Thursday, 21 July 2016

Post-fact politics and the end of stability

I haven't written a blog post since the referendum because, to be quite honest, I've not really known what to say.

It feels like the end of an epoch, but how can I say that, have never seen the end of an epoch before.

Globalisation and Its Discontents was a very influential book for me about 10 years ago when I first read it. It outlined, in Stiglitz inimitable style, what globalisation (which I think some call "neo-liberalism") meant and how it was affecting some people that weren't very happy about it. It mainly focusses on the transition as managed by such organisations as the IMF, World Bank and others. He is critical of them, but not globalisation itself.

One of it's key quotes was thus,

"“...decisions were often made because of ideology and politics. As a result many wrong-headed actions were taken, ones that did not solve the problem at hand but that fit with the interests or beliefs of the people in power.”  

Therein lies the rub, I believe. Many of us are so caught up in the dream of globalisation and imagining a world with no countries, I believe we've overlooked that some people feel left behind. We've overlooked that as much as our dream is real to us, and we are living it, potentially the problems have not been thought through and short-term political expediency has won the day.

We can see this time and time again with early retirement pensions potentially causing the productivity puzzle - as outlined superbly by @flipchartrick on his blog The Great Pension's Cock Up or with the planning rules making it harder to build the houses we need, making them ever more out of reach of young people which means it's harder and less likely that they will vote - a perfect storm of favouring one group over the other.

In addition, stepping away from the travails of the middle-class, poverty and decline in some communities, especially here in the North, is endemic. Home ownership a very distant dream. And our voting system meaning very little attention paid to those in safe seats that only vote the same way.

Everything is inter-related. People talk of not feeling connected to their communities when there are many immigrants not putting down roots - well due to the housing crisis I didn't have permanent home (i.e. I hadn't bought a home) until 2 years ago, more than 10 years later than my parents did. I felt rootless and unconnected to my community, and feel better connected now, as I am more committed to putting down roots. My libertarian friends may say this is all necessary for labour market movement, but I'm not so sure. I think I was  ready to buy a house at 27, but it was only at 35 that I was able to. I think I'm pretty typical

This is so complicated, a truly Herculean task. Too many problems have gone  unchallenged. Too many short cuts have been taken.

And yet, the same problems are arising worldwide, in country after country. It truly feels like the end of an era of stability. It feels like those days are gone. I do hope I'm wrong but I fear I am not.