Boris Johnson and ‘Survival of the Fittest’

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The Manners and Morals of High Capitalism

The only two things that were actually surprising about Boris Johnson’s Centre of Policy Research speech were:

i)  That anyone should think that Boris’ avowal of 19th Century Social Darwinism is   surprising because it is patently obvious that his speech also represents the views of Cameron, Osborne, Tory Ministers and much of the wider Conservative Party.

ii)  That Boris would have talked openly about his views in public.

However, Andrew Rawnsley was surprised on both counts:

Where on earth do we start? Let’s begin with his view of what drives human nature in general and capitalist economies in particular. The speech was highly illuminating – not about what really makes society tick, but about what goes on inside the whirling head of mayor Johnson. It is his contention that “greed” and “the spirit of envy” are not vices to be regretted, but virtues to be lauded because they are “a valuable spur to economic activity”. This was not a throwaway line, a light aside, just another one of those provocative Johnsonian sallies designed to wind up lefties and stimulate the erogenous zones of the right wing of the Tory party. It was central to his argument. He hailed greed and envy as emotions to be celebrated because that was at the heart of his contention that inequality is not only inevitable, it is desirable and necessary as an engine of economic growth.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/01/boris-johnsons-views-like-brave-new-world-dystopia

Clearly, Andrew Rawnsley has never heard of Herbert Spencer, 19th century philosopher beloved by the wealthy and powerful American Robber Barons, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and the rest?

(See below – J. K. Galbraith’s video clip from the 1977 ‘The Age of Uncertainty’ series)

It was Herbert Spencer, not Darwin, who coined the phrase ‘Survival of the Fittest’, drawing parallels between his political classical economic theories and natural selection.

Spencer’s theories of laissez-faire, survival-of-the-fittest and minimal human interference in the processes of natural law had an enduring and even increasing appeal in the social science fields of economics and political science. 20th century thinkers such as Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand expanded on and popularized Spencer’s ideas, while politicians such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher enacted them into law. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Spencer

‘Laissez-faire, survival-of-the-fittest and minimal human interference’ as advocated by Ayn Rand, is the pedigree of Boris’ incongruous suggestion that the largest cornflakes rise to the top of the shaken packet.

And also his even more controversial assertion:

‘… Johnson mocked the 16% “of our species” with an IQ below 85 as he called for more to be done to help the 2% of the population who have an IQ above 130.’

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/nov/27/boris-johnson-thatcher-greed-good?CMP=twt_gu

(Well, perhaps not so controversial given that those percentages are inherent to the IQ test methodology… but let’s not get bogged down in dissecting Boris’s faulty understanding and ignorance. Let’s go with the implicit message.)

 

American follower John Fiske observed, that Spencer’s ideas were to be found “running like the weft through all the warp” of Victorian thought .. and are clearly still running like a weft through the upper echelons of the Conservative Party.  The silence from Cameron et al immediately following Boris’ speech was deafening.

Essentially, the tenets are those of the American Dream:

i)   Rich people are rich because they have fought their way to the top and are more intelligent.

ii)   Poor people are poor because they have not tried hard enough and are stupid.

iii)   Government and the benefits system prevent the cornflake packet being shaken hard enough.  Hence, the need to remove the ‘safety net’ of the welfare state and shrink the role of government.

(Frankly, I can’t believe that I’m writing this extremely unpleasant garbage which owes nothing to any informed understanding of genetics, cognitive psychology, sociology or economics.)

As a commentators on Cif wrote in response to Boris’speech:

‘They’re not even trying to pretend anymore, are they?

Perhaps that’s a good thing, because it shows that the end is near. Hubris is the best indicator for that…’

‘Spot on, it’s the new eugenics. The conservative hierarchy genuinely believes that there is no further need for social mobility, that the social hierarchy with its grotesque inequalities is some kind of perfect order. The rest of us simply live to serve the new banking aristocracy.’

