Von Hayek and What We Mean When We Say ‘the Austrian School’

Von Hayek is a conservative political theorist and a liberal economist, who lived a long life and was active in the from the 20’s until the time of his death in the mid 90’s (I think). As such, his ideas and writings were inspirational for the leo-liberal turn in the late 80’s under Reagan and Thatcher.

Hayek is of the same generation of Keynes, whom we primarily associate with the economics of the New Deal of FDR. For most of Hayek’s life, he has been living in, and fighting against Keynes’s school of economics and its larger vision of society, which we today would associate with the welfare state.

To understand Hayek and his conservative view point, we have to understand that he is deeply part and parcel with traditional German academics of the traditional, Weberian cast. This is the tradition that seemed to have a brooding preoccupation with things like “What does history mean?” and carried a overriding fear of the decline of “Western civilization.” Spengler’s The Decline of the West is a good example of this kind of thinking.

Hayek thus has a meta-narrative  about what it means to be ‘European’, which he calls the “Great Society”. The Great Society is the typical myth of western civilization: progress, and a sort of martial male aggressiveness, that we might safely call imperialism. The result is a reinvigoration of classical liberalism, and an overriding paranoia of socialism of any kind, which he thinks leads inevitably to a sort of asiatic totalitarian state. Ultimately, Hayek is a man engaged in an economic debate with Marx and with Keynes, and even late in life, he was still fighting this battle.

Hayek lived and thought, in my opinion, in the nineteenth-century, not the twentieth. A sharp distinction dominates his thought liberalism or socialism; there could be no middle ground; the slightest socialism led eventually to slavery. He ignores the obvious question: “Aren’t all existing economic systems based on a mix of liberal and social attributes?” and “What about the success of the western european welfare states?”

This, like all conservative thought when someone attempts to actually rationalize it all out, leads to bombastic, comic-book villain pronouncements like “altruism, compassion, and empathy are  the ruin of society, selfishness is the only virtue”, etc. Conservative thought either has to make compassion a sin, and comically worship selfishness, or ignore the problem completely (This is just the way it is), or postulate the Martin Luther conception of man and mankind, namely, that because of the soul, men’s bodies can be dominated, because the soul will still be good (this separation of body and soul is totally untenable. Oppose it when ever you encounter it. The soul, whether we interpret it religiously or metaphorically, is completely intertwined and insuperable from the body. There is no such thing as “spiritual” freedom during physical unfreedom).

Hayek thinks that these emotions (altruism, empathy) are a remnant of when humanity lived essentially in tribes, when everyone could work towards a common aim. This is no longer the case. Through generations of hardship, the Great Society has been erected, based on abstract contract and financial gain. Hayek gives no indication why this might be better, aside from pointing out that the Great Society can maintain a higher level of human population. Hayek admits that the Great Society, as it is based on selfishness and abstract relationships is profoundly alienating, yet offers no reason why it must be this way.

What I find most damming about Hayek is that he is oblivious to the realities of advanced capitalism, the capitalism of Wall Street and the massive multi-state corporations (Wal-mart had the GDP of the Netherlands for example). Nor is he aware of the fundamental similarity between the big corporate business and the state. The two terms completely fool him; he is unable to see the parallel in the reasoning behind each institution. Terrified of state intervention, he is unable to see that slavery doesn’t have to be political. Slavery because of greed doesn’t appear as a threat to him, only slavery due to empathy. Massive, impersonal institutions are based ultimately in the realm of instrumental reason, logic, and the imperative of profit, or power.

Hayek quotes Adam Smith frequently. We all like Adam Smith; how could you disagree? But the fundamental problem is the disconnect between modern society, and the neoliberals who want to blame the government for the angst generated by the uprooting and displacement and poverty generated by the “monopolistic” or “predatory” capitalism.

Hayek, like most modern day conservatives, mistake a response and attempted solution for the root problem, which because of his meta-narrative of the Great Society, he is unable to question or understand.

