Climate chaos and market Maoism
From all of Vince Cable’s various leaked comments, one thing caught my eye. It wasn’t his willingness to resign from government, nor his openness with constituents. It was his description of the Government’s NHS reforms: “Maoist”.
It caught my eye because this is not the first time this word has been used. Andrew Rawnsley reports that more than one Tory minister has used the term to refer to their ideology.
They don’t mean that they support the mass murder of millions. Nor do they mean that they seek a revolution through the mobilisation of the agrarian proletariat. What they refer to is the mis-translated Maoist doctrine “let 1000 flowers bloom”. The over-riding governing ideology, we are told, is of creative chaos. Rather than central co-ordination, the government should be like a marketplace – buzzing with creative chaos.
This all sounds like it might be a nice idea.
But it has already been tried in some of our public services. The result? I am currently sat in a cafe next to Kings Cross. My train home for Christmas has been canceled. There may be another in 3 hours time. Maybe.
This sort of weather has always happened sometimes. But climate change will mean more and more chaos. Our privatised train services just don’t have the central coordinating capacity to deal with these problems at the same time as they are required to compete for my custom. There is no incentive to invest long term, and little drive to co-operate.
Perhaps when Tories talk of creative chaos, they mean that the chaos has forced me to miss my train, and so prompted me to write this blogpost? I think not.
In crises, you need some co-ordination. This can be delivered in lots of different ways – I’ve seen anarchists make quick decisions together when faced with police kettling. But it can’t be delivered through competition – which is why NGOs faced with emergencies formed the disasters emergency committee.
Market Maoism is a kooky governing philosophy at the best of times. But in an age of increasing climate chaos, it is grinding the country to a halt. Is this really the principle with which we want to run our NHS? Our fire service? Our police? I think not.
But it’s oddly appropriate isn’t it?
‘Cultural revolution’ always for me brings to mind those films of people in a tiny unpaved village trying to forge steel in soup pans. While the fields lay fallow and famine brewed.
That this is their model for British public services is hardly surprising: it’s an apt description for some of the more privatised ones already.
(ps I am now home safely)