At the Cliff Edge – Part Three

Over Edge Part Three – the New Model (Economic) Army

Addendum – 16th January 2019

Following the devastating defeat for the ‘May Brexit Plan’, the rejection of the futile scheme now means we have gone over the cliff.

As the political consequences tumble from the Westminster table to the floor of the House, we will be left with a representative process itself unable to function, I suspect. It is this calamity that is undemocratic, not the cries from the right of the Tory Party that the previous questioning and seeking clarity has been claimed, in their eyes.

From the wasted, vast public expenditure spent in pursuit of narrow, partisan political ideological aims, to the new understanding by the majority of the population around the consequences and the complexity of misunderstood and ineffective negotiation on our behalf – now is the time to abandon the sly scheming of the Bullingdon Club as national policy and to reaffirm our collaborative, humanitarian commitment to the European project.

Or, at the very least to hold a new referendum to re-assert the will of the people, now a referendum of informed choice, to decide our fate collectively.

Without either, I would argue, there is no hope of a new socio-economic plan, as detailed below, in our increasingly isolated, beleaguered island.


‘…we argue that the UK must now embrace change on a sufficient scale to achieve ‘escape velocity’ from an economy that delivers neither prosperity nor justice, to one that achieves both. We face a decade of disruption ahead, in which doing nothing will drag us further backwards. Change of this magnitude is possible…’

The cliff edge - image
The perilous void approaches in March 2019…

Earlier in 2018 we saw the publication of the Final Report of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Commission on Economic Justice (…extract above). Entitled ‘Prosperity and Justice – The Plan for a New Economy‘ the report outlined several key policy areas to broaden ownership of industry, to make distribution of its wealth more equitable and to seek a new determination of social justice, linked to and driven by our economy.

Prospetiy & Justice IPPR Report - cover image and web link
View, print or download your copy here…

There has been much recent popular debate about whether politicians are as adroit as they used to be. If they were not, then the world would be in utter and complete chaos. It is not of course, is it?

However, if the car crash that is Brexit in 2019 does happen, then in the declared political spirit expressed by Brexiteers of all the mainstream parties, then we should embrace that change and increase management, accountability, economic democracy and community facility, through enterprise change as detailed in the IPPR report.

Make it a cornerstone of a new political morality, to exercise the demons  of poverty, exclusion and hatred of the other. For future historians the Commission’s report adoption could be seen as the transformative Beveridge Report of its day.

Morality is a word chosen with care. We are being told that we cannot have a second referendum, or that the choices we have are ‘where we are’…and so on. To dispute or press for other solutions is anti-democratic. The people have spoken.

The people have spoken against and from within the context of political opportunism, party partiality in Parliament and rigid ideological dogma to satisfy the far right of  a rightist socio-political elite.

We must have a second referendum, precisely because of the flawed, deeply partisan and opportunist nature of the first. Those who decry the end of democracy in this debate are looking down the wrong end of the telescope.

Messages on the side of a bus, based on flawed data, the fear of another illusory ‘straight banana’ crisis, all coupled with the lack of intellectual weight of those making the original proposition mean that, now the obscuring veil of mis-reality, mis-understanding and mis-direction has been lifted – then now is the time for moral courage to be freed and to say we got it wrong and must revisit the question.

That is in the interests of the people. I find it hard to believe that the people of my generation who voted leave were casting their paper for soldiers on the streets, medicine hoarded at borders or the crisis that will surely overtake our business/research matrix, hospitals, schools and food distribution networks. It is seventy years of European peace that is at peril.

Indeed, in the previous two segments of this three part article (Brexit and Poverty) I have already been clear, and deeply saddened and angered, at the political processes that have sought such elite opportunist change, which for me and others, have been entirely in the wrong direction for our country and communities.

What politicians need, arguably, is a clear road map. One that is both linear, yet segmented into distinct policy areas that will illuminate process and outcome at a synergetic arrival point.

