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The choice now is deaths or deficit, and the Treasury is choosing deaths

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 05/07/2020 - 5:11pm in

I cannot be alone in being furious about the story in the Guardian this morning about funding for the NHS. As they report:

 NHS bosses have accused the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, of breaking a pledge to give the health service “whatever it needs” after he refused to provide a £10bn cash injection needed to avoid it being crippled by a second wave of the coronavirus.

They add:

They have warned ministers that without the money the NHS will be left perilously unprepared for next winter and the second spike in infections which doctors believe is inevitable. Nor will they be able to restart non-Covid services or treat the growing backlog in patients needing surgery.

And they note:

The NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, has told the Treasury that it needs at least £10bn in extra funding this year to cover the costs of fighting the virus and reopen normal services. The money would mean the NHS could create extra beds in hospitals, keep the Nightingale facilities on standby, send patients to private hospitals for surgery and provide protective equipment for frontline staff.

You get the feeling by now. What we have is the Treasury saying that we cannot afford another £10 billion for the NHS. And what the NHS is saying is that without this £10 billion then, to be blunt, a great many people are going to die, whether of COVID-19, or other causes. In addition, there will be a lot of unnecessary suffering.

It is important to put this in context. During the current year the government expects to have a deficit of £300 billion. At the same time, and by no coincidence, the Bank of England is going to undertake £300 billion of quantitative easing. What that means is that the Bank of England is going to buy every single penny of government debt issued this year to fund that deficit. The result is that the UK national debt will not increase by one penny as a result of the coronavirus crisis. But, despite this fact (for fact it is) the Treasury wants to deny the NHS the funding that it requires to meet the health care needs of this country.

To be blunt, the Treasury is saying that there is a choice. That choice is between deaths and deficits. And it is saying that the choice has to be more deaths, and less deficit. That is the consequence  of having the Treasury committed to economic thinking that suggests that the government is like a household and that when deficits increase spending must be cut. This argument is the surest sign that the logic of austerity is still alive and well and living in Westminster.

But that logic is wrong. What modern monetary theory (MMT) says is that so long as there is unemployment in an economy then the government can run a deficit to meet all the demand for public services without there being any risk of inflation. We face the likelihood of up to 6,000,000 people being unemployed in the UK right now. And that means there is almost no chance of inflation and that every job we can get is valuable, including those that will be paid for by the extra £10 billion that the NHS needs. Funding those jobs is costless: it is simply a matter of increasing the amount of money in the economy, by upping the loan account balance between the government and the Bank of England, which is itself owned by the government.

What we are facing, then, is an occasion when the economics you believe in is not just about a minor theoretical spat between conflicting academics. It’s actually about life and death, and the deaths in question may well be those of people that you know.

We can afford to prevent those deaths.

We can put doctors and nurses to work.

We can have the resources required to beat the second coronavirus outbreak.

We can treat all the people whose conditions have gone on attended over the last few months.

The money to do this, which will be of advantage to us all, can be created simply at the choice of the government. But, the Treasury does not want to do that. As a result it is, quite literally, condemning some to death, others to suffering, and more to agony.

Quite literally none of those deaths, any of that suffering, nor a moment of excess agony is required for want of money at present: we can have all the money that we need and the economy will not suffer as a result. But people will die unless we create the money that is required.

The choice now is deaths or deficit, and the Treasury is choosing deaths.

Lobster: Integrity Initiative Working to Privatise NHS

Remember the Integrity Initiative? That was the subsidiary of the Institute for Statecraft that was found to be a private enterprise propaganda outfit working with the cyberwarfare section of the SAS. It was set up after former New Labour PM Gordon Brown read a piece about the IRD’s activities during the Cold War and thought it was a good idea. IRD was the branch of the British secret services that was supposed to counter Soviet propaganda. It did this, but also branched out into smearing Labour MPs like the late Tony Benn as Communist agents and IRA sympathizers. The Integrity Initiative was caught doing the same, spreading lies about Jeremy Corbyn and a host of European politicos, officials and senior military staff because it and its network of hacks decided they were too close to Putin.

