There is an old maxim, served as a warning to foreigners intending to drive in Germany, that it is always worth remembering that a German “would rather be in the right and dead, than in the wrong and alive”.
Watching the crazed dash of people on the “Left” to the populist extremes, I am left to wonder something similar. Would they rather just feel morally justified at the expense of having no real power or influence, over actually having even limited power to do something?
After all, the Left in Britain has a new darling now who used to heap praise on Hugo Chávez, whose left-wing government was so successful that his country ran out of toilet roll and chocolate, that airlines refused to fly to it so that even its own nationals were effectively locked out, and it became a diplomatic joke. He got some things right, mind – the great socialist was sure to leave such an inheritance to his own daughter that she is now estimated to be the richest woman in the country. But, sure, at least he had morals, eh?
We do not need to go so far to demonstrate such folly. Greece’s Syriza thought it moral just to spend wildly while not caring about its creditors, until it found itself simply unable to borrow to spend wildly because no one was willing to lend it money knowing there was no chance of repayment. France’s Socialists thought it moral to hammer the rich with a 75% tax, until they found no one willing to pay it (and comfortably able, in a global economy, to out therpir wealth where they would not have to pay it) and had to abandon it. Italy’s Democrats thought it moral to borrow without reforming crazy public sector salaries and perks, until it found economic growth had stalled at the sixth worst in the world (the five worse included the likes of Zimbabwe and Somalia) while whole areas of public services had been taken over by the Mafia.
It is not as if right-leaning governments are all sweetness and light, but left-leaders do tend to base their theories not on supporting what is good, but on opposing what is bad. Syriza thought austerity was bad – but financial responsibility is good. French Socialists thought excessive wealth was bad – but being globally competitive in rewarding risk takers and hard workers is good. Italian Democrats thought threats to public servants’ standards of living were bad – but delivering efficient public services is good.
Given that government in a financial crisis is tough, it does seem to me that those inclined to oppose rather than support enjoy simply identifying terrible things and siding with anyone who agrees they are terrible. That they are unable to come up with practical, workable solutions to these terrible problems is neither here nor there – they are right morally in theory, so who cares if they are wrong electorally or governmentally in practice?
Not that such moral guardians any more moral than the rest of us. In taking sides against one tyrant, they will support another (often worse) one. In defending one minority, they will offend another. Attacks on colleagues are deemed “personal” even when they are political, but they are themselves allowed to resort to personal attacks and petty labels (so that anyone at all who does not sign up to their exclusive brand of Leftist rebellion is deemed “Tory”). The Labour Leadership election is but one obvious example. The outcome is that the energy and resources of the Left are devoted to crazed factional infighting rather than making a proper, reasoned appeal to an increasingly bewildered public.
Government is tough. It requires compromise, including with vested interests; it requires patience, including with political opponents; it requires practical solutions, working with the prevailing culture rather than blank-page theory. So the real question to the Left in Britain and elsewhere is: is this all just a spiritually uplifting but practically pointless moral crusade, or do you really want to govern?