Martin Wolf: alive and well, despite his challenges to mainstream profit-led orthodoxy

$RNDSI3VOn Saturday a reader asked, “What has happened to Martin Wolf?” He can now be answered: Yes, to date Mr Wolf has survived under the new Nikkei FT.

Witness his bittersweet article: A radical and rational plan for a post-crisis Labour party, with its promising sub-title: ‘Land-use planning, housing, local government finance and tax structures all cry out for reform’

He opens: “Jeremy Corbyn is, we are told, likely to become leader of the UK’s opposition Labour party. This prediction may even prove correct, though the experience of May’s general election has taught us to be wary of pollsters”.

His analysis – bearing over-lightly on the calamitous errors of the banking sector:

martin wolf“Labour is in trouble partly because it was in power when the financial crisis hit. Conservatives were also highly successful in suggesting, wrongly, that the cause of the fiscal deficits they inherited was Labour’s profligacy rather than misplaced trust in the health of the financial system”

He then appears to agree with the Corbyn platform in saying that land-use planning, housing, local government finance and tax structures all cry out for reform and adds: “no strong economic case can be made for cutting the share of public spending in gross domestic product to close to its lowest level in 70 years by 2019-20 or for simultaneously slashing benefits for the working poor and inheritance tax”.

Wolf then states that is the left’s job to challenge such choices – as Corbyn is doing

He continues: “New Labour assumed the big economic questions had been decided: socialism had failed and the market had triumphed. Its job was not to reshape the economy in any meaningful way but to redirect the fruits of growth towards public spending and the relatively worse off. Yet Labour cannot now begin from the assumption that the economy is working well, because it is not. After a recovery slower than from the Great Depression, this should not need arguing”. He continues:

“The party cannot just imitate the Tories. It needs to craft its own policies”. Wolf – as would Corbyn – approves of:

  • higher public investment at a time of low interest rates,
  • letting the Bank of England inject the money it creates directly into the economy in restricted circumstances.
  • the operation of essential public services,
  • stronger policies in support of innovation,
  • land-use planning and land taxation,
  • more housing,
  • reform of the finance of local government,
  • reform of taxation of inheritance
  • and of the structure of taxation.

He argues, as well, for “a focus on the huge risks to the economy of its dependence on soaring private debt”.

jc 5So far so good, the radical Labour Party leadership candidate would agree with this. But is Wolf a Corbynaire?

Though he states that “something deeper is happening” he pulls back after all this positive thinking, dismissing nationalisation as nonsensical and scouting “the idea that £120bn a year in lost tax revenues can be readily found”.

He moves on to say: “It is depressing to accept that a complacent government and an unelectable opposition are what the country must now expect”.

Wolf concludes that in practice an opposition arguing for such rational and radical reform appears inconceivable – and we add that it will certainly seem so as presented in the columns of a press owned by and financially dependent on corporates.

Is he right? Hundreds of thousands in this country are now seeing a third option. Will they stay the course and become a force for good – whatever the election results?




Posted on September 7, 2015, in Admirable politician, Banking, Corporate political nexus, Democracy undermined, Economy, Finance, Government, Local government, Media, MPs, Parliamentary failure, Taxation, Vested interests and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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