The Confusion Of The Modern Left

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Economics isn’t everything of course but when we’re discussing the structure of the economy it’s pretty much everything. Which makes the British left rather more than usually confused. For they’ve really not grasped the subject at all:

There is a dawning recognition that a new kind of economy is needed: fairer, more inclusive, less exploitative, less destructive of society and the planet. “We’re in a time when people are much more open to radical economic ideas,” says Michael Jacobs, a former prime ministerial adviser to Gordon Brown. “The voters have revolted against neoliberalism. The international economic institutions – the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund – are recognising its downsides.” Meanwhile, the 2008 financial crisis and the previously unthinkable government interventions that halted it have discredited two central neoliberal orthodoxies: that capitalism cannot fail, and that governments cannot step in to change how the economy works.

No, let’s not argue about that. Instead, accept it as their starting point:

The new leftwing economics wants to see the redistribution of economic power, so that it is held by everyone – just as political power is held by everyone in a healthy democracy. This redistribution of power could involve employees taking ownership of part of every company; or local politicians reshaping their city’s economy to favour local, ethical businesses over large corporations; or national politicians making co-operatives a capitalist norm.

Fine. Whatever. Who cares? Who owns is a subsidiary question. At times the capitalists is the most efficient, at others the workers. But it’s not the big question at all:

The McDonnell ally I spoke to said that whenever the question of the economy’s long-term trajectory came up in Labour discussions, “We avoid that conversation. There is no consensus in the party.” Then he added: “Personally, I’d be quite happy if Britain ended up as Denmark.”

But that’s a hell of the problem. For Denmark, in common with the other Nordics, is a more capitalist, more free market, society than the UK. So you can’t and won’t get there by having less capitalism and markets, will you?

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