Monday, November 18, 2013

The "I don't understand you - so you're stupid fallacy


The "I don't understand you - so you must be stupid" fallacy is one of my absolute favourite bits of faulty reasoning. To be perfectly honest it is not technically a right-wing fallacy because it could conceivably be used by very stupid people of any political persuasion - however in my experience, I've only ever seen it used by those poor people suffering under the delusion that their haphazard collection of simplistic right-wing tabloidisms represent some kind of profound understanding of politics and the economy.

The user

The kind of person that uses the "I don't understand you - so you must be stupid" fallacy is the type of person that thinks that just because they are in possession of a collection of simplistic idioms, slogans and assumptions to explain away any given political phenomenon, this makes them an expert authority figure when it comes to political debate.

There are many problems with this mindset, not least the fact that anyone that has ever pursued genuine knowledge is familiar with: the more you learn, the more you realise you don't know. This problem was brilliantly summed up by Bertrand Russell who said "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."


Fools and fanatics allow themselves to believe that they are experts because they have a collection of very simple answers to support their worldview, whilst thinking people realise that the elevation of particular views to the status of "absolutely beyond doubt" is an impediment to the pursuit of genuine understanding.

A major problem for the tabloid thinker is that many of the idioms, assumptions and slogans they use to create their comfortable illusion of political expertise are mutually contradictory. 


For thinking people, the acceptance of two mutually contradictory views results in irritating bouts of cognitive dissonance until we can resolve the situation by rejecting or redefining one of them. The tabloid thinker is often almost completely immune to cognitive dissonance because they don't have a holistic worldview. 

One minute they can berate the unemployed as "idle scroungers", then the next spout some spurious justification narrative to defend the idle lifestyles of hereditary wealth. They can do this because they are unwilling to consider the idea that it is somewhat contradictory to generalise about the poor and castigate them for being idle, yet defend the rentier class despite the overwhelming evidence that their wealth allows them the freedom to be as idle as they like. 

The tabloid thinker is comfortable holding mutually exclusive explanations because they just don't do "joined up thinking"

Being a pub bore
The first time I remember noting the
"I don't understand you - so you must be stupid" fallacy was in a pub a few years ago. Now I admit that I was being a bit of a pub bore by talking about politics (one of the three forbidden pub subjects - politics, business and religion) but in mitigation this was a quite special pub, where the barman would play me at chess for free drinks* and intellectual conversation was not strictly forbidden.

Anyhow - I got talking to a bloke about the unrepresentative nature of politics. The thing I was trying to explain was that the average politician doesn't actually work for us, they work for their donors. The politician knows that they get their parliamentary pay whether they bother to represent their constituents or not - therefore it serves their self-interest to use their political power and their political connections to serve the interests of corporations and the wealthy minority in order to further enrich themselves with kickbacks, rather than devoting their time to serving the interests of their constituents (as they are supposed to). Thus politicians have a strong financial incentive to forget about the best interests of their constituents, and instead serve the interests of corporations and the wealthy in return for political donations, corporate junkets, ludicrously overpaid advisory positions,
corporate directorships, speaking fees and countless other forms of kickback.

The guy I was talking to was absolutely insistent that I was wrong. He maintained that we pay their wages so they must work for us. I tried explaining my point in several different ways, using numerous examples, however there was no convincing him. He soon became agitated and angrily declared that he couldn't understand what on earth I was going on about, therefore I must be stupid. Normally I would have argued the point, but the guy was as burly as he was drunk, so I decided to drop the "conversation" and challenge the barman to another game of chess instead.


Arguing with trolls

The encounter in the pub happened a while before I'd established Another Angry Voice, so for quite a while I remembered it as an probably the stupidest bit of "reasoning" I'd ever encountered. However, as the AAV Facebook page began growing in popularity and my exposure to cognitively illiterate right-wing ranters increased exponentially, I began to see ever more pitiful attempts at right-wing "logic" including numerous invocations of the "I don't understand you - so you must be stupid" fallacy.

One particularly impressive example occurred after I rebuked someone for a truly feeble attempt to claim that New Labour was a left-wing project. He said that the privatisation of the HMRC property portfolio into the hands of a company based in Bermuda for the purposes of avoiding tax was a left-wing policy, because it had happened under a Labour government.

My response was to question his assumption that everything that a Labour government does is by definition left-wing, even the extraordinarily right-wing policy of privatising the HMRC property portfolio. I mean what warped definition of "socialism" must an individual be using if it includes privatisation of public property into the hands of tax-dodgers?**

As part of this response I stated that New Labour had abandoned socialism in order to embrace the "right-wing psuedo-economic ideology of neoliberalism". The comeback to this was that it was nothing more than "a load of meaningless buzzwords" and that I was stupid.

The problem of course is that all of those words do have meanings. Even if you don't know the meanings of any particular word, it isn't difficult to go and look it up. Apologies to those that are arleady familiar with all of these words, but I'm going to briefly define each of them to demonstrate that they are not "meaningless buzzwords".

