Rebuilding the British right?

For most of the postwar era, the Conservative Party prided itself on its ability to tell an economic story. Tories traditionally explained their right to govern in terms of an overarching economic vision for the country, a vision which was instantiated in policy and which often set the political agenda.

From Macmillan to Thatcher to Cameron, they presented themselves as the party of national prosperity, and of hard-nosed economic realities, and many people voted for them on this basis. But this no longer seems to be the case.

The last few years have witnessed what elsewhere we called the Strange Death of Tory Economic Thinking. In the years following the EU Referendum, Conservatives in Britain largely dropped the economy from the heart of their political story. This is not just a criticism of Mayism, with its Home Office view of the world; many who professed to be market liberals seemed to do so performatively, without serious consideration of what they wanted to deregulate or how.

The recent change of Prime Minister provides an opportunity to put this right. We hope that the new government will turn away from the trajectory of the last three years, and start taking economics seriously again. If it chooses not to, we would urge others on the centre-right to take up the challenge.

This paper is an attempt to sketch out some principles for a centre-right economic outlook, and some specific policies to focus on.

We begin by presenting a few important stylised facts about the contemporary British economy that should frame an economic narrative; we then set out some political principles for how to turn these into economic policy.

Based on these, we set out a set of policies in four areas where we think progress can be made: tax, housing, infrastructure and devolution, and innovation and technology.

Finally, we conclude with some long-term actions that need to be taken to begin rebuilding an economic narrative for the Right.

This website was written by Sam Bowman and Stian Westlake. If you would like to discuss it, they can be contacted via Twitter (@s8mb and @stianwestlake respectively). If you would like a PDF of the whole website, you can find one here.

Here is the link.


Not gonna happen. Boris's government just announced their spending plans for the next year, and they bragged about proposing the fastest year-on-year spending increase ever.

The "death of Tory economic thinking" is alive and well. Partly it's the fact that Brexit is the all-consuming issue right now, but it's not just that. Brexit itself is being sold in a thoroughly unserious way, economically speaking--including claims that fail basic arithmetic tests. Boris has been at the forefront of this with his famous claim that all of the money sent to the EU (quoting the wrong number) can be spent on the NHS instead--ignoring that some of this money goes to things in the UK which will now need to be funded by the UK or stopped.

There is a serious economic case for Brexit (whether you agree with it or not), but this case is certainly not being made.

It's easy to blame politicians (and they should be blamed partially), but the reality is that there's not much of a constituency for "hard-nosed economic realities" these days. We get the politicians we deserve.

"We get the politicians we deserve."

That's a fatalism which might be both a bit too common and a bit too self-reinforcing.

I don't intend it to be fatalist, but I can see how it sounds that way.

My point is that the root problem is societal trends that lead voters to reward short-term thinking, obvious false promises, partisan disregard for the truth, etc. This is what ultimately needs to be addressed if we want to improve politics.

Yes, Boris, Trump and others should be held accountable for their words and actions. However, acting like a few people are the problem, and we can solve it just by replacing them, is not realistic.

That's true. It's a wider fatalism, that government is always corrupt, that builds space for Trump sending Pence to stay at his country club. And it's a fatalism that prevents things like that from become an outrage on the right.

It becomes a perverse confirmation that the government, which conservatives are now running, is the problem. So "size" must be reduced, rather than ethics enforced or execution professionalized.

We should start with a law that eliminates incentives !!

Interesting comment. To what degree does public choice economics commit to finding proper incentives, and to what degree does it too teach fatalism?

Maybe you should find out for yourself.

Based on the comment at 9:35 AM it is to defend fatalism, though of course if any PCE advocates here do have practical advice about how to restore ethics in video government, that would be grand.

Something in campaign finance? Maybe stronger nepotism rules?

What does it matter? You'd hand-wave it away anyway, just like you do everything else.

Congrats on turning a productive thread about politics into yet another very boring personal attack.

But it's funny, right? I was just brave enough to name two things.

Shut it, ya turd.

Not fatalistic. Just government with the rose-tinted glasses off.

What’s your endpoint, to align politician incentives in some sort of Pareto efficient way?

One would be to devolve most of what the Federal government does to the states. At least then residents could exercise the Exit option. Also, states cannot print money, which aligns incentives at least somewhat better.

Remove any and all SALT deductions.

Constitutional amendment to Cap interest as percentage of federal outlays, triggering automatic tax increases.

Devolve unconstitutional executive power back to Congress. Most EOs are blatantly unconstitutional.

Revisit Chevron. Allowing Congress to give up its regulatory power is clearly unconstitutional.

You’re welcome to advocate for these. For obvious reasons, I doubt they will happen.

I have nothing against radical solutions, except insofar as they distract from what I regard as more pragmatic and incremental ones.

