Economic coherence has long been a weakness and criticism of the left. Why? It’s mainly because we are unwilling to present and sustain our economic arguments for the case against austerity, inequality and neoliberal capitalism. And that there is more than simply criticising the status quo, we can also put forward our own powerful economic arguments in favour of ‘immigration’, investment, tax justice and banker-bashing (not literally of course). The left can fight for progressive, radical and sustainable economics that deliver growth equitably. For too long, we have made the same abstract, intellectual arguments trying to appeal to the hearts of the people, but instead we may find more favour appealing to their pockets.
The narrative that ‘fiscal responsibility’, ‘deficit reduction’ and ‘economic pragmatism’ is the sole territory of the Right, has been proven by 5 years of failed fiscal austerity to be lunacy. It’s under the Tories that Britain has financially stagnated, the evidence is all around us manifested in the housing crisis, the doubling of the national debt to £1.5 trillion under Osborne and an unsustainable regional, environmental and socio-economic policy on inequality. The Rotten Right are far more of a threat to the economy than any Loony Lefties.
The refugee crisis is no longer making headlines but remains just as tragic as ever. Thankfully, a surge of donations, community organisation and support for refugees across Europe has come to the fore but even this welcome has worn thin. The refugee crisis has tested our humanity; when children are washing up on Turkish beaches, we have a profound moral dilemma. Though Europe itself had a crucial role in causing regional instability through aggressive, militaristic involvement and the emergence of fundamentalist groups like I.S, Shiite militias and the various belligerents of the Syrian/Iraqi war zone; the actual practical response beyond sympathetic statements is disunited and disappointing. Britain is still only committed to taking 20,000 over the next 5 years. Various European governments have expressed a xenophobic resistance to very idea of taking victims of oppression, decrying the infiltration of Muslims into ‘Christian Europe’. It’s a disgusting thing that the ‘free world’, home to economic opportunity, democracy and tolerance, is refusing to offer a hand.
However, even through the discord of Europe, it is testament to Merkel’s political sagacity that Germany has committed to accepting up to 1.5 million refugees in the next year. Few northern European nations could escape the political ramifications of such an action and indeed 66% of Germans now oppose more refugees, she has taken a temporary blow of suspending the Schengen zone to impose border controls but has benefited so much more from the influx of young, mass labour to boost German productivity. Cameron should take tips in economic competence and needs to realise the stupidity of hostility to both the economic migrants and refugees who contribute so much to the economy through entrepreneurship, taxation and staffing our great institutions. One must question the logic of desperately encouraging foreign students in British world-class universities, then denying these skilled young people visas to settle.
The false narrative of ‘public bad, private good’ has been suspended by Cameron himself fostering heightened economic relations with China in our nuclear industry. Bearing aside the hypocrisy of the Conservative party working with the Chinese Communist Party (it is undeniable that Corbyn would have been crucified for similar actions) and the obvious national security implications; it is inept for Cameron to invest £24bn in the most expensive plant in the world. And it is grotesque for the tax-payer to pay for it with gigantic subsidies lasting until 2060. Endless subsidies to unaffordable nuclear energy contrast with the 87% cut in subsidies to wind and solar businesses. Ridiculously, the Right is using Chinese investment as a ‘magic money tree’ when it is widely acknowledged that genuine economic growth and energy needs could be satisfied with strategic deficit spending at this most opportune of times with low interest rates.
Any chance of economic sanity emerging from the Conservative party is unlikely at best, having crippled their claim to fiscal responsibility with a ‘fiscal charter’ disparaged by economists across the board. A perpetual budget surplus is not only committing to over-taxation, it is also committing to financial suicide for the state investment in the productive sector, infrastructure projects and any hope of Britain being a vanguard in research and technology. It is this reason that our prime minister has allowed our remaining steel manufacturing base to collapse with Redcar as the prime example. The talk of a Northern Powerhouse is rhetorical fantasy while the government stifles domestic industrial development with a carbon tax; simply encourages the importation of raw materials with the obvious consequence of further pollution. In addition to ridiculous energy and housing prices, government action, or rather, inaction is driving business over the edge. It seems incomprehensible that any government would reject the pragmatism of borrowing to invest strategically to stimulate economic growth in the long-term and it is very important that the left maintains credibility on this matter.
The left must not oppose austerity for austerity’s sake, it must not be anti capitalist/business/markets/civilisation/humanity’. A left platform can be so much more. We must campaign for a co-operative, sharing economy with investment in high-skilled, renewable, technological advancement. This means a rejection of the same-old socialist dogma of tax and spend, continual borrowing and centrally controlled economics. We must dream bigger, and take inspiration for the modern economic thinkers of Paul Mason, Marianna Mazzucato and Paul Krugman; utilising a ‘strategic state’ to invest and deliver high-wage jobs in the industries of tomorrow, through a decentralised socialisation of the economy to trusts, co-operatives and local authorities and through a universal basic income, freeing individuals to be creative, inventive and entrepreneurial.
The future is post-capitalist, that is undeniable. The seeds of collaborative, digital, productive economics are in the left, and definitely not within the arbitrary and financially destructive limits of fiscal austerity. To truly engage with the 21st century, we need a political economic narrative, one that rejects traditional socialist and right-wing arguments and embraces futurism for sustainable and powerful economic growth.