Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Only part way there

The Deputy Economy Minister has come in for a great deal of criticism by opposition parties for saying that the Welsh Government has only ‘pretended’ to know what it was doing on the economy, whilst also pointing out that its actions have actually made little difference.  I thought that it was, actually, refreshingly honest; my criticism would be aimed less at the fact that he’s come clean about the situation now than at the fact that he really doesn’t seem to be proposing much by way of an alternative.  Whilst Labour only pretend to know what they are doing, other parties (such as the Conservatives, here) only pretend that they have an alternative – and two of the opposition parties (Plaid and the Lib Dems) have been in coalition with Labour during the period concerned without making any noticeable difference.
Now I understand, of course, why governments want to take the credit for economic success when things are going well; and the problem isn’t unique to Wales - we see exactly the same phenomenon at UK level.  All governments claim to be succeeding when things are going well and try to blame factors outside their control when things are going badly.  And all oppositions claim that it’s the government’s fault when things are going badly and the result of outside factors when things are going well.  Economic well-being is so central to the interests of the population at large that parties want to be able to offer to improve it at election time.
But what if the truth is that the government really doesn’t have that much influence on the success or otherwise of the economy?  I don’t just mean, in the context of the Welsh Government specifically, that it doesn’t have the full range of economic powers available at UK level; I mean, more generally, what if government policy is actually only a minor influence on what happens in a global capitalist economy?  Politics might make it difficult for parties to admit that such might be the case, but an unwillingness to admit it isn’t the same as it not being true.  And if it is true, as I believe it to be, then the point which Lee Waters was making has much wider implications.  I don’t think that’s the conclusion he has reached, sadly; his talk about ‘trying a different approach’ suggests that, like the other parties in teh Assembly, he sees it as a simple question of looking for an alternative policy within what are in reality self-imposed constraints.
‘The economy’ is a human construct; it does not exist independently of human action.  The questions we need to be asking are about who controls the levers of that economy and in whose interests it operates.  There’s nothing natural or inevitable about the fact that real control lies with multi-national capitalists and not with governments, nor in the fact that it operates in the interests of a minority rather than the majority.  Collectively, even if unwittingly and unthinkingly, humanity has outsourced the control and management of wealth and economic success to a minority who control and manage it in their own interests and who have created an ideology around that which leads to a belief that it is a natural and unchallengeable state of affairs.  I don’t get the impression that either the Economy Minister or his detractors have even begun to get their heads around the scale of that challenge.

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