The gap between the rhetoric and reality of Jeremy Corbyn as a “man of the people” couldn’t be wider.
His entire worldview is the antithesis of what is required for long-term prosperity and a rising standard of living.
In my, admittedly subjective, opinion, Corbyn’s collectivist, statist, interventionist worldview should be designated public enemy number one. Let’s examine why.
First, in Corbyn’s world, the root cause of economic problems is the system itself. This leads to a view that you can create a New Jerusalem by changing the system. I fundamentally disagree; I think the problem is with people not the system.
More government just creates a whole new set of problems as people pursue their self-interest in a different way.
There is a vast public choice literature backing me up here, together with the practical experience of an experiment called communism!
Perfect people would operate a perfect economic system. Imperfect people won’t. End of story.
Second, Corbyn’s worldview is the enemy of freedom. Across the globe, the evidence shows that freer people are generally wealthier and happier.
Look at the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, which conclusively shows that “countries with higher levels of economic freedom substantially outperform others in economic growth and per capita incomes.”
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Other compelling empirical evidence shows that a negative trade-off exists between the size of government and economic growth. Less is more and more is less.
But while the political left and right both talk about freedom, the reality is that, under the left, economic freedom is curtailed. When the state intervenes (e.g. through taxation), it curtails individual freedom by expropriating property rights. Democratic freedom is not a guarantee of political and economic freedom. Nationalisation, higher taxes and punitive regulation savage economic freedom.
Third, if we want greater economic prosperity, we need, in the words of the US philosopher John Tomasi, a much “thicker” concept of economic liberty. Corbyn’s concept of economic liberty is skinny to non-existent.
In contrast, we need an economic liberty based on maximising individual property rights (in simple terms retaining the fruits of your labour, with much lower taxation).
As John Adams, the second President of the United States, said: “Thou shall not covet and thou shall not steal… must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilised or made free.”
Populist promises to re-distribute the fruits of other people’s labour are dishonest.
Of course, maximising individual property rights is in tension with re-distribution of income and the political desire of the left to drive down inequality.
If you want to re-distribute income on the scale desired by Corbyn, you are going to need to squeeze the rich (and the middle class) until the pips squeak. Or do you?
I think a much kinder and gentler society could be created via a culture that places the role of re-distribution firmly on the shoulders of the individual, not the state. Just imagine the hundreds of billions currently spent by the welfare state in the hands of social entrepreneurs.
A revolution in social entrepreneurship and radical personal generosity is the reconciliation of maximum property rights and minimal government with social justice.
Of course, prosperity is wider than wealth alone. It also encompasses wellbeing (life satisfaction). But here again is a contradiction in Corbyn’s worldview.
The left talks the talk with regard to us living in a post-materialist world “beyond GDP”, but fails to walk the walk by overwhelmingly emphasising a policy stance based on the “materialist” re-distribution of income via the state.
I shudder to think what wellbeing policy would look like under a hard left government. We have ways of making you happy.