Monday, 8 April 2013

Are people of low intelligence drawn to conservative ideologies and beliefs?

In January 2012,  a Canadian study was published in the journal 'Psychological Science', which stated that 'low intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies' that promote coherence and order. It was argued that children of low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults, because such things as open mindedness, flexibility and trust in other people, require 'certain cognitive abilities'.

This Canadian study was referred to by George Monbiot in his Guardian column the following month. While conceding that not all conservatives are stupid, he argues that conservative strategists on both sides of the Atlantic, have created a 'fantasy-based' ideology that appeals to the 'low-information' voter. He argues that the conservatives have built an alternative knowledge system that appeals to the basest and stupidest of impulses and have found that "it does them no harm in the polls." For example, climate change is dismissed as an "eco-fascist-communist-anarchist conspiracy" or the deficit is explained away has being caused by the greed of the poor. He also says: "conservative strategists have discovered that there is no pool so shallow that several million people won't drown it" and then quotes the former U.S Republican strategist Mike Lofgren, who said: "the crack-pot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital centre today."

One person who knows about the value of appealing to voters baser and stupidest impulses, is the Chancellor George Osborne. At times he makes Dr. Goebbels look positively decent. This Tory buffoon has stooped so low that he even tried to make political capital out of the deaths of the six, Philpott children, by linking their deaths to the issue of welfare reform, as did that vile and odious newspaper the Daily (Malice) Mail.

As Shadow Chancellor, Osborne was thought by many to have been out of his depth. Vince Cable said of him: "I never rated George's understanding of financial matters, but he is a political operator of some substance." Although Osborne's austerity plan has increased the financial deficit by 30% since the election, has pushed up unemployment, slashed the amount taken in tax, increased the benefits bill and seen the economy stagnate, his excuse for this collapse in growth, is to blame the previous Labour government, the euro-crisis, bad weather, Royal weddings and the British people for taking too many bank holidays. His economic plan has been described as "all shock and no therapy". Even the 'Spectator' magazine, announced a competition - a bottle of Pol Roger champagne to whoever could explain Osborne's growth strategy. Of the 27 EU Finance Ministers, Osborne was the only one to vote against a cap on bankers bonuses that would have set a limit of a year's salary on bonuses and double that if shareholders approved it. The proposal was supported by the European Central Bank and the E.U. Commission.

With the Cameron government there is misinformation on a massive scale. In his "every penny matters" speech given to a captive audience of supermarket staff at the Morrisons distribution centre near Sittingbourne in Kent, Osborne referred to people on benefits and asked whether it was right that some people should be receiving more than £26,000 a year in benefits. As usual, he omitted to mention that those people receiving anything like this amount, represented less than 1% of people on benefits who were living in high-cost temporary accommodation in London. On a previous occasion, he claimed that there were families taking £100,000 a year in housing benefit but omitted to mention that this applied to only five families in Britain. In 2011, government ministers also briefed that 1,360 people had been off work for a decade with diarrhoea when in fact, they had severe bowel disease and cancer. Similarly, of the 120,000 'persistently anti-social families' which were identified by the government, it emerged later that the figures were actually a measure of deprivation not behaviour.

Yet this campaign of vilification has successfully disguised the fall in living standards for millions of others through benefit cuts. Only one-in-eight who are on housing benefit, are not in work. Indeed, 93% of new housing benefit claims are from people who have a job. Far from targeting 'shirkers', the 3 year benefit and tax credit cap doesn't mainly target the unemployed. More than 60% of those who will lose out, are in work.

In January, the TUC published a survey that found that 41% of people surveyed believed that the entire welfare budget went to unemployed people, when in fact it is only 3%. Most if it, does in fact go on pensions. Despite having one of the least generous unemployment benefit systems in Europe, opinion polls suggest that many people think the government pays out too much in benefits. Far from soaring ahead of wages, unemployment benefit has fallen to 11% of average earnings compared to 22% in 1979. As the Guardian columnist Seamus Milne, wrote earlier this year:

"Central to the sharp increase in social security costs over the past generation have been rising joblessness and stagnating wages. Since 1980, unemployment has averaged more than three times the post-war rate, while the proportion of those in low-paid jobs has doubled to over 20%. Welfare has become a prop for the failure of neo-liberal capitalism to deliver jobs or decent wages."

Although two-faced Labour have criticised aspects of the governments welfare reform programme while in opposition, they laid the foundations for much of it, when they were in office. Labour also allowed the government to introduce retrospective legislation that prevented unemployed people who had been unlawfully sanctioned, from claiming the money back.

What government ministers are skilled at doing, along with the journalist hacks working for the Tory press, is diverting public anger that might be directed at the government, the bosses, the bankers and their bonuses, in order to get the 'plebs' to mobilise against their own interests. The Cameron government seek to turn the low-paid against the unemployed as they have done with private sector workers against public sector workers. They talk about the 'Big Society' while playing one group off against another. Their agenda is the billionaires agenda - less tax for the rich, less help for the poor, no cap on bankers bonuses, less regulation for business, less spending by the state. Despite having no mandate from the electorate or a proper majority, what this government aims to do, is to privatise what remains of public provision  and to hive it off to their big business friends whose incomes will be sustained by public contracts and captive markets - a kind of socialism for the rich and private enterprise for the rest of us. But what would you expect from the party that defends established privilege.

No comments: