After the G20 – what next?

3 04 2009

Low expectations have been met

The first line of The Times editorial today sums up what most of us must feel about the G20. The big issues which existed before the G20; the toxic debt problem, the changing balance of world power and the absence of any alternative to managerial capitalism, remain.  Beyond that we can only be grateful that the world’s leaders are still all talking to each other and not (yet at least) going down the road to rearmamant and war to settle their differences. 

There are big battles ahead. Already more and more voices are being heard calling for austerity and questioning whether economic growth and free trade is something to strive for.  Although the violent nature of the demonstrations was highly overblown, you only need look at some of the demands made by these protestors to hear these voices.  Check out the newspiece below from the online news channel WORLDbytes which looks at  the protests and ensuing summit, and where I gave an interview:

The voices of those who encourage austerity and reject economic growth are getting stronger at the same time as developing countries in Africa and elsewhere are experiencing economic disaster as a result of the collapse of world trade. Those of us who believe that economic growth is the basis for human freedom will have a tough task arguing against the new advocates of austerity, particularly as the public debt balloons.

In the UK we have to face up to the consequences of having lived beyond our means for the past ten years. But this should not mean that we accept austerity. We need to renew our collective efforts to encourage new kinds of economic growth. It may be that we need to take a long hard look at the huge amount of resources that go into the public sector and decide whether this is all money well spent.  There are undoubtedly areas , particularly where the state has invaded the family,  where we could do with some savage cutbacks.  But overall, cutting public spending only makes sense if any resources freed up are invested productively elsewhere.

If you are interested in taking part in a serious debate about the future of the economy, you should attend The Battle for the Economy conference on May 16. We have a great line up of speakers and ample time for discussion about the best way forward. There has been far too little serious debate so far about where we wish to go as a society and we need to change that.

This blog is on holiday for the next ten days. Despite all the bad news the sun is out and spring is on the way. Fortunately, as Leonard Cohen said, cheerfulness keeps breaking in.