When people are under pressure they often retreat into what they think they know, and what makes them feel safe. The global economic crisis, triggered by the banks and the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, threatened to bring down the whole global economy and capitalist order. The response, lead by politicians in the UK, including Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling, was to use the power of the state to preserve the status quo. Losses were nationalised and profits remained in Wall Street and the City as taxpayers were required to bail out the private sector banking system. The aim was to restore "business as usual", as if nothing had ever happened.
Since the 2010 general election in the UK, David Cameron and George Osborne, have continued to use the British state to maintain "business a usual", playing the class war card and ensuring that corporations and the rich continue to be shielded by making the rest of us pay to reduce the structural deficit and prop up the banks. As long as the 'markets' and bondholders are safe, the rest of us can go hang. The recent budget provided ample evidence of this with the top rate of tax being reduced to 45% and Osborne later claiming that, even though he is a millionaire, that he didn't know that wealthy people pay lower taxes overall than the rest of us.
But its not just the ongoing economic crisis that we should be concerned about, we are facing a crisis of resource depletion and climate change. Far from being a sign of strength as, Cameron, Osborne, Brown and Darling have claimed, in 'protecting' 'our' economy they have shown weakness. Brown and Darling could have taken the opportunity of the crash to bring the banks under control, Cameron and Osborne could have taken the opportunity of election victory to re-engineer our economy to deal with the very real challenges we face. They all failed. The same mistakes have been reproduced by Sarkozy and Merkel in the EU, making the Eurozone crisis even worse, something which the economist Joseph Stiglitz has recently described as a "suicide pact".
What we need now is politicians like Caroline Lucas who have the courage to cast aside the failed 'free' market neoliberal ideology of business as usual and build an economy which can deal with the very real challenges which we face. Sadly, there is no hope of this happening with this government, Cameron and Osborne will continue to protect the interests of their class, and fiddle while Rome burns, but lets be clear - what they offer us, apart from years of hardship is, for all the posturing, not strength, but weakness in the face of adversity.