Sunday, 2 December 2012

The 'free' market has failed, now for the alternative

Unfortunately the title of this post is not really true, the first part anyway. The 'free' market has succeeded. It has succeded in transferring huge amounts of wealth from ordinary working people to the very richest people on the planet. And it has done this by reducing wages and destroying pensions, social healthcare and social security. Because that transfer of wealth always was the aim of 'free' market neoliberalism - making the 99% (workers) poorer and 1% (capitalists) richer. 

Of course, most people don't like to think in terms of 'capitalist and worker', that, after all, is old hat isn't it? Well, no its not, its just that in the 30 year period after the Second World War, with strong trade unions, social security and decent pensions, the ongoing struggle between worker and capitalist was offset by rising prosperity. With hindsight we can now see that period for what it was - an anomaly. We are now back to capitalism as usual, capitalism as it has been for most of its 200 year history, with sluggish growth and poor welfare provision for the victims of capitalism - the poor and the unemployed. The fact that it took an economic crash to return us to 'normality' should really be no surprise to anyone (though when it happens it always is). The history of capitalism is a succession of economic crises, of which this one is only the latest and possibly the greatest. The capitalist media has worked hard to persuade us that the distinction between capitalist and worker no longer has any relevance, that we are all in it together, but that has been exposed as a fiction by recent events.

The lesson we should learn from the latest crisis is that only the nation state can prevent complete economic chaos and disaster. Without state intervention in the economies of Europe and the USA the crisis would have been very much worse. Neoliberals like to label the state as the enemy of freedom, enterprise and innovation, but without it we would all probably be living in shanty towns and could possibly have slid into barbarism. The reality is that the democratic nation state can be our friend and it is the only existing institution which can turn things around in times of crisis. That is why we must not turn our back on state intervention in the economy, and nationalisation of the railways and the utilities. People of my generation look back on the nationalised utilities with affection. They weren't perfect but they weren't the preserve of foreign corporations with footloose 'investors' who care nothing about energy and water provision in the UK.

It doesn't have to be like this. There is a sound economic alternative, but there is a problem because if we continue to elect political parties which follow neoliberal policies the misery will continue. For example, as Larry Elliot in the Guardian showed today new jobs have been created in the UK during the crisis but the bad news is that these are low-paid part time jobs, replacing the better jobs which have been lost. Here is a telling quote:
"The UK is turning into an old-style third world country with low pay growth for most workers below managerial level, widening pay differentials and poor levels of capital investment"
Of the mainstream political parties in the UK all but one adhere to the tenets of 'free' market neoliberalism, despite the fact that it is clearly unpopular with the electorate, as the by-elections last Thursday showed. The Coalition parties got hammered with the Liberal Democrats polling only 415 votes in Rotherham and coming eighth. UKIP did well, but they are a single-issue party trading on the unpopularity of the EU. If people understood better UKIP's other policies they would soon be exposed. Labour, who most voters are looking to as an alternative to the Coalition are neoliberal-lite at best and are unlikely to reverse many of the damaging changes made by the Coalition. The only party which has an alternative economic policy is the Green Party, as we showed in our manifesto, which is still as relevant now as it was in 2010 .

'Free' market neoliberalism has failed those who it was meant to fail, the ordinary people of  Europe and the USA, the 99%. The alternative is now needed more urgently than ever. But you can only get that alternative by voting for a political party which has an alternative. If you want to find out more take a look at our vision. Never has voting for an alternative been more important. Come and join us in turning things around.

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