Hadn't gotten round to reading Irvine Welsh's recent magnum opus on the independence question (although no doubt articulate, erudite and sometimes compelling, since it was published on Bellyache Caledonia its fundamental import isn't hard to fathom) but yesterday's minor stushie over an ostensibly 'pulled' article on an MSM website seemed to highlight one of his more newsworthy points.
Thus it seems the Scotsman group website published an article headlined "Irvine Welsh says young people better off dealing drugs than studying for ‘meaningless degree’", but then pulled it a couple of hours later, perhaps because on reflection it was considered a bit too Daily Mail-esque for the MacCommentariat to stomach. But cue the usual cybernat hysteria (whether genuine or faux - it's usually difficult to tell) about the disturbingly selective nature of the report, the highly sinister fact that it was published at all, then of course the unmitigated evil inherent in having second thoughts and removing it from the Scotsman website.
Of course, perhaps the reason for this cybernat paranoia - and also why the Scotsman considered the offending passage newsworthy in the first place - is because it maybe made for slightly uncomfortable reading for some, and not just for those who appreciate the opinion of the likes of Peter Hitchens and Melanie Phillips. (Indeed when I read the article and Welsh's reported comments I thought it was some kind of spoof that the Scotsman had published accidentally!)
Anyway, lamenting the UK's "destructive neo-liberalism" and the cost of a degree-level education, Irvine Welsh opines:
“I would choose to invest any resources I had in other directions; like many bright, eager young kids from poorer backgrounds now do, I’d probably buy a rock of cocaine, cut it and sell it. And repeat. It simply makes more economic sense.”
Well of course it does. It's difficult to think of circumstance where financially-motivated crime - such as theft, burglary and fraud as well as drug-dealing per se - would make the perpetrator worse off than they would be by more legitimate conduct. They commit crime to make themselves better off than they would be otherwise.
Thus Welsh is effectively saying that if you can't make it in the legitimate neo-liberal, market-based economy then if it enhances your financial position then why not try the illegitimate neo-liberal, market-based economy. Which is not just illegal per se, but avoids other aspects of the regulation of more legitimate markets, such as taxation and labour market protection for any minions or mules that you may exploit or even coerce into working for you.
And which of course makes mainstream neo-liberalism seems positively cuddly. Take Welsh's argument to its logical conclusion and you're effectively comparing greedy bankers to gangsters and organised crime. And even that's ignoring the destructive effects of drug addiction on the dealer's 'clients', which don't need rehashing here.
So Welsh is effectively denigrating "destructive neo-liberalism" but at the same time saying that even he would contemplate an even more destructive form of neo-liberalism if the latter suited his financial interests better than the former. And indeed he's also done rather well out of the sort of legitimate neo-liberalism he denigrates, since his Wikipedia profile says he made money from property speculation as well as his better known activities, and Welsh now describes himself as, "not so much middle-class as upper-class. I'm very much a gentleman of leisure."
(Interesting that he uses the example of cocaine rather than the perhaps more obvious heroin option, but even as a long-term resident of one of Scotland's neighbourhoods that he's alluding to I'm perhaps showing my naivety here! But I suspect he's just using the more upmarket cocaine example as a sort of euphemism for drug dealing more generally).
Of course, Irvine Welsh's comments on this on Bella Caledonia are as likely to change the course of history as my ramblings on this blog, but his attitude is symptomatic of a wider problem with Scotland's dominant lefty-liberal elite.
Thus drug taking has effectively been decriminalised by stealth, and the likes of heroin addicts - and even the kind of small-time dealers alluded to by Welsh - are treated as victims of an unfair and unequal society, as to an extent have criminals more generally.
But of course societies have always been unequal, unfair and hierarchical, and there's absolutely nothing to suggest that an independent Scotland would be radically different, tinkering around the edges with the likes of free bus passes for the elderly notwithstanding. In particular, and despite the likes of Scotland's radical left, there's nothing to suggest that the nation as a whole would vote for a fundamentally redistributive society, which is why Alex Salmond and the SNP are proposing neo-liberal measures like cuts in corporation tax, and sucking up to the likes of Amazon, Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump (and despite Salmond's subsequent fall out with the latter!). Mainstream Scotland may moan about the bankers and to an extent sympathise with those scraping along the arse-end of society, but at the end of the day they want next-day delivery on their iPad and, rightly or wrongly, don't really see the likes of the Scottish Socialist Party or the Greens delivering on that ('scuse puns!).
However, the point is that treating those who do less well out of society than others as victims and to that extent excusing criminality just makes things worse. They take/deal in drugs, end up in court, become unemployable, then when it's too late to turn things round they end up in prison, or overdosed on a mortuary slab, or they themselves become victims of other criminals or maybe a fire caused by their 'chaotic lifestyle'. And then there's those trying to earn an honest living but who are also victims of such an environment (like yours truly), but of course normally excluding the hand wringing and sanctimonious commentators and decision-makers who create the mess in the first place.
Thus if it's accepted that neo-liberal economies are unfair and destructive, then there's no need to make things worse by using this to legitimise other undesirable forms of liberalism.
But perhaps Irvine Welsh makes a useful point when he appears to allude to the destructive 50%-must-go-to-university ethos of the liberal left, which results in "pretty meaningless" degrees and a "prison of debt" because the whole thing becomes unaffordable. Thus another destructive vicious circle encouraged by the liberal left - a drug-addicted criminal with a meaningless degree and a huge debt albatross round their neck doesn't cut the mustard in even a social democratic market-based economy, never mind a neo-liberal one!