Sunday, 14 December 2008

Towards a New Economic Narrative - Debating the Way Forward

Irish Left Review is a superb site for all kinds of left wing discussion on issues such as crime and justice, education, health and media, amongst a vast array of other issues. But where it shines best is in the area of promoting and provoking left wing economic debate.

Michael Taft, who baulks at being called an economist but is certainly one of the foremost left wing Irish bloggers, includes the always-readable and eternally-useful "Recession Diaries" on both his own blog - Notes on the Front - and ILR. His most significant intervention into the debate on the current series of economic and fiscal crises came with a 10-point plan entitled 'Towards a New Economic Narrative.' It is, for me, the first significant attempt to provide not just a left critique of the last few months, but to provoke debate on a new way forward for left economics arising out of it.

You don't need to be an economist to read it. It's accessible, easy-to-read and digestable. Micahel summarises it as follows;

So there you have it:

  • Overcoming the fiscal trap by borrowing, taxing capital assets and opening up the Pension Reserve Fund to infrastructural and enterprise investment
  • Increasing demand and consumption through a new pay deal, extension of welfare benefits, anti-inflation measures
  • Putting our enterprise base on a new footing through a new Green deal, opening up new investment streams, an Enterprise Guarantee and new models of public economic activity.

Do with these proposals what you will. Improve on them. Come up with better ones. Add and subtract.

But it's worth reading in its entirety for anyone even mildly interested in how to get out of this mess - and let's face it, that's all of us.

It's worh noting that this is not a fait accompli. Michael podcasts on it here to explain that this needs to be the start of the debate, not the end. And the first major response is similarly significant. Terrence McDonough, of the NUIG Economics Department, responds here to note that "[o]nly socialism will get us off this long run roller coaster." Even Dan Boyle of the Greens has made a response, putting great faith in the ongoing Commission on Taxation to resolve the outstanding inequities in the taxation regime.

The most important thing for us all, though, is not merely to read the opening volleys of the debate, but to put our own views forward. The trained economists, the stockbrokers, hedge fund managers, professors and department heads got us into this with little warning - so it's clear that academic or other expertise is not required to take part in this broad debate. What is needed, right now, is a new commitment to an economics of equality that leaves neoliberalism confined to the history books. How we achieve that is a question for us all.