Robin Ramsay has more to say about the II in his ‘View from the Bridge’ column in the recent edition of Lobster, issue 80. He makes the point that superficially the II would be acceptable if all it did was counter Russian propaganda. He argues that few on the left seem to accept that the country really is a kleptocracy that murders its opponents at home and abroad, and reminds his readers that one of the watchwords of the old left was ‘Neither Washington nor Moscow’. This is right, but history and the career of the II itself has shown to date that British counterpropaganda goes well beyond this into operations that seriously compromise democratic politics at home, and frequently overthrow it abroad. Like the coup where British intelligence worked with the CIA to overthrow Iran’s last democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadeq.

But II isn’t just working to smear decent, respectable left-wing politicos like Corbyn. It’s now attacking one of the fundamental modern British institutions: the NHS. Among the hacks recruited by the II is the American journo, Anne Applebaum, who has written for the Economist and the Spectator, amongst other rags. But the II also includes a subgroup on NHS reform, which has nothing to do with Russian propaganda. Ramsay instead argues that its purpose is instead to counter opponents of NHS reform. In other words, it’s been set up to promote NHS privatisation. Which means it has a neoliberal agenda.

See his section ‘Ah yes, the USA as moral leader’ at

Click to access lob80-view-from-the-bridge.pdf

Given the extreme right-wing politics of British counterpropaganda operations, this is almost certainly right.

Which means that at least part of the British secret state is lying to us to support the Tories’ and New Labour privatisation of the NHS.

 

We need to talk about Tommy…the NHS: charity, taxes and MMT

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/06/2020 - 2:05am in

Thank You NHS flag with rainbowPhoto by Red Dot on Unsplash

In this post, originally published on Medium, Michael Berks discusses NHS funding.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the story of 100-year old Captain Tom Moore, who, by walking 100 laps of his garden has raised over £23 million for NHS charities. It is, on the face of it, a happy, feel-good story — something we all need in these difficult times. And I’m certainly not going to knock Captain Tom— bloomin’ legend that he is, or complain at anyone donating to his cause. However, if your social media feeds are anything like mine, you’ve probably seen lots of counter posts, pointing out the inescapably true fact that we have a government with a remit to properly fund the NHS — the importance of which has never been clearer — and portraying the NHS as charity, reliant on the goodwill of donations to perform its everyday duties, far from a good thing, is actually a very damaging viewpoint to take.

The majority of these counter posts also point out something else seemingly obvious –the way the government funds the NHS is by collecting taxes from all of us and using these to pay for services. And if some of the rich celebrities cheering on all this giving would instead pay a fair share of taxes we really could fund the NHS properly without relying on charity! Amirigghht?!!

At this point, of course, my MMT alarm bells start ringing. In fact, I’d argue that framing the funding of the NHS in this way is only marginally better than seeing it as a charity case. In this post, I’ll try and explain why. It’ll be quite (ok very) long, but I’ve kept it as economic jargon-free as possible, so I really hope you take the time to read through and hopefully come away with a clearer idea of how government provision of services actually work.

The big problem with the taxes pay for NHS (or other government services) frame is it promotes the idea that money grows on rich people — and as a result, that rich people are thus some special species we must protect. We must nurture them, the wealth-generators, to harvest them for their taxes, without which, we can’t have the things we need to make society work. In other words, while we might want to collect more taxes from the rich, if we upset them too much, they’ll all leave the country — so now we’re even worse off than before. Or at the very least, they’ll just use creative accounting to squirrel away more of their earnings into tax havens so we won’t see any extra income anyway. More generally, just reducing their earnings in any way actively harms us — they earn less, we get less in taxes, our services suffer. We’re fed this narrative time and again, and ultimately it leads to absurd stories like this… a pay-cut to Premiership footballers will harm the NHS!

Let’s be clear what this is claiming. There will be a frontline member of NHS staff somewhere — say Charlie the nurse — who as a result of footballers having to take a pay-cut while not playing football, will have to lose his job.

