Posted by: John | October 10, 2008

A response to Charlotte Gore and the `Reality-based` vs `Fantasyland` communities

I have a lot of time for Charlotte Gore. She does considered lengthy postings yet seems to have missed vital elements in her understandable obsessions regarding who’s to blame for the Economic tsunami.

In political terms the US is in the eye of the storm. The two tribes are gathering – the `fantasylanders` of John McCain and the swivel-eyed hangers on and the `reality-based` community that are largely supporting Obama.

Fantasylanders cling to the luxury of a narrative that says `light-touch capitalism is shiny – with the automatic wealth that it brings i can indulge my fantasies about God, The CIA, the UN, spooks (delete as applicable) and still either hang out in the woods or work at the store in the safe knowledge that my betters (The Republican Party) can protect me from strong Government and having to learn about anyone or anything that isn’t to do with the right-wing fundamentalist Christians in my town that i see every day.

Only problem is that if the store closes going to church on an empty stomach isn’t very palatable. This is making them think again about their whole philosophies – do they cling to `small government` whose vagaries are counter-balanced by Christian communities helping each other out by cultural straitjackets (none of those pesky liberals around here!) – ie if you’re Gay get married, if you don’t want to shoot a gun learn!

Thatcherism in its first form was there to challenge the over-reach of unions and work towards clear sound economics based on not spending more than you earn, saving for a rainy day and working hard and hoping to get more money in time by going up the ladder. This was usurped by a hard right fanaticism at the top that allowed big bang economics and debauched these values in the encouragement of a spiv culture (remember the Endowment scandals?). Economics abhors inbalance and thus the political tide turned to `the family` in the narrowest sense whether by Section 28 or tax relief for families. This is inevitable – to cope with the far right neo-conservative lifestyle of light regulation and high unemployment (although the problems in the 80s were not solely to do with this) one needs a family to get `government off our backs` to nurture and retreat to as a COUNTER-BALANCE to the ravages of neo-conservative economic lifestyles.

Charlotte rattles on about who’s to blame for the Economic tsunami. Well it’s the same model in some respects that got us into this mess – the WRONG sort of regulation and not very bright people being turned over to spivs in the US you see Charlotte liberalism to me IS allowing people to make their own mistakes and to be set free to make their own choices AS LONG AS THAT DOESN’T GREATLY IMPACT ON OTHER PEOPLE. In the neo-con model RELIGIOUS or MORAL cultural restrictions are placed to stop anarchy and keep society `on an even keel` – the main argument is what balance would we like in the LIBERAL SOCIETY to in effect PROTECT PEOPLE FROM THEMSELVES.

This comes to the other side of the American cultural divide – the REALITY-BASED community. These people KNOW that they are in one huge bind in which unpalatable things have to be done. They KNOW that bankers have put them over a barrel. Although I don’t agree with everything CHARLES SCHUMER says I think he hits it on the button regarding the amount of blame that should be apportioned on the real sub-prime people. You will note the comments underneath are ones that in the UK would be pretty unpalatable – rightfully so as they apportion all the blame on those `pesky liberals/socialists` rather than what has now transpired the `pesky socialist bankers`.

The main thrust in what I’m saying is that:

a) People should be allowed to just get on with it – there’s no way we’ll stop people gambling with their own futures at Monte Carlo or on that `dead cert tip from the man in the know`.

b) These people are an extreme minority – as long as they just affect their own lives that is – most people need to be signposted culturally to not spending more than they earn and using an organisation under the FSA authority to save. The idea that they should take a great inerest in how these are run i think is a bit farcical – unless that is we are going to have the state educate them on these issues when young? I think that it would be better to have proper legislation and regulation – perhaps placing interest ceilings on the FSA guarantees? Certainly ensuring that only mortgages that are fully certified with full paperwork on income history perhaps to be covered? This unfortunately is the price of living in a civilised society – if we don’t want the simplistic neo-con approach to sacrifice we have to have the Government step in to curb marked irresponsibility.

At the end of the day it is up to banks to lend only to those that can afford to. It amuses me that I no longer receive cheap credit deals or `chequebooks` through my door anymore! The banks are now taking on that responsibility but regulation is required to ensure that they still conform to these in the good times too.

That’s what i mean by the reality-based community – understanding that politics is about balance in a modern world – looking at economics with a cold eye and allowing those that do to pull the policy strings and protect those that are less able to protect themselves. From now on there’s going to be a very cold wind blowing through the UK – thrift, saving and cable liberalism will be the orders of the day.

People forget that this is NORMAL – what we’ve going through in the past 11 years has been fantasyland and abnormal! The `buy now pay later` culture has only distorted the real value of the economy in the past 11 years. It’s not been based on REAL added value in the UK.

For many who have been hooked on this will face a hard reawakening where shopping has substituted or masked other things or problems.



  1. When Angela Merkel took over as the German Chancellor it confused a large section of the media as there were no overt problems with society and things looked reasonably stable. But the underlying problems were in that stability (stubbornly high unemployment etc) and the resistance of the population to provide an artificial boost by spending more despite governmental stimulus to do so. Their savings rates were among the highest in the world and commentators regularly wrote about this, not just as a problem, but as the problem, which was holding back further progress.
    The picture has shifted somewhat in the meantime as the politicians did manage to influence behaviour to a degree, but there are already some recriminations that the public knew better all along!

  2. Hmm well I consider myself to be firmly entrenched in the reality based community, with reason as my only absolute and at the core of my thinking.

    I am an atheist by conviction and by instinct, and I completely agree with you that people should be free to make their own mistakes.

    I hope no-one ever, ever, ever, makes the mistake of associating economic liberalism with religious conservatism, or conservatism full stop. The Republicans of the USA are to Economic Liberalism as New Labour are to Socialism. They like free markets when it serves their interests, and against them when it does not. The Democrats are the same. I remain utterly indifferent to the outcome of their election.

    You say, “so long as it doesn’t impact other people.” I agree! Completely! But what is taxpayers bailing out those who’ve made mistakes but impacting other people? The GOvernment is making other people’s problems everyone’s problem for the greater good. And.. I have a special problem with that.

    I do not attribute blame for the Credit Crunch to a political party, or a creed, or anything like that: I attribute blame to those who believe that they can interfere with the markets and not just transform the problem they wished to solve into some new problem that requires new interference to resolve… which then, of course, creates new problems which requires new interference to resolve… which then… and so on.

    It’s hard being me 🙂

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