Posts Tagged economic democracy
The first instalment of Lord Leveson’s inquiry report into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press is due in the autumn. It’s vital that Labour are ready to argue for a truly free press. We should be well aware that the political right and the press industry itself have major combined interests in adhering as closely to the status quo as possible. Although the issue of privacy was the final trigger for the inquiry, the most important failure of our press is to provide high quality information about current events and a true variety of interpretations of their causes. We need these if we are to make good collective decisions on important matters. The truth-distorting bile that issues from some outlets has had a measurable effect in false impressions left on the public. Read the rest of this entry »
The lesson of the New Labour years that ended in the biggest global economic crisis since the 1930s is a simple one. ‘Shareholder value’ capitalism is a beast that cannot be made to serve social democratic purposes. By social democratic purposes, I mean those that see harm done to one citizen as harm done to all, and accept the value of collective institutions as positive means to limit that harm and so promote the general good. Social democracy doesn’t assume all ‘good’ is done collectively, but it certainly doesn’t have a general individualistic assumption either. In particular, social democracy gives weight to the idea of ‘solidarity’, which is why great inequality is so corrosive of its aims, and why universal welfare benefits, even if symbolic, cannot be given up too lightly.
The assumption of late twentieth century social democracy was first that unionised labour plus a strong state, then the state alone, and finally perhaps accounting sleights of hand by a clever chancellor, could offset the economic power concentrated by banks and large corporations. Pretty clearly, by the end, this social democracy wasn’t worthy of the name. Read the rest of this entry »
The 2001 winner of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, Professor Joseph Stiglitz, was in Edinburgh last week to give two talks as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. He is a pioneer of the economics of information, showing how markets can produce unexpected outcomes because information is unequally available to parties to a contract. These outcomes can include bankruptcies that transmit further failures. So he was one of the few economists to whom collapse of the financial system did not come as a complete surprise. He noted the irony of his appearance in a large tent sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland, an institution that perceptively backed a large tranche of mortgage-backed securities, and ended up mainly owned by the UK government as a result!
Professor Stiglitz is also famous for turning on his previous employers, the World Bank, and criticising the policy of ‘structural adjustment’ imposed by this institution and the IMF on developing world borrowers. These arguments appear in his book Globalisation and its Discontents.
I attended the first of his Edinburgh talks, in which Professor Stiglitz started by pointing out that the three decades of crisis-free rapid growth that followed the Great Depression were primarily a result of the financial regulation introduced following it. As that regulation has been removed crises have become more frequent and more damaging. Read the rest of this entry »
In May 1998 I attended an academic seminar in Downing Street organized to discuss the meaning of Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way’. The event was hosted by David Miliband, then the head of the No 10 Policy Unit. Before the meeting I sent Miliband a document I entitled ‘Two Lanes on the Third Way’ pdf(95.5kB), in which I argued that since ‘when we increase the capacity of others to help themselves, we also increase their capacity to help us’ the Labour government should embrace proportional representation and economic democracy. Both of these, in the form of a manifesto commitment to a referendum on electoral reform, and as an exploration of the stake-holding idea espoused by Will Hutton among others, had already entered ‘New Labour’ thinking. Read the rest of this entry »