This aggregated outcome must be non-revolutionary, yet ground trembling enough for society at large to recognise that both process and outcome convene in a clear societal good, in which they are included.

The economic structures must retain adherence to some traditional rules of capital, so as not to deflate or redirect existing energies, yet that will alter the production/finance matrix enough to re-channel wealth and ownership without creating systemic fear of the change itself.

No mean feat, you may say? It is my hope that in reading the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice deliberations, you will recognise the suggested cartography.

We have to ‘hard-wire’ justice into the economy, not treat it as an afterthought…” says the report. Calamitous change is upon us and here is a framework for management.

This is an elegant echo of the thinking of Professor Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, published in his ‘Statement on a Visit to the United Kingdom‘ in late November 2018.

The professor, looking at the political wrangle over Brexit, for example, saw politicians considering the well being of individuals and communities as a afterthought, or somehow, a minor consideration which hampered the effect of political ideology at play. In the Professor’s report the word ‘austerity’ could easily have been substituted for ‘spite’, without any loss of efficacy in the argument.

The IPPR report also beggars the veracity of all the political swagger…

‘…behind the figures for growth the picture looks even more worrying. Across a whole range of economic indicators, the UK economy exhibits serious underlying weaknesses. On investment, research and development, trade and productivity, we perform worse than most of our European neighbours – and have done so not merely over the last ten years, but for much of the last 40…’

Reporting an insightful analysis if the UK economy, as it exists, the Commission go on to make a number of recommendations for policy change. Changes, which if executed, would transform prosperity, production and profits for all. They are…

  • Reshaping the Economy through Industrial Strategy
  • Securing Good Pay, Good Jobs and Good Lives
  • Turning Business towards Long-Term Success
  • Promoting Open Markets in the New Economy
  • Raising Public Investment in a Reformed
  • Macroeconomic Framework
  • Strengthening the Financial System
  • Spreading Wealth and Ownership across the Economy
  • Designing Simpler and Fairer Taxes
  • Ensuring Environmental Sustainability
  • Creating a New Economic Constitution

Although there are, clearly, policy activist organisations working to achieve the types of change called for in the report, it is the meta-narrative, the over-arching vision of the IPPR report that is its key distinction.

Prosperity and justice: A plan for the new economy – The final report of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice

We commend the report to our readership, marking it as a defining sign-post for a new socio-economic national landscape. Get your copy and persist with the detail. Bring it up at branch meetings, write to the newspapers and tell the children that yes, there is another way.

If I never make it with my projects to Estonia, I shall go over the cliff with my family into a dark future…waving my IPPR Report copy aloft as we fall into the abyss.

 

 

 


This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA

Now living in rural Suffolk, I have wondered all my adult life why ordinary people like me, would vote to make the policies of the self-interested Right ascendant? I now think, older as I am, that I have pursued entirely the wrong question, despite voting Labour my entire life. Why on earth cannot collaborative socialism make the Left successfully ascendant? This is the new quest.

Tim is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.

No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

As we hurtle towards the edge of the cliff…

The future awaits...train crash image
The future awaits…

This statement is all about party political management of the factions in the Tory party – the national interest is a very poor second. What an utter shambles‘… Oct 15

In a sense, in the midst of a gargantuan flow of promises, policy revision and idealogical selfishness, then it doesn’t really matter what the statement mentioned above is all about. Umunna’s tweet is a metaphor for a wider socio-political discontent.

History is the important context, or rather, a lack of it and a missing sensibility to previous disastrous political outcomes.

Umunna’s opinion captures a general sweep of unease with both major parties – over Brexit, the political operational vacuum at the heart of Westminster because of it, and all the ancillary debates, gesture politics and posturing that diminishes compassionate, effective government.

As I emerge from my period of grief over the Europe debacle, I look back in a deeply personal reflection across the current landscape.

Post the ‘Referendum of Mis-information’ and having taken the family to Europe, France and Holland, to explore new places to live and new bases for our small  businesses, they have taken the opportunity to decline relocation as a solution to my European malaise.