Boris may well have overestimated the readiness of the UK for his ‘eugenic’ message.  Another putative Tory leader, Sir Keith Josephs, certainly scuppered his chance of being Prime Minister when he attributed the cycle of social deprivation to a combination of the young and poor in a climate of sexual freedom perpetuating a deprived class with little effective hope of self-improvement – adding that “the balance of our human stock is threatened”.

After some days, Cameron and Osborne finally felt the need to distance themselves from the Boris speech but it is noteworthy that their disclaimers were somewhat ambiguous and not entirely inconsistent with Boris’ views …

Asked on his flight to China whether the London mayor spoke for the Conservative party about IQ levels and inequality, the prime minister said: “I let Boris speak for himself. I think it is very important that we make sure we do everything so that we maximise people’s opportunities to make the most of their talents.”

.. which could mean ‘maximise cornflakes’ opportunities’ so that they can greedily and enviously fight their way up the packet unimpeded by big government.

George Osborne similarly distanced himself:

“I wouldn’t have put it like that and I don’t agree with everything he said.”

.. so which bit didn’t you agree with George?

However… How can Cameron and Osborne possibly say that they reject Boris’ philosophical assumptions when we can all see in their policies that they are doing their utmost to create the ruthless laissez–faire society advocated by Hayek, Friedman, Rand, Regan and Thatcher?

Postscript:

It is a bit hazy as to how Boris explains inherited wealth as being the result of individual struggle… Did Cameron, Osborne and the other cabinet millionaires all start at the bottom of the cornflake packet?

The Age of Uncertainty Episode 2 – The Manners and Morals of High Capitalism

The Age of Uncertainty is a 1977 television series about economics, history and politics, co-produced by the BBC, CBC, KCET and OECA, and written and presented by Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith.

Galbraith acknowledges the successes of the market system in economics but associated it with instability, inefficiency and social inequity. He advocates government policies and interventions to remedy these perceived faults

The content of the series was determined by Galbraith, with the presentation style directed by his colleagues in the BBC. Galbraith began by writing a series of essays from which the scripts were derived and from these a book by the same name, emerged which in many places goes beyond the material covered in the relevant television episode.

London Supporters of Ken Speak Out.

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There has been a sustained smear campaign against Ken Livingstone, the Labour candidate for the Mayor of London, which has not been suffered by the Conservative candidate, Boris Johnson.  These are some of the voices that have been drowned out in the ‘personality circus’.  Given the current circumstances, a majority of Londoners cannot afford to be beguiled by the ‘cheeky chappie with the floppy hair’.  Boris Johnson is a Tory through and through, and will always put the City of London before Londoners.

The Academics (1)

As most Londoners are struggling with falling real living standards, we endorse the policy to cut fares adopted by Labour’s candidate for mayor, Ken Livingstone (Johnson still has six-point poll lead in mayoral race, 16 April). The cut in fares will benefit hard-pressed fare payers and can help businesses and jobs in London that rely on consumer spending. By contrast the current Tory mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has increased fares by more than inflation in the past four years and is committed to further fare increases of 2% over inflation in each of the next four years. His policy further erodes the real living standards of fare payers in London, with consequent damage to businesses and jobs.

The controversy over the affordability of the policy to cut fares seems entirely misplaced. In the last financial year the total surplus over budget at Transport for London was more than £1.3bn. In the current financial year TfL estimates the surplus will be £830m before exceptional items of expenditure. These unbudgeted surpluses are over 41% of actual fare revenues last year and over 23% of next year’s estimated annual fare revenues. The promised cut in fares is 7%.

Clearly the policy of cutting fares is affordable. Indeed, after the cut there are still hundreds of millions of pounds available for potential investment or other items of spending. Londoners will make their own judgment on 3 May, but they should do so in the certain knowledge that Ken Livingstone’s policy of cutting the fares by 7% is easily affordable.