Of your list a reassertion of congressional power seems the low hanging fruit. They only have to do it. And perhaps after the 2020 elections they will have more reason to.

Well SALT was already capped at $10,000.

So eliminating it would not be radical.

The next Democratic President will roll that back during the very first year. Because tax cuts are bad! Unless their our tax cuts.

That tax was bad because It interferes with incentives. To borrow from PCE, you want incentives that lead to good government. Which the blue states have.

All the tax raise did was force taxpayers in blue states to pay more for local public services. Which is unfair. If red states want poor services, they should still have to pay the taxes.

"Rebuilding an economic narrative for the Right"? Wow!
What was the line from the New Yorker cartoon " Sure we destroyed the world but for a brief moment in time we created great shareholder value".

I see that the dearieme deception continues. His standard of English has improved: maybe because he's in a higher grade now?

But we didn't destroy the world. We just let the old one die and be replaced by a glorious new one with vastly higher standards of living.

It's pretty hard to believe that the right ever had an "overarching economic vision for the country", given how hard they've been destroying infrastructure (social, and technical) over many decades. It seems rather that this was a convenient excuse for their real agenda, but now they no longer feel the need to even have an excuse. Hell, why bother, when any other agenda can be dismissed as 'socialist' (which apparently means some mix of authoritarian | progressive | income redistribution that I don't like) or 'terrorism' (which apparently means the use of regressive violence to serve some end I don't like)

Taking people you disagree with seriously is a much better option than assuming they are all secretly evil.

Indeed, I think they should do that ;-)

but ok, a serious response. Indeed, I enjoy taking serious conservatives seriously. and am happy to do so. I might even be one... but it's increasingly impossible to take what passes for the right seriously at the moment

Fair enough--on that point I agree. I'm a conservative who is deeply disappointed by the current right. They seem unserious and don't appear to have a consistent vision.

I don't agree that this was true of the right "over many decades", though.

'and don't appear to have a consistent vision'

Oh, they do, you just don't want to accept it. Understandably enough, since conservatives also used to be people who opposed the sort of vision that someone like Bannon is attempting to support internationally as much as possible.

One might be able to argue that there is a serious populist conservative vision. However, who are the serious politicians making a serious case for it? Trump and Boris consistently argue for a few things, but they are both all over the map in their positions, often in self-contradictory ways. And because politicians like them largely gave shape to this movement, efforts to define its vision often seem like retroactive attempts to impose a structure on a collection of ad hoc positions.

Free lunch economic conservatives must take contrary positions.

As economies are zero sum, costs must equal benefits, but since circa 1980, conservatives have argued costs can be eliminated while benefits soar to infinity.

HW best described it in 1980 as voodoo, but as he was raised on economics based in reality, he couldn't quite explain the lack of logic.

The illogic has spread globally because free lunches are so popular.

Then, perhaps the undedcurrent was getting rid of Social Security and Medicare by starting with the halves that were not for those over 65, eg aid to families with dependent children, unemployment benefits, and so on, plus Medicaid and other public health.

Those were entitlements to be eliminated, but they were the smaller portion, not the big parts for those over 65.

If the argument started with

"Things for families were much better off when children could not leave town but need to remain to care for grandparents, and then parents, raising children who will stay to care for them. Society has been destroyed by SS and Medicare freeing children to seek their dreams and opportunities in California, or grandparents moving to warmer climates like Florida or Arizona instead of staying in harsh upper midwest winters."

Of course, Reagan, who fled the Midwest for California was hardly the best messenger.

Brexit was sold as all benefits with no costs.

And the 21st century US debates leading to civil war on health care has both baffled Europe with all the US conservatives lies about European health care, Trump's comments on putting NHS on the chopping block as part of a US-UK trade deal means Boris must increase NHS budgets as part of selling a hard brexit.

Can't have brexit turn into rationed health care that also requires paying out of pocket increasing constantly like the US.

"economies are zero sum". Wow, major fundamental error. Not true.

I actually agree, though, that there is lots of free lunch thinking. Whatever the truth of the Laffer curve (and I think it is true at a level low enough to sometimes be relevant to real-life tax policy discussions), "tax cuts to stimulate the economy" without any seriousness about cutting spending, has definitely become free lunch thinking on the right.

However, the left is just as prone to free lunch economics. Their version is increasing spending without paying for it, or claiming that raising taxes on a tiny group of rich people can pay for everything they want, without affecting anybody else.

Both left and right have hardly ever been serious about paying for Social Security and Medicare.

>"economies are zero sum". Wow, major fundamental error. Not true.

How can you say that? Literally NOTHING has improved since 1200 AD. The rich have just been stealing from else!!!!!


Gradually raise the eligibility age as life expectancies increase, and slightly tweak the inflation factor.