Right-wing : An outlook or specific position that accepts or supports social hierarchy or social inequality as inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable.

Pseudo-economic ideology : The prefix pseudo- is used to mark something as false, fraudulent, or pretending to be something it is not. Thus something that is described as a pseudo-economic ideology is something that purports to be an economic discipline, but is in fact an ideological agenda.

Neoliberalism : A word that is used to describe the economic orthodoxy of the late 20th / early 21st Century, which is built upon a foundation of neoclassical economics and pushes right-wing economic objectives (privatisation, tax cuts for corporations and the super-rich, attacks on labour rights and the right to protest, financial sector deregulations, abandonment of capital controls, centralisation of executive power, abandonment of monetary autonomy ...). Here's my article on the meaning of neoliberalism.

The moral to this story is this: If you don't understand all of the words, the person that uttered them is probably not the stupid one in the conversation.

Tips

I imagine that anyone that has managed to read this far without abandoning the article as "stupid" because it is full of "meaningless buzzwords" such as "cognitive dissonance", "mutually exclusive", "holism" and "neoliberalism" isn't actually in need of any tips for avoiding the "I don't understand you - so you must be stupid" fallacy, but I'll provide some just in case.

If you find yourself reading something that you don't fully understand, there are two possibilities. Either you're not getting it because you're missing some information or vocabulary
or it is actually incomprehensible gibberish.
 
It is fairly easy to identify incomprehensible gibberish, because it is usually presented in appalling grammar. However, Noam Chomsky demonstrated that it is possible to construct grammatically correct sentences with no actual meaning. The famous example he provided was "colourless green ideas sleep furiously". It is fairly easy to spot that this kind of construct is meaningless because of the glaring incompatibility of the words ("colourless" and "green" are mutually exclusive, it's not a great strategy to personify abstract concepts and "furiously" is hardly an appropriate adverb to describe sleep).

If the thing you are struggling to understand is written in acceptable grammar and is not filled with glaringly incompatible words, then it is likely that you need to look up some of the constituent words in a dictionary. Looking up the meaning of a new word is hardly an admission of ignorance, given that there are well over a million words in the English language
and the test your vocab data suggests that the average native English speaker knows some thing like 20,000 - 35,000 of them (between 2% and 3.5% of the total).

Whatever the case, it is probably better to avoid going around calling people "stupid" whether you understood what they said or not. If you have looked up any unfamiliar words and had a good think about what it means and you still don't understand, the best course of action is probably to ask politely for a rephrased explanation, not to resort to insults.

Conclusion

The "I don't understand you - so you must be stupid" fallacy is one of my absolute favourites for two main reasons. Firstly because it takes such an astonishing lack of self-awareness for the user to conclude that because they can't understand the argument, the utterer of the argument must be the stupid one; and secondly because it is such a remarkably daft stance that it actually quite rare (as compared to other much more common fallacies such as the inefficient state fallacy, the "Hitler was a socialist" fallacy*** or the "Waah you're censoring me" fallacy) so it is quite a privilege if you ever have it wielded at you.


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* Being quite good at chess I became somewhat of a regular there!

** Anyone who is even vaguely politically literate knows that one of the core socialist principles is the commitment to social ownership, which is completely incompatible with selling off public property to a Bermuda based tax-dodging operation.

*** The ludicrous "Hitler was a leftie" fallacy is one of the next articles to write in my political myth busting series.


 Click here to read more articles in the Political Myth Busting series 



More articles from
 ANOTHER ANGRY VOICE 

The economic case against tax-dodging
              
What is ... Wage Repression?
    
  What is ... a justification narrative?
    
What is ... Confirmation Bias?
                   
The "Waaah you're censoring me fallacy"
        
                     
The "making Work Pay" fallacy
         
What is ... Marginal Propensity to Consume?
                                          
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George Osborne: Liar or tax-dodger

Regular readers will know that I am not a fan of Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. 

I believe that Osborne is an economic extremist, and that his ideological austerity experiment has seriously damaged the UK economy. 

I am not alone in believing that Osborne is an economic illiterate following a defunct and economically destructive set of economic theories that he doesn't even understand. Even his own Office For Budget Responsibility Recklessness now admit that Osborne's austerity experiment is entirely responsible for the appalling stagnation of the UK economy.

Not only is George Osborne an economic illiterate pursuing an extremely destructive ideological agenda, he is also dishonest. One example of his dishonesty can be seen in the difference between his public pronouncements on tax-dodging, and his actions.


Osborne has repeatedly claimed that he is tough on tax-dodging (tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance), activities he has described as "morally repugnant", however his actual policies belie a completely different agenda. In January 2013 he opened up a new set of tax loopholes to allow UK based companies to avoid paying their taxes in 3rd World countries by siphoning their profits into tax havens. Also let's not forget that the Tory party is bankrolled by donations from numerous tax-dodgers.

When it comes to George Osborne's own tax affairs we come across another demonstration of his dishonesty.