I remain deeply pessimistic about their future, and that of their children, as a result of a party political ‘manoeuvre’ of the deepest national and international significance, a word described in the dictionary as ‘...to move skilfully and carefully‘. In this case, history here may not be kind.

In the here and now, I find it interesting that both church leaders and humanists are clearly voicing disquiet regarding the activities and expectations of an ideological Right. The history matters here.

‘The European Union is one of the greatest human achievements. A continent which had been at war for centuries is now at peace. It’s not just about military alliances, it’s about countries opening their hearts and their borders to their neighbours. Preserve it!‘   

In the future? Well, I expect that the clarion arguments of a European peace, guaranteed by secure political alliances, will mean nothing. We risk, yet again, our own ordinary people becoming, quite literally, victims to political expediency.

As I write, I am dusting off my copy of Sun Tzu, The Art of War, to better understand the interplay between politics and military aggression, which has left my life untouched so far, but which devastated the generations of my father and his father too.

It is interesting, I would argue, that as we approach yet another commemorative date to remember both profound loss and absolute bravery, that no current politician, of any party, seems able to entwine these historical political consequences into their current thinking, whilst still bearing appropriate reverence for the fallen. The Menin Gate should haunt us all.

There is a lack of intellectual grasp, about society, politics, economics and history – a monumental failure of perception – that lies at the heart of mainstream elite political debate and sound-biteism over Brexit.

The consequences for me, in the now, are a sense of betrayal, a denial of internationalism as an inherently good thing. Not in a capitalist shade, but in the efficacy of governmental co-operation and social utility that has seen so much historical investment in the UK, from Europe, and a melding of socio-cultural ideas that have enriched our society for the better..

Splendid isolation, as a political driver, results in a hardening of negativity towards the other. It makes the consequences of state violence both remote and unheard in the home state

These consequences, social and economic, of the Brexit divide are irrelevant to an ideological elite, I would argue, secured by private funds, private education, overseas investment and a property portfolio that would stagger George Soros.

In the future? I shall remain European first and English second, as I have been my whole adult life.

At the office, as a board, we are debating a paper to facilitate a change to Estonia as a base for our operations. We have always, in the day job, worked as a collective across international borders. Any move which denies us having to break this core mission, for us, is the right move.

For me with what time I have left, even if I remain only a virtual European in Estonia, I will, as one small voice in a social landscape rendered asunder,  have taken a stand, of good conscience, against monumentally misguided, politically opportunist ideology.


This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA

Now living in rural Suffolk, I have wondered all my adult life why ordinary people like me, would vote to make the policies of the self-interested Right ascendant? I now think, older as I am, that I have pursued entirely the wrong question, despite voting Labour my entire life. Why on earth cannot collaborative socialism make the Left successfully ascendant? This is the new quest.

Tim is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.

No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

And so to France…

Exploring France Image
Scanning the European landscape for opportunity…

In Europe recently looking at both projects and for places to live.

When looking for information on business services, buildings and local opportunities, the distinctiveness of the Mairie and its conditioning power in small local communities, was a powerful example of how local democracy, decision making and regard for both history and civic presence can be created in one building, regardless of the size of the community.

History is important in France. Travelling from the city of Arras towards the coast created an opportunity to stop for coffee and a short walk. Just off the main road was a plot of land, about the size of a generous community football field. In it stood over eleven thousand grave markers for French men and women. Individuals who had fallen during The Great War.

Driving on, in a few minutes passing similar places dedicated to nearly forty thousand German souls, others for Indian nationals who died, and for Polish combatants too in another. A jumble of conflicts and immaculately kept memory, dotted across the landscape.

In the village centres and small towns were memorials erected to British Generals, regiments and individual soldiers, all paid for by popular subscription. Concrete evidence that France, lying at the heart of the European idea, must be as mystified as I am about the English notion of ‘leaving Europe’, post-referendum.

