Coming soon to an angry dude near you - the "pro-men" party

Mike Buchanan thinks "state-sponsored feminism" is ruining society and women are defying their "natural instincts" by going to work. Terrifyingly, some people are taking him seriously.

Feminism: you can define it in many different ways, but the most accurate would probably be ‘destroyer of worlds’. All that harping on and on about equality between the sexes, fair pay, recognition of labour, universal suffrage, and an assortment of other ridiculous so-called ‘rights’ that no real female needs or cares about is quite clearly a veiled assault on men, and therefore the world at large.

Feminism has gone too far, indeed, so far has it gone that it has insidiously infiltrated every institutional orifice like a omnitentacled being from Japanese octopus porn. It is a parasitic beast which silently permeates the organs of its hosts, burying beneath their flesh, nesting in society’s innards before it bursts forth like the larvae of the botfly, screeching and demanding stuff. And astride this fearsome creature sits Harriet Harperson, chieftain of the feminist militia and bête noire of any human with a penis.

Does this viewpoint sound like you? Are you lacking direction in your life, possibly because you sit at home wondering how you can possibly convert all of the hatred and fear of ‘the other’ that you have inside you into serious political action? Don’t resign yourself to a life of merely raving drunkenly at passers-by just yet, for we come bearing good news. Mike Buchanan has started a "pro-men" party that aims to get rid of feminism once and for all - and it’s coming soon to a dank, stinking room above a sub-standard regional pub near you any day now.

"Who is Mike Buchanan?", you may justifiably ask. A man of many talents, Buchanan is a self-styled business consultant, and, much like George with his apocryphal dragon, he considers it his divine calling to vanquish the feminist death kraken once and for all and be hailed as your spiritual king for ever more. He was described last week by the Daily Mail as "not some lunatic of the Monster Raving Loony Party ilk", despite the fact that he once claimed that "the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition currently in power continues to pursue feminist agendas with some enthusiasm", something anyone with half a brain knows is complete and utter unadulterated bollocks. The fact that Buchanan has been dubbed sane by the Mail also raises certain questions.

Aside from professional lunacy, he also practices authorship, having written a book called Feminism: The Ugly Truth which is currently available on Amazon, complete with a front cover illustration of a red-eyed vampire woman to really drive home the ferocity and apocalyptic horror of the politically minded female.

"Feminism attracts little serious opposition in the developed world," the book begins, "which is extraordinary given that it’s systematically and progressively assaulting men, women, marriage, the family, government, the legal system, the media, academia, capitalism and much else." Thank God Mike’s spotted that one, guys, because we almost wasted a shitload of resources on kidding ourselves into thinking that problems with the government, the media, and the legal system run deeper than the pursuit of gender equality.

Now that we’ve realised the true extent of our destruction, we’re both personally willing to retire to the kitchen without further ado (because feminism is - direct quotation - "forcing [women] to go against their natural instincts and rely on the world of work for their economic survival".) At Mikey’s behest, we shall give up our livelihoods post-haste in order to restore a natural and utilitarian order. And ‘lo, as we turn our backs on the women’s movement in favour of a lifetime of gooey-eyed, beatific servitude, the sun will rise and our red eyes will once again turn baby-blue as the twin evils of independent thought and liberal ideology are expelled from our systems. Our jagged fangs will shrink back into our silken gums and the snakes’ nest atop our heads will wither, then transmogrify into golden ringlets. Our banshee screams will fade and dwindle, and in their place will emerge the meek, soft mew of the feeble female.

But before we do, permit us to stand on our evil feminist soapbox a few words longer. It goes without saying that crackpots like Mike Buchanan exist in every section of society: fundamentalists routinely make members of all social, cultural, and political groups look bad (including some of the more radical fringes of the feminist movement). But the time that the most successful "news" website in Britain (in terms of sheer numbers) has dedicated to this man and his regressive ideology is shocking; the published comments from the readers even more so. One which states that "the shocking events in India make me glad we have feminists in this country" has been voted negatively 99 times at the time of writing, while "anything that upsets feminists HAS to be a good thing!" has been voted positively 104 times. While it’s easy to laugh at Buchanan and the bogeywomen lurking in his mental closet, this sort of comment juxtaposition is downright depressing. It’s clear that his pro-male political party will not be short of potential recruits. Fear can do that for a movement.