When Osborne announced that he was going to give an average £100,000 a year tax break to the 13,000 income millionaires in the UK by cutting the tap rate of income tax from 50p to 45p, he repeatedly insisted that he was not wealthy enough to personally benefit from this tax cut.

In March 2012 he insisted that he would not benefit from his own tax break because he does not earn more than the £150,000 threshold. Here's what he told the BBC:

"My salary is less than the £150,000 threshold... so I am not personally affected."
It is true that his ministerial salary is lower than the £150,00 income tax threshold, but this would only be a valid point if that was his only source of income, which it isn't.

At the time he made this statement it was pointed out by many that he had other sources of income including the rental income from the Osborne family home in Notting Hill and returns on his 15% stake in the family wallpaper business.

In November 2013 the rental income from the Osborne family home was revealed as £127,400 per year, which works out at over ten thousand pounds per month!

This means that either George Osborne is lying, and he is "personally affected" by the cut in the top rate of income tax because his annual income is above £150,000, or he's figured out some way of avoiding taxation on this substantial rental income.

Whichever is the case, it doesn't look good for Gideon Osborne. He's either been lying about not being personally affected by his own tax cut for the super wealthy, or he is using creative accounting in order to avoid a phenomenal amount of tax, which in his own words is a "morally repugnant" thing to do.


 Another Angry Voice  is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only source of revenue for  Another Angry Voice  is the  PayPal  donations box (which can be found in the right hand column, fairly near the top of the page). If you could afford to make a donation to help keep this site going, it would be massively appreciated.
 

More articles from
 ANOTHER ANGRY VOICE 
    
George Osborne's economic extremism
    

The Office for Budget Recklessness
           
Workfare, neoclassical economics and tabloid mindsets
          
George Osborne's 3rd World tax loophole
              
The economic case against tax-dodging
               
The myth of right-wing patriotism
           
The Tory "War on Justice"
        
  
    
                                            

Friday, November 15, 2013

Open government - you're having a laugh

In the buildup to the 2010 General Election David Cameron and the Tories made numerous pledges that they would lead the most open and transparent government ever. When they came to power thanks to the backing of the Liberal Democrats, they reiterated this pledge in the Coalition Agreement.

Here are a few quotes:

"We need to harness the internet to help us become more accountable, more transparent and more accessible - and so bridge the gap between government and governed. The democratization of access to information...is eroding traditional power and informational imbalances." - George Osborne March 2007 [source for quote]
"The Government believes that we need to throw open the doors of public bodies, to enable the public to hold politicians and public bodies to account."
(Coalition Agreement p20, 2010)


"Information is power. It lets people hold the powerful to account, giving them the tools they need to take on politicians and bureaucrats. It gives people new choices and chances, allowing them to make informed judgments about their future." - David Cameron - "We are creating a new era of transparency" June 2011
There are many indicators that this 'open and transparent government' agenda is nothing more than a hollow propaganda narrative. Here are just a few of them.

The Royal Family
[Main article  - Do the Royals really make us richer?]

After using a spurious justification in order to dismiss a Freedom of Information request into how members of the royal family had been using secretive powers of veto to interfere with government legislation, the Tories decided to do away with the problem once and for all in January 2011 by exempting the royal family and their staff from Freedom of Information legislation, even if the information happens to be in the public interest.

This was the reaction of Ian Davidson (a former member of the Public Accounts Committee):
"I'm astonished that the Tory led Government should find time to seek to cover up royal finances. When I was on the PAC, what we wanted was more disclosure not less ... Every time we examined royal finances we found extravagance and indulgence as well as abuse of expenses by junior royals ... Everywhere we looked, there were savings to be made for the Government. This sends the wrong message about public disclosure and accountability."
Workfare
[Main article - Letter to the Information Commissioner]

One of the longest running campaigns in the Tory "war on accountability" is their refusal to comply with numerous Freedom of Information demands that they release information on which companies are involved in their economically illiterate mandatory unpaid "Workfare" schemes. The astonishing justification for this refusal to comply with their statutory obligation to release the information is that disclosure of the involved companies would lead to a public backlash against them, causing them to abandon their involvement with Workfare and resulting in the collapse of these Tory unpaid labour schemes.

The quite extraordinary argument against disclosure is that if the public knew the truth, the Tories wouldn't be able to continue what they are doing.

Is this, "we can't reveal what we're doing, otherwise we wouldn't be able to continue doing it" argument in any way compatible with Tory claims that they want to democratise information and make government more transparent?


Secret Courts
[Main article - Secret Courts and the very Illiberal Democrats]

In march 2013 the coalition government passed legislation to introduce secret courts, a move which provoked international condemnation from human rights groups across the globe.

