Just a quick post: I’m wondering about two glaring contradictions in Tory thought right now that I just cannot understand. Why introduce a change to the child benefit system that will penalise one income households most, given that Tories have long believed that one parent (read: the mother) should stay at home and not work in order to bring up the kids? The anomalies have been much discussed: a one income household with a higher rate taxpayer (anything over £43,750) will lose out but a two income family earning with each parent earning just under the higher rate threshold will not (combined income over £85,000). You could argue that a household with two working parents needs the additional help for childcare costs (although with that sort of combined income they should be able to afford it, and £20 per week is not going to make a massive difference), but even still it contradicts the ‘mum-stay-at-home = strong families’ ideology beloved of the Tory rank and file. Maybe this is why The Daily Mail is so appalled.
The second, admittedly less significant, contradiction is this: given that the Tories like to trumpet their patriotism at any given opportunity, why are they so hostile to the greatest British intellectual of the twentieth century, namely J.M.Keynes? Keynes’ General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money stands comparison to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, to which it so clearly alludes in its title. Both have been modified by subsequent economists and physicists, but both have stood the test of time. Is it because Keynesian economics has been associated by the neoliberal Right with Big Government, statism and even an apology for communist-style command and control economics, even though Keynes himself was a Liberal and saw his task as saving capitalism from its own worst crises? And quite why today’s Liberal Democrats are so keen to ignore the insights of the greatest Liberal economist in history is an even greater mystery.
The Tories weren’t always like this, for the postwar consensus was built around Keynesian economics – maybe because the Great Depression was so recent and within living memory. Now we will have to relearn Keynes the hard way because ‘patriotic’ Tories prefer the Austrian Hayek and the American Friedman, even though the Great Recession of 2008 has essentially wrecked their reputations. Marx said in his Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. Well, if the Great Depression was the ‘original’ which inspired Keynes, we are about to experience the tragedy.