Can the left learn from the free market right?

Ben Jackson asks this question on Left Foot Forward. Ben thinks we can, however, I think some of the lessons that it is felt we should learn are not applicable. For example, Ben argues;

the advance of the right required money as well as idealism. There were crucial material foundations to the elaboration of free-market ideology, in particular sustained, long-term financial support from corporate foundations for intellectuals and think tanks engaged in the development and popularisation of free-market alternatives.

This is perfectly true; when you look at the interweaving of think-tanks, campaigning groups and right-wing political parties you see the thread that joins them is connections to people with the money to pump into such enterprises. However, the left will never have this clout or aspire to be successful in this way, at least I would hope it would not. If it did it would abandon a progressive appeal to peoples strength together and the battle to so empower them in favour of something that would be gutted of its progressive content.

Put simply the left cannot ‘borrow’ from the free market right because qualitatively it aspires to different things. Jackson lauds the ‘strategic anylysis’ of the free market right and, in particular, its appeal to the stratum of society that we could easily classify as the ‘intelligensia’;

 Hayek thought the boundaries of political feasibility were determined by a conventional wisdom that was itself the product of ‘second-hand dealers in ideas’: journalists, teachers, publicists, public intellectuals, novelists, political advisors, etc. These individuals – who had no particular claim to expertise themselves – drew upon what they took to be the most fashionable expert opinions and broadcast them to a wider audience. The key to changing policy, Hayek argued, was therefore to change the minds of this opinion-forming stratum of society.

The implication, that the left should pursue the same line of attack is frankly horrific. It’s the negation of mass politics and it is in this that the left has strayed from its path so, put simply, why take it further off the beaten track? Jackson does make some valid points about internationalism but then again these are appropiated concepts; not ones that the right championed naturally. 

The left has nothing to learn from the free market right and attempting to do so would be to change the subject so drastically it would be unrecognisable.


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