For those of you that are not familiar with this legislation -
As it now stands, defendants (or claimants in civil cases) can be excluded from the hearings where their fates are decided; they will not be allowed to know what the case against them is; they will not be allowed to enter the courtroom; they will not be allowed to know or challenge the details of the case; and they will not be allowed representation from their own lawyer, their own lawyer will not be allowed to know the case or evidence against them, nor enter the courtroom - but they will instead be represented (in their absence) by a security-cleared government appointed 'special advocate'.
In order to introduce this totalitarian legislation in the way they intended it, the coalition had to carefully unpick several amendments added to the bill in the House of Lords, and then they had to vote down an amendment tabled by Caroline Lucas of the Green party to put an obligation on judges to at least consider "public interest in the fair and open administration of justice" before launching any secret court proceedings.


Does it seem like the action of a government with a commitment to openness and transparency to vote down an amendment to ensure that secret courts can only be used on the condition that judges first consider public interest in the fair and open administration of justice?

Raped by the state


One of the reasons for the introduction of repressive secret court legislation is that the government and the police are absolutely desperate that outrageous cases like the Mark Kennedy agent provocateur affair (the policeman that infiltrated an environmental movement, acted as an agent provocateur and formed sexual relationships with several women) and the Bob Lambert case (a policeman that stole the identity of a dead child to infiltrate an animal rights group, is accused of participating in a terrorist bomb attack, fathered a child with an activist and then abandoned them completely - paying no child support at all - when his deployment came to an end in 1989) being heard in open court.

In my view the public, and especially the women that bore children to these agent provocateurs have a right to know exactly who authorised these operations, who in government know about them, whether such operations still continue and what is going to be done to punish those responsible for these crimes. However, the public, and the victims of this state orchestrated abuse not get to find out because the decision has been made that such cases will be heard in secret tribunals.

Some commitment to transparency eh?


"Nothing to hide, nothing to fear"
[Main article - David Cameron's witch hunt against truth and openness]

In June 2013 the Foreign Secretary William Hague used the Orwellian "nothing to Hide - Nothing to Fear" argument in a desperate attempt to defend the anti-democratic mass surveillance operations of the state. Here's precisely what he said:

"If you are a law abiding citizen of this country going about your business and your personal life, you have nothing to fear—nothing to fear about the British state or intelligence agencies listening to the contents of your phone calls or anything like that." [Video clip]
 Over the following months the Edward Snowden leaks have revealed numerous things that demonstrate that not only was William Hague guilty of misappropriating an Orwellian argument, but that he was also being dishonest too. here are some of the revelations:
  • The UK secret services routinely steal millions of private communications and store them on a vast database.
  • The UK secret services allow the United States secret services access to this stolen information.
  • Hundreds of thousands of private sector contractors in the US also have access to this stolen information.
  • Many of the data stealing projects operated by the UK secret services were instigated without parliamentary approval, or parliamentary oversight. No bills were passed to authorise such schemes, and the Joint Intelligence Committee (the ones that are supposed to "watch the watchmen") were kept completely in the dark about the existence of several enormous data stealing operations.
  • Several members of the intelligence services gave unreliable, and in some cases, downright misleading evidence to the Joint Intelligence Committee.
  • GCHQ spied on numerous foreign politicians, who were clearly just "law abiding citizens" [of other countries] going about their business, but the UK surveillance state decided to use their anti-terrorism powers to steal their private data. If they are prepared to risk international condemnation by stealing the data of foreign leaders, what makes you think they would think twice about hacking into your emails, Facebook account or Skype conversations.
Even if all of these revelations are not enough to demonstrate that Hague's "nothing to hide - nothing to fear" argument is hopeless, then a simple appeal to "Tory logic" is enough to utterly destroy it.

The Tories are always desperate to tell us that the state is inherently inefficient in order to justify their ideological privatisation agenda - but to claim that we have nothing to fear is to imply that there is absolutely no incompetence and absolutely no corruption in the secret services, and that the secret services have a perfect system of oversight!

Either the state is inherently inefficient or the state is perfect. It simply can't be both.

In my view the opportunities for corruption and incompetence are stunningly obvious given that the Joint Intelligence Committee (who are supposed to be the ones that provide oversight) were kept completely in the dark about the existence of entire data stealing programmes.

In my view, Hague's misappropriated Orwellian "nothing to hide - nothing to fear" argument can easily be reversed and aimed at the intelligence community. If they have nothing to hide, they why on earth did they fear admitting the existence of entire data stealing operations to the Joint Intelligence Committee?

How have David Cameron and the Tories reacted to these shocking revelations? They've started a witch hunt against the newspaper that revealed the information of course. They're not bothered about the bypassing of parliament by the secret services in order to conduct unlawful data stealing operations, they're too busy trying to shoot the messenger!


Censoring the internet
[Main articles - A serious look at David Cameron's Internet Firewall & A satirical look at David Cameron's Internet Firewall]

In July 2013 David Cameron announced plans to roll out mass censorship of the Internet. He used the "Moral Trojan Horse"of protecting children from pornography to champion a Internet Firewall system which is run by a gigantic Chinese corporation (Huawei) in order to filter traffic for TalkTalk.

