Sunday, 2 September 2012

Snakes and Ladders

The schools are back next week and already the pupils of the Westminster kindergarden are shaping themselves up for the new term. The papers and TV programmes are replete with tales of how well they are going to do and how they are going to shape our futures.

To my mind, if politics has anything to do with a better future, it must be more like an escalator than snakes and ladders (one up, one down at the throw of a dice, winner takes all). For all of Labour's talk of fairness and growth, the contest between Labour and Conservative is still a toss-up between Tweedle Dee and Dum, with minor differences in the permutations of austerity and growth, pay now or later. Note that I don't pay much attention to the Lib Dems in this analysis. I don't because I think they are an increasing irrelevance with a diminishing influence.

What neither party offers is a clear vision of where our sacrifices might lead. If a return to growth is possible (which I doubt), then what is to be grown, and what – in the interests of fairness and sustainability – must grow no more? Cameron has his empty Big Society thought-balloon. Milliband would reslice much the same old cake to relieve the squeezed middle.

Neither side faces up to the need for longer-term austerity, redistribution and redirection of resources in a world where life is threatened by aimless growth and competition between unequals. Both Labour and Conservatives have bought into, or sold out to, the Magic of the Market. The nonsense of the invisible hand turning blind selfishness and greed to common good also absolves politicians from defining what that good might be or the steps towards it.

In that limbo, with the rich still visibly rich (and getting richer), why should the rest of us meekly tighten our belts without some prospect of a better world ahead? While the coalition may have lost the plot, we expect and deserve something better from the opposition than more or less the same. If not a stairway to paradise, then at least a feasible common project to secure the world and riches for all. Snakes and ladders was always a boring game.

1 comment:

John Wilmut said...

Seduced by the thought that you had a wet walk on ... (I love to gloat) I read on down and came to this. Yes, yes, capitalism as we know it is out of ideas and has run its course. It has been to the disadvantage of the developing world for centuries and now it's clear that it's to our disadvantage as well. But it will take much more than a revamp of the Labour Party (the others are beyond revamping) to solve the problem. We will need something very radical and far-reaching indeed if we are to get out of a mess where a very few ruthless individuals and corporations are taking the rest of us for all we've got. Circumstances or revolution will have to force a change in the world-wide mindset. The saddest thing of all is that bodies like the World Bank continue to force a failing economic gospel on the developing world, as a condition of their support.