Having travelled across France many times in a lifetime, this journey was haunted by the spectre of betrayal. A notion that the lives expended in the creation of the European idea are seen as nought, when the evidence in the rolling landscape offers up the weight of a sacrifice to freedom that we ignore at our peril.

It was in the small, the local and the particular that the best information was to be had about generating new ideas, and not in the grand sweep of international politics and bureaucratic management of economies.

It is in the same context that European communities and businesses will respond to the new ‘English isolationism’.

Philip Rooke, an English entrepreneur, based in Berlin recently wrote in the journal VentureBeat about how the damage to trade and commercial relationships has already begun post-referendum. Although writing from a ‘tech’ development and business operations viewpoint, Rooke’s article illustrates well how the consideration of the local and particular will affect market development and access, regardless of the current mainstream political view in England.

In a clear exposition as a practicing business person in Europe, Rooke argues that he can already ‘…see companies heading to Berlin, Dublin, Amsterdam, and other European hubs‘. That is instead of coming to London or the UK as a whole.

‘Our corporate headquarters in Leipzig in the former East Germany is a microcosm of the benefits of a dynamic inclusive workplace powered by open borders — we have more than 20 nationalities that work together. I am sad that many of the UK voters did not appreciate what this environment adds to the knowledge, skills, and enjoyment of working in a mixed culture’.

Source: http://venturebeat.com/2016/07/30/brexits-damage-to-startups-has-already-begun/         Accessed: 16.08.2016

Rooke makes a tellng point about America, an important market for him. The USA has long been a federation of states, and Brexit he argues, is comparable to California, whose economy is similar in size to the UK, choosing to leave the United States. He argues that this would collapse the California technical marketplace as businesses and people chose to move to other cities in the US. Individuals making a rational choice to foster their interests by disengaging from a spurious political belief in independence, in order to preserve and cultivate their own businesses and careers.

It is a telling argument, but one that relies on understanding the unwritten and undeclared acts of the individual business player. A sort of conflict about the role of enlightened self-interest. In one case philanthropic, in another selfish perhaps. Themes which are never part of the political discourse and populist clamour about, in our case, European unity.

In closing his article Rooke counters the argument, sometimes heard from UK politicians about modelling the future on Norway or Switzerland. In practice, Rooke opines, these two countries have to work much harder, fill in more forms, pay additional taxes and wait longer for responses than mainstream European businesses. Rooke argues that his own multi-national prioritises development strategies away from this sort of market, in order to maintain growth and revenue.

Leave the club, he says and disincentives to growth and development abound, when so many other opportunities, which are border free, are just over the neighbouring horizon. None of these limitations are categorised, prescribed or noted in the current debate on Europe without England.

Although we would never close our Partnership office in Cambridge UK, over the years our projects have become international, even as a micro-business. Whatever the emotional energies or political views of our partners, the Rookeian notion of having a multicultural, cross national presence on mainland Europe makes sense even to us.

It is interesting to think that, in memoriam for all of those individuals, buried in the landscape so recently traversed, it may be that a form of enlightened, social capitalism is, in effect, the last bastion of defence for the European idea in the Twenty First Century.

Another sentence, from my political viewpoint, I never imagined writing.

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This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA

Now living in rural Suffolk, I have wondered all my adult life why ordinary people like me, would vote to make the policies of the self-interested Right ascendant? I now think, older as I am, that I have pursued entirely the wrong question, despite voting Labour my entire life. Why on earth cannot collaborative socialism make the Left successfully ascendant? This is the new quest.

Tim is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.

No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

Borderless capital
and the consequences

This short Ted Talk, at TED Banff in Canada in June 2016, is by Gerard Ryle, exploring the way investigative journalists collaboratively exploited the leaked Panama Papers to cast light on the borderless nature of capital and how individuals and their secretive companies obscure both their holdings and their interests.

What is interesting is how well it illustrates the internationalist nature of private capital, often capital accrued by public figures who, you would think, should have the interests of their nations and people at heart.