As with many extremist political ideologies, the increased visibility and popularity of Men’s Rights Activists (or MRAs) such as Buchanan can be attributed largely to fear. Fear, paranoia, and hatred. Fear that white working class men are set to become a "minority" (David Willetts this week confirmed this by comparing them to other "disadvantaged groups"); paranoia that such disadvantages are caused by the increasing emancipation of women, out there, spreading their tentacles, passing exams, and taking the world by storm, like the demented harpies that we are; and hatred of those women, with their vaginas and their soft smooth skin and their Child Support Agency. The bitches.

While we’re not denying that there are many male-specific problems which are not being adequately tackled – not least the alarming suicide rate among young men, which Buchanan seems to imply is also feminism's fault – laying the blame at the door of women is an astonishing jump in so-called logic. All the major political parties seem to be doing a rather nice job of championing male interests already, and although the coalition clearly couldn’t give a toss about the working class, the fact that they only have five women in the cabinet doesn’t exactly signify the ‘state-sponsored feminism’ that Buchanan sees lurking in the dark corners of his proverbial bedchamber. So where’s the beef?

Fear, as we know, is not a rational emotion. So often is it rooted in ignorance, in misunderstanding, and in the hounding of the scapegoat. In light of this fear, society’s failure to create a more equal class system with increased social mobility becomes unimportant, as does the fact that men created that class system in the first place.

Embarking on a witch hunt is far easier than questioning why none of the political parties seem to reflect the interests of the worker. Blaming the pair of yellow female eyes peering from the dark is much simpler than asking why these men have become the casualties of such a system. These questions go to the very core of capitalism, and they make your head hurt.

There is no room for subtlety in the all-out assault of gender conflict. After all, Buchanan is busily engaged with the slaying of the mythical monsters beneath the bed with the use of his phallic lightsaber of masculinity, which makes us wonder whether the jump between his politics and the Raving Loony lot is actually that large. Perhaps he’d be better off abandoning his own efforts in favour of the party devoted almost entirely to monsters. At least he’d have a laugh.

Harriet Harperson, feminist dragon. Montage by Malky Currie.

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter are co-founders and editors of online magazine, The Vagenda.

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We're racing towards another private debt crisis - so why did no one see it coming?

The Office for Budget Responsibility failed to foresee the rise in household debt. 

This is a call for a public inquiry on the current situation regarding private debt.

For almost a decade now, since 2007, we have been living a lie. And that lie is preparing to wreak havoc on our economy. If we do not create some kind of impartial forum to discuss what is actually happening, the results might well prove disastrous. 

The lie I am referring to is the idea that the financial crisis of 2008, and subsequent “Great Recession,” were caused by profligate government spending and subsequent public debt. The exact opposite is in fact the case. The crash happened because of dangerously high levels of private debt (a mortgage crisis specifically). And - this is the part we are not supposed to talk about—there is an inverse relation between public and private debt levels.

If the public sector reduces its debt, overall private sector debt goes up. That's what happened in the years leading up to 2008. Now austerity is making it happening again. And if we don't do something about it, the results will, inevitably, be another catastrophe.

The winners and losers of debt

These graphs show the relationship between public and private debt. They are both forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, produced in 2015 and 2017. 

This is what the OBR was projecting what would happen around now back in 2015:

This year the OBR completely changed its forecast. This is how it now projects things are likely to turn out:

First, notice how both diagrams are symmetrical. What happens on top (that part of the economy that is in surplus) precisely mirrors what happens in the bottom (that part of the economy that is in deficit). This is called an “accounting identity.”

As in any ledger sheet, credits and debits have to match. The easiest way to understand this is to imagine there are just two actors, government, and the private sector. If the government borrows £100, and spends it, then the government has a debt of £100. But by spending, it has injected £100 more pounds into the private economy. In other words, -£100 for the government, +£100 for everyone else in the diagram. 

Similarly, if the government taxes someone for £100 , then the government is £100 richer but there’s £100 subtracted from the private economy (+£100 for government, -£100 for everybody else on the diagram).

So what implications does this kind of bookkeeping have for the overall economy? It means that if the government goes into surplus, then everyone else has to go into debt.

We tend to think of money as if it is a bunch of poker chips already lying around, but that’s not how it really works. Money has to be created. And money is created when banks make loans. Either the government borrows money and injects it into the economy, or private citizens borrow money from banks. Those banks don’t take the money from people’s savings or anywhere else, they just make it up. Anyone can write an IOU. But only banks are allowed to issue IOUs that the government will accept in payment for taxes. (In other words, there actually is a magic money tree. But only banks are allowed to use it.)

