Why dramatic change is overdue


‘Work harder serfs’
anonymous (Queen Mary Master), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In a totalitarian regime with a single ruling party, people know that all the churned-out propaganda is a pack of manufactured lies – and, what’s more, the leaders know that the people know! Everyone knows that the official line is a fabrication that supports the ruling party’s political agenda – always! No one likes it, but life continues as “normal” as long as the mutual pretence is kept up, as was the case under the Stalinist regime: “I pretend to work, and they pretend to pay me!”

A democratically elected government, by contrast, is expected to take some responsibility for its own propaganda. Yet, when it is so widely disbelieved that anyone with a modicum of sense knows it to be nonsense, it’s time for fundamental change in the political arena.

There are abundant examples of fictional tripe broadcast to dissemble something that sounds believable. Take the phenomenon known as a “living wage”. It started life as a “minimum wage”, but was then tarted up to be called a “living wage” to sound almost humane. Whose living? Yours? Mine? The proverbial man or woman “in-the-street”? For each of those, a living wage will reflect individual circumstances, needs, requirements and desires, as well as the effort and time they are prepared to invest in return for that wage.

There therefore cannot be a living wage that applies to all of them. Wages are a natural return for work performed. In a free labour market (without trade union coercion) the wage sought by an employee will be paid by an employer, provided (i) it is not excessive compared to that sought by others of equivalent capability and skill, and (ii) it does not cause the price of the final product to exceed what a customer is prepared to pay for it.

But in a state-managed economy (which ours is rapidly becoming) how will the magic number called a “living” wage be determined? The figure bandied about by politicians is derived from a host of pseudo-statistical inputs unrelated to anything recognisably real. Every time the living wage is increased (it is never reduced!) we hear employers complaining that it has become unaffordable – and that being forced by law to pay it will necessitate (i) a fall in the quality of their service and their merchandise – or (ii) commercial suicide, as empty premises in High Streets  in every UK city amply testify.

How does this occur? Well, if businesses are legally required to pay employees an uncommercial wage to save government from paying billions in dole money, it’s obvious that the living wage is in large part just another employment tax. But forcing taxpayers to subsidise struggling businesses will  hardly generate economic growth or improve the taxable capacity of the businesses compelled to pay it. This, in a Conservative-led democracy? Who’s kidding who?

Reverting to my main point concerning the power of popular belief. Most bien pensant citizens regard a government-imposed living wage to be a humane requirement in a civilised country – when actually it’s a state-confected contrivance pretending to represent what “people need to live on”, despite being unrelated to any directly applicable attributes, such as whether those people do any work. But when enough people allow politicians to decide their standard of living, we have unknowingly embarked on Frederick Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom”. In this prescient work he amply demonstrates that central planning and economic decision-making under state control always presage the death of individual freedom. And once embarked on it there’s no going back.

And where does it lead? Think of Vladimir Lenin’s extensive achievements, such as the inception of 70 years of communist rule in Russia that included two major famines, the Red Terror, the Great Terror and unremitting poverty. Soviet communism’s death toll was of the order of 20 million people. Yet large swathes of today’s enlightened intelligentsia choose to believe that if only Lenin had not died at the early age of 53, communist rule would have succeeded instead of being derailed by Stalin. Yet it was Lenin who established state control of agriculture and price-fixing with no reference to the market. Result? Forced requisitioning  of grain from peasants at gunpoint and the death by starvation of three million people in the winter of 1920-21; setting up concentration camps; and the order to his secret police to “hang , absolutely hang, in full view of the people, anyone who protests”. This wasn’t a mere class struggle – it was nothing less than class-murder!

My last essay described the great German inflation of 1922 and its contemporary counterpart. Am I being unduly pessimistic in citing century-old parallels? I hope so. Perhaps modern biodiversity programmes that obstruct house-building and create untold misery for motorists under misguided edicts of a supremely opinionated, but deluded, mayor will sink into well-earned oblivion. Perhaps “tax cuts” that bribe voters with their own money, and state-inflicted lockdowns based on corruptly-secured evidence will likewise be consigned to the archives of human folly.

But if you require evidence that might be missed only by a flattering fool, though (to quote Brutus) it appears “as huge as high Olympus” and signals exactly where spineless prevarication has taken us, look no further than the revolt of farmers throughout Europe against the madness of EU’s regulatory minefield that has destroyed the living standards of entire communities in the name of political correctness. It’s just the beginning.

© Emile Woolf February 2024 (website)