2011-08-11

"I blame the British government for the riots"

I blame the British government for the riots

There has been a lot of “opinion” expressed over the last few days about the causes of the British riots. If I had a meter to assess the ideological biases given breath in the press over this issue to date it would be swinging out there in the right-wing of opinion – “cultural problem”, “lawless lazy youth fed by the welfare state”, “criminality”, “intolerable monsters” all words I have read or heard in the media recently. Anyway who has my view is labelled a “left-wing cynic” who want to “makes excuses for thugs”. Opinion is after all just that so it is always of benefit to temper it with research evidence. Anyway, the short conclusion – supported by the research evidence – is that I blame the British government for the riots.

I grew up on a post WW2 Housing Commission estate in Ashwood a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. These were places provided by the state at low rentals for the soldiers who came back from the War and who were not able to afford to do any better given their incomes and their burgeoning families – the baby boomer kids. They were disadvantaged areas in a relative sense and were generally wastelands – sparse services (shops, professional help etc) and lots of crime, gangs (“the Jordy Boys”) and police aggro.

These were the baby-boomer breeding grounds and there were always enough kids in the street to have exciting cricket and football matches. The children from these poor estates received support from the state in the form of subsidised school uniforms, books, materials and small living allowances which enabled pro-education families to keep their children in school – the only escape really from the poverty. Many of the parents were alcoholics, working in low-skill jobs with low-pay. There was domestic violence, street violence and a disregard for authority. The men were tough and had low levels of tolerance for cultural finery. They were misogynist, homophobic, racist and probably other words I don’t know. It was not an intellectual environment.

But having said that the area was also a hot-bed of rock and blues music (and tattoos) with some really good musicians emerging out of the garages.



The same type of huts were used for the Holmesglen Migrant Hostel, which abutted the estate. This was one of several hostels where the new migrants were located upon arrival to our land. You could fry eggs on the corrugated iron roofs/walls in summer they were so hot and the families were squeezed in like sardines. They were even more disadvantaged than the locals but we all seemed to get along and the migrant parents and the local parents all had work.



Further the parents all had secure incomes – low to be sure – but there was full employment and supplementary state benefits to assist with low cost housing, health care and education. The welfare state did not erode the incentive to work. There was no hint that a person would not work. Jobs were there and people wanted them.

This was the Welfare State in action – buttressing a system that was predicated on the state maintaining full employment.

There were youth gangs in the area. For example, the “Jordy sharpies”, a strange lot of characters who wore flagged pants with knitted shirts and black socks and light brown sandals and shaved heads. They were violent, intolerant and ugly. But they only really caused havoc on Friday and Saturday nights because the rest of the time they were working courtesy of full employment. There wasn’t a sense of extreme disadvantage even though a researcher like me would look back on that time and consider the “objective” data demonstrated abject disadvantage.

But our parents – the drunks and others – all worked because there was full employment. There was full employment and welfare and continuous budget deficits and low inflation and rising living standards (real wages growing in line with productivity) because the federal government took responsibility for these things.

Maintaining full employment was an overriding goal of economic policy which governments of all political persuasions took seriously. Unemployment rates below two per cent were considered normal and when unemployment threatened to increase, government intervened by stimulating aggregate demand. Even conservative governments acted in this way, if only because they feared the electoral backlash that was associated with unemployment in excess of 2 per cent.

While unemployment was seen as a waste of resources and a loss of national income which together restrained the growth of living standards, it was also constructed in terms of social and philosophical objectives pertaining to dignity, well-being and the quest for sophistication. It was also clearly understood that the maintenance of full employment was the collective responsibility of society, expressed through the macroeconomic policy settings. Governments had to ensure that there were jobs available that were accessible to the most disadvantaged workers in the economy.

This framework has been systematically abandoned in most OECD countries over the last 35 years. The overriding priority of macroeconomic policy has shifted towards keeping inflation low and suppressing the stabilisation functions of fiscal policy. Concerted political campaigns by neo-liberal governments aided and abetted by a capitalist class intent on regaining total control of workplaces, have hectored communities into accepting that mass unemployment and rising underemployment is no longer the responsibility of government.

As a consequence, the insights gained from the writings of Keynes, Marx and Kalecki into how deficient demand in macroeconomic systems constrains employment opportunities and forces some individuals into involuntary unemployment have been discarded. … (…)


I 35 år har vi nu levt med att hela det etablerade politiska etablissemanget från vänster till höger med hull och hår okritiskt svalt högerpropagandan om NAIRU:s nödvändighet och nonsens begreppet balanserade budgetar och dito ”sunda” statsfinanser. Den förmenta ”vänstern” kacklar i kör högerns propaganda om ovannämnda begrepp, huva man måste ju visa att man tar ansvar och är ekonomiskt ”seriösa” så man inte får bannor på de borgerliga ledar- och tyckar- sidorna.

