Expending intellectual capital on the could have beens seems pointless.
The left in America is non-existent for all intents and purposes. They haven't even managed a centre-left President not labelled a Communist (Americans, by and large, are not aware how far the spectrum goes to the left). I'm proud to say that we're experimenting with UBI - a huge step to the left (and social justice and equitable prosperity), but as with all ideas, the completeness of American control (WB, IMF, WTO, economic sanctions) of the world's economies prevents any unmolested experiments; to wit, the ideas of the left have never been given a fair chance.
1. Not at all. Everything is relative, so if you're going to make value judgements, it's important to bear in mind alternatives. Politics is an imperfect business. Tony Blair made an interesting comment this week: "My record in government is attacked from left and right. For the left, they will always feel disappointed because they want utopia and government never delivers that."
2. Again I can't agree. I'm firmly against UBI and I'd reject the idea that it would improve social justice and equitable prosperity. Also disagree that the ideas of the left haven't been given a fair chance - they're more influential than people give it credit for, particularly on the left itself where lefties like to think in very black-and-white terms (e.g. socialism vs capitalism). 'Capitalism' is not the enemy and the kind of right-wing, free market, neoliberal if you want to call it that (although that's a cliche and generally misused) capitalism we have had since probably the early 1980s is not inevitable. For 30 years postwar we had a kind of capitalism in which the gap between the rich and the poor was narrowing and ordinary people had unprecedented prosperity and opportunities; the state built the NHS, state schools, built housing and libraries etc etc, even Tory governments had agendas that would now be regarded as left wing in some quarters. But it was definitely within a capitalism framework. It's not black and white - socialist and capitalist ideas interact and co-exist. If we had pure capitalism, we wouldn't have a public healthcare system, state schools or any benefits/social security.
1. If we're using Blair as the poster child for criticism from either side of the aisle, I'd like to correct his observation: utopia is the left's long term goal. Meantime, a leader who doesn't commit war crimes would be acceptable.
2. If we're talking about which ideas have been given the chance to succeed, recall that the US staged coups in Honduras and Guatemala throughout the 20th c. on behalf of the United Fruit Company (Chiquita Banana) to prevent land reform and loss of private property, sent troops to fight the Red Army in 1918, propped up a strongman in S. Korea who cracked down on political dissent and executed thousands, sent troops to fight in Vietnam on the (incorrect) premise detailed by George F. Kennan (beginning anew the military fight against leftist ideology), staged coups in Cuba and attempted to assassinate its leader, all-while exerting political control of these countries through economic sanctions, blockades, and alliances. If in any of those examples you can find a leftist not under siege by America, please let me know where it is. None of these ideas have a chance to succeed on their merits.
As for UBI, I'm sure that on the day robots take over your job you'll find another way to sell your wage-labour; maybe you can push broom for six dollars an hour while the industrialists put the profit in their pockets? It's completely unsustainable for the working class, but, as with many Americans, you might simply be a temporarily embarrassed millionaire and not a subjugated proletariat and not need worry.
1. I wasn't, I'm pointing it out because it accurately sums up a problem with the left. I don't agree with Blair much on foreign policy, but he's got an excellent domestic record and he's generally right about the hard left. In the UK at least, I do think there's something in the idea that the right has a much more realistic sense of getting into power and achieving maybe some things but not others; the left tends to ignore the good it does and beat themselves up about the errors. As a result I often see Labour's record in government criticised more from the left than the right.
2. Again, I was talking about domestic policy, and largely the UK, although even in the US the point still stands. If we had pure capitalism and no influence from left wing ideas they wouldn't have public schooling, social security, any kind of free healthcare, nothing. Whereas we could argue about the extent of that and whether it's enough (spoiler: no), it's there and the state does more in terms of investment, infrastructure and public services than the right would admit.
3. Don't patronise me. I'm working class and proudly so, I still live in a deprived working class community and work for a pretty low wage. But I'm not buying the idea that we need to move to UBI (a terrible idea anyway, which will make the rich richer and the poor poorer - a right wing solution that would entrench inequality) because "the robots are taking over". Let's be honest, that's not a new idea. People have been worrying about automation destroying livelihoods for hundreds of years, never mind just decades. Ever since the industrial revolution we've worried about it and it hasn't happened. Again using the UK economy as an example, we have more automation than ever before and yet the amount of jobs in the economy is at record levels. It just isn't happening - it's always possible it might happen in the future but we could have said that at any point in the last, ooh, 300 years. What we've tended to find is that as jobs are lost in one sector because of technology, they open up elsewhere, and there's no reason to suppose that will stop now.