The basic fear that a change in society would lead to its collapse – highly doubtful as human beings love routine and crave a certain amount of normalcy and seeing as society worked just fine before capitalism, the military, and the government, etc and all the joys they have brought us (these things are part and parcel, remember) – forces conservatives to attack socialism for attempting to moderate the problems of a modern technological and urban society. The fear of the ‘tribalism’ of empathy speaks to an odd insecurity; a fear of questioning the larger meaning and ultimate destination of the way we live.

When Hayek says that capitalism is the “most successful system because the decision making process is decentralized”, I find myself in complete agreement. What I don’t understand is his failure, and the failure of all conservatives to understand that big corporate business, and the financial sector seek to monopolize and dominate in order to maintain their profits. Big businesses “centralize” and can only lead to complete centralization, unless stopped by, the law, which means, well, government.

I am all for “decentralization” of decision making, and I completely agree that society must rest on self-interest (but not selfishness, and I understand that’s a tricky one, but it is very important none-the-less), and I think there will always exist a certain level of hierarchy, and I don’t think we should go back to living in tipees, or the like, but it is time to recognize that what Hayek feared, the tribal instincts of “empathy”, should be encouraged. We need to decentralize not just government, but business, and even the way we conceive ourselves politically and socially.

 

 

 

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Behemoth

The rise of fascism in Italy, and especially in Germany  in the 20’s and 30’s triggered a rather large and complicated debate.

Namely: what is fascism, and how did it work?

Most political and economic debate in the 20’s was based around the rise of the Soviet Union – international socialism versus a pure capitalist conception of economics and society. (I don’t think calling it classical liberalism would be true).

Fascism did not fit into the generalization of ‘capitalist’ or ‘socialist’. For most people, it remains a mystery. Nazi means the “National Socialist Party”, but  there was little or nothing socialist about it. Similarly, it’s command economy and government input does not fit with a classical liberal economic model.

Part of the importance of this debate was evaluating the threat posed by fascism. To understand it, to label it was to raise the alarm about Germany.

Behemoth, by Franz Neumann, is an attempt to fully document and lay bare the truth of the Nazi regime. He engages in legal analysis, economic analysis, ideological and political theory debates. Published in 1941, one senses that he feel obligated to fully document everything so that there can be no doubt about the ultimate aims and ends of Nazi Germany. Behemoth, is an Old Testament monster, paired with Leviathan.  Thomas Hobbes wrote his famous Leviathan based on the idea of a sovereign based on popular will, that presided over civil society – are general conception of the modern state – but he also wrote an essentially unpublished book called Behemoth about the puritan Long Parliament. Hobbes basic argument was that the arbitrary, capricious nature of the Long Parliament represented no state, and no law at all.

And this is the final conclusion of Neumann’s Behemoth: “No known absolutistic or counter-revolutionary theory fits National Socialism, because National Socialism has traits that radically separate it from them and because it has no theory of society. The ideology of National Socialism contains elements of idealism, positivism, pragmatism, vitalism, universalism, institutionalism – in short, of every conceivable philosophy. But these diverse elements are not integrated, they are merely used as devices to establish and extend power and to carry on propaganda.”

Mussolini is quoted as saying “We Fascists have always expressed our complete indifference toward all theories…We Fascists have had the courage to discard all traditional political theories, and we are aristocrats and democrats, revolutionaries and reactionaries, proletarians and anti-proletarians, pacifists and anti-pascifists…Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition.”

Really, fascism is an expression of cynicism and nihilism; and outburst of angst and frustration. As Neumann says, “no philosophy can be held responsible for National Socialism”. The closest political theory that the Nazi state seems to accord to the political theory of the restoration of the French Monarchy after the French Revolution, where the state is regarded as a natural fact and at the same time as a divine institution, which accepts the domination of the weak by the strong and rejects civil rights, parliament,s and human reason. (Hegel well called this “fanaticism, mental imbecility, and hypocrisy.”)

