Reasons to be cheerful: the ‘count your assets’ approach to public health

 by Lynne Friedli   Living on nothing is trying not to hear the intellectual arguments and lofty ideals about living on nothing put forward by those who are not living on nothing. Living on nothing is dying. Out of the…

DLS Event: Author Discussion with Andrew Permain on The Politics of New Labour

2pm, Saturday 19th November, Teviot Row House, Bristo Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9AJ Speakers: Andrew Permain (author) and Eric Shaw (co-author of the Strange Death of Scottish Labour) This meeting gives an opportunity to discuss Andrew Permain’s new book on the…

Living in the early days of a better nation

Democratic Left Scotland’s National Council met on Saturday May 21st to discuss the impact of the ‘Scottish Spring’.  The potential created by the new Salmond government was considered within the context of fostering the self-determination in citizens, communities and workplaces; part…

What’s wrong with capitalism?

by David Purdy

Interviewed in a recent television documentary, Paul Tucker, Deputy-Governor of the Bank of England, condemned a system in which banks amass profits during a boom, but are bailed out by taxpayers when they go bust, as a “flaw at the heart of capitalism”.1 His views about how to remove this flaw were not recorded, but it is more likely that he was finding fault with the kind of capitalism that has evolved in Britain and the US than that he was criticising capitalism as such.

The distinction between genus and species is central to what follows. Since the collapse of state socialist alternatives to capitalism, the very idea of a post-capitalist civilisation has been banished to the realms of speculation and theory. For practical purposes, we now take it for granted that the only issue worth discussing is what form of capitalism is best or will prevail. Indeed prior to the financial crash of 2007-8, it was widely believed that even this question was on the way to being settled as the Anglo-American, neo-liberal model of capitalism appeared to outperform its rivals. After 1990 Japan sank into protracted stagnation and although the EU escaped from the doldrums of the 1980s and embarked on three major projects – completing the “single market”, building monetary union and absorbing the former Soviet bloc states of Eastern Europe – it signally failed to resolve its internal crisis of popular legitimacy and governance, and far from stemming the neo-liberal tide, got caught up in it.

In the immediate aftermath of the crash, from the autumn of 2008 to the summer of 2009, there was a brief window of opportunity for radical economic reform. The opportunity was lost. Temporarily thrown off balance, the political and business elite were hardly going to embrace the state-capitalist models of development favoured by the world’s rising powers – China, India, Russia and Brazil – and in Europe (though not in the US) they soon rallied behind the banner of fiscal conservatism, spreading alarm about the state of the public finances and setting out to restore “business as usual” by dint of fiscal retrenchment. This is a high-risk strategy at a time when recovery from recession is far from assured and little has been done either to reform global finance or to tackle imbalances in international trade and capital flows, but in the absence of a systemic alternative to the neo-liberal model that combines intellectual cogency with political appeal, our rulers evidently judge the risk worth taking. In that sense, what has transpired over the past three years is a crisis in neo-liberal capitalism, not a crisis of neo-liberal capitalism.