January 31, 2005

THIRD WAY--THE CAPITALIST FATALISM OF THE LIBERAL, THE SOCIAL SAFETY NET FATALISM OF THE CONSERVATISM:

Credit where it's due? Blair's balance sheet: In the first of a three-part serialisation of their new book, Polly Toynbee and David Walker assess whether Labour has delivered on its second-term promises. Today they examine the economy and social justice (Polly Toynbee and David Walker, January 31, 2005, The Guardian)

Gordon Brown's Treasury dominated the domestic agenda of the second Blair term, as it had from 1997 to 2001. Credit for the buoyant state of the economy was claimed, with justification, by New Labour's chancellor. Brown's supporters liked to claim progressive measures and the pursuit of social justice were down to Gordon, while Blair did Middle England, ensuring the electoral coalition Labour had built for 1997 prospered.

The division of labour was in fact nothing like as simple. Brown had become a capitalist-fatalist. He believed that if the markets paid staff less than they could live on, if they showered not-especially competent executives with gold and silver, then a government's only duty was to compensate the losers, not to meddle with the sanctity of markets.

But the Brown camp did provide for the market losers. From the thickets of tax and- benefit details emerged a chancellor intent on making poor people better off, as well as the rest of us. New Labour's second term was a growth era. In the 1990s, the UK economy had grown by 1.7% a year; in Labour's new century, it was 2.7%. Whatever else Blair's Britain did, it worked. From 2001 to 2005, some 1.5m jobs were created; a million or so disappeared. The net result was near-full employment, even in the most deprived parts of the UK, with unemployment at a historic low.

Brown's objective was simple: to create conditions of stability within which private business could flourish. However, British business could not be trusted to invest, innovate, re-skill or play fair. Under Labour, the government was not going to retreat from inspecting or worrying about markets; but then, neither had it really retreated under Thatcher. Brown's problem was that he had no model for intervention. He had a vision of what the economy could look like, which is why he was happy opening pharmaceutical labs. But what else?


There's not much else: govern like Thatcher, talk like FDR.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 31, 2005 9:06 AM
Comments

However, British business could not be trusted to invest, innovate, re-skill or play fair.--

Ahhh, those pesky subjects always wanting more.

Posted by: Sandy P at January 31, 2005 10:08 AM
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