Dame Polly is usually good for a laugh. Thanks to the guys and girls at Total Politics for running this - http://www.totalpolitics.com/blog/230562/toynbee-and-hutton-on-fairness-and-the-left.thtml. It seems that in her new book, the Queen of the British PC left awards New Labour a somewhat surprising six out of ten - I say surprising, since I expected more like a four on account of them not being 'radical' enough for her tastes. Anyway, after suggesting that New Labour's problem was that they didn't do PR well enough (oh, the irony), Polly produces something of a gem even by her own stupendous standards. Brace yourself:-
"Left Wing people are more intelligent and just generally better people" than those 'of the Right'.
You might wanna read that twice, rub your eyes then take it in a third (and final) time...
I try to avoid using the terms Left and Right because this axis simply isn't applicable to the three-dimensional nature of modern politics. Sure, it can be a simple way by which to refer to 'Tory vs Labour' or 'Democrat vs Republican' in a two party system, and I know many commentators still apply it in this context. However, Toynbee's latest test appears to be looking at things from a deeper and more philosophical level than that, which begs the question:- "By Left, what does she mean?" What is Toynbee-ism and once we establish that then we can work out what is the complete opposite, then fathom for ourselves which train of thought owes more to intellectual rigour and/or common decency.
If I could sum up the thinking of the Toynbeeist left in a very simple way, its central strand goes something like this, "the state is there to referee in ways that go beyond protecting people from violence, fraud or theft. Without nanny's interference, the less fortunate will become victims of economic and constitutional exploitation, since you cannot trust people to behave in a way that is decent. The state is therefore a necessity to improve living standards, exercise compassion and protect people from themselves and the wicked who seek to exploit and/or abuse them". This contrasts sharply with the instinctive Liberal philosophy that the sole functions of the state are to protect us from criminality and invasion, while providing a minimal safety net in those instances where individuals fall through the cracks of private charity (and some Libertarians wouldn't even include that last bit).
What are the practical solutions to everyday concerns that stem from such thinking? 'Making poverty history' necessitates high taxes not just for the rich, but for all of us - worry not since if you're left without enough money to live on then a tax credit from nanny will make up the shortfall. Welfare is, apparently, the only means by which people can be prevented from falling into the 'poverty trap'. Poor, oppressed ethnic minorities need 'protecting' from the millions of vicious racists who would no doubt shoot them dead were it not for the laws that had been passed preventing 'hate crimes', and make it their mission to stop them from gaining an opportunity to work in this lifetime or the next but for 'equal opportunities' legislation.
'Climate change' and 'our beloved NHS' are Toynbeeist sacred cows, so drivers, drinkers and smokers are evil drains on the rest of society who must be taxed to death before they either blow up the planet or take up a hospital bed that could be used by a far more deserving patient having a sex change operation. Kids 'failing' at anything will destroy them, so we must have prizes for everyone - and if you're gonna play that horrible game they call soccer at school, try not to do anything too bad, like tackle anyone (health and safety) or keep score of who's winning the game - it's the taking part, remember. In the same way, exams should be made progressively easier until everyone gets a grade that constitutes some sort of pass - and those that continue to fail are not lazy, stupid or both, but victims of 'poverty' or 'disenfranchisement'.
In reality, not only is this 'ideology' profoundly dumb, it is also dangerous and poisonous. The end result, whether intentional or otherwise, is to leave people less empowered and condition many to believe that they somehow need the state to survive on a day-to-day basis. "Thank god for my tax credits/child support/EQUOP legislation that got me my job, as opposed to me getting an opportunity myself on merit". People like Toynbee are not "just better people" than the rest of us, nor are they revolutionaries. Something that members of this particular section of the Statist left are loathe to tell you is that they have got the overwhelming majority of what they always wanted. High taxes, state-controlled diversity, political correctness and nationalised compassion, enterprise and initiative suffocated with individuals slung back into their little box.
Why not claim the credit for what is surely a glorious victory? Because, very simply, it would mean explaining to the general population why their 'solutions' have not worked. Why are state healthcare and education such disaster zones of MRSA and illiterate teenagers with no interest in doing anything useful? How come the welfare that was meant to 'make poverty history' has actually resulted in more families living a millimetre above the breadline courtesy of the taxpayer, taking the sweeties on offer as an incentive to have more children at somebody else's expense? Let me guess - it's a woman's right to have as many kids as she wants, even if she has no intention of supporting them and no idea how to?
I'll point you again in the direction of what was, in this bunny's view, Malpoet's finest ever work - http://malpoet.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/population-growth-welfare-not-immigration/.
Why are we on third generation worklessness, which had far more to do with the recent 'shopping with violence' in our cities than 'poverty' ever did? What a great idea that minimum wage was, pricing hundreds of thousands of young people out of gainful employment and consigning those that could still care less to a life on welfare - don't let some wicked capitalist bastard 'exploit' you, stay at home with nanny and watch Trisha. When are Grade A muppets like Polly going to entertain the possibility that we are not all evil racists and homophobes and that the laws on 'equal opportunities' and 'hate crimes' achieve nothing other than policing thought? Inciting people to commit crimes was itself an offence long before the PC loons took over this particular asylum.
To paraphrase ManNotNumber - "I've no problem with seeing a coffee shop that says "no Blacks allowed" in the window. Why? Because as a white man who finds racism stupid and repugnant in equal measure, I'll know not to go in there".
In short, when the State does people 'favours' it essentially deprives them of the sense of achievement that comes with making progress in any walk of life. I feel just as sorry for our young people and members of ethnic minorities as Dame Polly claims to, only she'd never quite understand why since my sympathy is sincere. Imagine feeling that you owed everything good that might punctuate your existence to a Guardian reader, or worse still, a Guardian columnist?
That's not an 'intelligent' state of mind to impose on someone, and it's certainly not 'nice' either. Take care and I'll catch you tomorrow.