Medicare though: God help us

False choice.

Lower the Medicare age to 40. Then it’s untouchable and on sure footing.

Just prescribe more opioids to Trump voters. Winning!

'Trump and Boris consistently argue for a few things'

I was not talking about two of the world's most tantastically entertaining buffoons, but people like Orban or Le Pen or Farage.

'efforts to define its vision'

My example was Bannon - his vision is not all that hard to define, even if people like to quibble. And Bannon sits squarely with the other 3 people named above.

Again, you just don't want to accept that these sorts of people represent today's conservatives. And it is quite possible that Farage will clean Johnson's clock in a general election, which is a better example of 'rebuilding' the right than talking about the Conservative and Unionist Party.

Well, fantastically.

Though give John Barron a minute with a Sharpie, and Webster's will provide a tantastic reference.

The careless approach to infrastructure of various kinds has been true over many decades. It's the left that's been trying to build it (ineffectively and unwisely but at least trying.

Even if some eras had more of a vision than others, there is always a baseline unseriousness/lack of quality in politics, and I see this in both sides. I don't see the right as being less serious (in their approach to infrastructure or otherwise) than others over many decades.

Often there is a bias toward action over inaction, and "at least trying" seems to exemplify that. However doing something ineffectively is not inherently better than doing nothing. Often it is worse.

False. Remove republicans from the equation and infrastructure is taken both seriously and literally.

See the Boston T. Apparently when holding the reins of government liberals do make the trains run on time, with the additional benefit of not coddling white supremacists.

Dismissed as socialism? Didnt you get the party memo?

They are openly calling themselves socialists now. They're actively defending socialism.

Socialists ARE evil. It is an ideology devoted to controlling people and benefitting favored people and classes at the expense of the majority. It is antithetical to democracy and liberty.

1984 was a warning, not an instruction manual.

"how hard they've been destroying infrastructure (social, and technical)"

WTF are you talking about?

'they presented themselves as the party of national prosperity'

And of the union - after all, the actual name of that party is the Conservative and Unionist Party. These days, even Tory party members who are not actually leaving the party describe the current members at the top as English nationalists.

'about the contemporary British economy that should frame an economic narrative'

Like the critical importance of being part of a frictionless free trade area for the UK's largest manufacturing industry? Nope, it seems - not a single matched term using auto or car in the link.

Everything is up for grabs in the imminent election campaign. There will be a grand realignment of the kind very rarely seen in first-past-the-post parliamentary systems.

After all the confusion and inconclusiveness, voters want to latch onto some kind of certainty. Parties that appear to offer it will do well. Traditional parties that have lately been speaking with multiple voices are vulnerable to electoral catastrophe. Especially the Conservatives, tainted as they are by muddle and chaos.

So Boris Johnson knows that he has to purge and remake the Conservative party very, very rapidly and make it represent something very well-defined in the minds of voters. This isn't a business-as-usual, broad-umbrella moment in history.

The Liberal Democrats have staked out the unabashed and unequivocal referendum-be-damned Remain position. Boris Johnson aims to elbow the Brexit Party aside and become the default choice at the opposite pole. Big spending promises might lure just enough soft-left-leaning Leave supporters to tilt the balance. For all his seeming buffoonery, he's actually following the only course that gives the Conservative Party any chance of survival.

Labour is still trying to straddle the leave-remain line, and would prefer to focus on putting forward its newly hardened left-wing platform instead. Under the current circumstances of a pending referendum-style election, that emphasis is a mistake which will cost them dearly. Economic policy narratives will be relevant again soon enough, but right now they miss the mark.

It's stunning how terrible Corbyn has been as opposition leader. His leadership has been a perfect storm of extremism, poor tactical decision making, and needless controversies.

Rallying the opposition when the ruling party is in chaos should be a very easy job. Yet, he has managed to shrink his party much faster than the conservatives.

Of course, the fact that he actually wants Brexit doesn't help.

Really? I had been under the impression that Corbyn could take power. I am very scared.

'purge and remake the Conservative party very, very rapidly and make it represent something very well-defined in the minds of voters'

Well, it certainly is well defined in the minds of those who formerly viewed Ruth Davidson's party favorably - or at least not with disgust.

There has been a theory that one motivation for Brexit was to break up the UK to the benefit of the Conservative and Unionist Party, which would be able to remove a Tory opposition stronghold. Of course, that strategy completely ignores the Unionist part of the party's name, but really who cares theses day about such details? Especially since English nationalism seems to be the only one nation thinking that counts among Tories these days.

(And as a note - the Lib Dems opposed the referendum, not merely its results, which is why it was held only after the Lib Dems were not necessary to keep Cameron in power as PM. This entire Brexit farce has been a Tory production, with each general election leading them deeper into the pit.)

That is a crackpot theory.