The talk shows the persistence and pervasiveness of the work of Panama based laywers Mossack Fonseca and the success that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington USA had, in sharing and developing the stories, that led to the resignation of Prime Ministers and the exposure of connections to political elites of exploitative financial arrangements.

The international and borderless nature of capital makes, I would argue, the recent territorial and administrative debates about the European Union irrelevant.

If there is a problem with a bureaucracy in a country or group of states, the deeper malaise is the creation of laws of preference for one group of actors and not another. If my road building project in Europe has not been administered properly, then we should, in an open democracy, be able to exercise rigorous accountability and audit to remove the problem and to rectify the injustice.

If my  bank account in the British Virgin Islands has been used to divert funds to my private interests, or allegedly to deliver payments to officials that might possibly be illegal, the very secrecy and obscurity of process means we have no recourse to auditable action to recover the situation – fiscal, ethical or moral.

If I then allegedly avoid paying tax or other contributions in my community, then everyone and the resources and infrastructure they use, also suffer a loss. Everyone in my community carries the cost.

I have written before about how the international nature of unnacountable capital, coupled to a populist notion of simple, charismatic vilification of ‘the other’ may bring us to the brink of war in Europe again, after such a prolonged period of peace.

The writer Tobias Stone recently published an article, History tells us what will happen next with Brexit & Trump, that captures the essence of what may be the coming dilemna in Europe. He notes the resilience of humans to survive massive destruction. Stone, however, sees that there is in the current socio-political rift in England, a tight focus on the present, a lack of historical and global perspective to actions and re-actions and at heart, the fact that most individuals are un-prepared to ‘read, think and challenge‘.

Stone clearly lays out in detail a possible topography of political change and tension that brings us to war with our neighbours…

Brexit in the UK causes Italy or France to have a similar referendum. Le Pen wins an election in France. Europe now has a fractured EU…with a fractured EU, and weakened NATO, Putin, facing an ongoing economic and social crisis in Russia, needs another foreign distraction around which to rally his people…just one Arch Duke Ferdinand scenario. The number of possible scenarios are infinite due to the massive complexity of the many moving parts. And of course many of them lead to nothing happening. But based on history we are due another period of destruction.

Source: https://medium.com/@theonlytoby/history-tells-us-what-will-happen-next-with-brexit-trump-a3fefd154714#.dkbzwwvya   Accessed: 25.07.2016

In a Brexit/Trump world Stone has it that, for example, neither Putin nor Trump read The Guardian. When we write to it, it is, he argues, just friends writing to comfort friends.

Whilst this may be true and the consequent solution to the chasm that divides us is not obvious, I would argue that the work of the ICIJ shows us what the real issue is and an article from Tobias Stone gives us a potential theory of outcome that should cause us all to shudder and re-think.

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This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA

Now living in rural Suffolk, I have wondered all my adult life why ordinary people like me, would vote to make the policies of the self-interested Right ascendant? I now think, older as I am, that I have pursued entirely the wrong question, despite voting Labour my entire life. Why on earth cannot collaborative socialism make the Left successfully ascendant? This is the new quest.

Tim is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.

No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

Après moi, le déluge

guillotineImage
The end of an era?

Louis XV of France, in predicting the French Revolution after his demise, cannot have had David Cameron in mind. However, the last week of June 2o16 saw a number of unedifying political manifestations of the turmoil and collapse driven by the ‘Brexiteers’.

The titular phrase of this article is derived, according to which source you read, from après nous, le déluge arguably by Madame de Pompadour. The use of the plural is even more apposite as the recent scene in the Commons unfolded, where Cameron berates Jeremy Corbyn for not ‘leaving’ his post as leader, whilst the Tory Party under the tottering leadership of Cameron careers into crisis, effectively leaderless and arguably adrift in an ocean of conflicting ideologies.

