In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

Our Green and Pleasant Dreamland

Ian Dunt suggests the Green Party is the only left-wing party left in the UK. (Edited: Christopher Thomond for The Guardian)

Ian Dunt suggests the Green Party is the only left-wing party left in the UK. (Edited: Christopher Thomond for The Guardian)

As the Green Party conference begins in Birmingham, Ian Dunt asks ‘Are the Green Party the only left-wing party left in the UK?’

The politics.co.uk editor advocates Caroline Lucas – the only Green MP – has been “vindicated” in the suggestion that “the Greens are only left-wing option available to British voters”. Mr Dunt says the “Labour response to the Greens makes them sound like Tories”. Each party propagates their own economic and social policies. A similarity of criticism does not imply a similarity of beliefs. It is a strange political taxonomy that does not place Labour, a European social democratic party, on the centre-left.

Even if Labour are excluded from being left-wing, there is still the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Respect, Socialist Labour, the Socialist Party, the Alliance for Green Socialism, the Communist Party of Britain, the Workers Revolutionary Party, the Socialist Workers Party, Left Unity, and many others.

A Salvo of Unreferenced Duds

After claiming without elaboration “the media has an in-built bias against left-wing parties”, Mr Dunt considers the Green’s “decent, economically literate, solidly left-wing ideas”. Mr Dunt launches a salvo of fact-bombs, but they are mostly unreferenced duds:

Osborne’s recovery is turning Britain into a part-time economy. Employment may be up, but the type of employment is dispiriting. The self-employed account for over 80% of the net rise in employment since 2008. Zero hours contracts abound. Earnings rise pitifully.

In the August 2014 Labour Market Statistics, the mean number of weekly hours per worker was 32.2, above the equivalent 2010 figure of 31.7. Self-employment has disproportionately risen, but the Office for National Statistics’ 2014 paper on self-employed workers found that there were 1.1 million more workers in 2014 than in the first quarter of 2008, of which 732,000 were self-employed. This is around 67%, not “over 80%”. The ONS Labour Force Survey estimate of workers on zero hours contracts was 622,000 people, or around 2% of the UK workforce: hardly “abound”. Average wages have ascended slowly. This is partially due to reductions in bonuses and lower levels of employment in the highly-paid financial services, both of which the Green Party have campaigned for.

Mr Dunt then cites the Card-Krueger study, as demonstrable proof of the Green’s economic literacy:

In fact, the international evidence does not support the idea that a minimum wage results in a loss of jobs.

In 1992, economists David Card and Alan Krueger gathered information on fast food employment in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The former had increased its minimum wage by 18.8% and most economists expected employment to fall, all other things being equal between the neighbouring states. In fact, employment in New Jersey restaurants grew slightly. The right has been unable to substantiate its insistence on an effect on employment since. Higher wages have a minimal or even non-existent impact on employment.

The original Card-Krueger study was based upon telephone surveys of fast-food restaurants, and their data had several anomalous results. A 1995 re-evaluation of the influential Card-Krueger study by David Neumark and William Wascher using actual payrolls found:

In contrast, estimates based on the payroll data suggest that the New Jersey minimum wage increase led to a 4.6 percent decrease in employment in New Jersey relative to the Pennsylvania control group.

The same authors also performed a meta-analysis of contemporary economic research into minimum wage increases, and concluded:

First, we see very few – if any – studies that provide convincing evidence of positive employment effects of minimum wages, especially from those studies that focus on the broader groups (rather than a narrow industry) for which the competitive model predicts disemployment effects. Second, the studies that focus on the least-skilled groups provide relatively overwhelming evidence of stronger disemployment effects for these groups.

In summary, Mr Dunt writes “in fact” before making factual inaccuracies.

The Oppression of Abaci

Mr Dunt congratulates the “daring” Green policy of a citizens’ basic income, which is only “daring” in its escape from the tyranny of arithmetic and the oppression of abaci. A Scottish Green’s leaflet on this policy suggested the amounts should be £50 a week for children, £100 a week for adults aged between 16 and 65, and £150 a week for current pensioners. Applying these figures to the 2011 census’ age distribution yields an annual government expenditure of around £326bn. To suggest this would replace the combined Department of Work and Pensions and HMRC budgets – which was £206.5bn in 2010-11 – is nonsensical. Even the removal of the personal allowance on earned income would still leave a substantial gap. Furthermore, this calculation assumes no inducement of lower production.

The Greens may have a positive outlook on immigration, but they are not the only left-wing party in Britain. As the economist Thomas Sowell says:

Often, in politics, it doesn’t matter what the facts are. What matters is how well you make your case to the voting public.

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This entry was posted on September 7, 2014 by in National Politics and tagged , , .
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