The Conservative establishment didn't want Brexit to happen. Cameron offered the referendum as a cynical ploy to stop losing voters on their right to UKIP (assuming the referendum would never pass). The facts that he campaigned aggressively against Brexit, and then quit immediately when Leave won, should be evidence enough that it wasn't some kind of triumphalist Conservative plot.

'That is a crackpot theory.'

Sure looked that way a couple of years ago. Today?

'The Conservative establishment didn't want Brexit to happen.'

There has been a lot of turnover in the last couple of years.

'should be evidence enough that it wasn't some kind of triumphalist Conservative plot'

And yet here we are, with Johnson PM, and the woman who kept the Conservatives in the running in Scotland (certainly better than Labour) pretty much quitting.

Another crackpot theory a couple of years ago was that Brexit was about turning the City into the world's cash laundromat - and yet, here we are, with a looming no deal which would ensure that the laundry could open on Nov. 1, without any treaty encumbrances in place.

Boris was surely interested in using Brexit to facilitate his ascendancy to prime minister, which he has achieved. Does he care about a conservative ascendancy beyond that? Doubtful.

"This entire Brexit farce has been a Tory production"

It's not a farce, it's the rule of law and a necessary means to escaping the clutches of the EU, a most terrible and evil organization.

The housing issue is way more important than Brexit, and one which admits of a conservative solution; let developers build, and let them build as much as they want.

Ie, they can bulldoze land they don't own, build and sell without paying workers at 100% profit.

Ie, what Trump tried to do...

The deep state enforcing property rights and labor rights, like being paid for work done, is just unacceptably costly.

WTF are you babbling about?

Agreed, that is a strange response. What does Trump have to do with Britain’s land use laws and regs, or there unions, or the efficacy of their civil law? Building lots of housing and offices works to keep homes affordable and to help keep business costs down. Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Austin and Minneapolis are all examples of this. From what I have read, the entirety of Germany also shows that if you don’t let supply get behind demand, you can have stable or even falling affordability of housing in metro areas. Metro Tokyo. I guess mulp just has to stay “woke” for any thing that might be plausibly associated with conservatives, even though there are plenty of people on the left who think some kind of building deregulation is a good thing.

With this headline - Rebuilding the British right? - wouldn't this be about Farage, whose latest party just might actually get a larger vote share in the next general election than the Tories? After all, UKIP was certainly the right, until they fell apart in a morass of ugliness that Farage was happy enough to wash his hands of - especially after keeping that well paying EU job, money he most certainly has never demonstrated any interest in washing his hands of.

Farage's EU MEP salary is such an odd obsession with you. It's basically by paid by British taxpayers and debt, since the UK is a net contributor. It's not "EU money" in any sense. What else would he do, send that British money back to an institution he claims would only waste it?

'Farage's EU MEP salary is such an odd obsession with you.'

Hypocrites irritate me a lot, particularly when they claim to be such principled people.

'It's basically by paid by British taxpayers and debt'

Well, German taxpayers are a larger contributor to Farage's MEP salary.

'It's not "EU money" in any sense.'

Of course it is. As will be obvious the second it is no longer being paid to him, but to his replacement in the EU Parliament.

'send that British money'

Really, do you honestly think the only net contributor to the EU is the Johnny come lately to the common market buffet Brits? Or that the UK is the largest?

'The UK is a net contributor to the EU budget. In other words, it contributes more to the EU budget than it receives back from it.

In 2017, another nine countries were also net contributors:
Germany, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland

Germany, with a net contribution of €12.8bn, was the largest contributor, followed by the UK, with €7.43bn (£6.55bn).'

There's nothing remotely hypocritical about Farage's EU salary. He's doing a job while faithfully advocating the destruction of it. His opposition to the EU gives him a moral right to that cash.

prior: Well, German taxpayers are a larger contributor to Farage's MEP salary.

Well, no, if you're a net contributor, then you pay enough in to pay off all your MEPs with money to spare.

That's what being a net contributor means. It's a fairly simple point of arithmetic here prior.

I don't believe Britain is the only net financial contributor to the EU by any means, and the largest per capita would be certainly Germany!

If he were an Polish MEP advocating leaving the EU (or an Irish one before 2014), you might have a point that it would principled for him turn down money that was from other nations, given Ireland is a net beneficiary. But it makes no sense in the British case (or when applied to Germans, etc.). It's not principled for an advocate of leaving the EU to give money that he believes is wrongly pilfered from his nation back to the pilferer.

The good news is that the British have stopped giving condescending economic lessons to the rest of Europe, especially France.

Sadly for the British, now it is Trump and Pence giving economic lessons to the UK.

Not sad for us. We relish a good cucking! Why do you think we voted Brexit in the first place? Because we knew it would lead to a humiliating cucking! We’re all a bunch of pain piggies don’t you know?

