Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Stark choice

I enjoyed the article by David Marquand on 'Click on Wales' yesterday, analysing the economic choices being made by the new government in London.

The part that jumped out at me was when he said "If Clegg and Cable are right, they were wasting their time. Capitalism is capitalism: it has to be taken neat or not at all. We do have to choose between the free market and the overmighty state.".

The phrase 'overmighty state' is not one which I would use to describe the alternative; I'd prefer something more like 'collective action', which is what I think that the 'state' ought to be about. And the idea that the choice is quite as stark as that isn't perhaps what Marquand actually believes – it is after all caveated with the bit about whether Cameron and Clegg are right or not.

But the conclusion posited is at one with what I have always believed. Ultimately, we have to make a choice between an economic system based on giving free rein to 'market forces', and one based on intervention and control. It's a choice which I've frequently described as being about whether we serve the economy or whether the economy serves us.

For me, an economic system is a human construct; built by humans, and run by humans. It is not some impersonal force over which we have no control – there is no 'invisible hand'. And an economic system built by humans should be there to serve humans, as individuals (the many, not just the few), communities, and nations.

For too long, politics has assumed that we basically have, and can have, very little control over economics. We should be challenging that assertion much more than we do. Perhaps Cameron and Clegg, albeit unintentionally, are going to make it a lot easier for us to do that.


Anonymous said...

Hugo Chavez the 11-times elected President of Venezuela is trailblazing a new ideology called 'Socialism of the 21st century'. It isn't tied up in theology or ideology as such or in historical determinism (one of the problems of orthodox Marxism). It is instead a democratic ideology based on consent and co-operation, nor does it abolish markets but asks them to develop society, and the summary is "the market should serve the people, the people should not serve the market".

It is a recognition that the old forms of communism and totalitarianism have failed, but that does not mean free market capitalism is the winner.

So John, welcome to the ranks of democratic and practical 21st Century Socialism.

John Dixon said...


You seem to imply that I haven't been in those ranks before?

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to imply that John, I merely meant that your democratic progressive politics are taking off in other parts of the world and that what you are saying on your blog is very relevant.