Prof Victoria Chick University College London

Prof Hulya Dagdeviren University of Hertfordshire

Dr Chris Edwards Senior fellow, University of East Anglia

Prof Susan Himmelweit Open University

Prof George Irvin SOAS

Prof Margot Light LSE

Prof Simon Mohun University of London

Robin Murray Senior visiting fellow, LSE

Prof Engelbert Stockhammer Kingston University

Prof Jan Toporouski SOAS

Prof John Weeks SOAS

The Urbanism and Regeneration Advisor – Richard Rogers (2)

The choice of who is to run the city has never been more critical. We need a Mayor who is visionary and decisive, who understands the needs and aspirations of ordinary Londoners. We want a Mayor who understands the need for a better distribution of wealth and who will help protect the vulnerable from the Government’s slash-and-burn economics.

I worked for 10 years with both Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson as chief adviser to City Hall on urbanism and regeneration — and I am convinced that Ken best meets the needs of Londoners.

We’ve already seen that Ken understands the job of Mayor. He can think strategically and is deeply interested in the detail. He established the autonomous role of the Mayor at a time when there was far less appetite for devolved power than there is now.

Under his leadership London became a model city — culturally, socially and economically. It was visited by leaders from around the world studying how such urban vitality had been achieved. Ken maintained the green belt and increased public space. He set a target for developers to build 50 per cent of affordable housing adjacent to all new private developments.

Ken focused on the regeneration of east London, and when with his support the Olympics were won for London, he chose a site in the East End knowing it would strengthen one of the poorest parts of the city.

Ken secured the go-ahead for Crossrail, he cut congestion, revived the bus service, licensed minicabs and doubled the number of cycling trips made in the city. He has the ambition to achieve even more.

Some people, including too many from the liberal Left, say choosing Ken would be disappointing. I agree that his inability to apologise over gaffes is unattractive, and although he has done nothing illegal, greater transparency over his tax affairs would have been wise and welcome.

But to echo American author Jake Lamar on Barack Obama, I would not be disappointed if Ken cut public transport fares by seven per cent, showing his understanding of how most people are struggling in tough economic times.

I would not be disappointed if he offered childcare grants of up to £700 to low-income families, interest-free loans to families earning up to £40,000 a year and campaigned for better childcare services. I would not be disappointed if he reinstated the Educational Maintenance Allowance.

I would not be disappointed if he took full responsibility for Londoners’ safety by heading the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime — and by reversing the cuts Boris Johnson made to policing, including Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

I would not be disappointed if Ken made cutting Londoners’ fuel bills and reducing carbon emissions a priority. I would not be disappointed if he introduced a city-wide empty homes strategy, ending the scandal of decent homes lying empty while waiting lists lengthen.

I am passionate about the benefits that compact, sustainable cities can provide. I would not be disappointed if Ken were given the chance to make London a model for the world once more.

The Outer London  Transport User – Helen (3)

Boris Johnson made many transport promises before he was elected in 2008 – London Transport Is A Mess, he claimed. How has Boris improved public transport for me in the outer London borough of Hounslow (Z4 Tube/Z5 National Rail) in his four-year term?

We’ve seen no improvements in Underground services – the Piccadilly line upgrade, due to be completed in 2014 under the previous Mayor, has been put back to 2025. The line is still using rolling stock built in 1973. Hounslow railway station continues to have an abysmal service of only one four-carriage train an hour on a Sunday – during the summer, especially when there’s cricket on at the Oval, passengers at the next stop of Isleworth are unable to board due to overcrowding.

Our local train operating company, South West Trains, was the very last in London to install Oyster-compatible ticket machines – almost two years after Oyster was accepted for travel on London’s rail services. When they finally arrived, they were of little comfort as Boris Johnson had raised the daily off-peak Oyster cap for Zones 2-6 from £5.10 TO £8.00 and the peak Oyster cap from £9.00 to £15.00,  then again in January this year to £8.50 and £15.80 respectively.

