All very well to complain about Tories – but the left has lost the moral high ground

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ALL too often I read of the moral vacuousness of Conservatives in the letters section of the Gazette.

What follows are 10 ways in which the left has lost the moral high ground:

• 1. Hostility to global free trade, although it is the engine of worldwide poverty reduction.

Quoted in The Economist, an analysis by Bjorn Lomborg found that trade liberalisation delivers more benefits for the poorest people of the world than any other “sustainable development goal” under consideration by the world community.

• 2. Indifference to government debt and its profound intergenerational consequences.  

Because the British state is living beyond its means, taxpayers are already forking out £1bn in interest payments every week.

Servicing costs will rise to £70bn within two or three years – more than the nation spends on schools, housing or defence.

• 3. Defence of an unsustainable welfare state that fails to target help on those in most need.

Angela Merkel said: “If Europe today accounts for just over seven per cent of the world’s population, produces around 25 per cent of global GDP and has to finance 50 per cent of global social spending, it’s obvious it will have to work very hard to maintain its prosperity and way of life. All of us have to stop spending more than we earn every year.”

• 4. Unions that exist for the benefit of their members rather than the wider public good.

I highly recommend an article by Romina Boccia on how public sector unions conspire against the public interest.

• 5. A moral relativism that avoids promotion of the two-parent family in public policy.

Economists in America estimate that about half of all growth in inequality may be a function of changing family structure.

• 6. Insider-friendly forms of workplace and employee regulation that benefit those who already have a job, but make it costly to hire extra workers.

• 7. Anti-inequality policies that increase unemployment and poverty – although it is poverty rather than inequality that kills. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Stephen Moore and Richard Vedder conclude that interventionist, anti-inequality policy prescriptions – ‘especially high income tax rates and the lack of a right-to-work law’ – make states ‘less prosperous because they chase away workers, businesses and capital.’ They found they did not deliver equality.

• 8. A tolerance of uncontrolled immigration – despite the implications for low-skilled labour.

An August 2014 paper by Robert Rowthorn, Emeritus Professor of Economics at Cambridge University, for the Civitas think-tank found that the wages of lower-paid workers were depressed by large-scale immigration.

• 9. Hostility to faith-based and unconventional forms of poverty-fighting.

• 10. A determination to fight climate change with expensive, immature technologies: Do read Professor Anthony Kelly’s paper on how climate change policies hurt the poor in developed and developing nations or Bill Gates’s argument for investing in clean technology.

There are important left-leaning reformists who increasingly recognise the two great weaknesses of the prevailing approach to poverty. Firstly, they recognise that the war on poverty has been captured by vested interests who have become detached from the noble ambitions of the early left.

These include unions who defend under-performing teachers and state bureaucrats who manage complex welfare systems that trap people as surely as any physical maze.

The second great weakness is the bias to materialism. The left has become too Marxist and insufficiently Methodist.

Free market capitalists are sometimes accused of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. Something similar could be said of the poverty-fighting left. They can’t see a social problem without reaching for the taxpayers’ chequebook.

Through left-wing spectacles, a political party’s compassion becomes measured almost exclusively in terms of how much of other peoples’ money it is prepared to spend. They have forgotten the irreplaceable importance of institutions like the family, the friendly society and the church that provide holistic, relational forms of care that state bureaucrats can never match.

Craig Robinson,

Harton House Road,

South Shields.