The Conservative Party is now a bastion of Free marketeers, decrying the ready movement of labour. It has a one nation rhetoric, betrayed by dishonesty and spin, arguably intent on driving ‘foreigners’ from our shores. This latter philosophy creates popular incantations summoning ‘the other’, which will have terrrible consequences for some communities. Its leadership promoting this dissent and schism in civil society, seemingly regardless of the consequences to an economy now in freefall. This week we hear that the principles of austerity, cuts and deprivation, designed to reach a fiscal target which deems our nation to be a sort of grocery shop where costs must be cut at any price – now this too is swept away.

The writer Kazuo Ishiguro, writing in the Financial Times this week is angry…

Angry that one of the few genuine success stories of modern history — the transforming of Europe from a slaughterhouse of total war and totalitarian regimes to a much-envied region of liberal democracies living in near-borderless friendship — should now be so profoundly undermined by such a myopic process as took place in Britain last week. I am angry that the UK is now very likely to cease to exist, only two years after the Scottish referendum seemed to secure its future.

Source: https://next.ft.com/content/7877a0a6-3e11-11e6-9f2c-36b487ebd80a?siteedition=uk  Accessed: 01.07.2016

The ill-mannered protestation in the House that Jeremy Corbyn should ‘leave’ is ironic, wounding and shallow – particularly as Jeremy has an enormous electoral mandate from the Labour electorate, with more arriving at the door of a Corbyn led Party every week, we are told.

Now the Parliamentary Labour Party has joined the fray, seeking to dislodge Jeremy and his steadfast adherence to principle and social values. With the referendum result we hear continually the cry from both major parties ‘this is democracy, the people have spoken‘, yet when issues of Parliamentary power and privilege are abroad the notion of a polity having spoken is very far from the back office meeting rooms of Members of Parliament.

Similarly the Party in Parliament seems not to remember that there is an agreed rule book, where challenges to leadership and appropriate consultaton with the membership can be triggered. Even Parliamentarians should surely remember the effectiveness and telling nature of democracy. I am still in post referendum shock, and now grief for my country, yet I am told I have to live with the result. Such is the democratic process. It applies to all in our Party does it not?

This nature of language for the discourse of power and demcracy is interesting, even in the Labour Party. Listening to Margeret Beckett on Radio Four last week, she opined that Jeremy is a ‘principled and honest man‘, with excuses for some paraphrasing on my part, the description immediately followed by a ‘but’.

The ‘but’ was a lead in to a call for ‘strong leadership’. Do we not have that already. Jeremy has not, to my knowledge, responded to the endless critique of his dress sense, social ideas, support for workers and trade unions and so on He has been consistent and insistent on the need for a political process that is different with the highest values of compassion and resource for a united country.

Is this not the sort of leader we want?

A recent leader article in The Economist, as angry as Ishiguro, defines the present socio-political situation as teetering on the edge of the end of the liberal international order. It sees the referendum result, sponsored by politicians who have trivialised the issues to pursue narrow, personal political gains as…

Anger stirred up a winning turnout in the depressed, down-at-heel cities of England. Anger at immigration, globalisation, social liberalism and even feminism, polling shows, translated into a vote to reject the EU. As if victory were a licence to spread hatred, anger has since lashed Britain’s streets with an outburst of racist abuse.

Source: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21701478-triumph-brexit-campaign-warning-liberal-international-order-politics?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits   Accessed: 02.07.2016

One nation? Only under Labour and only with the support of the compassionate Left and Jeremy Corbyn.


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After Note:

Support the compassionate, active left and join Momentum. You can find their web site and subscription pages here. http://www.peoplesmomentum.com/


This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA

Now living in rural Suffolk, I have wondered all my adult life why ordinary people like me, would vote to make the policies of the self-interested Right ascendant? I now think, older as I am, that I have pursued entirely the wrong question, despite voting Labour my entire life. Why on earth cannot collaborative socialism make the Left successfully ascendant? This is the new quest.

Tim is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

Collective Conversations is a not for profit, publishing project - the views and interpretations expressed are solely those of the individual contributors to the work.

