Sunday, 18 July 2010

Turning from red to blue

Dr James Rockey, of Leicester University, analysed the stated values of 136,000 people in a survey carried out in 48 countries, and found that the well-educated were most likely to misplace themselves on the political spectrum.

A tendency was observed among this group to identify as left-wing, and vote accordingly, despite holding views on wealth distribution that placed them further to the right, Dr Rockey reported.

In his paper, Dr Rockey suggested that this was due to the fact that "people compare themselves not to the population as a whole but to the people they know" and that "political preferences change over time".

The Daily Telegraph pounced on these findings, proclaiming them as evidence that "many middle-aged 'champagne socialists' fail to notice their views shifting" and have become, despite their left-wing university days, right-wingers who cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the fact. (1)

I think this (or at least the Telegraph's reaction to it) is a variation on the "Anyone who isn't a socialist at 20 hasn't a heart, anyone who is a socialist at 40 hasn't a head" bollocks that gets reprised every now and again (1). This is usually done either by people who have made that journey themselves and are trying to justify the collapse of their principles, or by people who were never there in the first place, but who are trying to belittle an opponent in argument by writing off whatever they are saying as youthful naivety.

I wonder, cynically, how many of the journalists at the Telegraph started out as wild eyed young Trots, only to mellow into reactionary prigs, round about the time they accepted the 30 pieces of silver offered by the Barclay brothers?

I wonder, more constructively, if there has been any study of people who preach individualism / Social Darwinist / Libertarian / Randite dogma, to see if they also fail to measure up to their avowed principles?

This could take a couple of forms. It might be the 'do as I say, not as I do' sort of hypocrisy which sees the supposedly capitalistic USA, home of the free livin' individualist, subsidize its agricultural sector to the point where grain can be sold profitably at below the cost of production, and massive government spending on defense buoys up the whole economy? Or, more honourably, some "I'm alright Jack" type giving money to charity or the needy.

Also, it is worth noting that there is nothing hypocritical in a socialist making money by using the tools of a capitalist system. First of all, that money can then be used to help advance the cause, and second, the whole point of a capitalist system is that it forces you to look out for yourself and your own - I need to have the means to care for my kith and kin, if I can't rely on the state to do it for me.
1 - "Are ageing lefties in denial?" by Jon Kelly. Published by BBC Online, 16th of July, 2010. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-10633782)

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