The thing that sticks in my mind about the Nazi state was its essential foundation in violence, greed, and lust for power. Neumann points out that “propaganda is violence committed against the should…not a substitute for violence, but one of its aspects.”

Because jargon and slogans wear thin, terror must supplement propaganda displays: “…insistence upon activism in place of thinking means that men shall never have the freedom and time to think for themselves…the technique of National Socialism -to make the action of an authoritarian apparatus appear as the spontaneous activist of the masses…Magic becomes the concern of National Socialist culture.”

Neumann identifies four ‘pillars’ of the Fascist state: the army, the large industrial cartels, the Nazi party, and the old prussian state bureaucracy (including the judiciary; the legal undermining of the Weimar democracy is especially pathetic). The sad experience of the Weimar Republic is a tale of the judicial and bureaucratic bodies undercutting the democratic government, while the large industrial concerns squeezed out the labour unions and small to medium size businesses.

Ultimately the Nazi state was power grab, and the trappings and ideology of the Nazis can be seen as merely the tinsel (the adoption of marxist terminology and rhetoric seems to vividly confirm this) to cover a counter-revolution seem as a “revolutionary.”

The insanity of the Nazis was due to the historical  and personal circumstances of WWI, the economic reality of the depression which hollowed out normal people’s wealth and forced the democratic socialistic forces of Germany on a collision course with the army and the big corporations. The insanity that led ultimately to the Holocaust was in the fundamental break with reality that had to be made to force the working population of Germany to buy into the Nazi state and power and ultimate aim of reckless expansion.

 

 

 

Emergency

Do you remember what September 11th felt like?

That feeling of crisis, expectation…that something special was happening, something of national, global importance? Do you remember feeling the need for action or revenge?

That’s called emergency. Its a suspension of normal expectations, not on a personal level, but on a national or international level. So, like the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Gulf oil spill, the current crisis in the Ukraine, etc.

Emergency (with a capital E) is a dangerous time because it can represent a breakdown in status quo; it can represent military aggression, and it can authorize long term changes that would be unacceptable to a majority of people under normal circumstances.

Remember TARP? That was Emergency. In our fear for the economy, a lot pressure was brought to bear to bail out financial institutions and big businesses that  were either making poor products or were doing illegal, shady activities. Exactly when a way of doing things should have been completely reformed, it was bailed out and reinvigorated. Too big to fail; it is one of those phrases that should alert us to corruption and cynical political maneuverings.  It should alert us that a time to make a big change has come, and woe to those who patch up a system doomed to fail and crash again like ours is.

The Recession has been going on for years. During this time, corporations have been making record profits, and yet unemployment figures remain high, and the middle class continues to be defrauded of its hard-earned wealth.

We can expect the Emergency of the “Great Recession” to go indefinitely. Far from working, the trickle down economics are a blind to accumulate wealth at the top. Why would it end when it has been so profitable to corporations and the ultra wealthy? To claim that trickle down/ austrian (von hayek) / ayn rand works, you have to ignore the realization that everyone, and every class in society can and should be healthy and earning and spending money, not just those at the top. Second, you have to ignore the reality that these large corporate structures are having a bonanza and have effective control of our government: they will not allow the situation to change if they can help it. On a recent book, Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty, proves through copious evidence that wealthy always grows faster then a national economy. Thus the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats” is total nonsense. The historical setting for this phrase is the 30 years of economic growth from the end of WWII to the mid ’70s, consistently referred to as a ‘miracle’ by historians and economists (we should pay attention when people who are trained to not use words like ‘miracle’ start using them).

The only way to keep “all boats rising” is to tax wealth. Other wise, like now, we have robber barons and the Gilded Age.

