Now that Osborne’s smokescreen is beginning to clear, and while we watch to see the cuts reappear under another guise, and the dodged taxes remain dodged, how about a little philosophy?
The shadow chancellor’s joking reference to Mao was a non-starter in the Bad Taste stakes. (First past the post must be the Tory Government’s representative in the UN voting for a Saudi to lead the UN on Human Rights.) But why quote the banalities of a Chinese mass murderer when you can have explosive stuff from Prussia? Nietzsche’s outlook perfectly illuminates our callous conservatives and the parasitical, financial dunces who pay them off and are rewarded in their turn.
The OBR’s forecasts, on which the supposed £28 billion windfall was based, are only accurate, the OBR say themselves, to plus or minus £50 billion. There was no windfall, and if Osborne was paying attention, he must have known it. Here’s Nietzsche:
‘That an opinion is false is not an objection to it. Without continual counterfeiting of the world, man could not live. To renounce false opinions is to renounce life. Untruths are a condition of life.’
Frenzied but loquacious Nietzsche, like many philosophers, was no democrat. His notion of supermen who would rule ‘the herd’ was similar to Plato’s philosopher kings. England’s more sober Thomas Hobbes proposed in 1651 that we needed a strong ruler who would keep us all in line: a benign monarch like Charles II who would avoid the horrors of Ancient Greek democracy, mob rule as Hobbes saw it, that led to continual war. Nietzsche spelled out in vivid detail what new rights such absolute rulers – those with the will to exercise power – would have.
‘The Will to Power frees men from the dictates of social class, religion, or hierarchical institutions. It is not a matter of whether or not the will is free but whether the will is weak or strong. The Will to Power can only be exercised by the individual. The power of the herd is a restraint not a liberation.’
The consequences of following this recipe are only too well known. Those with power, however, do not allow us to see it naked. The licence granted to over-rewarded and undertalented bankers, Tory austerity policies, the dismantling and privatisation of the NHS, assaults on low paid public servants are cloaked in vacuous, cliche-splattered justifications: balancing the books, strengthening the economy et cetera. The invidious claim that we must all feel pain in order to enjoy future pleasure was something Nietzsche would have seen through and excoriated.
‘Those who pretend their opinions are grounded in logic deceive us as they deceive themselves. They have not discovered their opinions through cool, dispassionate reasoning; they have merely produced and refined their abstractions to cloak in high-minded obscurity nothing more than their heart’s desire. Hidden behind their professed logic are judgements, emotions, physiological demands and impulses.’
Those who believe in social justice can never regard people as a means to an end – as Nietzsche did – and as Tory vandals who flounder in their own greed do. Nietzsche ended his life demented, but his searing observations on power still expose the deceptions to which we remain vulnerable.