When repeatedly challenged about these enormous increases, the Mayor claimed these massive hikes were actually reductions. Boris Johnson also removed the price differential of 50p between a one-day Travelcard and the equivalent Oyster cap which was designed to encourage Oyster use, putting up the Oyster price to the same as a paper one-day Travelcard.

Children’s fares have also gone up – under the previous Mayor, children over the age of 5 with a Zip Oyster photocard could travel all day on Tube, Overground and Rail for £1. The child off-peak cap (depending on Zones) is now up to £7.60 and the peak cap up to £10.30. Not only that, but the child Oyster card itself was free under the previous Mayor; Boris Johnson has introduced a £10 charge for it, meaning that each child’s card costs at least £15 as a passport photo is required. Johnson may boast about “free” travel for children on London’s buses and trams, but without the £10 child Oyster (a huge sum for parents on a low income) each child must pay the adult cash fare of £2.30.

As for the buses, the promised orbital routes never materialised and there are no Countdown screens at any of the bus stops I regularly use – I do not have a smartphone and I cannot afford to pay for the text message service every time I use a bus.

I have never, ever seen a PCSO, police officer or British Transport Police officer on bus, train or Tube when I travel home late at night, which I do at least twice a week.

Boris Johnson has increased bus fares by 50% since he became Mayor and the daily Oyster cap in outer London by 70% in just the last two years. As his Bullingdon buddy George Osborne takes us into a Double-Dip recession and the Mayor himself has refused to admit at several public hustings that his own election manifesto commits to annual fare hikes of RPI +2, use your vote wisely next week – Boris Johnson is the only Mayoral candidate committed to raising our sky-high fares even further.

The Journalist – Seumas Milne of the Guardian (4)

“The best that Johnson has been able to come up with as a flagship promise for the next four years is to reduce his share of Londoners’ council tax by 10%. But Livingstone is standing on what by any reckoning is an imaginative progressive platform that would have a significant impact on Londoners facing the biggest fall in living standards since the 1920s.

That includes a funded 7% cut in public transport fares (while Johnson promises to increase them), a nonprofit lettings agency to reduce rents and cut out estate agents, a restored educational maintenance allowance for 16 to 18 year-olds, childcare grants and loans and an energy co-op to cut gas and electricity bills through bulk buying.

If the focus of London’s election were actually on the bread-and-butter issues at stake, the outcome would hardly be in doubt – especially given the overlap between Labour, Green and even Liberal Democrat policies in a system of preference voting. But so far they have been drowned out by the personality circus.”

Ken Livingstone’s manifesto includes (5):

Use TfL surpluses to cut fares by 7% by October this year and freeze them throughout 2013

Reverse cuts to police numbers. Getting more police on the beat cuts crime and keeps police and residents in touch with each other

Reduce rents by establishing a non-profit London lettings agency to cut out estate agents’ profit. Build new homes built to take pressure off the housing market

Use San Francisco-style ‘smart parking’ to cut traffic circling for a space, coordinate roadworks and give more Londoners access to car clubs

Review all major junctions, trial a cyclists-only traffic light phase and redesign cycle superhighways for safety

Restore a London-wide educational maintenance allowance of up to £30 a week for 16-19 year olds. Work to extend the number of genuine apprenticeships

Support a vibrant banking and financial services sector, put money back in Londoners’ pockets and oppose restrictive practices on attracting skilled workers

A network of wild flower corridors to transform the verges of roads, footpaths, cycleways and railways into refuges for nature

Electric buses and support for the development of electric taxis. A London health commissioner to help tackle air pollution

Work with boroughs to use discretionary planning powers to protect the high street and local pubs


Help make Boris Johnston an Ex-Mayor on the 3rd May 2012. Vote for Ken Livingstone.

