New participatory democracy
My Welsh socialism
My New Socialist
Globalise the left!
item0036D 666, 667
666 24 March 2003
That is the impression given by a leading city economist, David Hale of
Helix Capital, writing in the
Financial Times on 21 March - his
analysis raises the fascinating question, "Might the market
institutions of America put a block upon the Republicans' imperial military adventurism?"
Now read on...
"What will be the cost to the ID budget deficit and current-account
deficit of the country's new international role as superpower acting
unilaterally? The financial markets are concerned about US
assertiveness, because they perceive it could be opening the door to a new
age of imperialism, with significant economic consequences. After a
great "peace dividend" following
the end of the Cold War, US defence spending is now increasing dramatically.
"During the Cold War, America's allies often helped to shoulder the
burden of US military spending. Germany had a formal offset programme,
in which it stockpiled dollars at the Bundesbank in order to
offset US defence expenditure. During the Gulf War of 1991, the US
received huge subsidies from Japan, Germany, the Gulf States and Saudi
Arabia to pay for the cost of evicting Mr Hussein from Kuwait. The US
will receive no subsidies to pay for the current war.
"If the occupation meets great resistance and proves to be expensive, the
US will have to assume all of the costs. The markets would regard such
a development as negative, because of the potential consequences for the
fiscal deficit. In fact. Congress would probably respond to a
high-cost war by vetoing George Bush's tax-cut proposals, which were
designed to bolster the equity market.
"Many Europeans think that the US hopes to make money from the War by
exploiting Iraq's oil reserves - but Iraqi oil production is
only worth about £16bn a year, or
just 25% of the cost of the projected War.
"Despite enthusiasm for war among neo-conservatives in Washington, it is
also unclear if either the US Government or its people are truly prepared
for a new imperial mission. Until 2003, the Government's international
affairs budget had been in decline for many years. The CIA has not
been able to recruit the best and brightest from the country's elite Ivy
League universities for nearly two generations, and now depends heavily on
former Mormon missionaries - because they are the only Americans prepared to
learn exotic foreign languages."
I am sorry I cannot put you straight through to the FT - but it is now
subscription only, and you would only be presented with a demand for £35 by
way of annual subscription. That's
capitalism at work, folks!
This subject is rarely broached, in the Meeja - if you spot it, will
you drop me a line?
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24 March 2003
time to Patricia Hewitt... It is reported that she is "not convinced" by the case for
letting market forces rip, in the community pharmacy sector, in spite of
the recent recommendations of the Office of Fair Trading. Her
misgivings constitute an early sign of ministerial concern, which could be
the tip of a new political iceberg.
Labour has a lot of
thinking yet to do, about the assurance to all our people of adequate
retail services. For in a consumer society, equitable access to retail
services becomes a key aspect of civil equality. And as "big stores"
come to dominate all retail sectors, problems of "retail inequity" are
growing. These are matters which have conventionally been "left to the
market" to resolve, even by the more interventionist socialists.
litany of systemic problems is building up, and is likely to demand a
political solution. Powerful retailers continue to stand accused of
the abuse of market power, in relation to their suppliers. The
small-shop sector continues to weaken, as more and more of its functions are
preempted by big
business. The decline of rural retail services, given their low
profitability, poses particular problems for rural communities. The
reduction in sub-post-office cover accentuates these problems. And the
problems are not only "rural": many deprived urban areas share them.
Poor public transport services accentuate these systemic difficulties, and
no satisfactory solution has been found to the reliable provision of
"uneconomic" services. An innovative social enterprise
ViRSA is pioneering new institutional
solutions, mobilising cooperative and community resources to strengthen the
retail sector, but its national effect is minimal.
The signs are ominous. The
indications are that "market systems" are unlikely to meet the legitimate
expectations of the population as a whole. I believe that socialists
should begin to formulate new solutions of two kinds -
These ideas will take "politics" in new directions, into new
sectors of our social and economic system. Patricia Hewitt, by
refusing to withdraw the NHS service-retainer system from community
pharmacies, could be firing the first shots in a new political campaign.
- New public bus services
Currently, the provision of rural bus services is in the hands of private
companies, heavily cross-subsidised by the State from variable national
budgets. This solution is systemically unreliable. New forms of
public enterprise should be developed, capable of engaging local and
regional commitment and resources. Since Thatcher's infamous
privatisation and deregulation of bus services, this has been a no-go area
- New service retainers The
Victorians, always inventive, initiated the Sub-Postmaster system, under
which local retailers were paid a standing retainer for the provision of
post-office services - given that base income, they were encouraged to
develop their own business interests. That principle was sound.
A new system of public service retainer should be developed, acknowledging
the centrality of retail services in the modern consumer economy.
What do you think? Drop me a line
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