I thought long and hard before writing this post. I don't want to be seen as someone whose aim is to discredit another writer: frankly, life's too short to expend much time on such a fruitless task, and I have far more interesting things to do. But this post touches on some fundamental issues. And that is my real reason for writing this post.
Can I comment on two quotes:
Quote number 1:
“A Courageous State is populated by politicians who believe in government. They believe in the power of the office they hold. They believe that office exists for the sake of the public good. They know what that public good is.”
Quote no. 2, six paragraphs later:
“A Courageous politician knows that there is a great deal that he or she does not know, and knows that despite that they will have to act.”
Conceivably that might mean they don’t actually know what the public good is, but they will act for the sake of it anyway. Or is the idea that politicians MUST know what the public good is, even if they know nothing at all about anything else? I can’t help feeling that logical inconsistencies like this should have been ironed out in the proof-reading process.
I am also a little concerned by the quasi-religious language. Beliefs abound, but on what are they based? Not much, it seems, except your definitions. What exactly qualifies you to define what politicians should believe?
In response, Murphy claims that my questions arise from my supposed belief in neoliberalism, which he seems to regard as more of a philosophy, or even a religion, than an economic theory. Here are two of his descriptions of me from this post:
This commentator’s observation is based upon that neoliberal thinking that presumes us automatons without, for example, belief systems....
....as this commentator shows, for those schooled in neoliberalism that whole exercise of normal human thinking and decision making has been utterly undermined by the false philosophy they follow.....
What concerns me is the manner in which Murphy presents his beliefs - about me, in this case, though he tends to do this generally anyway - as gospel truth. He has no evidence for these assertions. He is making a statement of faith.
Now, I don't have a problem with people making statements of faith, where there are no facts to be found. Humans need beliefs - it is how we attempt to make sense of a world we don't understand. But when facts are available, it is quite wrong to make assertions without checking those facts. And it is not only wrong, it is immoral to make assertions about another person that are not supported by anything they have said and done and are clearly intended to discredit.
Murphy knows NOTHING about what I believe. Nothing at all. All he knows is that I do not agree with him on the best course of action in relation to the problems in banking and finance and the future direction of economics in this country. He knows nothing at all about my background, my training or my personal beliefs. But because of our disagreement he BELIEVES that I hold "neoliberal" views - despite the many, many statements that I have made that undermine that belief. He BELIEVES that I regard humans as automatons who make decisions entirely on the basis of facts and knowledge, without any need for belief systems. And he BELIEVES that I have no other belief system.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I am not "schooled in neoliberalism". Yes, I did some economics as part of my MBA, and have voluntarily studied more since. But I read material from across the range of economic thinking, from left to right, Marx to Friedman, Keynes to Hayek, Adam Smith to modern MMT theorists (whom I rather like). And where I stand on economic and political matters is my own creation. I am the "cat that walked by himself". Many, many people have said that I am "hard to place" on the left-right political spectrum: my understanding of banking and finance, and my opposition to economic solutions that involve spending yet more government money, suggest right-wing tendencies, but my social views are decidedly lefty. I have been called both "hard-right" and "far left" by various people.
But even more important, I am not "without beliefs". Far from it, actually. What underpins everything I do and everything I say is my Christian faith. Indeed the reason why I started writing about banking and finance earlier this year was that I felt I was being called to do so. And it was absolutely against my wishes. When I left banking, I believed I would never return - that after years of holding my family together by doing well-paid jobs that left me no time for my family and no energy for singing, I was finally being given the chance to follow my heart and use the voice (and, it turned out, the teaching gift) that I have been given, both to keep my family and to benefit others. I still hope that I am not being asked to return - that my involvement will be limited to standing on the sidelines and chucking grenades. But my Lord has the last word, and my faith requires obedience. When he calls me to do something, I must do it. So if he makes it clear that I must give up all I have gained and return to the job that tore me apart, then that is what I will do.
So Murphy's notion that I think belief systems are unnecessary is so far removed from the truth that it is laughable. My whole life is driven by my Christian beliefs. I get it wrong, of course - because I am human. I say things I shouldn't, and I do things I shouldn't. When I get it wrong (which is pretty much every day) I am called to account for that and I have to repent, apologise and if possible make amends.
And further to this....if my own life is driven by my belief system, how could I possibly criticise others for acting according to their beliefs? That was not the point of my comments at all. My concerns are twofold:
- that politicians acting on faith alone, and refusing to acknowledge facts that, if considered, would suggest an alternative course of action, are dangerous;
- that people who think they have the right to define what other people, especially those in public life, should believe, are also dangerous
But the most worrying part of all of this is that he has completely misunderstood my second point. Instead of answering my question "what qualifies you to define what politicians should believe?", he redefines it as questioning his "right to believe in belief". I have no problem with Murphy believing in belief, if that's what he wants to believe in, though it sounds a tad tautological to me: personally I'd rather believe in God, but there you go. And I defend absolutely a politician's right to believe in whatever they want to, even Murphy's ideas if that's what floats their boat: they are human just as I am, and as I said above, humans need beliefs. But I reject absolutely the notion that Murphy has the right to define what politicians SHOULD believe. No-one, absolutely no-one has the right to tell someone else what they should believe. That way lies the Inquisition: repression, persecution and genocide....it has happened so many, many times before. Freedom of belief is one of the great blessings of our Western society, and a rare thing in our world even now. We must guard against the desire - that we all have - to suppress dissent and force others to adopt our worldview.