Take a step back. Forget what you think you understand about economics or how money works for a second, and just try and think this through.

In fact, stop and say these words out loud:

“Because some very rich men don’t get to go out and play ball with each other, we’ll have to stop Charlie doing his job as a nurse.”

Sounds ridiculous right? That’s because it IS ridiculous.

Why should anyone not doing their job, prevent Charlie from doing his? Obviously if said person’s job produced food for Charlie, or his transport, or something else he needs to live and breathe and get to work on time each day, that might be a problem. In other words, all they key-workers we’ve suddenly realised exist — we need them to keep working. But footballers..? Not so much.

As long as Charlie is willing and able to be a nurse, our government has an infinite supply of pounds it can pay him. It doesn’t need your taxes or charity to pay him. Indeed creating money out of nothing is how all government spending works.

Oh God! I mentioned government spending and infinite in the same sentence. You’ve just put your economics hat back on, haven’t you? Inflation. Hyperinflation. ZIMBABWE!! Don’t I know what happens when governments ‘print’ money without limits?!

OK, calm down. Let’s work this through properly…

First up, I’ll concede there is some conceptual difference between the notion of Charlie receiving pounds created out of nothing from the government, and paying him with pounds directly linked to a tax or your charity donations. The former are new financial assets entering the economy, whereas the latter are the same pounds recycled from somewhere else in the economy. So on the face of it, paying Charlie with ‘new’ government money is increasing the money supply.

And with your economics hat on again, you’ve heard that increasing the money supply equals inflation. As the supply of money goes up, its value must come down — the pound in your pocket is worth less, and thus all the goods you need to buy will cost you more. Simple supply and demand. QED.

Again, slow down. Take a step back. In fact ‘money supply increase equals inflation’ is one of those ‘common sense’ bits of orthodox economics that has no basis in reality, and is completely disproved by all the actual data we see in economies across the world (if you really want a description of what happened in eg Zimbabwe, ask me in the comments).

To see why, stop thinking in abstract economic terms, and think instead about some real supply and demand you actually experience in everyday life. Take petrol prices. The average pump price of a litre of petrol in the UK at the end of January was just over 127p. Today it’s 109p [ed. this was mid-April]. That’s a 15% drop in 2 months. The money supply in the UK hasn’t shifted by anything like that in this time — and more specifically, government spending is rising significantly to meet the demands of the current crisis, so surely prices should be going up?

Of course you know why petrol prices have dropped. No-one is driving their cars, so no-one is buying petrol, both here and abroad. More generally, the demand for oil across the world has plummeted, and in turn, so has its price (indeed there’s been a way larger percentage drop in the price of crude oil — the reason pump prices have ‘only’ dropped by 15% is because of all the other fixed costs in the retail price of petrol). When demand for oil increases, prices will go back up. The point is, it isn’t the total supply of money out there driving changes in the price of oil, but money that is actually being used to try and buy oil. The same principle, give or take, is what defines prices for most goods and services. In particular, money being saved — by you me, or anyone else in the economy — is not being used to buy anything. It just sits there in our accounts, as numbers on a spreadsheet somewhere. It is not inflationary.

So now let’s go back to Charlie and our Facebook posts. “If only the government would make rich people pay their share, and collect some of all that loot in tax havens, we could actually afford a fully funded NHS”. Polls show this sentiment is pretty popular across the political spectrum. Obviously if you read the Daily Mail you hate Lewis Hamilton, whereas if you read the Guardian you hate Richard Branson — but one way or another, everyone, apart from the super-rich, hates a tax dodger.

And you might disagree on how feasible it is to actually collect those taxes (and therefore not believe it when party X includes that income in their spending plans), but assuming the government does find a way, everyone thinks it’d be great if we could use that tax as income to better fund public services.

But hold on. Those pounds we’ve just clawed back from the Cayman Islands were previously sitting in the accounts of Richy McRich doing nothing. If we now use them to pay Charlie to keep being a nurse they are every bit as ‘new’ pounds to the real economy as the government creating pounds out of thin air.

