Democracy is what’s missing

BREXITSimon Wren-Lewis, with whom I usually have little difficulty in agreeing, has published a blog in recent days in which he explains why, in his (and others’) views, it is impossible to play a full part in the global economy – in other words, to enjoy free trade – while maintaining the full powers of self-government that one would usually expect in a mature and democratic nation state.

He links this point to the Brexit vote, in order to suggest that the obligations that must be accepted in return for free trade (or – in the Brexit case – access to the single market) must necessarily entail a diminution in the powers of self-government. Continue reading

Yemen’s calamity – blood on Britain’s hands

a-shameful-relationshipThe Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) has published a new report, A Shameful Relationship: UK Complicity in Saudi State Violence by David Wearing. It exposes how the UK’s supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia for its devastating bombing of Yemen systematically violates international law.

UK-made aircraft, bombs and missiles have been used in the bombing and our Government continues to offer training and support to the Saudi regime. The report states

One year into the intervention in the civil conflict in Yemen by a Saudi-led military coalition, 6,400 people have been killed, half of them civilians, including 900 children, and more than 30,000 people have been injured…. The large majority of these casualties have been caused by Coalition air strikes in a campaign where combat aircraft supplied by the United Kingdom have played a significant role.”

Continue reading

Government intervention is vital to save steel and reverse industrial decline

Save our steelKen Clarke was pronouncing on Radio 4 several days ago that in the eighties people were calling for nationalisation to save British industry. He claimed the idea that the UK will collapse unless the government steps in has been heard before and is tired old nonsense. He seemed to think that history and the magic of free markets have proved the interventionists wrong.

So what really happened to the UK economy during the free market reign?

In 1979 as north sea oil and high interest rates inflated the value of sterling, foreign imports became cheaper. UK companies could buy coal from Poland and South Africa more cheaply. UK industries found they could import finished products from countries such as China for less than the cost of producing them here. So this must be good: cheap imports and low inflation courtesy of free markets. Continue reading

It’s the country’s deficit not the government’s that matters – devalue to re-industrialise

Save our steelThe imminent crisis in what is still laughingly called the British steel industry is being greeted just as other similar developments have been for decades – with consternation and anger, with concern for the implications for social cohesion in general and for workers’ families in particular, but with no recognition that this is just the latest episode in what is now a depressingly long saga.

As one British industry after another has either passed into foreign ownership or closed down, or – as in the case of the steel industry – both, very few recognise that this is not just a one-off but is part of the long and not so slow de-industrialisation of Britain. Continue reading

Understanding the economics of Britain’s wars

britanniaBritain is a very frequent participant in US-led wars. This stands in contrast to many other European states ranging from countries such as Sweden, to Spain, to Italy and Germany. The piece below examines the material reasons for this difference, and explains British politicians’ determination to join in US military adventures.

The widely held view that Britain’s contribution to an air war over Syria will make no significant change to its outcome also made little impact on the parliamentary vote for war. Military insignificance is even accepted by many advocates of action. Former Tory Defence Secretary Michael Portillo argues this boldly telling ‘This Week’ that Cameron had made no case for war, the arguments were flimsy and that there seemed to be no strategic plan. Nevertheless Portillo was in favour of war, saying that otherwise “the US will begin to regard Britain as an unreliable ally”. It appears that many MPs on both sides of House of Commons share this approach. Continue reading