Cameron wants all Internet Service Providers to install similar Firewalls to all inteernet connections in the UK. It is important to note that the Chinese operated Firewall system David Cameron has been championing doesn't just filter out pornographic material, it also filters several other categories too, which include "games", "social networking", "dating", "drugs and alcohol" and "suicide and self-harm". It has been suggested that Cameron's firewall will also be used to block content that is described as "Extremist", "Esoteric" and "web forums".

It is absolutely clear that this is an effort to control the internet with a "net nanny" for every home. It is worth noting that Another Angry Voice is routinely blocked by "net nanny" software. If Cameron's Internet Firewall is rolled out, you'll either have to put yourself on a list of non-conformists by opting out of most of the filters, or you'll have to do without sites like mine, what is exactly what the Tories want. To them the Internet is way too open and free, they want to return to the days when the majority of the public got their news drip-fed to them by the corporate media, and the best way to achieve that is to censor the internet to ensure that the public never actually get to visit independent sites like my own.


Hiding the evidence 

In November 2013 Computer Weekly revealed that the Tory party have conducted a purge of their website in order to erase from history records of all of their speeches for before the 2010 election. The reason for such a purge seems to be quite obvious, they don't want people pointing out the lies they told before the 2010 General Election because they don't want people like me digging up embarrassing stuff to illustrate their dishonesty/hypocrisy - in the way that I did with the Lib-Dem energy minister Ed Davey last month.

The Tories claim that this purge of their website was just a "tidy up", but that interpretation is blown out of the water by the fact that they also introduced a special bit of code to ensure that the speeches are also erased from the Internet Archive. If this mass deletion of information was just a houskeeping exercise as the Tories would like us to believe, one is left wondering why they went to such efforts to ensure that the records of these speeches were also erased from the Internet Archive too.

It is quite remarkable that a party that bragged on and on about their commitment to open government and claimed that the Internet is a great tool for holding politicians to account, have gone to such lengths to erase their speeches (not only from their own website, but from the Internet Archive too) in order to prevent the public from holding them to account for their lies, misrepresentations and broken promises.


Conclusion

Given the wealth of evidence I've presented, it is absolutely clear that the Tory claims that they are creating a "new era of transparency" are just more Tory lies. That Tory politicians would spout entirely misleading propaganda narratives is hardly an earth shattering conclusion (if you haven't learned to distrust Tory politicians by now, you really are utterly beyond hope), so I'll add something else too.

The fact that the Tory propaganda narrative that they are creating an open and accountable government is totally contradicted by their actions (Secret Courts, their plans to censor the internet, their contempt for Freedom of Information rulings and their attempts to hide their lies by purging their own website and deliberately blocking the Internet Archive ...) yet there are still plenty of Tories queuing up to defend them, illustrates the astonishing levels of cognitive dissonance that tribalist Tories are able to tolerate. The tribalist Tory is so infatuated with the party that they render themselves completely incapable of spotting even the most blatant mutual contradictions in what the Tory party say and do.

There isn't the slightest chance that we will ever be able to convince these people (they are as immune to our facts, evidence and logical consistency as we are to their rhetoric, assumptions and outright lies) which means that our only hope is that we can outnumber them.


 Another Angry Voice  is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only source of revenue for  Another Angry Voice  is the  PayPal  donations box (which can be found in the right hand column, fairly near the top of the page). If you could afford to make a donation to help keep this site going, it would be massively appreciated.
 

           
The Tory "War on Justice"
        
  
    
                                            

Thursday, November 14, 2013

12 Things you should know about David Cameron's austerity to infinity speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet


On 11 November 2013 David Cameron gave another ludicrous speech which demonstrated  how desperately out of touch with reality he is.

There was plenty of the same tired Tory rhetoric we've heard so many times before. Especially incitement of the public with scare stories of how scroungers, immigrants and the Labour party are to blame for the state of the economy, so that they are distracted from blaming the wealthy establishment minority, who are clearly the real culprits. I haven't got time to analyse all of the guff he came out with, so I'll just stick to a few of the most egregious bits of nonsense.

The golden lectern

The most glaringly obvious demonstration that Cameron's brain has been addled by the bubble of wealth and privilege he inhabits is the fact that he decided to announce that he plans for the UK public to suffer permanent austerity, whilst reading his speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet from a gold encrusted lectern.

The evidence is absolutely clear: Tory austerity is for the poor and ordinary, whilst the rich have used this economic crisis to make themselves richer than ever. Corporations and the super-rich get tax cuts, ludicrous pay hikes and state subsidies, whilst the rest of us suffer wage repression, cuts and loss of services.

That Cameron appealed for this economic apartheid to continue forever, whilst reading from a golden lectern and surrounded by many other golden objects was an appalling error of judgement (one wonders whether he consulted Lynton Crosby about the tone and setting of this speech beforehand) but the contents of his speech were just as dire.

The budget deficit

Cameron used his speech to outline his vision that once the budget deficit is eliminated, austerity should be made permanent. The big problem here is that there are absolutely no signs that adherence to George Osborne's extremist ideological austerity experiment will ever actually get rid of the budget deficit.