Take the following three scenarios:

(1) Richy McRich in an uncharacteristic display of generosity pledges a portion of his off-shore account to pay Charlie’s wages forever as a charitable donation to the public.

(2) The UK government in an uncharacteristic display of a government doing what it promised to do, closes a tax loophole and is able to collect from Richy McRich’s off-shore account enough to pay Charlie forever.

(3) The UK government uses its power as the sovereign monopoly supplier of pounds to pay Charlie forever.

The functional impact on the real economy — that is, what money is used to buy goods and services across the country, is identical in each scenario. But (3) had your head screaming about hyperinflation a minute ago, whereas (1) or (2) seem like the perfect win for society.

So if that’s true, does that mean we don’t need taxes at all?

Well no, of course not.

Firstly, what makes Charlie, or anyone else, want to work for the government at all?

This is where taxes come in. By making all of us pay a tax, that can only be settled using pounds (of which the government is monopoly supplier) — and moreover, having the authority to put us in jail if we don’t pay — we all have the incentive to either earn pounds by directly working for the government, or by providing good and services for people that do. The government pays Charlie to be a nurse, receiving pounds some of which he uses to pay his tax. You sold Charlie his car, or walk his dog, or clean his windows — receiving pounds from Charlie, some of which you use to pay your taxes. You use your pounds to go to the supermarket… And so on. That’s how a modern monetary economy works.

You might not realise this fundamental role of taxes –after all, it’s obvious why you need pounds when everyone ELSE values them too. But have you ever thought, why does everyone else value them too?

Put another way, the government doesn’t need our money, it needs us to need their money. That is why in MMT we say taxes drive the value of money. It is the ability of the UK government to tax us in pounds, that gives what is otherwise just a piece of paper with the Queen’s face on it (or some numbers on a spreadsheet) value.

So #1 — taxes drive the value of money.

Next, remember the first rule of MMT is: THOU SHALL NOT TALK ABOUT MMT.

Wait, that’s not true either, we bang on about it all the time!

The first rule of MMT is: “Societies are always constrained by the real resource limits of their economy”.

What does that actually mean? In this case, Charlie is our real resource.

To keep Charlie employed as a nurse, we need him to be not employed doing something else. In that sense, the government is in competition with all of us in the private sector for all the goods and services we can produce between us. If everyone has a job, and there are no more people with sufficient skills to be trained as a nurse (or a doctor or a teacher etc) the government can’t magic one out of thin air, just because it has an unlimited supply of pounds. It could double the wages of all nurses, and then offer new posts — which might cause some people to think, ‘hey, I’m going to quit my job and retrain as a nurse’. But this scenario absolutely is inflationary. The government is using its infinite supply of money to bid up the cost of wages across the economy.

So as well as driving the value of money, another important role taxes play, is to take away some of our spending power. That leaves less money in our pockets to bid away the services of Charlie or anyone else. In other words, taxes stop us (the private sector) from using real resources we might otherwise want, making them available for the government to buy and use instead.

If that seems to contradict what we said above about tax havens, the point is Richy McRich didn’t want to use his pounds to buy any more goods and services — he just wants to hoard them. That’s why he stashed them in an off-shore account in the Cayman Islands. So trying to tax them doesn’t actually free up any real goods or services this government might need.

It’s at this point people with left-wing/progressive views (and largely the people making and liking the fund-the-NHS-with-taxes Facebook posts) get a bit uncomfortable with MMT. After all, taxing the rich is a pretty core tenet of our beliefs. And now we’re saying you don’t need to? Well, fear not my lefty friends. Think about the three scenarios above. The first two actually give power to Richy McRich — it’s the money grows on rich people framing I talked about at the start. Which means if we make our public services dependent on the ability of us to get his money, we also have to accept when he lobbies the government to get his way (to reduce corporation taxes or ease environmental restrictions on his airline or make his offshore fund legal in the first place etc, etc). This is exactly how politics work now. That’s why framing the NHS as dependent on tax income is almost as harmful as framing it as being dependent on charity donations.