Expect Emergency to be an ongoing thing. Between the natural disasters of global warming, oil spills, and earthquakes from fracking, low level wars over resources and identity triggered by globalization, and the continuous cycle of boom and bust triggered by the financial sector, combined with the fact that the people who pull the levers and push the buttons in our society can buy their ways out of these Emergencies, means that Emergency will increasingly be apart of our daily lives.

This has been called the Age of (personal) Anxiety, the Age of (job) Insecurity; now these things are working their way into the very way our government, society and globe function. Call it the ‘Precarious Earth’.

Mind the Emergency. It’s the cover for when big things happen; a diversion.

 

The Entrepreneur Society

Language is strange. It is everything and nothing. The words we use (call them buzzwords, keywords, magic incantation, etc) are important.

But they can be abused and manipulated. We are manipulated through what we hold closest.

Something that you hear – and repeat and say yourself  – are the words and phrases of “freedom” “individualism” “democracy” and “entrepreneurship / small buisiness” and most importantly “jobs”. Very few people are actually consciously against these things, in fact, probably no one. So why are small businesses dying? Why is the American middle class dying?

In current American politics we all vote “jobs” and we all love the rhetoric of “small business”. These words that we love and value are not being served by either party. A recent study from Princeton showed our government responds the ultra wealthy and corporate whim. We are living in the Wal-mart society. Wal-mart is not ‘entrepreneurial’.

What am I saying when I say I want to live in a democracy?

I think I’m trying to articulate what a majority of Americans are trying to articulate.

When I say I am for small businesses and entrepreneurship, I fully realize the implications; just how radical that makes me. If you genuinely believe in small business and entrepreneurship and democracy, this takes you well out side the two established parties who are incapable of providing genuine change. Seriously. You might as well go out and buy a beret and a red star, and go up into the hills, because to achieve a society where the small business could survive and thrive will probably take that sort of commitment and radicalism.

The choice between a big government and a big corporation is a false choice. They are both massive systems that can only work to build and insulate their own power and influence, be it in the guise of profit, or votes, or jobs, or what have you.

A democratic society of small businesses would be, a society of mentors and neighbors, not “sales clerks” and “assistant managers”. A society of true pluralism, not pluralism as in the choice between pepsi and coke, but a true choice, more like a choice between beer or tea or pepsi, and yes even single malt scotch straight up. More concretely, a society where people have more genuine freedom to pursue their own meaning in life, not just the rat race.

To achieve this society there would be big changes. The financial sector -Wall Street – and the global financial system would have to be very heavily regulated. Major multi-national corporations would be broken up. Most companies would be owned by the employees, or be limited in size. Military and intelligence spending would be curtailed; if you are genuinely against big government, you have to realize that most of government is about military spending. This would be about local governments; cities, towns, maybe even states and regions on the big end.

We need to ask ourselves, seriously, what sort of society do we want to live in? How do we want to live in the long term?

 

 

 

The Frowning Western Buddha

Yup, I think it’s Nietzsche.

They personalities and philosophies are very different; and I do not mean to suggest that Nietzsche was secretly a Buddhist, nor do I mean to suggest that Buddhism is somehow fundamentally similar to Nietzschean (pretty sure I spelled that right) thought.

But I do think there is a connection. This is a twofold connection. The first is that German idealism, starting with Schopenhauer, in its insistence in metaphysics, a world of ‘essence’ that we are unable to fully ‘grasp’ through normal observation, is capable of insights that seem to mirror eastern philosophy.

The Buddha’s fundamental insight – Enlightenment – is a spiritual and psychological state. It’s a total break with reality. It’s the ultimate seeing through (the ‘phenomena’?) to the reality (‘essence’?) of things. You have moved beyond the petty travails and emotional roller-coster of life. Your ‘old self’ you merely remember; but your are fundamentally one with the universe. Buddha totally let go of the world, lets go of everything, even every fiber of his own being and psychology. The Buddha smiled when he achieved Enlightenment.