But they shouldn't because the rest of Europe is still pretty much a mess. Granted, so is the UK. Canada should lecturing everyone.

Isles full of cucks. That's the UK.

The economic narrative then didn't conflict with a sense of Britain as a nation apart from being subsumed into a larger political entity, then. Now, it seemingly does. Such a presentation will not encourage anyone with remotely any national for Britain as a nation to trust thinking economically.

OTOH - Britains economic performance seems to have been pretty good since the Conservatives got in in 2010. Deficits are way down, unemployment is very low, and employment is at record highs. In-equality has fallen, and older people especially are more financially secure. Only Germany of the developed EU economies has matched real GDP growth since then, of course overall growth in the EU has been terrible in comparison due to the PIGGs debacle. Son on the UK economy maybe the message should be, if it ain't broke - why fix it?

Cameron's government, while more moderate than the conservatism championed here, was pretty serious economically.

They made a real effort to rein in spending. This "austerity" was attacked in exaggerated terms (they only really temporarily slowed the growth of spending, despite opponents' claims of drastic cutbacks to everything). Left-leaning economists predicted it would be disastrous, but I would say they have been vindicated.

They also were willing to raise taxes to address deficits (not the preferred policy of conservatives, but willingness to enact broad-based tax increases is s sign of economic seriousness), and they also made efforts to reform some organizations, such as the NHS, in a rightward direction.

It has all gone downhill since the Brexit vote. Part of this is just the chaos and political paralysis, but I think they have also intentionally abandoned their traditional principles in hopes of gaining votes (the Brexit vote didn't correspond to the traditional left/right divide, and they want to appeal to leave voters who otherwise would support the left). Currently they are running up huge deficits in an effort to appeal to various groups by spending more. It's not sustainable.

Well I certainly agree Dan that a more fiscal conservative approach is preferable, but the analysis I have seen from the OBR suggests that the new spending amounts to 0.6% of GDP, raising the deficit from 1.1% to 1.7%, hardly anything to panic about, and in fact reducing in real terms if inflation is taken into account.

Personally I believe we will perhaps look back on the last few years as a golden age when the politicians were too busy with Brexit to mess up the real economy with their ingenious schemes.

Thanks, looking at the numbers, I see that I was mistaken about the actual deficit levels in recent years.

I'm not very happy with the economic approach under May and Johnson (so far), but at this point you are right that it hasn't resulted in extreme deficit spending yet.

Pfft Cameron was barely adequate. Indeed the guy Tyler quotes in the article should look to Cameron as the genesis of this new awful Tory party. He did this.

The Conservative Party should be renamed the Chaos Party. They aren't conserving much of anything. Madness all around.

A couple of Danes out of Arhus comment on the chaos.

Mood affiliation.

It is *indeed* a statistical study of mood, among voters.

It's garbage. No controlled, double-blind experiments. No data. No nothing except the opinions of two "political scientists". Scientists my ass. And the Political Science Association? Balanced? Please. A bunch of lefties. Lefties endorsing other lefties.

It's not about chaos, it's about firing incompetent and larcenous "elites".

We're not done yet, no matter who wins in 2020. These are just the first battles in a war, a world war, in Britain, France, Australia, Poland, Hungary, and ...

Go tell your Russian puppet masters to f*ck off.

We'll deal with that castrated nation later.

When you are accusing people of irrationality, try to hold it together a bit better.

Amazing how they mention internal migration in their article on housing, but not a peep about the effect of international migration on the housing market.

Immigration is a no go subject.

Bingo. Most of UK housing demand is driven by net immigration, not domestic population growth. Net EU immigration is about a third of total net immigration.

Negative externalities in the housing market are one of those main reasons where all of the supposed gains of open borders just get eaten up in rents. But you won't hear our betters talk about it.

I have long suspected that maintaining a conservative economic focus requires some level of commitment to social conservatism. Otherwise you spend your whole time being a scold. Absent a compelling vision of why economics even matters you are left in contradiction where you demand that the masses conform to government diktat on a wide ranging set of issues (e.g. gay marriage, hate speech, gun control, immigration) ... but hold sacrosanct that the government cannot ask for even small sacrifices when money is the issue. With a long standing progressive taxation system, this places the party in a position to defending primarily the interests of the wealthiest.

In contrast, if you hold some sort of social conservatism you get to fold your defense of property rights into the basis by which you defend other rights of the public. Private property is in the Bible. Government should only provide common goods that cannot otherwise be provided.

Once you start handing out jail sentences for people doing things like speaking out against homosexuality or Islamic rape gangs (both of which have been done in the UK); it becomes a very hard sell that the government should not use the same powers to shape economic outcomes. Once you tell the electorate that the government can and should enforce one outcome, it is much harder telling another.