Whereas in scenario (3) we just ignore Richy. We don’t need him to keep Charlie as a nurse or all our other public services running. This means if you want to shut down his Cayman Islands account or whack him with a proper inheritance tax bill, or whatever, you can do so without being told ‘no, you can’t upset the wealth-generators or we’ll hurt the NHS’. Ironically, by understanding MMT and the role of taxes, you have far more freedom to insist on a more redistributive tax system (if you wish of course — others on the right may disagree, remember ultimately MMT is agnostic left vs right, by all means, fight it out, just get your economics right first).

So how about the NHS now? What are its real resource limits? The COVID crisis is showing us we’re hitting a lot of them. We can’t suddenly magic more nurse, doctors, ventilators, ICU beds or PPE in to existence. And even if people, in general, are available, they still need to be trained and moved to the required location. An unemployed ex-factory worker in Hartlepool can’t suddenly be redeployed as a nurse in London.

Some of those shortages (eg a lack of PPE orders) appear to be down to current government incompetence, but a lack of nurses and doctors (and ambulance drivers, lab technicians etc) is a long-standing problem due to the continuous underfunding of the last decade. As a proportion of the population, we had more frontline staff in nearly all our public services 10 years ago. The reason we don’t now, isn’t because we ran out of people, but because we were convinced we’d run out of money. But as you hopefully now understand, the idea we didn’t have any money is, and always was, nonsense! In other words, the real resources were always there, and thus the government always had the ability to keep buying them.

Where are all those people who could have been employed in the NHS working now? Well, Charlie’s mate Emily was training to be an ambulance driver but is now a self-employed courier delivering next-day Amazon prime parcels. Steve wanted to be a teaching assistant but works for Uber instead, and Vanessa was going to be physiotherapist for stroke victims but freelances as a PT in her local gym. Where do you think the record employment in the private sector and the gig economy has come from?

If you detect a note of sneering there, I promise you there’s none. I’m not knocking any of those jobs or the people that work in them. They clearly have value to the economy — both to Amazon, who benefit from a nice low wage driver for their sellers, but also to us, who get our gadgets delivered seemingly before we’ve even ordered them. And who doesn’t love an Uber eats?

The question for us all, then, is what we want from our economy. Or more importantly, what do we want from ourselves. Our taxes haven’t gone down to make those resources available to us as private individuals, and they won’t need to go up, if we wanted to instead shift them back to working in the public sector for society as a whole. Ultimately, it’s a political decision, far more than it is an economic one. And it’s not for me to persuade you what your what political views should be. But now you hopefully understand the economics a little better, then next time you’re clapping for all our NHS staff, have a think about what you value most.

 

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The post We need to talk about Tommy…the NHS: charity, taxes and MMT appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

The Co-opting of Activism by the State

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 27/06/2020 - 2:00am in

Tags 

Featured, NHS

Dustin Broadbery It is well documented that members of the police and intelligence communities have been infiltrating activist groups since the sixties. With covert spymasters rising in the ranks to hold influential leadership positions, guiding policy and strategy, and in some cases, radicalising those movements from within, in order to damage their reputation and weaken …

Cash4Covid – How hospitals are making money off the coronavirus

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/06/2020 - 6:00am in

Early on in the launch of the Sars-Cov-2/Covid19 “pandemic”, it was revealed by Dr Scott Jensen that hospitals in the US were getting paid bonuses for diagnosing Covid19 in their patients, and then larger bonuses again if those patients were put on ventilators. We’re not fact-checking that. We don’t need to. It’s already been done.