No endorsement of any party or person is sought or implied...

A long requiem for Europe?

Heading towrds Europe?

 

The European Union, the European experiment, emerged in the Twentieth Century from an unimaginable horror of war and destruction. The notion that England would withdraw from this partnership, and the largest single economic market in the world, is an idea that is fraught with socio-political tension, community fear and yes, even individual emotion.

No short article can encompass the macro-economic arguments and social disengagement consequences in detail. Indeed, neither it seems can current political debate in the UK. What it does strive to do is contextualise sixty years of being a European and the claim that economic history has on that journey.

Then we vote…

In England we have a long history of conflating a fear of others and economic malaise. William Cecil in a speech to Parliament in 1588, spoke ‘…for a Bill against strangers and aliens selling wares by retail‘(1).

Cecil was socially compassionate but economically rigid.

‘…in the person of the stranger, I consider the miserable and afflicted state of these poor exiles, who, together with their countries, have lost all (or the greatest) comforts of this life, and, for the want of friends, lie exposed to the wrongs ans injuries of the mailicious and ill-effected. The condition of strangers is that they have many harbours but few friends…’

None the less, Cecil was petitioning to ban newly arrived ‘strangers’ from retail sales for a period of seven years. An echo of contemporary embargoes and restraints in our own society?

A lack of humanity, or a disregard for it can, when coupled to a thirst for resources, mineral or geographical, propel states into the onslaught of war. The building of the European Union has its roots in an attempt to mediate the materials and processes of war production, in an attempt to deliver stability and peace for the wider community after 1946.

These are not just empty rhetorical devices from politicians. Although not lucidly expressed by politicians perhaps, economic connection and the duality of market development is our best guarantee of never seeing another European wide war.

In the Twentieth Century one only has to look at the example of Japan, with Imperial and expansionist aims, pitching neighbouring countries into devastating conflict to satisfy its thirst for war material and resources, human or otherwise.(2)

The economist J.K.Galbraith, in a later work, looked back at the emergence of Keynesianism after the Second World War, as a politico-economic philosophy. With the advance of Capital he argued ‘...full employment would no longer be considered the autonomous consequence of the competitive economy. The unemployment equilibrium would now be assumed, and henceforth it would be a deliberate purpose of government to break that equilibrium and ensure full employment in its place‘.(3) ( If only that had been true…).

The current debate on our membership of the European Union has continued elements of these three entwining historical strands. The fear of strangers and immigration, coupled to a failure of any one economic theory to master complex economic models in an everchanging world and the seeming ignorance of the imminence of war, as a pursuit of economic gain by other means.

When coupled to the false ideology and mythology of the plucky, independent island mastering its own destiny, these elemental strands might actually pitch us into an economic downturn, a rising tide of extremism from all corners of the political spectrum and a paucity of well-being, human and capital, for our citizens.

It is these skeins of history that bring us to the vote on European Union membership in June 2016. But it is the conditionality of the previous five hundred years of turmoil that serve as the backdrop for the reality, for the humanity, of our current situation.

Belonging to a group, being in a club of any kind, offers members advantages and constraints. Two hundred years ago the French Declaration of Rights defined liberty as ‘…the freedom to do everything which injures no-one else: the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits, except those which assure to the other members of the society, the enjoyment of the same rights’. ( A concept the writer Gilles Saint-Paul now argues is ‘long forgotten’). (4)

Railing against the imposition of constraints, against the imposition of restraint, is not a new thing either.

The philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder, in the 1790’s was ‘…scathing about any attempt by European Alliances to impose their notion of happiness despotically on all other nations on earth‘. Herder railed on ‘…the very thought of a superior culture is a blatant insult to the majesty of nature.’ (5)

Whilst some may see an echo of the contemporary argument about the restraint to sovereignty in Herder’s view, it is an argument leavened by the advantage of freedom of movement, entrpreneurial borderless endeavour and democratic representation that lies at the heart of the individual states that constitiute the EU. We are not dissolving sovereignty, we are enhancing broad geographical opportunities in support of our own interests.

