Charles Adams – The complete failure of the so-called ‘centre’, and what we should do.

This is a complimentary piece to the article by Robin McAlpine (read here) dealing with the fallacy of the centre or moderates as a positive social force. It has been the godparent of neo-liberalism.

Charles Adams is professor of physics at Durham University in the UK and blogs at

Cross-posted from progressive pulse

Image result for wikimedia commons blair merkel

If the centre fails, polarization and discord follows. This is a matter of life and death but rather than use evidence to avoid failure, we allow a disparate rabble of unfit politicans to claim the centre, even when the evidence shows that they are not centrists. Their lies are destroying the fabric of society (where society is the collective distributional struggle that everyone needs to win).

Look at the evidence. Blair claimed to be a centrist but all the gains went to the wealthy during the Blair years. As this graph shows, the wealth-to-income ratio between 1997 and 2005 shot through levels last seen the late 1920s/early 30s (data from the Bank of England, also discussed here).

Macron claims to be a centrist but his tax changes preferentially benefit the 1%, see this graph from the FT and Peter May’s recent post.


Or if we look at finer (regional) detail, take the example of Hartlepool in the North East of England, near where I live. Look what happened to Hartlepool after they had a so called centrist MP in charge.

In Hartlepool not only are you less likely to have a job, but you are also less likely to live a healthy life. Compare the healthy-life expectancy numbers for somewhere in the South of England like Wokingham with Hartlepool.

Female: Wokingham 71.1 Hartlepool 57.4

Male:     Wokingham 69.7 Hartlepool 57.7

You can expect 20% less healthy life in Hartlepool than Wokingham. That is what the so-called centrists delivered. It is not just Hartlepool, in nearby areas things are also getting worse. Healthy-life expectancy for males in Darlington has declined from 64 in 2010 to 61 in 2016. In Stockton from 62 to 59.5. Why did the people of the North East have to suffer for a crisis created in the stockbroker belt? The so-called centrists created conditions that are worse for the people of Hartlepool and their neighbours! Is it any wonder they vote for something different, as Mike Segalov suggests in this video clip?

Embedded video

“You can’t get away with that, especially to distance yourself away from Brexit” @MikeSegalov tells @nick_clegg

“Clearly, you sowed the seeds of Brexit happening”  #politicslive

We need to be more careful to define the centre and make sure it flourishes. In economic terms, the centre corresponds to median income. It makes sense to define the centrist politician as someone that represents the median income voter. We should regard left as policy that shifts the distribution towards those below median, and right as policy that shifts the distribution towards to those above. Given that the income share of the one percent has been steadily rising since 1979 (see the graph below) we can see that we have only had right-wing regimes ever since.

Now one of the arguments of politicians is that they are not in control. Somehow the market determines the distribution. But this is a lie. It is fiscal policy that determines the distribution, and it is completely within the power of politicians to determine the outcome. For a few years, I have been teaching econophysics and one of the examples we consider is how spend and tax policy determine wealth and income distributions. The graph below shows the output of a model (line is my model, dots are the actual data from the world income database) where I simply change fiscal policy in 1979. Policy before 1979 led to a falling income share of the 1% (which we might call left-wing), policy after led to a rise (which we might call right wing). It was all about the politics. In a centralist or balanced position the income share of the 1% would neither fall nor rise, it would fluctuate around some stable democratically agreed ‘fair’ level.

A question we still need to address is what this ‘fair’ level should be. The evidence above suggests that an income share of the 1% above a certain value is damaging for health and wellbeing. We cannot regard declining healthy-life expectancy as a desirable outcome. Consequently, we need a period of left leaning policy to bring us back to an optimum equilibrium, and then it will be time for true centrists representing the median [1] to ensure that we do not let this happen again. [2]

[1]  On September 16, 2018, 10 years and one day after the Lehman collapse The Observer reported on an Opinion Poll that

“Asked to imagine that a new centre-ground party formed tomorrow, two in five voters (42%) said that they would be likely to vote for it in a future general election.”

[2] I do not agree with everything in this piece but consider it worth reading.

The Unheard-of Centre: Critique of Modern Money Theory

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