Nietzsche, of course, went insane.

It was due to syphilis, but still. Even when he was sane, he was writing things like “I am not a man, I am dynamite” in his published work.

But this leads us to the real – dare I say it – beauty of Nietzsche. When he writes things like “I am dynamite” (in Ecce Homo) do not assume this is bombast, nor is it the onset of insanity. Nietzsche understood that any text is subject to an infinity of interpretations. ‘Truth’ and ‘knowledge’ are simply compliments paid to successful discourse. Every philosopher’s system is merely his own opinion thought out aridly and abstractly. Nietzsche was writing partially as an aid to each individual reader, to help them discover themselves. Do you think that “I am dynamite” is a joke? Megalomania? Hyperbole in the service of making a larger point? Provoking the reader to a dismissive judgement? Is it an ironic joke on the seemingly modest writing style and rhetorical techniques of Socrates? All of the above, really. And possibly none of the above, too, if I’m honest.

His books, which correspond to no genre, are notoriously hard to “pin down”. This has led to a mass of different interpretations of his work, and I suspect that in some way, that is what Nietzsche would have wanted. He seemed to aim at ‘working’ on the thoughts, emotions and reactions of the reader to his writing, instead of laying out another philosophic system.

Nietzsche’s ideas have a “self-consuming” (this phrase seems extremely Buddhist to me) aspect; they tend to annihilate themselves; they seem to logically lead to paradox. One of Nietzsche’s main ideas was that of “eternal recurrence”. It is not exactly like reincarnation, but the simple fact that Nietzsche held, at the least, a fascination with the idea of an exact recurrence of the same events endlessly speaks to a certain parallel in thinking perhaps. I tend to interpret this aesthetically; Nietzsche wants us each to live lives that we would instantly affirm to live over and over again. Life as perfect art? No regrets?

Nietzsche talks about learning to see life as ‘myth’, from Greek tragedy, and the mixing of Apollonian (rationality, order, perfection) and Dionysian (organic, spontaneous, vital) principals. It’s a bit like when Thoreau speaks about being able to “see eternity in a grain of sand”. We are in a territory that is far from traditional western philosophy here.

Most ‘Buddhist’ for me is Nietzsche’s talk of ‘self-overcoming’. One relentlessly challenges oneself, and through a painful process gradually forges a new self; you create your own values and truth out of yourself. Yes, this is related to his idea of ubermensch or “super/over man”, but we are in an intensely personal ( your loneliest loneliness).

This is where I get the “frowning buddha” from. On one hand, this can be tremendously life-affirming; its about self discovery; finding a unique truth within yourself by yourself.

On the other hand, Nietzsche does seem to authorize cruelty, savagery, and elitism that would make even Louis XIV blush. In this self discovery; all actions are authorized, it would seem. But again, multiple interpretations are possible. It’s not a system; it is not an attempt at pure universal truth; its an attempt to prompt us to see things as the are. 

Buddhism and Nietzsche have this sense of seeing past the appearances of the world and forging a new self that is both unique and universal; Nietzsche seems to want us to see things as they are: mythically.

I do like to think that these two very different traditions have to a similar ‘place’ or conclusion. I like to think that they both postulate a “breaking- through” psychologically to the other side.

Though I admit that might just be madness.

The Joys of Pre-cell phone Cinema

I realize in writing this that I am in danger of sounding like a grumpy old man.

Most of the television and movies that come out these days, understandable and realistically feature cell phones and the internet.   And I’ll admit that unless you’re making a historical drama, you’re pretty much going to have to use cell phones or at least acknowledge the internet in how it effects our thoughts and actions.

The result is terrible television. Constant effort has to be made to turn a phone conversation into a source of drama or interest. Constant plot points must be contrived so that cell phones are neutralized: “we are in the wilderness, we won’t have coverage for an other 20 mins”, etc. The result is that characters exchange information and develop only sitting in their cars, talking into the phone.

