Monday, 2 March 2015

The Tory economic confidence trick

Over the next two months, we will hear a great deal of how both the Coalition's economic medicine has worked and how more of it, under that great populist George Osborne, is necessary to support the speculators, oligarchs and parasites, not to mention pensioners, who form the Tory core constituency. At the very least, the sceptical should take this with a pinch of salt - but would be better advised to purchase a bargepole with a minimum length of three metres.

At the heart of the charlatanry is the hard right orthodoxy of the state being evil, inefficient and the enemy of the entrepreneur.  The corporate welfare that the Tories have handed out to the banks, to big business and to their cronies has been accompanied by an assault on the welfare state - some of which is justified but the vast majority of which is the vindictiveness of an elite isolated from the consequences of its own cupidity.  The failure of the Tory dogma can be demonstrated by the consistent failure to meet deficit-reduction targets, not because of the enthusiastic butchery of the public sector but because tax receipts are either not there, avoided or evaded.  For the last four years, tax revenues have declined against the forecasts.

Increasing inequality, reducing services and putting a moral veneer on it is an odious confidence trick to be playing.  It also makes Labour lazy and complacent as there is no alternative strategy needing to be articulated.  There is no effort to address the structural failings of the British economy, its over-reliance on capital flows, the failure to stimulate manufacturing and the constant transfer of wealth to the top echelons of the population.  Growth has been sustained through a money illusion of property price inflation, kept going through artificial constraints on housebuilding, a non-existent policy to stimulate the country outside London and a perverse tax regime that regards property as a near-one-way-bet for capital accumulation.

All this may help the Tories in the short term, but it is not basis upon which an economy or a state can be run.  Articulating the revolutionary idea that the economy is the servant of the people, and that there is no special legitimacy to the self-styled "wealth creators" who are, usually, rapacious rentiers rather than innovators and supporters of the whole community, is something that should form the basis of a radical narrative that takes on board sustainability, environmentalism, internationalism and the idea of social cohesion and capital.

Sadly the debate has been diminished so that the only issues that appear to matter are those of inflation and GDP.  While public services are reduced, PFI-style Ponzi schemes such as student finance are deferring the crisis until the current generation of fools is dead, and there is no coherency in any direction that is not focused on removing constraints on the rich to do what they like, the Tories are laughing.  Hopefully an articulate alternative can emerge - but this needs public intellectuals rather than party hacks to start the ball rolling.  Starting now, there is still time to reclaim both the economy from the grasping morons, and politics from the cronies and the corrupt.

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