Working in a university social science environment I find myself surrounded by those who take a leftist view of the world. One interesting trend amongst my colleagues of late has been to start to play down the economic challenges the UK faces.
The argument tends to take two forms. First, that the public finances are not really in such a mess – we have been in bigger deficit before (albeit only due to war) and so there is no need for any precipitate action to cut government expenditure. Second, there is the argument that the public services are vital and too important to cut. The presumption here, of course, is that the deficit is worth bearing because of all the “good work” government does.
The reason that these views can be sustained is that many on the left view any particular set of political and economic arrangements as contingent. There is no necessary reason for any particular configuration, which can be changed merely by the sufficient political will that rids us of the dominant ideology that clouds the truth. According to the left, the attitude towards the public deficit is purely ideological rather than being of any real substance. What is needed, they would argue, is to see the world differently, and all our problems will magically disappear. To use the jargon, the prevailing view of the economy is merely a “social construction” that can be challenged by a more enlightened awareness of our predicament.
These views towards the deficit can be seen as something of a rehearsal for what will happen if the Conservatives win the next election. The cry from the left will go up against what will be termed savage and unnecessary cuts, and the impact on “vital” public services will be emphasised without any regard for why the government is being forced to act.