Sunday, 9 October 2011

New economic model needs to be found urgently

There does appear at least at rhetorical level to be recognition on the part of the leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband that the present neo- liberal economic system is busted. He together with the Trades Union Congress has asserted that a new way of doing things must be found. The TUC ofcoure has gone much further mapping out real alternatives to bring about change.
This position is in stark contrast to the Coalition Government which in a strange contortion appears to be trying to address issues like the deficit with another dose of the same neo liberal orthodoxy that helped create the problems in the first place. Deregulation, privatisation and the sanctity of the market were all rubrics of neo-liberal economics as promoted in the first instance by the government of Margaret Thatcher but then continued by successive Conservative and Labour administrations. How quite the destruction of the public sector to the benefit of the privateers is supposed to address the question of the deficit is a question that remains unanswered.
The situation existing now simply cannot continue for much longer. There are the gathering clouds of an economic storm in the Europe and the United States. Talk of revisiting the banking crisis of 2008, when famously the world was said to be hours away from the cash machines stopping, now abounds. Incidentally, if such a scenario does ever happen, the riots and looting seen last August will seem as nothing in comparison.
There is enough evidence around that the present economic system is just not working and needs to change. Yet strangely the government carries on in the same way. As recession bites deeper, the amount that people have to pay towards pensions increases. The train operating companies are given a free rein to increase their prices, operating in the sort of bubble, only previously seen in relation to banker’s bonuses. A similar attitude seems prevalent when it comes to the energy companies, which are also forcing up prices and increasing fuel poverty.
When it comes to constructing a new economic system, the first thing that needs to change is the emphasis on vested interests and greed. At times over the past 30 years it seems that policies from the privatisation of the railways and energy to the Private Finance Initiative systems of funding for building new hospitals and schools seem totally premised on a few people making a profit to the cost of everyone else.
A new way of doing things must put the morality of the common good at its centre. The treatment of people and the environment in which they live must be a main pillar, as must an inclusivity that recognises the inherent worth of every human being from the baby in the cradle to the elderly person at home.
This would mean the workers who produce the product, whether it be boiler components or the education of a child must be put first. Part of this construct must be decent wages and terms and conditions of work. No more bosses being paid one hundred times more than the workers.
The role of the parent must be respected and remunerated in the society. The role of parent needs to be set alongside that of a job, not taken, as it is now, as some make do and mend add on that apparently everyone knows naturally how to do.
In terms of the type of economy for the future, there needs to be a major move toward green technology. This is where the future lies.
There must also be a return to the land, with people producing more of their own food. This helps create self sufficiency but it is also a vital part of every human beings education to be in touch with the earth. There are moves to provide more spaces so that people can grow more of their own food, such as allotments and shared gardens etc but there needs to be more.
There should also be more time for leisure and education in a new economic model. This would mean less time needed at work, allowing more time with family and friends, as well as on education. The concept of education in its most basic sense needs to be recaptured from the bastardised version that now seems to dominate in educational establishments around the country. Exam factories have little role to play in expanding the mind.
There are some nascent signs of a debate developing in terms of what a new economic model should look like. But this needs to be accelarated, with a wide coalition of interests including the unions, Labour Party, environmentalists, progressive employers, faiths and others all having a part to play. Change would be better implemented in a peaceful and equitable way rather than coming as a phoenix from the ashes of a devastated economic meltdown.

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