Patronising you is half the fun, Ian. Just kidding. But ruffle those feathers; you make better points when you're fired up.
I'm going to take the UK bits offline as I'm wholly unprepared to get into the finer points of domestic policy given I've never even been to the UK.
1. I'm glad you're a working class man. My father was a steelworker.
So now that I've used enough alternative facts - my father was a manager at a steel mill and worked actively to make sure that unions didn't get too uppity. My mother was a state employee. I occupy the bottom tier of the petty bourgeoisie.
2. That said, manufacturing has moved offshore as a way to allow industrialists to employ people. Were those jobs to have stayed here (and many did, mind) the odds of automation rendering your job redundant increase. I will agree, under those circumstances, that automation hasn't taken any jobs, they've simply moved them to a place where labour is disorganized and cheap.
3. Trump really believes he'll bring back manufacturing jobs to Flint. Ha! I fail to see how UBI could entrench economic inequality. The implementation of automation will eventually replace wage-labourers. Is it fair that those wage-labourers who created these robots should now lose their wage-labour? Not to defend that system, but it seems like digging your own grave. Where UBI should be implemented is to acknowledge that human existence shouldn't be perpetual toil in the wage-labour system. Thirty years on the clock and they give you a watch and a kick in the ass on your way out.
I've renumbered them. Just because.
1. Glad to hear it. Mine too. Except mine wasn't a manager. He still works in manufacturing. I come from a steel town. The steel plant more or less shut down in 1980 and we struggled for a long long time. The local football team are still known as the Steelmen. Those are old-fashioned facts by the way, not Trump's 'alternative facts', i.e. mine are true.
2. Hang on. When I said jobs open up elsewhere, I'm talking about other industries in the same economy, not in different countries. I'm not talking about moving manufacturing to China to save money (again, these concerns are hardly new). What I'm talking about is capitalism's ability to remake itself by inventing new needs. When the steelworks was here, we never thought we needed the latest smartphone because they never existed. We still don't really. Automation removes jobs in some sectors but then we simply end up selling each other services - bars, coffee shops, hairdressing etc. They never really needed beauty salons in 1840s Manchester. Again, it still may work out that automation WILL lead to a decrease in jobs but again I would point you to the numbers. The opposite is happening. As automation increases, the number of jobs in the economy has increased. The problem is that they are not as secure, not as long term (millennials wouldn't recognise the concept of the 'jobs for life' that baby boomers - wrongly, as it turned out - took for granted), may not be as well paid etc. The issue here is inequality, not automation, which is hardly the sole reason for the plight of the precariat.
Back to manufacturing just briefly - the received wisdom is that in the Western economies, we've got rid of manufacturing particularly since the 1980s and are trying to get by holding the doors open for each other and making each other cups of coffee. It's a cliche and of course like most of the received wisdom it's a nonsense. Manufacturing is still a very significant part of the economy. From memory, manufacturing makes up about 11% of the economy, while banking/financial services makes up 12%. Manufacturing gets dismissed as not-really-existing-anymore, while we poured hundreds of billions in to rescue the banks because they were so vital. Go figure. The dismissive attitude towards manufacturing reflects at least in part the experiences (or lack thereof) and priorities of the powerful. Just thinking out loud.
3. It's fairly well known that a basic income would hit the poorest the hardest. There are various models but the basic idea is to replace current benefits (or social security, whatever you want to call it) with an unconditional income, the same for everyone. The trouble with that of course is that someone who already gets more than that loses out, while people who currently don't get anything get more. So let's say that a single mum with no job who lives in a council home with a disabled child, who currently receives more or less a living wage (just about), between Job Seekers' Allowance, Council Tax Benefit, Housing Benefit, Disability Living Allowance, Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit and any more I may have forgotten, ends up with about £72 a week and basically starves, while someone who earns £40,000 and doesn't quality for any benefits gets the £72 a week for free that he doesn't need. Hmm.
The problem with the whole scheme is that if everyone gets the same amount, then it's a pretty low amount and some lose out (and it's those that are dependent on support). If it's going to be enough to live on, it makes it prohibitively expensive (the state can't afford to give everyone a living wage through tax revenue, this is kindergarten maths) as well as politically impossible to boot (you try knocking a door with a red rosette on and telling people that your party will give everyone the average salary for nothing, no questions asked). To which most supporters of a basic income that I've spoken to simply say "well obviously you'd have to keep Disability Benefit and you'd have to keep this and you'd have to keep that, because certain people would still need more". But surely the more you allow means testing, it just begins looking more and more like the current system. That's for those already getting it of course, while the affluent are just getting the basic amount for free.
Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer the old method of taxing the rich and spending the money on public services and redistribution of wealth.