No shock doctrine for Britain
The economic case against short term cuts has been widely made. So much so, that a large majority voted in the election for parties opposed to cuts this year. In fact, Vince Cable promised us that opposing any immediate cuts would be (as well as support for savage cuts next year) a condition of forming a coalition Government.
What the media tell us less often, is that many mainstream economists don’t accept the idea that substantial cuts to the welfare state in the UK are sensible at all. I am not an economist, but I can point you to these excellent pieces by Nobel Laurette and former chief economist to Bill Clinton then the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, and former monetary policy committee member David Blancheflower. Both of these men are notable in the world of economists in that they actually predicted this recession. Unlike almost any of the far right economists on whom the Con/Dem coalition is basing it’s arguments.
Cuts are not only not needed. They are also potentially hugely damaging. The economic cost of entrenched unemployment is huge, but not as big as the cost to people’s lives. The economic cost of education lost to bigger class sizes is huge. Bigger still is the human cost of children not learning what they could. The economic cost of single parents not being integrated back into the community through their local Sure Start centre is enormous. But even bigger is the cost to that community in losing them.
What is interesting though, is how successfully the Tories have built the case for cuts to the services. Their attack has been two pronged:
1) we can’t go on like this – I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS.
2) Big society, not big government.
In other words, they haven’t talked about the evils of socialism, as people do in the States, or about the tax cuts they will deliver, as Milton Friedman always advised the right to do. They made the case that public service cuts were simply necessary. They used a cunning bit of footwork to do so – they played the trust card. Essentially they said ‘cuts are unpopular but necessary. Labour will say otherwise. But you know from the expenses scandal that they are liars, and if they say something more popular, it will prove that they are lying to you’. Brown wanted still to argue that the election should be about “Labour investment vs Tory cuts”. He was, I think, probably right, but we’ll never know.
The second prong – the Big Society – is one of those ideas which encapsulates enough truth to sound vaguely plausible, but then turns out to mean nothing at all apart from “shred the welfare state”.
But now, the rhetoric is over. The Tory/Lib Dem government is forcing through it’s emergency budget. This is little more than a classic use of The Shock Doctrine – use an economic crisis to push through right wing economic policies. We have just a few weeks to stop them. Join the resistance.