Surely Cameron hasn't forgotten that the Tories came to power on the back of their plans to eliminate the budget deficit in a single parliament. They claimed they would eliminate the budget deficit by May 2015, but there isn't a hope in hell that they can achieve that now. Even the ludicrously over-optimistic economic forecasts of the Office for Budget Responsibility Recklessness now put the balanced budget date at around 2020. The best that David Cameron can offer is the tired old line "we have cut the deficit by a third". This doesn't mean they've reduced the debt (as Cameron has dishonestly implied before), but that they have slightly reduced the rate at which money is being borrowed.

The fact is that the deficit was slightly reduced in the first couple of years of Tory rule* but since then it hasn't budged, in fact, the OBR now admit that the deficit is actually growing again (not that David Cameron or George Osborne would ever admit as much).


More NHS lies

David Cameron has a proven track record of lying about the NHS. Who could forget "We'll cut the budget deficit, not the NHS", "no more top down reorganisations of the NHS" or "the NHS is safe in our hands"? All three of these pre-election statements have been shown up as lies. NHS funding has been cut by £20 billion; within months of gaining power the Tories launched the biggest top-down reorganisation in the entire history of the NHS; and the NHS has been carved wide open for privatisation.

Cameron used this speech to continue his campaign of NHS lies with an absolute corker. He claimed that the NHS now has "shorter waiting times". In August 2013 it was announced that the number of people on NHS waiting lists has grown to the highest level in five years; in September 2013 it was announced that Accident and Emergency waiting times had reached their highest level since 2003-04, in and in the week before David Cameron's speech it was revealed that some NHS facilities stand accused of putting the lives of cancer patients at risk by falsifying waiting time data.

Anyone with the slightest familiarity with the NHS knows that things have got a lot worse under the Tories programme of privatisations, top down reforms and cuts. When the Tories came to power in 2010 public satisfaction with the NHS was at an all-time high, but within just two years of Tory rule, public satisfaction plummeted to an all time low.

Justice

At one point Cameron Brags about the strengths that are "absolutely key" to the success of the UK economy. Aside from the traditional neoliberal fare (our "property rights" and our "access to markets") one of the other things he cites is "equality before the law" - something the Tories have been deliberately undermining since they returned to power in 2010. From their sustained attacks on legal aid to their decision that poor defendants will no longer be allowed to chose their own legal representatives; from the introduction of secret courts that have been condemned by human rights groups across the world to Iain Duncan Smith's decision to retroactively rewrite the law to avoid compensating the victims of his unlawful labour party approved Workfare schemes, it is absolutely obvious that the Tories have utter contempt for the concept of equality before the law.

Skills

David Cameron lamented the fact that "at the moment, the UK has the lowest ratio in Europe for women in STEM subjects and in engineering, less than 1 in 6 graduates are women" however a look at Tory higher education policy reveals that the Tories have tripled tuition fees for young women wanting to study such subjects, meaning that they will have to accrue the largest debts anywhere in the world to study these subjects at public universities, and face a lifetime "aspiration tax" of 9% of their income to pay for it.

What makes these enormous fees even worse is that scientists and engineers are paid significantly more in other countries where tuition fees are significantly lower. Take engineering as an example. The average engineer in Germany or France takes home significantly higher wages than their UK counterparts, yet they have to pay much lower fees to obtain the necessary qualifications.

Given the huge cost of tuition fees in the UK, it would be in the rational self-interest of any British youngster with an interest in engineering to devote some of their time to improving their French or German with a view to studying abroad (where it is cheaper) and working abroad (where the pay is better). This incentive to leave the UK doesn't just apply in engineering, it applies across all kinds of fields.

What the Tories have actually done is to provide a massive financial incentive for the smartest youngsters to quit the UK altogether in search of lower tuition fees and better employment opportunities abroad. Only the ones dumb enough to pay £9,000 a year for something they could get for a tiny fraction of the price elsewhere in Europe are likely to remain.


Rebuilding the economy

One of the most pitiful sections of Cameron's speech addressed the economic recovery:
"We can’t simply try and rebuild the same type of economy that we had before the crash. We can’t just go back to how things used to be. We need to build something better. A vision of a new kind of economy where the benefits of growth are shared by all"
There is so much wrong with this I could fill a whole article with criticism.

1. "
We can’t simply try and rebuild the same type of economy that we had before the crash" - but this is precisely what the Tories have been doing: banks that should have been left to die have been kept alive with bailouts and quantitative easing; financial sector reform has been booted into the long grass; adherents of the neoclassical pseudo-economic gibberish that created the crisis still dominate the financial sector, the regulatory authorities, government, the media and academia; bankers bonuses have risen way above pre-crisis levels, tax-dodging is still rife; and not least, George Osborne is busy inflating another housing Ponzi bubble with his ridiculous "Help to Buy" schemes. It is absolutely clear that the establishment minority have learned absolutely nothing from the economic crisis and they're determined to return to business as usual for them, whilst extracting the cost of their failures from the rest of us via ideological austerity.