Detective dramas have turned into screen watching and waiting for lab results, as search engines grind away at demographic data. “He’s a plumber! Look up all the white male plumbers in the greater Pittsburg area! He drives a white van!” This is boring.

Even worse is watching a movie or show trying to dramatize “hacking”. Hacking, of course, might be very fun and thrilling for an actual hacker, but it makes for terrible screen time. I’m not a hacker; have never hacked, but I still know the hacking that I seen on TV is bogus; for me it boils down to screen watching, furious typing, and jargon-y technobabble.

In other words, the cell phone and the internet has effectively ruined movies and is well on its way to ruining our daily lives as well (am aware of the irony of me typing this on a blog). Aware that the internet is forever, and that CCTV is omnipresent, and that mobile technology means that every second someone could be tracking you, characters must be painfully aware of the permanence of their actions.

I watched a typical late 80’s movie recently: The Presidio. It stars Sean Connery and a poor man’s Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis, running around San Fran. Its a movie about the social scars of Vietnam. It’s a murder mystery full of forced social awkwardness between a city that doesn’t like the military and a military that has Sean Connery.

Anyway. It was fantastic. Not because the plot was original; or the characters were particularly unique and vivid. The cinematography was pretty standard.

No. It was a blast because  it wasn’t trapped by the cage of cellular technology. The characters had to, and were able to, really live and indulge themselves because there was no ominous, faceless public taking iPhone videos at every little incident. Connery gets into a bar fight, made joyous and easy because no one will get reported. Connery doesn’t have to worry that a video will emerge on the internet of him beating the snot out of a bar patron.

In another scene, our romantic couple basically make out on top of a car, and then, with cloths falling off, the guy carriers the girl up a steep flight of San Fran steps. A guy walks past, and takes almost notice. The scene is a little forced; but it was also refreshingly free. With no screens to stare out, the characters have to talk to each other and live with themselves and with others.

So go out there, (to the internet) and watch yourself a movie from the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s, and enjoy it. Relive life before we all became Pavlov’s dog, constantly answering and checking buzzing phones and beeping computers.

Rant over.

The Jeremy Clarkson Appeal

Jeremy Clarkson of longtime Top Gear fame, has recently gotten in a storm of trouble for mumbling the ‘n-word’ on an outtake for the show.

Predictably, there has been a media storm. People on the left condemn, and other on the right think the left is overreacting.  Either way, nobody learns a lesson; a post-racial has not come one iota closer; rather the cycle of racial stereotype, then gilt, then resentment for that guilt, back to stereotype is perpetuated.

What Clarkson embodies though is the continuing appeal of right-wing parties and politicians for Europeans and Americans. Whether its Nick Farage for Ukip in the UK or the Boehners, O’Rileys, and Koch bros and the Republican/Tea Party, the Right is back.

Clarkson is one of those figures that seem to make the mythos of conservatives seem true. Clarkson drives the finest cars, travels, and generally acts blissfully like a man-child who’s little tantrums delight us. The secret appeal of Top Gear is that it  is how we all imagine ourselves living. We live our fantasy lives through people just like Clarkson, TV personalities who seem just like us except they live and act bigger.

It only takes one example, it seems to confirm people’s beliefs. Not excepting myself in any way – I merely wish to point out the power of confirmation bias. The simple ability to persist in believing something that we have in some way attached a part of our identity too. Study after study has proven that even the the face of overwhelming factual evidence, people can cling to their cherished beleifs.

Continuing with the car theme – it’s like driving in a hypothetical car when a “check engine” light comes on. When do you decide to pull over and call a tow truck? How many warning lights and funny noises need to happy before we change our opinion?

I think Clarkson is hilarious; I love watching Top Gear; but I do not take him seriously when he rumbles on about some subject or nationality or whatever. I even think his take on cars is dubious. Clarkson makes for great TV, but a terrible role model for our society. I guess the real question is, why do people take Clarkson seriously? Why do we listen? Clarkson seems to be someone we love to hate, and hate to love, and then others love him because he is hated.

Part of it is obviously that some of want him to be right – and his existence and experience seems to confirm this mindset and lifestyle that we want to be right. A bit like walking out of Harry Potter movie and wanting to be a wizard, I suppose. I know after watching Akira Kurosawa films I want to be a samurai, and consider taking japanese swordsmanship classes, for example.

So that is one part of it; but what about the appeal of conservative politics? There are two main ideas that explain in my mind the continuing appeal of the Big No of the Republican party or of the simple answers and self-congatulatory stereotypes of all conservative groups. First, people are anxious; the world is changing very, very fast. The economy is in a permeant state of recession (more on this later), and people need to work above all other considerations.

Conservatives imagine an imaginary national past, that never actually existed, but it exists in our collective imagination. This is reassuring for one thing and a bit self-congradulatory. It’s something that most of us can look back on say, yes, we did that, we built this nation. Reassurance; a touch-stone is what many people think. When you are anxious about the future, you seek out those who agree with you.

Here is an extended quote from a great article I read recently (mea culpa: I’ve forgotten who wrote it):

The reality is, of course, not so simple. While everyone claims to speak for “ordinary people”, many of our institutions do not speak to them. The right is honest about its condescension – we are governed by those born to rule – but the certainties of a leftwing mindset can be equally patronising.

It is this gap between Little England and Big England that Nigel Farage exploits so well. He and his ever-changing cast of semi-barking compadres are not simply a joke.

 He (Nigel Farage) can present himself as a rebel with a cause because people feel very insecure, economically and emotionally. Change has come too fast and furious for many. To voice this is not inherently racist and yet for every problem to be blamed on Europe and immigration is ridiculously simplistic.

What Farage taps into is this sense of people not feeling in control of their own lives, of rules being made elsewhere, of things not being fair. He even rebuts the logic of the market, ignoring the fact that Europe is our biggest trading partner.

All these sentiments should be the natural territory of the left, not the right. In simple terms, ordinary people feel they have no power; in jargon, a neo-liberal agenda is concentrating wealth at the very top and all the main parties are signed up to this, as though this agenda is natural, not a man-made force. All across Europe, such alienation combined with nationalism fuels the right. It is dangerous.

If the left is to be meaningful it has to speak both to and about this alienation. But politicians are loath to do so as it would mean admitting they are not in full control (this is why in the US, democratic governors and presidents content themselves with bus lanes and legalizing gay marriage instead of tackling the real, deep seated systematic problems). Instead, figures such as Farage pop up as pustules of resentment on the body politic. His discourse is emotional, angry, unanchored, which is why Clegg’s mannered reasonableness and narcoleptic intoning of facts and figures was fairly useless against it.

The difference between the language of a managerial political class and the way that many people speak is huge. Half-hearted visions need to be translated into robotic nonsense such as the “squeezed middle”. Phrases have to be invented, as there are not enough words to convey the passions of Cameron or Miliband (traditional left leaning politicians).

Where there cannot even be a common language, there is no way of expressing common interests. We are linguistically divided.

This is about more than great oratory, it is about a kind of fear. The unmediated voices of ordinary people are a worry for every part of the establishment, including much of the media. They say the wrong things. They are ignorant of what is important. They are over-emotional. They can only appear on Radio 4, for instance, in oddly written dramas or asking experts about pensions. They remain unheard. Even social media serves mainly to amplify the already powerful.

So it is easy for Farage to play the underdog, the ventriloquist of pub wisdom, the ordinary bloke.”

This article nails the appeal of the right. Even though the material interests are very different, especially in the long term, leaders on the Right speak and act and seem to live the same emotions as the lower-middle class. There is a false sense of recognition.

The logic of “voting for the guy who you would most want to grab a beer with” is killing us.