Monday, 21 September 2009

READ ALL ABOUT IT: Labour leader says something visionary about global economy shock...

All four of my readers (assuming you're not just me checking to see if I have any comments throughout the day!) will have noted that I have been banging on about the lack of vision and radicalism from the leadership of the British Labour Party for some time now. Perhaps it's the occupational hazard of incumbency...

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I saw an article by the leader of the Labour Party which argued that the imbalances in the global economy which helped cause the present crisis, must not be allowed to be replicated, and that a new model of growth needs to be created. It really is unusual to hear of a political leader daring to suggest that we might need a new paradigm - one which doesn't assume that 'business-as-usual' with a tiny bit more regulation, will suffice.

The only depressing thing for me was that it was the leader of the Labour Party in Australia saying these things, and not the leader of the British Labour Party. That the biggest economic crisis in 70 years, which has wrought massive financial and yes, physical suffering on millions of people, should cause so little soul-searching amongst our political and financial elite, is both scandalous and remarkable. As I keep on saying, had any other sector of the economy caused such damage for everyone else, and then demanded taxpayer bail outs, there would have probably been rioting in the streets or a coup d'etat. Can you imagine the trade union movement causing even 10% of the damage and getting away with it? Or organised criminals, or terrorists, or communists? We seem, collectively, to have rolled over and accepted this state of affairs as if it is perfectly normal. This is all very "British", but it is also very short-sighted. There is a danger of British stoicism allowing a moment of great opportunity for debate about the nature of British market capitalism to pass us by.

I do not know what the answers are as to how to prevent a recurrence of this kind of bust, nor do I have the answers as to how to create a fairer society, or a way of harnessing the power of markets in the interests of ordinary individuals, families and communities rather than the 'Masters of the Universe' who have spent the last two years proving just how true their moniker is. I do have some ideas, and I am absolutely certain that almost all my fellow citizens do too. I think it is reasonable to expect our political leaders to at least engage in a debate with us about the kind of society we wish to build in the future. 'Change' is just a word. But words, ideas, debates, can change the world.

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