassination, the usual association of free markets and greedy bankers. We can debate the word, but whatever he means by it, this speech is anti-capitalist, and the tragedy is that this is based on ignorance rather than ideology - not evil, just wrong.

We can all hate the bankers, but attacking the bonuses is straining out the fly. You have to look at the monetary system itself. You can't ignore the case for sound money, and if that's too fucking much to ask, at least recognise the mechanisms set in motion by the money - credit system we have, and understand the business cycle it provokes.


Quiet_Man said...

Picked up at Guido's. but still relevant

Dr. Eamonn Butler biographer of Adam Smith says…
“Business Secretary Vince Cable is wrong on capitalism and wrong on Adam Smith. Unfortunately, we have a business secretary who doesn’t understand business and who misinterprets the founder of modern economics too. It is not capitalism that kills competition. It is regulation, and regulated capitalism. Adam Smith was perfectly clear… Where free competition reigns, businesses cannot keep out competitors. Government policy should focus on increasing competition, ensuring that trade is honest – and on reducing other regulation.”

Trooper Thompson said...

Cable doesn't understand where Smith was right. What hope is there he'll ever fathom out where he was wrong?

Jock Coats said...

"Capitalism and laissez-faire yet again trooped out for straw-man assassination"

Question: is it really a straw man if your audience really believes that what you are saying about them is true? That's the point - the don't understand either of them. They really believe that it was laissez-faire that created the monopolistic industrial trusts and the bankster imperialists of the tail end of the c.19th and that their brand of liberalism was the only just reaction to that!

Trooper Thompson said...

He sounds like a kid who's only read one book.

"is it really a straw man if your audience really believes that what you are saying about them is true?"

Yes. That is the point of a straw man.

They are mis-reading history.

Jock Coats said...

Sorry - my question wasn't well phrased. I was kind of trying to conjure up the "sound of one hand clapping" type argument.

If you are not debating with someone - if both you are your audience accept as axiomatic what you are saying, then it's kind of not a straw man argument - they're not even attempting to make an argument.

Anyway, no worries. ON a different note, I have a friend in Oxford looks like he's going to get a contract to assist one of the Department of Law head honchos at Oxford University compile a definitive volume of "all the levellers' tracts"

Trooper Thompson said...

Hmm, what you're suggesting is a straw man that has grown too large, that it cannot be easily knocked over, perhaps so large they find themselves emprisoned within it. The straw man has become a wicker man!

Re: tracts. That sounds fun, but what would really interest me would be a compilation of the newspapers of the time, the partisan sheets of Marchamont Nedham and co. The little I've read of those was fascinating.

BTW are you the same Jock Coats I heard narrating something by Albert Jay Nock over at Mises?

Jock Coats said...

Hah! My own blog post fisking Vince's speech was called "vince's speech - wicker man politics?" I have not finished it and somehow the moment has passed.

I *think* they narrowed the scope of the book. Originally it was to have included lots of parliamentary speeches of the time as well. But I'll mention newspapers and see what they say.

Yes, Our Enemy The State, that was me, along with a few others.

Trooper Thompson said...

I hope you do mention it. Here's a quote from Wikipedia on Marchamont Nedham. If they publish the news-books mentioned here, I promise I'll buy a copy.

"He came to prominence in 1643 when he began working on Mercurius Britanicus a weekly news-book espousing the parliamentary politics of the era, mainly written as a response to the royalist Mercurius Aulicus of John Birkenhead. The Britanicus, which Needham controlled after 1644, was more overtly polemical and savage then the satirical Aulicus. The publication in the Britanicus of Charles I's personal letters which were captured after the battle of Naseby was a significant propaganda coop for the parliamentary forces. But this and Needham's attacks on the personality of the king drew censure from the House of Lords and when Needham again attacked the king in print, during delicate negotiations in May 1646, he was sent to the Fleet prison for two weeks.

Upon his release he was banned from publishing but probably authored some of the many anonymous pamphlets around at the time. In 1647 Charles I, surprisingly, seems to have forgiven him and he began publishing Mercurius Pragmaticus, a royalist supporting news-book.

Well done for the reading voice! I wonder how this came about.

Jock Coats said...

I will certainly ask about the newspapers. If they are hidden somewhere in the Bodleian Library so much the better. I think the project was originally to be the collection, publication and interpretation of speeches and so on in the Long Parliament.

Last I heard it was to be Levellers' Tracts (and whether that includes a full publication at last of the Putney Debates transcripts I can't remember). It seems to me that Marchamont Needham would be essential to an understanding of this. I will ask.

It's led by this chap.

"Well done for the reading voice! I wonder how this came about."

I won a school "declamation contest" for a rendition of, I think, Kubla Khan, when I was eleven and never looked back :-)

I'm a terrible reader - usually dipping into things, but since I wanted to read lots of libertarian stuff and had just discovered the Jeff Riggenbach stuff at Mises on my new iPhone I thought I might read things out loud so I could listen to them again and again. I thought I would start with things that, if I distributed them, would not cause copyright issues so started with the Online Library of Liberty type things, then I thought I'd do one of Bob Murphy's Chaos Theory and let him hear it and he got some of my stuff posted up at Mises.

Jock Coats said...

...and my contribution to the cause - without Jeff Riggenbach I would never, I think, have read Ethics of Liberty or Human Action as books and I figured that there must be others like me who might like audiobook versions of good libertarian/anarchist literature. I'm not likely to be in a position any time soon actually to create such works of scholarship, so I may as well read the ones that are out there to others who can't or can't be arsed like me!

Trooper Thompson said...

I'm sure they'll have some in Oxford - incidently, quite a lot were published in Oxford when Charles was based there. I visited the British Library some years ago to do some research in their collection (the Thomason Collection, I believe), and remember a news-sheet covering the siege of Colchester, which really impressed me. It had a quality to it which came from it being written while the events were actually taking place, and it was really quite irreverent, making jokes about the dire straits of the 'shavers' which was the nickname it used for the besieged royalists.

I dare say I've read most of the key Leveller tracts ('Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights' being a particular favourite!) My copy of the Clarke Papers (secretary to the New Model Army I believe) includes the Putney Debates.

Re: Nedham, Liberty Fund are publishing one of his works this year, a work from the 1650s.

As for the recorded books, I'd rather listen to a wholesome tract than Radio bloody 4 peddling hardcore establishment propaganda.