As the depression deepens daily, it becomes ever more evident that no politician has any idea of what the situation really is, or what to do about it. Vince Cable’s book ‘The Storm’, published early this year, gave an accurate picture of what has led to the present crisis, but avoided saying what should have been done. As an active politician he could not outline unpopular measures with the next General election so near. Eventually, these measures must be taken. Robert Skidelsky, who wrote a fairly standard biography of Keynes, has just been published a new work, Keynes: The Return of the Master, which demolishes the inadequate apologias of those who believe that market forces and lack of regulation will eventually bring us back to a growth economy.
There no chance of a recovery for many years, if there ever is one. The only way in which the rot can be slowed down is being totally ignored. The most important problem is one of employment. Now rising towards four million, it will continue to escalate unless new employment is created and paid for by much higher taxes, especially on those with large incomes, who manage to pay very little. Lower profit is no reason to lay people off, although a contribution from the State is not out of the question. What should also be taxed is all the artificial technology that has replaced jobs. Those with jobs can spend, not on unnecessary luxuries, but on the basic necessities of food, shelter, heat and light, and where necessary, transport. What should be aimed for is not growth, but stability, the avoidance of loss. Life can become simpler, without necessarily becoming less interesting. Interest lies, not in possessions and needless spending, but on what the mind can turn itself into through self education and want for knowledge ,above all.
Globalisation, the taking over of one company by another for reasons of greed, aggrandisement, prestige and power, thereby reducing the amount of employment available, is one of the main causes of both the present crisis and the amount of crime and incompetence in contemporary society. The reluctance of the state to nationalise and to own on behalf of its citizens is another. Capitalism can only be tolerated if it is regulated and private enterprise kept in small, easy-to-understand and regulating units. Wealth creation should not be for the few (and often the most unscrupulous) but for the many. One should work for the benefit of a civilised and as-much-as-possible equal life for all, and not just for personal gain. At the same time work can be made interesting, largely through furthering cooperation and sociability and not always pushing for more competition. Differences and interests, abilities, tastes, attitudes should be recognised and provided for. If the state plays a bigger role in providing for what we all need, and through taxation and an incomes policy gives us lives that are not that much different in terms of what we have to spend, with basic necessities of education, health care and access to cultural pursuits, as well as nourishment and shelter provided as cheaply as possible, but affordably, we will have as much as we can expect to have in this life.
There will be differences, but not inequality. Utopia will never arrive, but it can always seem a litter nearer. From 1959, when we were still not far from the grim years of the war and the last depression that preceded it, life got gradually better until the explosion into general affluence of the sixties, after which reaction returned, Thatcherism, the greed culture, and then the drop into the present abyss. It is time to go back to the attitudes and economical culture of the 1950s and start from there again. It can be done, but we must force our politicians to overcome their blindness, selfishness and ignorance, and to think again, care again, and show some courage in the face of reality.