The modern Tory party finds itself exactly in this morass. It defends the NHS and promises competent management, but tries to tell the populace that the government cannot manage trains. It feels free banning ideologues from the UK and assures its citizens that it can fairly undertake this weighing, but somehow cannot figure out which gains are ill gotten enough to tax away. The central government is deemed sufficient to know how rubbish should be handled by every municipality in order to prevent climate change decades hence, but cannot be trusted to redistribute wealth to smooth outcomes here and now.

This is partly what I think makes Brexit so potent. Being able to tell the governing elites to sod off not only is about governmental overreach and restoring rule to Britons, it also about rejecting the promise of the Cameron & May years that government can manage deep intrusions into the petty areas of life. If you can force through Brexit, you can force the state off your back in general.

I support your overall aspiration to get the government off people's back but I fear that both of us will be disappointed. There is nothing that people love more than looking down on other people and telling them what to do. Look at the way that responsible alcohol use is being demonized for instance.

It could also be read that you assign more moderate goals to government, and then commit to their execution.

Please list some examples of moderate goals.

One party is currently promising at least $45 trillion in new spending.

Where does one sign up for the moderate goal party ?

I agree that is a strange time. We have on the one hand a government that does not believe in government and on the other an American left newly emboldened by electoral opportunity.

It will probably shake out as something not ideal, but better.

Perhaps a Warren administration facing a Republican Congress would be mostly deadlocked but occasionally pragmatic? Someone should make the argument that a deadlocked Warren really is better and safer than a crazy Trump alternately pandered and ignored.

In a far future I'd hope for a Congress a bit more nuanced than party line votes.

So no examples.

You support “moderate goals” yet cannot name one.

Seems about par for the course.

Very insightful, and generalizes to the conservative parties on the continent. Always chasing the left, as Hayek pointed out ages ago.

That pretty much sums up how I view the political right in America. Kind of the way if you're lazy you sort of stick with some variant of the fashions current when you were younger, all your life, my bogeyman is very dated: Steve Forbes. I'm sure he's a very nice man and all - he just happened to be current to the period when I first grasped that the party distinctions, the mysteriously unbalanced antitheses of "liberal" and "conservative" they had drummed into our heads in civics class, were meaningless, since which I have been unable to view national politics as anything more than entertainment, its value even there ranking somewhere below Harry Potter but above Downton Abbey (on local matters, I remain intermittently, if diminishingly, keen). I realized then I would personally never know more than the handful of conservatives that I already did, and that there might not be many more to know. That the political right at the state and national levels might as well share the same vision as the left, so thoroughly does it exist to acquiesce to the left, and in a pas de deux to continuously move the mainstream, normalize those myriad slime-mold-like intrusions you mention, as long as a certain class are reaching their personal bests and living in a beautiful, sheltered environment out of the American past. All while relying on and ginning up absurd-in-the-circumstances, impotent "hate the government" sentiment among the voters, taking care never to offer any practical relief from this feeling, never to make it more than inchoate.

Then that rough orange beast appeared, and how little he had to do, to make conservatives snap to: say a couple of true things about immigration.

That's how starved we were of "content" for my adult life.

Please start a blog. Not sarcastically. Please continue to comment here.

But also start a blog. You’re a gifted writer.

MR lurkers, come out of the woodwork and +1 this.

This seems like everyone's blog, what with T.C.'s light hand at the tiller. Or perhaps it's more like a domino game, and he's the easygoing storekeeper.

"I have long suspected that maintaining a conservative economic focus requires some level of commitment to social conservatism."

Not only is this wrong but it's the exact opposite of the truth. We did this already it's called US politics 1990-2010 and social conservatism was the death of economic conservatism but holy fck are people ever mendacious enough to memory hole your failures.

"Then that rough orange beast appeared, and how little he had to do, to make conservatives snap to: say a couple of true things about immigration."

He didn't say a single true thing about immigration. He just took advantage of the fact that most conservatives abandoned religion for racism. This is the collapse of the American right.

Curios when, exactly would you put the high water mark for economic conservatism?

After all the budget was balanced during this period for the first time in generations. Tax rates were at their lowest in generations. Federal expenditures both had low overall rates of growth as a percentage of GDP and had the largest dip since the Korean War. Likewise, outlays per capita had the slowest growth of any era going back to Eisenhower.

In terms of regulation, this was the era that brought us fracking, transport deregulation, and wholesale competition in energy markets.

On pretty much every major index used by fiscal conservatives in the 80s (no changing goalposts), the 90s and 00s were the most fiscally conservative on any two decades. Yeah Bush expanded Medicare and ramped up military spending in a hackneyed fashion … but what exactly is your comparison timeframe? 1910-1920?