WATCH: The NHS pushing DNRs on the “mildly frail”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 21/06/2020 - 8:30am in

Tags 

Featured, UK, NHS, Video

The above video was sent to us on twitter. Dr Vernon Coleman, author and former general practitioner for the NHS, is reading the NICE care guidelines for critical care admissions during the Covid19 “pandemic”. NICE – or the National Institute of Care and Excellence – is the official advisory board for the NHS. They prepare …

Score! Football Marcus Rashford Gets Government to Provide Free School Meals During Holidays

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 20/06/2020 - 5:50am in

Kudos and respect to Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United and England footballer, for managing to get Boris Johnson to supply free school meals during the summer holidays. Rashford had written an open letter to our comedy Prime Minister urging him not to end the current scheme of supplying vouchers for school meals to families, who otherwise could not afford to feed them at lunch time. Rashford was interviewed on BBC news, where he remembered having used food banks and free school meals when he was a child. He also raised £20 million to help poor families avoid starvation and other problems with the charity FareShare.

Johnson, as your typical Tory, initially refused. He said instead that he was going to make £63 million available to local authorities to help the poor obtain food and other necessities. But this is only a fraction of the £115 million that would be spent on free school dinners. Robert Halfon, a senior Tory, also broke ranks to argue that, under Johnson’s scheme, the money would never reach those who needed it because it was too bureaucratic. Johnson also tried palming Rashford and his supporters off with another scheme, in which the government would spend £9 million on holiday activities and feeding 50,000 needy sprogs. This is 1.67 per cent of the three million or so children going hungry thanks to the government’s wages freeze and destruction of the welfare state.

Mike one of his articles about this has put up a number of Tweets from people decrying Johnson’s miserly, spiteful attempts to stop children continuing to receive school meals. One of them is from Damo, who pointed out that the government can find £150 billion to help out big business, but can’t find £115 million for hungry children.

Ghoul Johnson spits on footballer’s school meals plea – he wants millions of children to STARVE

Finally, after realizing just what a public relations disaster this was, Johnson gave in. Rashford duly Tweeted his appreciation of the support he had received from the British public. But as Mike reminds us, Johnson only finally conceded to grant the meal because the campaign was led by a celebrity. Mike concluded

England in 2020 is a place where the government deliberately tries to harm its citizens…

… and where it only gives anything back in fear of harmful publicity from a campaign by a highly-visible public figure. If Joe Bloggs from a small village had run this campaign, your children would be skin and bone by September.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/06/16/tories-cave-in-to-rashfords-school-meals-campaign-with-scheme-for-holidays/

And where was Starmer during all this? 

As far as I am aware, Starmer said and did precious little. I think he might have made some approving, supportive comment after Rashford won his victory, but that’s it. And it’s not good enough from the head of the Labour Party.

But what do you expect? Starmer’s a Blairite, and Tony Blair’s entire strategy was to take over Tory policies in an attempt to appeal to their voters, while assuring them and the Tory media that he could do it better than they could. Meanwhile the British working class was expected to continue to support him out of traditional tribal loyalty and the fact that they had nowhere else to go. This resulted in Labour losing many of its members, to the point where even though he lost the elections, Corbyn had far more people voting for him than Blair did.

The result is that Starmer is dragging us back to the situation of the late 90s and first years of this century, when a genuine left-wing opposition fighting for working people and traditional Labour issues, was left to organisations outside the political parties. Organisations like Disabled People Against Cuts, who fight for proper welfare support for the disabled, anti-austerity groups and campaigns to save the NHS from privatisation. They’re doing what Starmer should be doing and conspicuously isn’t, afraid he might offend all those Tory voters he wants to support him. As against a real Labour leader like Jeremy Corbyn.

Marcus Rashford deserves full plaudits for his work to get deprived kids proper meals.

And Johnson and Starmer, for their initial lack of support for the scheme, are nothing but a disgrace.

 

WATCH: UK Column News – NHS Eye Witnesses

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 14/06/2020 - 12:00pm in

Tags 

Video, NHS

Most striking in this segment are three first-hand accounts of patients in NHS hospitals which describe experiences we are already becoming familiar with from many other sources, and that are hard to reconcile with real-world pandemic prevention measures, especially given the acknowledged low level of threat posed by SARS-COV2.

