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Politics, Reason and the Courage to Confront Dogma

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Why is it so difficult for politicians to change their minds? Why is a U-turn considered such a no- no for them?   Margaret Thatcher who embraced and rejoiced in the title "the iron lady"     famously remarked in 1980: "You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning"; proud in her inflexibility.

I prefer our politicians to have the humility of John Maynard Keynes who said: " When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir ?"   Why is stubbornness and dogma so admired in a politician?   It is not a trait conducive to the common good.  

The infuriating thing is that opinion-formers, all political parties, those on the left and right of politics, view a U-turn by a politician negatively.   Changing your mind as a result of persuasive argument or a change in the evidence or circumstances is a good thing; politicians who do that should be praised, not pilloried.  

Elevating dogma above reason is not admirable in a politician or anyone else.

The Health and Social Care bill being pushed through by the coalition government is a case in point.   Here is a bill opposed by almost all health professionals and the majority of the British public, yet the government turns a deaf ear.   The dogma "the market knows best" is trumping reason!

Then we have the 50p in the pound top tax rate on income above 150,000 pounds a year, widely predicted to be cut to 40p by the chancellor in his incoming budget.   Progressive taxation with those most able carrying a heavier load underscores the principles of fairness and justice that underpin society's resilience and cohesion. The emptiness of the cry "we are all in this together" is now plain to see.

Taxation is a necessary good for all civilized societies. One need only look at some developing countries where taxation is practically nonexistent to see the consequences of such a system:  the degraded environment, the rubbish in the streets, the disabled and sick poor and the homeless left to their fate.   A Darwinian survival of the fittest is applied to human beings.

I do not believe the British public wants to live in a society of obscene private wealth coexisting with public squalor. 

Selfishness and obscenely large salaries for the elite in society are presented by the right as self-reliance and reward for hard work. The argument that you too can make it has a simple appeal, but is unrealistic. The reality is that the UK's top 1% of society   own 21% of the wealth; in the case of the U.S. the top 1% own 34% of the wealth, with this gap getting ever wider on both sides of the Atlantic. 

People have woken up to the unfairness and destructiveness of uncontrolled market forces.

Progressives and the left need to have the confidence to confront dogmas that are presented by the right as self-evident; they need to articulate counter messages that resonate with ordinary people if they are serious about changing society and the politics that are impoverishing the quality of life of the majority in Europe and the U.S.

Come on Mr. Cameron, the Health and Social Care bill is bad; there are better ways to reform the NHS, listen to the health professionals.   Abandon the bill; it is a good U-turn that is also likely to improve your party's chances of re-election.


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Dr Adnan Al-Daini took early retirement in 2005 as a principal lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at a British University. His PhD in Mechanical Engineering is from Birmingham University, UK. He has published numerous applied scientific research (more...)
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