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Friday, June 20, 2008

The Top Ten Neo-Liberal Jokes

The neo-conservative and staunch anti-communist commentator Daniel Finkelstein has posted, on the Times comment central site, what he believes to be the 'Top Ten Communist Jokes', or rather the Top Ten Jokes about communism. In the interests of political balance, I thought I'd list my Top Ten Neo-Liberal Jokes.

1. Britain's privatised railway system (which leads to commuters who have spent thousands of pounds on hideously overpriced season tickets having to stand in toilets).
2. Britain's privatised utilities.
3. The works of Dr Milton Friedman.
4. The Adam Smith Institute (those bright sparks who gave us (1) above).
5. The EU's oh-so-popular Lisbon Treaty.
6. George Bush.
7. The 'trickle-down' theory.
8. The idea that privatisation is good for the taxpayer.
9. The Terminal 5 fiasco.
10.New Labour.

If you've got any neoliberal jokes of your own, please send them in!


Anonymous said...

I think Terminal 5 is instructive for a very different reason. Here was a highly complex engineering project brought in on time and on budget (a rare occurrence in the UK for either public or private projects). But because BA failed to prepare its staff properly, the opening was a disaster. What do we focus on: yes, the disaster. What depresses me most about my home country, now seen from abroad, is its tendency to focus on what does not work, and to moan about it incessantly, when in reality, we live in an exceptionally fortunate context, many problems not withstanding.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Neil. Neoliberalism in this country is beyond the joke!

Anonymous said...

The ridiculous salaries paid to those who work in 'financial services'?

Anonymous said...

What depresses me most about my home country, now seen from abroad, is its tendency to focus on what does not work, and to moan about it incessantly, when in reality, we live in an exceptionally fortunate context, many problems not withstanding.

Absolutely. And it was fascinating seeing the opprobrium heaped on Tom Harris MP for stating no more than the simple truth - which is that by any objective standard we are far better off now than we were during the last big recession of the 1990s, let alone the 1970s.

Part of the problem I have with Neil's rhetoric is that it's based on blatantly ignoring what's good about the present while bigging up the past to a truly bizarre extent to anyone who actually remembers, say, waiting for several months just to have a telephone installed (oh, the joy of nationalised industries!)

That said, Neil is a polemicist rather than a serious historian, so I should probably cut him some slack on those grounds.

Neil Clark said...

slapheads: I always enjoy your contributions even though they are always critical, but pray, why do you use the pseudonym 'slapheads anonymous' to post critical comments here, but the moniker ' 'michael' to post supportive and sometimes obsequious comments on the website of Oliver Kamm? (a little bird has informed me that that's what you've been up to).

re your 'serious historian' jibe, I'd never label myself a 'serious historian'- people who call themselves a 'serious' anything are extremely pompous in my book.

But I'd be interested in your definition of a 'serious historian'. Is it someone who wears brown corduroy trousers even on warm summer days, like Professor Niall Ferguson, who writes of Iranian nuclear weapons programme as if it is a matter of fact and who didn't know that elections took place in Serbia prior to 2000.

Or perhaps your idea of a 'serious historian' is Professor Timothy Garton-Ash, who wrote of Milosevic attacking Slovenia in 1991, even though Milosevic wasn't in charge of the Yugoslav Federation at the time. The Guardian had to print a correction to Garton-Ash's factually incorrect claim, something which they have never had to do after any of my articles.

Or perhaps your idea of a 'serious historian' is Andrew Roberts who believes that George Bush has bequeathed a ‘legacy of which to be proud’ and who, in the build up to war, famously likened the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq to that of Nazi Germany at its peak.

If these men are 'serious' historians I'm very pleased you don't count me among their number!

Best wishes,

ps you seem to think privatisation begins and ends with telephones. Why don't you mention railway privatisation, or the utilities or the wonderfully successful BAA transformation.

Anonymous said...

A helpful distinction might be that publically ownership (by their employees and/or the communities they serve preferably)should apply to those activites that supply an essential service (utilities including the generation of money or are natural monopolies) and those where competition can usefully applied (communication services for example).

As to 'serious historians', this a label that should apply to no one who writes op-ed pieces for newspapers, where 'history' is being used to comment on contemporary events. By all means, have serious historians argue for their view of past events that may aid policy makers & the general public form a view of the present but not as polemicists in newspapers, please!

Mr Funny Jokes said...

What a list.