Lockdown Regime Deaths: The True Cost of LOKIN-20

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 14/06/2020 - 4:00am in

The Lockdown regime, ushered in by the UK government on March 23rd and enacted into Law on March 25th, appears to have led to the premature deaths of tens of thousands of people in the UK. In my previous post LOKIN-20 The Lockdown Regime Causes Increasing Health Concerns we discussed the likelihood that the Lockdown would cause significant excess mortality.

Fabian Blueprint for a Socialist Britain

Sidney and Beatrice Webb, with an introduction by Samuel H. Beer, A Constitution for the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain (Cambridge: London School of Economics/ Cambridge University Press 1975).

I got this through the post yesterday, having ordered it a month or so ago. The Webbs were two of the founding members of the Fabian Society, the others including George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells. The idea of the NHS goes back to their minority report on the nation’s health published in the years before or round about the First World War. First published in 1920, this is their proposal for a socialist Britain.

The blurb for it on the front flap runs

The Constitution for a Socialist Commonwealth is a book that helps us understand the ‘mind of the Webbs’. Of all their works, it is the most general in scope – Beatrice called it a ‘summing up’ – and it does much to reveal the ideology of the great partnership. And since the mind of the Webbs was also the mind (though not the heart) of British socialism, an appreciation of this ideology, considered not only with regard to its confusions and blinds spots, but also its insights and intellectual sensitivities, helps one understand the Labour Party and what is still sometimes called ‘the Movement’.

But the book also has a broader importance. The problems that prompted the Webbs to write it still plague Great Britain and other, advanced societies. In 1920, the year of its publication, the modern democratic state was being sharply confronted by a syndicalist challenge based on the rising economic power of organised producers’ groups. Hardly less serious were the political difficulties of giving substance to parliamentary and popular control int eh face of growing bureaucratisation and a mass electorate. With regard to both sorts of problems, the Webbs were often prescient in their perceptions and sensible in their proposals. They concentrate on economic and political problems that are still only imperfectly understood by students of society and have by no means been mastered by the institutions of the welfare state and managed economy.

After Beer’s introduction, the book has the following chapters, which deal with the topics below.

Introduction

The Dictatorship of the Capitalist – The Manifold Character of Democracy.

The book is split into two sections. Part 1, ‘A Survey of the Ground’, contains

Chapter 1 – Democracies of Consumers

Voluntary Democracies of Consumers – Obligatory Associations of Consumers – The Relative Advantages of Voluntary and Obligatory Associations of Consumers – The Economic and Social Functions of Associations of Consumers.

Chapter 2 – Democracies of Producers

The Trade Union Movement – Professional Associations of Brain Workers – The Relative Advantages and Disadvantages of Obligatory and Voluntary Associations of Producers – The Economic and Social Functions of Associations of Producers: (i) Trade Unions; (ii) Professional Associations.

Chapter 3 – Political Democracy

The Structure of British Political Democracy: (a) the King; (b) the House of Lords; (c) the House of Commons and the Cabinet – Cabinet Dictatorship – Hypertrophy – A Vicious Mixture of Functions – the Task of the M.P. – the Failure of the Elector – The Warping of Political Democracy by a Capitalist Environment – Political Parties – The Labour Party – The Success of Political Democracy in general, and of British democracy in particular – The Need for Constitutional Reform.

Part II, ‘The Cooperative Commonwealth of Tomorrow’, begins with another introduction, and then the following chapters.

1 – The National Government

The King – the House of Lords – The National Parliament – the Political Parliament and its Executive – the Social Parliament and its Executive – the Relation between the Political and the Social Parliaments – Devolution as an Alternative Scheme of Reform – The Argument summarised – the Political Complex – The Social Complex – The Protection of the Individual against the Government.

2 – Some Leading Considerations in the Socialisation of Industries and Services

Three Separate Aspects of Economic Man – The Relative Functions of Democracies of Consumers and Democracies of Producers – Democracies of Citizen-Consumers – Democracies of Producers – ownership and Direction – The Participation in Management by the Producers.