2. "
We can’t just go back to how things used to be" - We certainly shouldn't have gone back to the way things used to be, but that is precisely what has been happening, with the only difference being that the establishment minority are determined to use the crisis in order to ensure that they get a bigger slice of the cake than before, whilst the rest of us must subsist on crumbs.

3. "
We need to build something better" -  but they're building something even worse!

4. "
A vision of a new kind of economy where the benefits of growth are shared by all" -  A vision which is completely at odds with the true Conservative agenda, which is a massive widening of the poverty gap and a sustained assault on the concept of social mobility. It is impossible to see how this "vision" is even remotely compatible with the fact that it is Tory party policy to impose harsh below-inflation pay raises on the entire public sector, apart from MPs, who look set to bag an inflation busting 11% pay raise for themselves. How about the fact that this Tory government has overseen the longest prolonged period of wage repression since the 19th Century, whilst giving vast tax cuts to corporations and the super-wealthy minority, allowing the corporate executive class to enrich themselves with unprecedented wage rises.

The fact is, that like so much of what comes out of David Cameron's gob, this vision of a fairer economy is an utterly dishonest representation of what he actually believes. Lying about his "vision" for Britain is contemptible stuff, I'd have more respect for him if he showed a bit of honesty and actually admitted that the real Tory agenda is to enrich the wealthy minority at the expense of the majority - but expecting an honest statement of intentions for a Tory would take similar levels of gullibility as naively accepting David Cameron's word that he wants a fairer Britain "where the benefits of growth are shared by all" when his actions demonstrate that he believes in precisely the opposite.

  Welfare

As we have come to expect from any Tory speech, Cameron engaged in a bout of welfare bashing; the tired tactic of trying to divert blame away from the financial sector and towards the poorest people in society.

One of the most ludicrous assertions he made was that "through universal credit, we’re ensuring that for every extra hour you work and every extra job you do – you should always be better off". Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown that Universal Credit will have precisely the opposite effect for many people - that under Iain Duncan Smith's botched flagship welfare reform, many people will be made poorer for every extra hour of work that they do. Some of the examples of how universal credit will penalise hard work can be seen here.

Taxation
"At a time when family budgets are tight, it is really worth remembering that [social] spending comes out of the pockets of the same taxpayers whose living standards we want to see improve."
On the face of it this seems like ludicrous nonsense because the savings that are being made through cuts to social spending are not being used to cut the taxes of ordinary families, but on closer inspection it does make some sense. Cameron doesn't specifically state who these taxpayers whose living standards we want to see improve" actually are, he's just hoping that people assume that it refers to the families mentioned at the beginning of the sentence. The demographic that the Tory party is determined to improve living standards for is clearly not hard working families (you don't improve living standards for them through a campaign of wage repression, VAT hikes and cuts to in-work benefits), it is the wealthy minority Cameron is referring to. If you read it in the right way, this statement can be seen as an admission that Cameron and the Tories are determined to cut social spending in order to further improve the living standards of the rich.

It is also worth noting that Cameron made absolutely no mention of tax-dodging in his speech. If Corporations and the super-rich were made to pay their fair share of tax, then most of these drastic cuts in social spending could easily be avoided. The problem for Cameron of course is that many of the biggest financial donors to the Tory party are serial tax-dodgers. It serves Cameron's political self-interest to allow this plague of economically destructive tax-dodging to continue unchecked, as long as the beneficiaries fling a small portion of their ill-gotten gains into the coffers of the Tory party.


Immigration

In one breath David Cameron blamed immigrants for the state of the economy and the changes in society (in an transparent attempt to appeal to UKIP voters), and in the the next he was bragging about the Tory plan to make it easier for people from Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to get into the UK!

The new income requirements for British families with non-EU members introduced by the Tory party openly discriminate against British people and their families, meaning that countless low-mid income British people have been left with the appalling prospect of either breaking up their families, or living in exile. Meanwhile the government is powerless to discriminate against non-EU migrants that are married to citizens of other EU states in the same way, because their freedom of movement is protected under EU law. Thus a Brazilian or Indonesian that is married to a British person, speaks perfect English, has a high skill occupation and has British children can be barred from entering the UK, but if they are married to a Hungarian or Portuguese, speak no English at all, have no skills and no connections to the UK at all, they are absolutely free to come and go as they please!

Confidence

Cameron concluded his speech with what he wanted to be a rousing appeal to "confidence". The problem of course is that David Cameron and his cronies in the Tory party have done everything they can to destroy confidence in the UK economy. Cameron himself is guilty of repeatedly describing the UK as "bankrupted" which is hardly confidence inspiring language.

Then there's the consequences of their rotten policies; the fact that the public know that their incomes are being cut in real terms every single month is hardly confidence inspiring stuff; the fact that the UK lost its AAA Credit ratings under George Osborne's watch is hardly inspiring confidence in his extremist economic austerity experiment; the fact that the UK is lagging far behind high-tech economies like Germany and Japan hardly inspires confidence in our manufacturing sector; the fact that the Tory government have steadfastly refused to reform the financial sector hardly inspires confidence that there isn't another enormous economic crisis just around the corner; and the fact that the UK is plummeting down the league tables for academic achievement hardly inspires confidence in our future either.