Insikter om ekonomin som Keynes, Wigforss m.fl. insåg har blivit helt utraderat från det politiska medvetandet. Även sk vänsterekonomer anser att NAIRU är måttet på sk ”full” sysselsättning oxh tvår sina händer och skyller på penningpolitikens härskare.

4 comments:

Jan Wiklund sa...

Egendomligt nog hörs den högsta kritiken inte från "vänstern" utan från vissa ekonomer som inte kallar sig vänster. Såna som Erik Reinert och Carlota Pérez. Men å andra sidan var ju inte heller Keynes någon antikapitalist, han syftade till att rädda kapitalismen.

Här är en artikel av Reinert som säger ungefär samma sak som du: http://www.respublica.no/Artikler/Advarer-mot-ny-finanskrise

Teckentydaren sa...

Man kan också komma ihåg i den aktuella skuldhysterin att drygt 40% av USA:s statskuld är en skuld till sig själv, typ Social Security och annat som innehar amerikanska statspapper. En rent bokföringsteknisk historia ur statens perspektiv.

When the government owes itself $US1.6 trillion

Det bekymmersamma i den amerikanska situationen, förutom en av deras mest mähäiga presidenter, är tea-party republikanernas ”die hard” attityd till att krossa det demokratiska presidentinnehavet. De kommer inte att sky någon "uppoffring" för amerikanen för att göra Obama till enperiods president och blockera varje försök till återhämtning av ekonomin fram till november nästa år.

Björn Nilsson sa...

"Hör, hör!" är väl det bästa att säga till Bills berättelse. Om man bortser från extrem värme och några andra detaljer så låter det rätt mycket av svenskt (och engelskt, amerikanskt etc etc) femtiotal om det hela. Nå, försök berätta det här för en normalsvensk socialdemokrat idag och det blir väl fingrarna i öronen direkt!

Teckentydaren sa...

Här är mer i samma anda:

The Legal Duty to Create Jobs
Lost in the Debt Ceiling Debate

“The debate about the debt ceiling should have been a conversation about how to create jobs. It is time for progressives to remind the government that it has a legal duty to create jobs, and must act immediately …
(…)
This legal duty comes from three sources: (1) full employment legislation including the Humphrey Hawkins Full Employment Act of 1978, (2) the 1977 Federal Reserve Act, and (3) the global consensus based on customary international law that all people have a right to a job with favorable remuneration to provide an adequate standard of living.

[det ingår också i FN:s mänskliga rättigheter. Våra politiker brukar vara måna om att vi ska följa FN beslut och på senare år speciellt om FN lagt sig platt och sanktionerar imperiets krigande.]
(…)
The first full employment law in the United States was passed in 1946. It required the country to make its goal one of full employment. It was motivated in part by the fear that after World War II, returning veterans would not find work, and this would provoke further economic dislocation. With the Keynesian consensus that government spending was necessary to stimulate the economy and the depression still fresh in the nation's mind, this legislation contained a firm statement that full employment was the policy of the country. As originally written, the bill required the federal government do everything in its authority to achieve full employment, which was established as a right guaranteed to the American people. Pushback by conservative business interests, however, watered down the bill. …
(…)
In the aftermath of the rise in unemployment which followed the "oil crisis" of 1975, Congress addressed the weaknesses of the 1946 act through the passage of the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act of 1978. The purpose of this bill as described in its title is:

An Act to translate into practical reality the right of all Americans who are able, willing, and seeking to work to full opportunity for useful paid employment at fair rates of compensation; to assert the responsibility of the Federal Government to use all practicable programs and policies to promote full employment, production, and real income, balanced growth, adequate productivity growth, proper attention to national priorities.
(…)
If private enterprise appears not to be meeting these goals, the Act expressly calls for the government to create a "reservoir of public employment."
(…)
Humphey-Hawkins has not been repealed. Both the language and the spirit of this law require the government to bring unemployment down to 3% from over 9%. The time for action is now.
(…)
The Federal Reserve has among its mandates to "promote maximum employment." The origin of this mandate is the Full Employment Act of 1946, which committed the federal government to pursue the goals of "maximum employment, production and purchasing power." This mandate was reinforced in the 1977 reforms which called on the Fed to conduct monetary policy so as to "promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices and moderate long term interest rates."”

Skicka en kommentar

Tillåtna HTML taggar: <b>, <i>, <a>