Towards the end of his life, Karl Marx admitted that he had underestimated the capacity of capitalism to adapt to changing social and economic circumstances. In making this admission, Marx was acknowledging the truth that the capacity to analyse and recognise features of a problem doesn’t necessarily mean that one produces the best solution to that problem.
A more recent example of the same thing might be Enoch Powell’s correct analysis that many cultures cannot be given the same level of importance in a unitary state; it hardly needs to be said that many of the solutions Powell proposed to this problem in the late 1960s could most politely be described as controversial.
So it is that I feel moved to disagree with my colleague John Calder’s recent post on the current economic situation. Whether or not John is right that the current economic crisis will prove to be worse than the 1930’s depression remains to be seen; certainly, this is already the worst recession since the Second World War.
John is almost certainly right to say that job creation, and the reinvigoration of traditional industries, will be urgent tasks for any future British government. But thereafter, I cannot agree with his programme for how our economy should be revived.
John sees the evils of international banking as almost exclusively responsible for the current crisis. Yet in doing so, he ignores at least fifty per cent of the problem, which is that we have spent beyond our means for at least twenty years and, worse, created a client state of overpaid senior civil and public servants with pensions and perks that we, as a society, cannot possibly afford.
John’s calls for income limits for senior executives and the nationalisation of foreign-owned businesses have about them the whiff of the unreconstructed gentleman socialist. Whilst there is no denying that something must be done to curb the runaway greed and gross excesses of the banking sector, it is at best disingenuous to ignore the enormous pay increases in the public sector, in particular in senior positions in the health, education and civil services, over the past fifteen years.
Last year, the average wage in the public sector outstripped the average wage in the private sector for the first time since records began. Even a five year old could tell us that we cannot go on spending money we have not earned; a fresh set of solutions is the answer, not a return to old, failed ideas.
The best I can offer in this short space is once more to recommend the work of Jonah Goldberg (“Liberal Fascism”) and Philip Blond (“Red Tory”) to readers of ONE Magazine. Outrageous as Goldberg can be, he puts his finger on the moral hypocrisy which is at the heart of our culture; and Blond’s recognition that we have, in essence, moved from market capitalism to a market society where everything is for sale is another important foundation from which we must build the solution to the problems we face in the early twenty-first century. Learning from history is wise; imagining that history repeats itself exactly and without variation is the opposite of wisdom.