For more see Boris and Lynton Crossby’s spin against Ken backfires (6)

(1) http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/apr/20/mayoral-matters-power-policy?INTCMP=SRCH 

(2) http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/comment/comment/ive-worked-for-ken-and-boris–im-backing-ken-7684359.html

(3) http://www.sackboris2012.com/fares/270412-outer-london.html

(4) http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/24/elites-call-shots-in-political-game-show

(5) http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/interactive/2012/apr/27/london-mayor-candidate-chooser

(6) https://think-left.org/2012/04/15/boris-lynton-crosbys-spin-against-ken-backfires/

Boris and Lynton Crosby’s spin against Ken backfires!

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Australian election strategist, Lynton Crosby, who has been brought in as an advisor to the Boris campaign for London mayor, has a reputation for using the same sort of distraction ‘techniques’ as George W Bush’s legendary message-massager, Karl Rove.  It seems only too likely that the slant put on Ken Livingston’s tears stems from the Boris team, and that spin was only too readily picked up by the hostile media.

Another specious but equally destructive rumour has swiftly followed… that the Londoners speaking for Ken in his campaign video were all paid actors.

Now a further video has been produced in rebuttal to this allegation … and in my opinion it is even more effective than the original.  Three of the ‘actors’ in the campaign video describe themselves in their own words and explain why they wanted to appear in the video to back Ken. Perhaps, Ken should send Boris and Lynton a big bunch of flowers to say thank-you for facilitating such a heart-warming endorsement.

For comparison, here is the ‘Party Election Broadcast 2012 by Ken Livingstone’.  For more info http://www.kenlivingstone.com

Boris Johnson can’t distance himself from Cameron. He’s family.

  • Boris Johnson can’t distance himself from Cameron. He’s family.

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    You’ve got to hand it to Boris.

    So far, he’s very successfully managed to distance himself from this increasingly unpopular government so he can buck the anti-Tory trend in London and win a second term as Mayor.

    Well, you can’t blame him for wanting to distance himself from such an accident-prone Prime Minister but it’s a bit strange how he seems to have got away with it so well considering how close he actually is to David Cameron.

    Very close.

    For a start, Boris Johnson is David Cameron’s Cousin.

    He’s also his long term friend, from the time they were at Eton together, through their membership of the Bullingdon Club together at Oxford University right up to the time they both became Tory MPs together in 2001.

    So they’re very close friends, close colleagues – and even related by blood.

    Here’s what Boris himself said about David Cameron in 2009:

    Boris: my relationship with Cameron is superb

    Of course you may not think his closeness to Cameron is a good enough reason not to vote for him.

    After all, Boris is quite a likeable, affable funny guy, isn’t he?

    Fair enough.

    Mind you. He is prone to more than a bit of cronyism, isn’t he:

    Boris cronyism row could be headache for Cameron

    But, you know, all politicians are guilty of cronyism to a greater or a lesser degree, aren’t they?

    And Boris’s fondness for borrowing that offensive turn of phrase from Enoch Powell’s racist ‘rivers of blood’ speech was acceptable because he was only joking, wasn’t he:

    “wide-eyed grinning picaninnies”- Enoch Powell

    flag-waving picaninnies” – Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson

    Although his other ‘problems’ with race are a bit harder to excuse:

    Boris says sorry over ‘blacks have lower IQs’ article in the Spectator

    Boris aide’s book on sale in BNP gift shop

    But it’s feasible his comments on gay marriage and Section 28 don’t bother you all that much. After all, they were made a long time ago now, weren’t they:

    We don’t want our children being taught some rubbish about homosexual marriage being the same as normal marriage, I am more than happy to support Section 28

    – Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph, 2000

    But maybe you still think he’s likeable, even after all that.

    If you do, try reading this. It’s about one of Boris’s mates, the odious Brian Coleman, and he’s a good representation of the kind of offensive idiots the Mayor likes to surround himself with and employ in his administration:

    Help tell this £120K pa Tory pillock who told a desperate mother to live in the real world ….to live in the real world.

    And now tell me, after reading that article, do you still think Boris is an affable nice guy who deserves another term?

    If so – you’re probably a member of Boris’s family too.

    .

    This was originally posted on the blog Pride’s Purge.