Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Against Demands

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At Stumbling and Mumbling, via @zunguzungu.

So, how might “demands” of the sort that James makes be reframed? Here are three possibilities:

1. An assertion of rights. James says we should have a right to recall MPs who break manifesto promises. But why frame this as a “demand”? Why not instead say that the breach of such promises is tantamount to a breach of contract and thus a violation of basic democratic rights? Framed this way, it is manifesto-breaching MPs who are making unreasonable demands – demanding to stay in office despite lying to voters.

2. Stress the benefits of the policies. For example, egalitarian policies such as taxing the rich or nationalizing utilities can – if you insist – be presented as a way of increasing aggregate demand, by redistributing income from savers to spenders.

3. Use the language of inevitability and necessity; you don‘t have to demand what will happen anyway. Marxists, of course, used to do this, to the chagrin of champions of free will such as Isaiah Berlin. But the trick has long since been copied by the right. It has claimed (reasonably) that bank bailouts were necessary and (less reasonably) that public spending cuts are. And of course every boss trying to justify mass layoffs does so by claiming they are necessary.

The left should relearn this trick. Rather than “demand” change, it should point out that things can’t go on as they are, and so change is necessary.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 2, 2012 at 9:39 am

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