12 january 2016, when nothing goes right, go left

It wasn't supposed to be this way. When the financial "excesses of untrammeled capitalism" crisis almost brought the house down in 2008, europe's left seemed the obvious inheritors. Yet, since then it is the centre-right that has reinforced its credo and made the most credible job of picking up the pieces. Though in power in france, the left is the most unpopular (and erratic) government ever; in germany its counterpart is a weak supporting act. In country after country - spain being the latest - the left has lost. The "greek effect", where a far-left splinter gains momentum (as seen in spain and now internally with the death of britain's labour party) only makes it worse. Yet these leftists are shackled to another era, with rebaked old recipes of marxist colllectivism. More modern, radical leftist thinkers, like unger ("why the left should abandon equality") and graeber ("most of the creative energy for radical politics is now coming from anarchism") have no hinterland or are pilloried for being neoliberals (guilty as charged). I am not the first to observe that the world's largest taxi company (uber) owns no cars, its largest accommodation provider (airb&b) no property, its largest store (alibaba) no stock and its largest media company (facebook) no content. Those behind these incredible societal-size innovations are capitalists red in tooth and claw, and unimaginably wealthy. Backers of the "shared economy" (see 5 june 2014, more of driving less) and that "collaborative commons" which technology is set to unleash never quite seem to have hopes realised. In fact the acceleration and fattening of profits from physical goods to virtual intellectual property is just an even racier capitalism than before, though the corporations earning are different ones. Leftism is not about stopping that but ensuring the level playing fields of entry and maintenance to this new arcadia.