Essentially what David Cameron is saying is that it is important that we all maintain a false sense of confidence, and just ignore the painful bouts of cognitive dissonance every time we hear him, or another Tory, describing the UK economy as "bankrupted" in order to score cheap political points against the Labour party.


Bucaneers
"We need to support, reward and celebrate enterprise. That requires a fundamental culture change in our country. A culture that’s on the side of those who work hard, that values that typically British, entrepreneurial, buccaneering spirit"
Again, there's so much wrong with this I could fill an entire article with criticisms of these two sentences.

1.
"We need to support, reward and celebrate enterprise." - Cameron doesn't bother to define what he means by "enterprise". For all we know he could be talking about the kinds of financial sector innovations (like Collateralised Debt Obligations, Credit Default Swaps and all kinds of other complex financial derivatives) that nearly collapsed the entire global economy in 2007-08. To support this interpretation we could point to the conclusion of the speech where he praises the City of London as "the great innovator that has led the way in finance for centuries". It is not difficult to interpret Cameron's words as a call for more support, reward and celebration of the financial sector (that provides more than half of all donations to the Tory party).
 

2. "That requires a fundamental culture change in our country. A culture that’s on the side of those who work hard" - Cameron is clearly implying that British culture is against those that work hard and in a way he is right: British culture rewards those that were born into wealth and privilege, whilst millions of people that have worked hard all their lives are having their pensions and savings raided by Quantitative Easing and many others are being treated like criminal scum by the DWP. Tens of thousands of people that have worked hard all their lives are being forced onto mandatory unpaid labour schemes or being subjected to the psychological torture that is the Atos administered Work Capacity Assessment.

The silver spoon brigade abuse their inherited privilege by engaging in rent seeking behavior and outright corruption to ensure that they stay wealthy for the least possible effort, whilst hard working people across the country are being made to feel like criminals because the blatant economic mismanagement of the privileged classes has created an unemployment crisis in which they have become trapped, or they are being told that their meagre disability benefits are being stopped because their heart attack, stroke, blood clot in the brain, degenerative condition or terminal cancer are too trivial to prevent them from seeking work.

3. "
that values that typically British, entrepreneurial, buccaneering spirit" - The Oxford English Dictionary defines a buccaneer as "a person who acts in a recklessly adventurous and often unscrupulous way, especially in business". Thus David Cameron is explicitly telling us that we must support, reward, celebrate and value the most reckless and unscrupulous in society! Instead of criticising the reckless and unscrupulous financial sector workers that crashed the global economy with their over-leveraged gambling and outright fraud, Cameron reckons we should be celebrating their achievements and rewarding them with ever higher bonuses!
 
Schools
 
At one point in the speech David Cameron brags that there are "over 3,000 more free schools and academies" - but this doesn't mean that 3,000 schools have been set up, it means that some 3,000 schools have been given away for free, property deeds and all, and in many cases to high profile Tory party and Liberal Democrat donors. Billions worth of land and infrastructure that was paid for at the public expense has been given away for free to unaccountable private sector interests. Only a Tory could possibly believe that this is something to brag about.

The fact that Cameron saw fit to brag about the fact his government has given so many £billions worth of public infrastructure away for free wasn't even the most alarming reference to education policy within his speech. The worst part was his claim that a pro-capitalism propaganda will be taught in schools. Cameron and his party wish to see future generations of our children indoctrinated into hero worshiping the unscrupulous "buccaneers" that David Cameron is full of praise for.

"We want to make sure [enterprise] is boosted everywhere. Promoted in schools. Taught in colleges. Celebrated in communities. Recognised properly in the honours system."
I always had my suspicions that the reason The Tories have been so keen to transfer our schools to unaccountable private sector interests** was so that kids could be more easily indoctrinated with pro-Tory propaganda. To hear David Cameron spell out his plan for our schools to be used as pro-capitalism indoctrination centres is confirmation of what I always suspected.

Conclusion


Cameron's speech was appalling for many, many reasons: The blatant lies; the distortions and misrepresentations; the outright denials of reality; the grotesque misuse of language; the logical contradictions; the feeble attempts at scapegoating immigrants and the least fortunate in society; and the announcement of plans to indoctrinate our children with pro-capitalist propaganda - but perhaps the most visible sign that Cameron has no grip at all on reality is the fact that he delivered his "austerity-to-infinity" speech from a golden lectern whilst surrounded by the trappings of wealth and privilege.


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* A fall in borrowing was to be expected, the previous government had been spending money like crazy to keep the City of London from collapsing into insolvency in the wake of the biggest financial crisis in nearly eight decades.

**
So keen to get shot of it that they would just give all these £billions worth of property and land away for free and provide lucrative annual subsidies to the unaccountable private interests they handed it over to.




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