There comes a time when we must put aside childish things like trickle down economics and meritocracy and free market capitalism and compassionate Conservatism. They all sound very nice but history has shown them to be the most ignoble of lies, exploited by the 1% at the rest of our expense. If they were going to provide for a more prosperous society for us all to enjoy they would have done so by now. It is, in part, an intellectual hangover from the faux patrician days of the Commonwealth and Empire.
Like the Tories over the past 6 years, if they were remotely interested in social justice and an equitable society then the wealthiest in society wouldn’t have at least doubled their wealth over the past 6 years while Britain has been plunged into the greatest level of debt in this country’s history. In work poverty would not be rampant. Reliance on foodbanks would not be rampant. Household debt, job insecurity, housing insecurity, homelessness, suicide, child mental health issues, a collapsing NHS, school places crisis, racist attacks increasing, social care crisis, and with Police, Fire Brigade and the Ambulance Service at breaking point. Perpetuating the myth of a socially minded Conservative party is an act of wanton destruction that we can ill afford.
Is there another way?
I’ve argued before for a Universal Basic Income but that alone is no cure all. UBI must introduced as a part of a larger overhaul of how our economy is governed. It used to be that mortgage levels were calculated at around four times salary, a return we should legislate for. We have permitted the ‘free market’ to strip out the true value of our economy and replace it with a fabricated value based, not on the real economy but, on whatever the ‘market’ can stand regardless of the cost. We have put the cart before the horse and taxpayers ultimately pick up the bill. How we govern our economy is something that we can make choices for and, if we choose to, we can afford a UBI. We have lived under a model for our economy that is built top down; the basic premise for which is that if we permit those in the top 1–5% to maximize their accumulation of our nation’s wealth it will build a stronger economy and encourage growth that will benefit us all. That model has been proved to be an unmitigated failure. It is time that we build our economy bottom up so that it benefits all in society.
Truly affordable housing must be a cornerstone of a 21st Century Britain. That does not mean giving publicly owned land to developers for free or for next to nothing, it means local authorities having building programs to develop properties which will form public assets and afford homes at truly affordable levels. Not only will such programs offer the public the basic opportunity to live in a safe, secure and affordable home, it will turn the £billions we are currently handing to private landlords into national assets. On top of which, the extensive building will create both employment and training opportunities, as will the maintenance and administration of the properties. Real jobs providing real salaries that feed back into the real economy.
Britain has the third largest number of billionaires in the world, after the United States and China, with an estimated personal wealth of £344billion. That wealth represents money not working within our economy. It does not serve a country’s economy to have conditions which can be exploited to accrue such disproportionate levels of a nation’s wealth and it does not serve a country’s population to pursue legislation that protects those who accrue such disproportionate levels of wealth. It isn’t the politics of envy to oppose such narrowly beneficial policy making, it is simply unsound economic practice that is unsustainable and socially unjust for any government to favour the wealth accumulation of 1–5% over the equity of an entire population.
Addressing the insecurities that an ever increasing percentage of the population suffer from (the precariat) should be the bedrock of any discussion of Britain’s economic future and the point from which we build economic policy. We must put aside childish things and look upon these challenges with fresh eyes and not eyes clouded by a history of Empire and all the worst that went with it. Britain is faced with challenges that require it to grow up, the buffoons of the Bullingdon Club have long since stopped having the answers for our concerns, if they ever truly had them.