We have heard, from the left, the argument that the EU is part of the global, capital conspiracy. The machinations of TTIP are often cited in evidence. However, surely, as part of the European social partnership, we must be better off with the concerted support of colleagues across the continent to ensure that there is no dilution of the safeguards to work practices and welfare, which can be chipped away by isolationist, idiologically opposed elites and pan-global companies? If capital is a conspiracy, are we not safer as a united family?

The ‘anti-democratic’ cry is also often heard. The EU is a parliamentary body, with elected representatives of our communities charged with voicing our interests. The fact that we might imagine examples of elected members to the European Parliament taking expenses and salaries whilst at the same time working to dissolve the very foundations of the body corporate smacks of moral cowardice and opportunism. It is not the pursuit of your interests or mine we imagined. It is not the fight against internatioanal restraints that hold back humanitarian and economic progress we had dreamed of.

Theories of conspiracy and self interest bring us into the realm of political economy. Utilitarian philosophies of state management, Saint-Paul argues, see their intervention ‘…whether aimed at correcting inequalities or externalites, consider the state as a abstract benevolent entity whose only purpose is to maximise the social welfare function‘.

Political economy, for Saint-Paul ‘…realises that the state is a coalition of real people who are equally self-interested. Instead of maximisation of social welfare, policy is determined by interest groups‘, with the application of policy which seeks ‘…redistribution in favour of powerful lobbies and political majorities‘. (6)

It is these two manichaeistic philosophies of interest and outcome that perhaps sum up the current EU debate. Self interest versus utilitarian social benevolence. We would cleave strongly to the view that the European constitution, the European experiment, is vital to maximise the social welfare functions of government. Vital to deliver this agenda in the midst of a maelstrom of free market, self interest and global corporatism.

We leave the last word to economist Mancur Olsen. He recognised in his research the overwhelming effect that a resurgence in entrepreneurship and innovation, particularly in information technology and communications, which was tempered by developmental pressures from intense foreign competetion, gave to the United States economy in the Twentieth Century.

His argument though was developed to encompass capital and special interests as ultimately being the drivers of paralysis, conflict and stagnation. (7)

We would argue that European aggregation of trade, movement of goods and people and the encouragement of entrepreneurship at the European level is, all at the same time, paradoxically, our best defense against special interests and regional economic paralysis.

and then we vote to remain in Europe.

Notes and sources:

1. The People Speak, Democracy is not a Spectator Sport. Ed. Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove, Connaught Books, Edinburgh, 2014, p.14

2. Japanese Economic Development – Theory & Practice. Penelope Franks, Routledge, London, 1992, p.68

3. A History of Economics – The Past and the Present. John Kenneth Galbraith, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1987, p.

4. The Tyranny of Utility: Behavioural Science and the Rise of Paternalism. Gilles Saint-Paul, Princeton University Press, 2007, p.1

5. The Romantic Economist – Imagination in Economics. Richard Bronk, Cambridge University Press, 2009, p.149

6. The Tyranny of Utility: Behavioural Science and the Rise of Paternalism. Gilles Saint-Paul, Princeton UIniversity Press, 2007, Chapter 3, Economics, Last Bastion of Rationality, p.39

7. Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalsim and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity. W.J. Baunol et al, Yale University Press, 2007, p.229

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This journal of comment and analysis is devised and published in the East of England...leaning to the left, thinking independently, arguing for humanity...

Editor: Tim Smith MA, FRSA

Now living in rural Suffolk, I have wondered all my adult life why ordinary people like me, would vote to make the policies of the self-interested Right ascendant? I now think, older as I am, that I have pursued entirely the wrong question, despite voting Labour my entire life. Why on earth cannot collaborative socialism make the Left successfully ascendant? This is the new quest.

Tim is a Partner at SmithMartin LLP - a Cambridge based social business working to create projects which tackle inequality.

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