Something which has amused me when I've posted on Richard Murphy's blog recently is that he seems to get more ill-tempered when I agree with him than when I disagree with him. I think it's an indication of the narrow world view he has, where you're either pro-big state, in which case you are good and you will invariably agree with everything he says, or you're a market fundamentalist, in which case you are bad and will invariably disagree with everything he says. He seems to have put me firmly in the second pigeon-hole, so when I disagree with him, it gives him an opportunity to throw his typical insults my way, but when I take a position which is comparable to his, it seems to really infuriate him because it challenges his simplistic assumptions and usually results in him blocking my comments.
The latest incident occurred during comments following a post about the theology of taxation. Another commenter questioned the ability of businesses in common ownership to deliver, to which Murphy replied:
"Try John Lewis
Try the Cooperative Bank - which has not needed bailing out
Try Coop farms - the biggest and some of the best in the UK
Try any coop
Try the building society movement - which showed better robustness than the banks except when subverted by management"
A debate developed from that point when I highlighted that John Lewis is in effect a workers co-operative and the others are consumer co-operatives and any in-depth analysis should treat them separately. Another commenter, a self-confessed Marxist, took a general position that worker ownership was the only broadly acceptable business structure and ended up suggesting a regulation which would require all businesses with 30 or more employees to be worker owned. My response was:
"So, at a stroke, you would outlaw:
-The Co-operative Bank
-Larger Credit Unions
Essentially, the whole of the co-operative movement would be declared illegal. I think the co-operative movement is one of the nations great success stories and something to be proud of. I’d need a very, very good reason to even begin to consider its prohibition."
At this point, Murphy reared his head and posted:
I guess I could leave you and Carol to slug this out forever
But candidly you are proving yourself to be a boring pedant with no contribution of worth to add to debate - like Worstall et al
So I am drawing his debate to a close
He had a similar temper tantrum when I took a position which didn't fit into his stereotype on the subject of empty houses. In the original post he suggested levying a tax on empty houses in order to bring them back into use. I commented that I though that approach would be unworkable, but something similar could be achieved fairly easily by adjusting the Council Tax system, such that, among other things, the owner pays, there are no exceptions for unoccupied property and the tax is used to collect a greater proportion of local government revenue. A fairly typical straw man argument came my way from Murphy, along with some reasonable comment from other posters. The exchange was going fairly predictably, until I responded to a comment from other poster who had said that he didn't believe any political party would be brave enough to introduce laws with the intention of causing a drop in property prices. My response, which was blocked, was:
"Unfortunately, I think that's true. At the moment, on one hand, we have the Tories committing to freeze Council Tax and portraying it as the worst tax we currently have according to their ideology, on the other we have people like Richard, who usually claims to oppose everything the Tories stand for, accusing me of trying to hit the worst off when I suggest increasing Council Tax, which he portrays as the worst tax we currently have according to his ideology.
It's an unholy alliance which, unfortunately, is not uncommon."
I think this must have infuriated him even more because his instinctive rush to argue against my position left him in the "increasing tax is bad" position which he tends to vilify others for and finding himself arguing in favour of the Tory party line most definitely wouldn't have been to his liking.
I find it astonishing that somebody can be so dogmatic that they would rather you disagree with them than agree with them.