Friday, September 26, 2008

Lunchtime rambler

I like this.

It appears that when leaving a country it heightens the desire to give greater scrutiny to its politics. I never gave an election closer attention that that in 2005 when I lived in Canada and now newly arrived in Amsterdam, the blood is boiling again for some good old labour/tory swing around.

David Edgar in the Guardian links the Tories 'broken society' campaign strategy with a long line of Conservative strategy, showing that's it's little different to that employed in the 80s and 90s.

And let's make no mistake, Britain's current social problems are of Tory manufacture. By making the economy the centre piece of British life, rather than an important aspect of it, Britain ended up with an pretty good economy, but pretty rotten society.

We are spoon fed by our jobs, unable to work out what the hell to do with our time other than throw cash at it, sucked dry of creativity by numbing operations then wonder why it is our children throw thensleves about lost and angry. The money man came to call and we let our families and communities drop.

It's always been the argument of this blog that the economy and society cannot be separated. Further,it is more and more apparent that a strong cohesive society is necessary for a good economy to function. America's Golden Age was more underpinned by its commitment to redistribution and investment in education than it was to market forces. Reagan's legacy was to systematically plunder this wealth (in the form of monetary and social capital), let the market rule in the misguided belief that this was for the good of the people. It is not, the market takes into its bounds what is good for the market, however short term, depraved or economically unexpedient that may be.

Why? because it's people that run it. people making phone calls, making links. Economic specialisation played a large part in breaking these down. We lost a diversity in social interaction thus making our ties more purely economic. Think next time you need a plumber why you're unable to contact the one who lives two doors down from you instead of consulting the yellow pages.

Thatcher ensured that the economy wrote the rule book, as such stripping it of its legs, the basket in which it functions, the creation of its very own aggregate demand that isn't borrowed on a million credit cards but through human ingenuity and satisfaction.

If the Thatcher built the house of cards, Blair came along with a fine water spray can and made sure it got all soggy. It was the return of government. Hugely involved and taking care of our money in quantities that defied economic sense. Any sense in fact as it was raised in ways so devious and unaccountable that it was impossible to know from where the money originated. Unaccountable in its raising and so too in its spending. Private Finance Initiatives, privatisation and increasingly centralised procurement policy meant that projects were handed out to a carefuly selected few. It was government-sponsored industrial concentration. More money ending up in fewer hands - the tune of the so-called glorious decade 1995-2005.

It was the tune the whole country sang. Finance and non-doms entered the scene, both getting disproportinately large say in how the country was run with a disportionately diminishing contribution. The elite was doing very well indeed, bankers included, which led it to a curious attitiude when dealing with credit:

"Sure - money's cheap. We'll be fine."

And so vast sums were doled out to people who could ill afford it. In our arrogance we believed we were so well insulated, so much better thought out than our ancestors that we were immune from the bursting that characterised previous delusions.

For all the political blame laying, it is overstating the case to say this was Thatcher's or Blair's fault. It's just that they so purely characterised the spirit of their era that it seems the whole situation is created by them. Truly we get the leaders we deserve.

Suffice it to say, the Blair era took Thatcher's weak legs and loaded it with a ton of concrete. We're now stuck with an economy that's done very well for corporate concentration but enjoys little of the ingenuity enjoyed of having small to medium-sized companies (SMEs) easy to set up, and smooth to run. These companies act as the mortar to the rest of the economies bricks. Moreover the smaller communities involved in running them mean that their workers are, on the whole, happier, more involved in their work, more motivated to generate it profit. Speak to the analysts at Accenture to get an idea of the stress and inhumanity of working for a multi-national (not to mention a management consultancy, which must be left for aother rant).

Back to the point - SMEs are now so overloaded with regulation that can be easily sideskipped or complied with by the big boys that they're been sucked of ingenuity.

For that it is most certainly Blair and Brown that are to blame.

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