Further when things did implode and revert towards the mean (and hence more liberal government), what was the actual impetus? Gay marriage? Of course not, gay marriage still lost at the polls in California in 2008 and only began winning popular votes in 2012. Pro-life causes? nothing that I can see, if anything the turnout explicitly for putting pro-life supreme court justices on the court was decisive in 2016 nor have I seen any significant state level political shifts with all the heart beat bills (which is not surprising as super-majorities of Americans support banning abortion after the first trimester pretty robustly). Skirting or overturning Blaine Amendments? Again I have seen nothing that suggests this has obviated fiscal conservative goals or hurt at the polls.

No, what tanked conservatism in 2007 was a recession. One that certain economic conservatives had assured us could not happen. That markets were efficient and that securitization had rendered silly moralistic concerns (like not lending to precarious borrowers) moot.

Ultimately, I am just not seeing it. When social conservatives had their biggest successes in the US, they locked in social economic policies. When the whole ship floundered it was (rightly or wrongly) on economic issues.

Nor is this a unique phenomena. Anglo-conservative parties that have strong social conservative backing (e.g. Australian liberals) have much electoral success and have the ability to govern with purpose. New Zealand in contrast saw National never embracing any sort of social conservatism in the last generation … and it has not won a majority since 1993.

So who are the success stories for economic conservatives without social conservatism? LDP? Sure, they go pay respects to the war dead at contentious shrines just because they want lower taxes. Liberty Korea? Don't make me laugh. PiS? BJP? Likud? PSL? I am sure there are a few, but in the main rightward parties that abandon social issues have either also ended up abandoning rightward economic issues or simply fall from power, rarely to return. In contrast, long term electoral success has been found much more readily by those right wing parties that embrace their social fronts. Maybe the population votes leftist regardless, but I just don't see a great future for right-of-centre politics once the parties capitulate on social issues.

Certainly this is how Fine Gael looks - a right wing party that backs abolishing what remains of private health insurance, government investment directly in business affairs, and of course giant economic stimulus. Maybe this and all the pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage positions will keep Fine Gael relevant (though their seat count has not been showing a good trend line); but I am just not seeing the party doing anything but drift leftward on economics.

"I have long suspected that maintaining a conservative economic focus requires some level of commitment to social conservatism. Otherwise you spend your whole time being a scold. "

You are a scold either way. Telling people what they can't do via government or in their personal lives is, well, telling people what they can't do. The irony of today's conservativism is that it dislikes immigrants yet immigrants tend to be more socially conservative than the average American. They can also be "scolded" more effectively than the natives who will absolutely resist any such attempts.

" it becomes a very hard sell that the government should not use the same powers to shape economic outcomes"

Like it or not, one of the unwritten rules of governance today is that the government is responsible for economic outcomes. This is how people vote despite what they may say. This is why an economic and social conservative like Bush can bailout private businesses despite ideology. Any country that fails economics is always at risk of being voted out or worse.

Ehh, a number of conservative parties somehow manage to enact popular agendas without coming across as scolds. Poland, for instance, has a right wing party that has reduced taxation, held the line of traditional marriage and abortion, and refused mass immigration. In that time they have adopted a strongly pro-natal set of policies, reformed the judiciary in their image, and have been the only outright majority in post-communist history.

This works in Poland because PiS is explicitly Christian in a country with a strong and deep Catholic tradition. They folded a lot of economic liberals into their camp via social issues and have enjoyed more functional power than pretty much any socially liberal/economically conservative party in Europe has ever managed.

This is on a relative scale. If you want conservative economic policy (and a lot of voters frankly don't) the world shows an awful lot of parties that are committed to social conservatism as well that can deliver; it shows precious few, if any, that deliver economic conservatism with social liberalism.

Barry Goldwater tried that in the 60s with "The Conscience of a Conservative". Oh well.

There is a perfectly good statement of Boris Johnson's intended way forward at As I read it, the point (apart from Brexit) is that things like education and the NHS are not services that he intends to provide begrudgingly to stay in power, but things that he believes make Britain a better place, and that he will whole-heartedly support.

The parties are undergoing realignment, and they will have a new leader:

Boris Trump.

John Alexander De Pfeffel Barron.

"replace business rates with a commercial land value tax"

But why stop there? Taxing land but not virtual space distorts economic incentives and advantages internet vendors over brick and mortar vendors.

The solution is simple. Tax web addresses as well as land. Calculate a value for, say,, and tax at the same rate as the land value tax. All the inelasticity is there so no effect upon incentives.

Stirner says: “I do not step shyly back from your property, but look upon it always as my property, in which I respect nothing. Pray do the like with what you call my property!”

Maybe the conservatives of these two countries are finally realizing that Reagan and Thatcher really did have terrible ideas for the economy. Now that, surprisingly, giving massive stimulus to the very richest isn't very popular, they seem to have run out of ideas.