3 – The Nationalised Industries and Services

The Abandonment of Ministerial Responsibility – The Differentiation of Control from Administration – The Administrative Machine – District Councils – Works Committees – the Recruitment of the Staff – Discipline Boards – Collective Bargaining – Advisory Committees – The Sphere of the Social Parliament – How the Administration will work – Initiative and Publicity – The Transformation of Authority – Coordinated instead of Chaotic Complexity – The Price of Liberty.

4 – The Reorganisation of Local Government

The Decay of Civic Patriotism – The Chaos in the Constitution and Powers of existing Local Authorities – Areas – The Inefficiency of the ‘Great Unpaid’ – The Principles on which Reconstruction should proceed – The Principle of Neighbourhood – The principle of Differentiation of Neighbourhoods – The principle of Direct Election – The Principle of the General Representatives – The Correspondence of Area and Functions – The Local Government of Tomorrow – The Representation of the Citizen-Consumer – The Local Councillor – Vocational Representation – Committees of Management – Machinery for Collective Bargaining – The Practicability of Vocational Self-Government in Municipal Government – The Industries and Services of Local Authorities – Emulation among Local Authorities – The Federation of Local Authorities – The Relation of Municipal Institutions to the Social and Political Parliaments.

5 – the Sphere of Voluntary Associations of Consumers in the Socialist Commonwealth

The Co-operative Movement – The Limitations of the Cooperative Movement – Constitutional Changes in the Cooperative Movement – Other Voluntary Associations of Consumers – Adult Education – The Future of the Country House – The Extension of Personality – The Problem of the Press – The Safeguarding of the Public Interest.

6 – The Reorganisation of the Vocational World

The Trade Union Movemewnt as the Organ of Revolt against the Capitalist System – The Right of Self-Determination for each Vocation – What Constitutes a Vocation – The Right of Free Enterprise for Socialised Administrations – Vocational Organisation as a Stratified Democracy; (a) How will each Vocation be recruited? (d) The Relative Position of Obligatory and Voluntary Organisation in a Vocation; (e) The Function of Vocational Organisation; (f) Subject Associations; (g) The Development of Professional Ethic; (h) Vocational Administration of Industries and Services; (i) Is there any Place for a National Assembly of Vocational Representatives?

7 – The Transitional Control of Profit-Making Enterprise

The Policy of the National Minimum – The Promotion of Efficiency and the Prevention of Extortion – The Standing Committee on Productivity – The Fixing of Prices – The Method of Expropriation – Taxation – The Relation of Prices to the National Revenue – The continuous Increase in a Socialist Commonwealth of Private Property in Individual Ownership – How Capital will be provided – The Transition and its Dangers- The Spirit of Service – The Need for Knowledge.

I’ve been interested in reading it for a little while, but finally decided to order it after reading in Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism that the Webb’s included an industrial parliament in their proposed constitution. I’d advocated something similar in a pamphlet I’d produced arguing that parliament was dominated by millionaires and managing directors – over 70 per cent of MPs have company directorships – working people should have their own parliamentary chamber.

The book is a century old, and doubtless very dated. It was republished in the 1970s during that decades’ acute trade union unrest and popular dissatisfaction with the corporative system of the management of the economy by the government, private industry and the trade unions. These problems were all supposed to have been swept away with the new, private-enterprise, free market economy introduced by Maggie Thatcher. But the problem of poverty has become more acute. The privatisation of gas, electricity and water has not produced the benefits and investment the Tories believed. In fact electricity bills would be cheaper if they’d remained in state hands. Ditto for the railways. And the continuing privatisation of the NHS is slowly destroying it for the sake of expensive, insurance-financed private medical care that will be disastrous for ordinary working people.

And the growing poverty through stagnant wages and welfare cuts, seen in the growth of food banks, is also partly due to the destruction of trade union power and the exclusion of working people from the management of their companies and industries.

I haven’t yet read it, but look forward to doing so because I feel that, despite Tory lies and propaganda and no matter how dated, the Webbs’ proposals and solutions are still acutely relevant and necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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