Not less, but smarter regulation

A quick welcome to ToUChstone’s reporting of yesterday’s debate hosted by the TUC and the British Chambers of Commerce on ‘Is Deregulation Dead?’, and to the ToUChstone pamphlet from earlier this year on ‘The Red Tape Delusion‘. You can view videos of the four opening speeches by the panellists here.

I’ve only caught up with Brendan Barber’s comments so far, but his point that it was Labour’s partial re-regulation of the labour market which ensured that this recession has not had the deleterious impact on unemployment that this country experienced in the 80s and 90s recessions is one that stands repeating in many forums other than this one. Regulation has a clear and vital role to play in boosting job security, in ensuring that unions are engaged in building higher performance workplaces and in underpinning the active labour market programmes which are critical to the increase in employment rates which will deliver growth and prosperity afresh. Barber believes that ultimately, a more intelligent, nuanced approach to labour market regulation, based on an approach to policy driven by evidence rather than ideology, is one that ought to see the commencement of the administration of the last rites to the cult of deregulation.

Amen to that.

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Crises of capitalism

One of a series of interesting animations produced by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, and intended to ‘bring discourse to life’, looks at the crises of capitalism. David Harvey explores some of the origins of systemic crises before calling for discussion and debate to change our mode of thinking from his perspective as a radical political economist.

Perhaps his analysis does not shed particularly new light on the subject, but the arguments and rationale are presented in a crystal clear fashion and the animation is really quite stunning.

About the bringing about of a new social order, there’s not a great deal of sign of that – not yet, anyway – but the necessary debate and discussion is certainly taking place encouraged not just via the RSA but also right across the blogosphere, where the outlines of an alternative society are being debated daily. What is perhaps missing is a sense of ideas being taken forward in the fashion that would provide confidence that that new society is actually coming. What there is, is a sense of fragmentation: some consensus over individual initiatives, but not really the sense that things are being grasped with the cohesion, vision and political organisation required to deliver in practice the responsible, just and humane, alternative society for which Harvey articulates the need.

The ideas are out there; but a political organisation confident enough, radical enough and non-dependent enough to seize them in an ideologically integrated way continues to be lacking.

Cameron’s cuts speech: Oh yes you did

Nice piece in today’s Telegraph, of all places, pointing out that the key point in Cameron’s ‘bloodbath of cuts’ speech yesterday in Milton (Keynes) – that ‘we never knew just how bad things were’ – is actually false: we did know. Not only did we know that the economy was already heading for debt interest of an annual £70bn in five years but also, therefore, the figures now look no worse than they did back in April.

Of course, ‘call me Dave’ could be just softening us up so that the cuts, when they are eventually announced in the 22 June budget, are ‘not as bad as we feared’; and, of course, he’s no doubt conscious of the remarks that Mervyn King may or may not have said before the election that the public will remember the party that made the cuts, not the one before it – and so perhaps this is an attempt to try to drag Labour into the blame picture, if only by implication.

On top of this, arguing that ‘the world was moving Britain’s way’ on the issue of cutting deficits rather than seeking fiscal stimulation, the scale of the cuts being contemplated in Germany and the attempt by at least one unelected, unaccountable ratings agency to force the pace even further, and it seems that Thatcher really has arrived back in Downing Street. Sobering stuff, indeed (though Steve Bell does lighten the mood!). This may well be the end of fiscal stimulus, but cutting budget deficits is done far quicker and far easier in the context of an economy that is growing, not contracting, and that is likely to demand not only a continuing pump priming role for the public sector, but also an environment of investment – neither of which are likely to result from a race to the bottom on cuts.