Yes, the statist French model is the only man standing at this point. Remarkably successful.

Cut Derrick some slack. He's 14.

No one is giving benefits to the rich. When leftists impose confiscatory progressive taxes, it is mathematically impossible to unwind them without it looking like it benefits the rich. That's because the lower classes PAY ALMOST NOTHING.

The same argument in favor of progressive taxes, diminishing marginal utility of income, works in the reverse. Tax cuts apparently favoring the wealthy provide them with small increases in their utility. The Trump tax cuts therefore mostly benefitted the middle class.

Remember that the poorest make less, and pay more as a percentage of that in sales tax etc.

It makes the total effective tax rate pretty flat.

Full article here.

Darn, I tried to link this graphic directly.

Ehh, if you are going to lump in all the taxes paid from local to federal, why exactly are we ignoring transfers (both cash and non-cash) from the public to these individuals? Be it food stamps or earn income tax credits, these make the whole system vastly more progressive again.

We use double entry accounting for transactions to avoid specifically this type of chicanery. Of the goods provided by the government that are not strictly common, the vast bulk go to the bottom end and their net transfers to the treasury are wildly out of sync.

Without accounting for both sides of the ledger it seems awfully silly to compare tax rates and geometrically at that.

If you can find that, by all means. But to be frank, "what about this chart I imagined but do not have" will always be arguing from missing data.

(it also strikes me that you might be talking about different individuals and the low income people paying tax may not map one to one with the low income people receiving benefits)

Total taxation paid by the bottom 20%, per your own source which I doubt but whatever, is 2% of total taxation. Throwing in the next 20% to be safe brings us to 7% of total taxes in the US.

The Medicaid budget, alone, is over $500 billion. Medicaid eligibility terminates formally at 133% of the federal poverty level. Going up to 150% of FPL for a family of 4 gives us $39,000 in annual income. This is the 32nd centile of the income distribution.

Total taxation (state, federal, and local) in the US amounts to 26% of GDP. 7% of the total tax burden gives us 1.82% of GDP for the bottom 2 quintiles combined. Total taxation on the bottom 40% thus gives us around $362 billion in taxes paid.

To whit Medicaid, alone, is a transfer to the poor that offsets not just their entire tax payment but also those of the working class who are not all eligible (and those folks are eligible for Obamacare subsidies).

Food stamps, housing assistance, cash transfers, and a myriad of other direct transfers all result in real value streams for the poor. This drastically increases the progressive nature of American government finances.

Shows the cumulative effects. The poorest 20% roughly doubles its effective income post-transfers and taxes. The wealthy's net income falls by about a third. This makes the poorest 20% earn about 5.6% of net income and 1% of total taxation. Thus the tax to income ratios would be 1.15 for the rich and 0.344 for the poor.

Your mileage will vary for how progressive you think the tax rates should be, but doing it in manner that includes all effective income streams shows us that yes indeed we have a progressive system.

Total taxation has always been a weird approach. No taxpayer experiences total taxation. We experience our total effective tax rate.

I think it's an attempt to build group identity, versus an "other."

Maybe my tax rate is 35%, but I should feel that is too high because "my group" is paying 70% of the whole, or whatever.

Oh tax rates. Well in that case you analysis is pretty much useless. Effective tax rates for the poor are massively negative and using interval data makes it impossible to have meaningful ratios.

Total effective tax rates when including transfers mean that the real data is vastly more progressive than the income tax rates.

Oh Willitts, do you think your partisan crap is convincing anyone not already on your team?

Point for creativity though, using utility arguments to try to sell Trump's tax cut as progressive.

The first thing to do in 'rebuilding the British right' is to show the remoaners the door. Tell them to join the Liberal Democrats or get lost.

Not only will this be best for the right, but best for the left. The LibDems are wrong about the EU but they're not nuts and constitute a respectable opposing force that could run a government. They should be embiggened by defecting Tory's and replace Corbyn's Labour. That would be best for just about everyone.

Embiggens. Jfc

Nope, the LibDems are nuts.

In recent years they have hounded Tim Farron out of the leadership job for being a genuine liberal believer in freedom of conscience who had strongly Christian beliefs, then they appointed Vince Cable to their leadership - a man who would say different things about Brexit on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday if he thought it would get votes and claimed that old people shouldn't be allowed to vote in long term referenda, the great democrat - and now have Jo Swinson who argues for a new EU referenda because people have the right to change their mind but openly claims she would only honour the result and see it as binding if it were what she views as the right result (which is hardly liberal, or democratic).

The Left gets a lot of mileage out of greed and envy. Just a symptom of the degradation of education and control by the Left. Every generation of ignorant people gets larger and larger.

WTF...are these guys trying to hijack the government agenda?

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