ONE blogs – JOHN CALDER – Man for Monday: ‘LAISSEZ FAIRE’ EQUALS LET FAIL

The short reign of Gordon Brown will come to an end on the 6th of May, and looking back, there can be no question of it having been anything other than a disaster. Following in the misguided footsteps of Tony Blair, who simply continued the Thatcherite policy of deregulating as much as possible in order to let rampant greed and civic irresponsibility go wherever it wanted, Gordon Brown swallowed the old line that if things appear to be going well, then they will continue to go on for ever, thereby ignoring all history that, as everyone with common sense knows, says that what goes up in the air must sooner or later fall down.

Regulations, that enabled the British economy to slowly recover after 1945, making life slightly better until the sixties, year by year, was based on a humane socialism that enabled those with talent to be upwardly mobile, for life to be not that different between the manual wage-earner and the office-orientated salaried workers in terms of spendable income, and for even the cultural differences to be reduced. For two and sixpence (one-eighth of a pound) you could go to the opera and the ballet at the Royal Opera House, where the amphitheatre was filled with twenty-year olds. Three hundred pounds a year was considered a reasonable salary or wage. Much worked for nationalised enterprises for a reasonable salary or wage. Nationalised enterprises and the private ones were run on similar lines, profits being moderate and much of them going back into reserves, enabling progressive growth to give more employment, rather than enriching managers and pushing up share prices through increased dividends. High taxation on bigger incomes and excess property made greed difficult and unfashionable.

How that has changed: admittedly there were some who took too much advantage of the welfare state, those with large families and some aggressive trade unions, which was the principal cause of the right-wing backlash, but then things got out of control, society became feral, tribal and ugly. Greed has become not only commonplace, but is considered “good”. And then regulation, which is really the rule of law to create a civilised society in which it is possible for nearly everyone to have a reasonable happy and fulfilling life, was discarded by both Tory and New Labour governments, leading inevitably to the present economic chaos, which is only just beginning to be felt. There are many more Enron and Lehmann Brothers type bankruptcies on the way.

Gordon Brown with his enormous scattering of public money to bail out banks that go on behaving as irresponsibly as before, has ensured at least another twenty years of depression, as well as the virtual disappearance of public services, health, education, protected childhood, comfortable old age, stimulation of our creative faculties through culture, and much else. Unemployment is the key factor, and that is set to rise to levels that will probably lead to revolution and whatever follows it; almost certainly dictatorship. Our participation in disastrous foreign wars, that we will certainly lose, is the second factor for which Gordon Brown is at least partly responsible. But the third one is the lack of any government initiative to stop take-overs by either foreign or local power-hungry and greedy corporations. Each take-over leads to more unemployment. The French government on several occasions has stepped in to stop take-overs in the national interest. Why don’t we do the same? It does not matter whther it is corruption, stupidity or simply ignorance that lies behind the government’s immobility; it is wrong and will ensure that the depression deepens and gets worse.

The polls change daily and no-one can predict what parliament will look like in two months time. Hopefully the party system will be in disarray, and individuals with some common-sense and responsible instincts will be able to sway things and perhaps even start a reform movement, rather than a party. One thing is certain, we are all going to have to learn to live on a much simpler and lower level. That might not be bad if we become good neighbours, willing to share, be tolerant and sociable and begin to cultivate our intellects, and not our greed.

John Calder 22/3/10