progress is not the elimination of struggle, but rather a change in its terms’ - Aneurin Bevan

the ones that never knock?

A bit of commentary...
The good news is that levels of unemployment are lower in this recession than the last. Partly, yes, this can be explained by the prolonged period of expansion - but there's also the factor that labour market support, in the form of improved job centre performance and targeted assistance, has helped.

Arguably, the position of the labour movement is weaker in the private sector than during the last recession, and that in part explains the willingness to negotiate pay cuts - industries that can threaten to leave, and demonstrably can, exercise greater bargaining power.

The news that there will be a pay freeze for local government workers means that the erosion of wages is now spreading into the public sector. This is a concern for one major reason: our economy is driven in large part by consumer spending on goods and services.

Hard times, for sure. Do good times await us? Given optimism of the will and pessimism of the intellect, it's clear there's some hopeful news amongst the bad.

Youth unemployment has been a particular feature of this recession. The slump in private investment turned expansion into contraction, leading to greater competition for those new jobs that are created. In response to this, many young people are focusing on furthering their education - and this partly explains why there's a record high in economic inactivity amongst the working-age population.

... and some critique
 Over at his blog, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate Mike Barker points to what he would have liked to bring up at the Darlington Debate last night:
while we have such grotesque inequalities of wealth, living standards, life expectancy, teenage pregnancies etc etc between the most and the least affluent wards in the town, how can we truly say that we have a dynamic or successful economy in the town.

Judging the economic success of the town should be about more than how many companies open for business here, which university departments are going to locate here or how much those in work earn here, important though those measures are. It should also be about how successful we are at enabling that success to trickle down to the poorest people in society, those trapped in a dependency culture, reliant on state benefits, often for generation after generation.

Until those in relative poverty at the bottom of the economic ladder are able to share in the success enjoyed at the top of the ladder, our economy cannot be judged to be wholly successful.
I've some problems with the language that Mike uses, such as "trickle down" and "dependency culture" which are Tory buzz-words. "Trickle down" implies that there's some rational for wealth to be distributed through processes of capital accumulation. But in other respects - the idea that we need shared success - Mike is correct on how we should judge the economy.

I would suggest that what we need are forms of enterprise which have incentives to internalise negative externalities (meaning: not do bad stuff) and "spread-around" positive externalities (doing good stuff in the course of operating).

What am I talking about? Well, building societies, credit unions, cooperatives, and partnerships, are all private businesses but they produce economic and other benefits that are gained by members and by their communities. The term used these days is social enterprise...


  1. Great to see you blogging James. Also nice to see someone emphasising the socialist international family we got goin'.

  2. Thanks, comrade. Good luck with your campaign.