Tomorrow (Saturday, May 14th), a Rally Against Debt will be held in London. The idea is to use the tactic used by the TUC, National Union of Students and other special interest groups. Where those groups marched for directly self-interested reasons – to oppose public sector cutbacks in the TUC’s case, and to demand that taxpayers pay for their tuition in the NUS’s case – the Rally Against Debt is essentially motivated by good old-fashioned dislike of big government.
Sadly, some have drawn Tea Party comparisons. This is neither enlightening nor particularly insightful. It seems a strange point of reference to use, since we’ve had so many protests of our own over here. The only remarkable thing about this is that being in favour of cuts tends not to be a position held by single interest groups, which are the main actors in most protests. If I was cynical, I would think the Tea Party comparisons are intended as a smear.
I must confess that I’m not a huge fan of marches of any kind in a democracy. I don’t see the point in a march against cuts if the intent is to change government policy, because even a highly successful march will only field a fraction of the electorate. Even with half a million squeaky wheels marching down Whitehall, it may very well be the case that the grease is needed elsewhere. And, in a democracy, marches are always heavily skewed towards special interest groups – a case of dispersed losses and concentrated gains.
A few people who stand to gain a lot from a government policy – typically the recipients of a spending programme of some kind – will be a lot louder than the many, many people who have to pay for it. But their loudness tells us nothing about the best policy to implement. (Inevitably, someone will say that taxing people less heavily is morally equivalent to spending more. I wonder if these people feel the same way when their houses are burgled – after all, the burglar gains as much as they lose, so there’s no loss, using their logic.)
All that said, if the victims of the “dispersed losses” are prepared to take a stand against special interests, then great. The deficit and debt are the pressing issues of the day. The idea that greed caused the financial crisis is incorrect, but it may very well cause the next one – a debt crisis caused by public sector greed. I’m glad that some people are taking a stand against that.
Where: Old Palace Yard (Opposite Parliament)
When: 11am – 2pm. Saturday, 14th May.