Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world


The Daily Telegraph today reports a prominent Labour politician expressing uncertaincy about where his party is going – what it stands for and what it wants to achieve in society. It has long seemed to me that the deep-down difference between Labour and Conservative is that the former believe in Collectiveness (quite natural given how the party began) and the latter believe in Individual Effort. The policies are linked, directly or indirectly, to these attitudes.

In the UK we don’t so much elect governments as throw them out. We throw them out when they have become too extreme in following their ethic. In time, they always do so. Collectivism and Individuality are the ends of a spectrum. Both have merit, but both are dangerous when taken too far. So every government creates it’s own natural type of disaster and leaves a mess that the other lot have to clean up. Generally they manage it, because the ‘wrongness’ is the sort they are emotionally programmed to fight against. When their natural enemy has been dealt with there is uncertainty within the party about what to do next, and less eagerness to do it. “What shall we do now?” Answer, “Do more of what we think we are good at!” This means the less important things that are less necessary. So a step is taken towards an extreme, and the ideal of fairness to all morphs into indiscriminate pay-outs. In the same way an attitude that says, “Find the best man in the world and pay him millions to do the job” can easily morph into corporate greed.

Another recent article quoted a business manager who encountered an attitude within a state organisation that said “Give me a bigger budget and I will provide a better service.” He contrasted that with an industry which was always striving to give the customer more while still reducing costs. This is all about different ways of looking at a subject. Neither is wrong, but both become wrong in the extreme. And a person with one mind-set usually ignores the other – or just can’t conceive of it.

It can also happen that a ‘wrongness’ gets overtaken by a worse one, and temporarily forgotten. Right now we have an economic problem that seems to eclipse all others and is apparently rooted in a pursuit of equality that has made us under-value excellence and competitiveness. The present government is trying to alter that. There are still extremes of inequality within our society, and they still matter, but they are not at the very top of the agenda.

There is, of course, no final answer. But perhaps our country is lucky to have decent people at each end of the spectrum who will continue to slug it out against each other. That way we shall have some sort of balance, somewhere near the middle.

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