It seems like months since I last wrote about politics but I think it’s probably an appropriate time to give the current situation some consideration.
In the UK things are very bad. I did not realise just how bad until I heard Lord Phillips (our most senior law lord) argue with some vehemence that the current economic model is fundamentally flawed and should be replaced by a radically new system that isn’t obsessed with gdp. I read the Financial Times two or three times per week and it really is time to worry when the FT’s leading writers are further to the left than any of our current political parties, Gillian Tett is very effective in pointing out the fault lines in today’s economics orthodoxy.
This is also the week in which the markets (that mysterious force) have decided to impoverish the Irish people for the next two decades and are now training their sights on the Iberian peninsula. North and South Korea have also decided that it’s a good time to exchange artillery fire.
It should by now be clear to anyone who is awake that the current scheme of things doesn’t work, that the current political and economic systems are inherently defective and need to be replaced. This isn’t an ideological statement but a pragmatic observation that things don’t actually work.
With regard to the obsession with gdp, this idea seems to be entering the mainstream, Nature has just published an article pointing out that we may all need to make do with less and the importance of using different indicators for success.
Coincidentally, Mark Woods has pointed me in the direction of an interview with Simon Critchley where he argues for the anarchist position and this is elaborated in his ‘The infinite demand’ which I’m currently reading.
In terms of inequality, it has always struck me as wrong (in a pragmatic sense) that 900 million people on this planet don’t have enough food whilst we in the West are eating ourselves to death. I don’t have a solution to this but I would argue that redressing should be at the top of our agenda and this would entail thinking carefully about re-balancing resources and some of us making do with less.
With regard to free market capitalism, it’s always interesting to note that the state becomes increasingly repressive as the markets are given a freer hand to do their work and that states resort to increasingly oppressive measures when the markets are in crisis. It’s also important to note that this tired old pattern is followed by all governments regardless of political hue.
At the same time the planet is dying and it’s not yet known whether shortage of resources or climate change will get us first. This again points to the absolute need to look at current patterns of consumption and to change them. Capitalism depends on selling us things that we don’t need and making us feel inadequate if we don’t have those things and this often has disastrous consequences (housing bubbles being a case in point).
So, if I were to draw up a brief manifesto, this is where I’d start-
1. A global focus on equality- food, water, housing, healthcare, education.
2. A withering away of the state and a focus on interdependent communities.
3. An economic model that is based on resources rather than cash.
4. The use of sustainable resources.
5. An emphasis on what people need rather than what they want.
Reaching any or all of these objectives may be difficult but there does seem now to be a space where sensible debate can take place.