There are other factors. The UK has a huge trade deficit (blue), and that means the government (yellow) also has to run a deficit (print money, or more accurately, get banks to do it) to inject into the economy to pay for all those Chinese trainers, American iPads, and German cars. The total amount of money can also fluctuate. But the real point here is, the less the government is in debt, the more everyone else must be. Austerity measures will necessarily lead to rising levels of private debt. And this is exactly what has happened.

Now, if this seems to have very little to do with the way politicians talk about such matters, there's a simple reason: most politicians don’t actually know any of this. A recent survey showed 90 per cent of MPs don't even understand where money comes from (they think it's issued by the Royal Mint). In reality, debt is money. If no one owed anyone anything at all there would be no money and the economy would grind to a halt.

But of course debt has to be owed to someone. These charts show who owes what to whom.

The crisis in private debt

Bearing all this in mind, let's look at those diagrams again - keeping our eye particularly on the dark blue that represents household debt. In the first, 2015 version, the OBR duly noted that there was a substantial build-up of household debt in the years leading up to the crash of 2008. This is significant because it was the first time in British history that total household debts were higher than total household savings, and therefore the household sector itself was in deficit territory. (Corporations, at the same time, were raking in enormous profits.) But it also predicted this wouldn't happen again.

True, the OBR observed, austerity and the reduction of government deficits meant private debt levels would have to go up. However, the OBR economists insisted this wouldn't be a problem because the burden would fall not on households but on corporations. Business-friendly Tory policies would, they insisted, inspire a boom in corporate expansion, which would mean frenzied corporate borrowing (that huge red bulge below the line in the first diagram, which was supposed to eventually replace government deficits entirely). Ordinary households would have little or nothing to worry about.

This was total fantasy. No such frenzied boom took place.

In the second diagram, two years later, the OBR is forced to acknowledge this. Corporations are just raking in the profits and sitting on them. The household sector, on the other hand, is a rolling catastrophe. Austerity has meant falling wages, less government spending on social services (or anything else), and higher de facto taxes. This puts the squeeze on household budgets and people are forced to borrow. As a result, not only are households in overall deficit for the second time in British history, the situation is actually worse than it was in the years leading up to 2008.

And remember: it was a mortgage crisis that set off the 2008 crash, which almost destroyed the world economy and plunged millions into penury. Not a crisis in public debt. A crisis in private debt.

An inquiry

In 2015, around the time the original OBR predictions came out, I wrote an essay in the Guardian predicting that austerity and budget-balancing would create a disastrous crisis in private debt. Now it's so clearly, unmistakably, happening that even the OBR cannot deny it.

I believe the time has come for there be a public investigation - a formal public inquiry, in fact - into how this could be allowed to happen. After the 2008 crash, at least the economists in Treasury and the Bank of England could plausibly claim they hadn't completely understood the relation between private debt and financial instability. Now they simply have no excuse.

What on earth is an institution called the “Office for Budget Responsibility” credulously imagining corporate borrowing binges in order to suggest the government will balance the budget to no ill effects? How responsible is that? Even the second chart is extremely odd. Up to 2017, the top and bottom of the diagram are exact mirrors of one another, as they ought to be. However, in the projected future after 2017, the section below the line is much smaller than the section above, apparently seriously understating the amount both of future government, and future private, debt. In other words, the numbers don't add up.

The OBR told the New Statesman ​that it was not aware of any errors in its 2015 forecast for corporate sector net lending, and that the forecast was based on the available data. It said the forecast for business investment has been revised down because of the uncertainty created by Brexit. 

Still, if the “Office of Budget Responsibility” was true to its name, it should be sounding off the alarm bells right about now. So far all we've got is one mention of private debt and a mild warning about the rise of personal debt from the Bank of England, which did not however connect the problem to austerity, and one fairly strong statement from a maverick columnist in the Daily Mail. Otherwise, silence. 

The only plausible explanation is that institutions like the Treasury, OBR, and to a degree as well the Bank of England can't, by definition, warn against the dangers of austerity, however alarming the situation, because they have been set up the way they have in order to justify austerity. It's important to emphasise that most professional economists have never supported Conservative policies in this regard. The policy was adopted because it was convenient to politicians; institutions were set up in order to support it; economists were hired in order to come up with arguments for austerity, rather than to judge whether it would be a good idea. At present, this situation has led us to the brink of disaster.

The last time there was a financial crash, the Queen famously asked: why was no one able to foresee this? We now have the tools. Perhaps the most important task for a public inquiry will be to finally ask: what is the real purpose of the institutions that are supposed to foresee such matters, to what degree have they been politicised, and what would it take to turn them back into institutions that can at least inform us if we're staring into the lights of an oncoming train?