Britain’s zombie government
Duncan Smith, Osborne, Javid and now Cameron — victims of an economic logic that does not work
Neoliberalism has become like a water-torture on the foreheads of the UK’s conservative government. Article number one of neoliberal doctrine says you must cut the size of the state. They imposed targets to stop themselves backsliding. But they cut the state too much, too fast, and as a result the debt is rising, and deficit failing to fall fast enough. The targets are fiction.
When ordered to harm the poor more than harmed already, Iain Duncan Smith resigned, telling the press that the rationale for placing a high proportion of the cuts on welfare claimants is: they do not vote for us.
George Osborne meanwhile is left sitting on a budget that does not add up. And not just slightly: there’s a major discrepancy in the most fundamental document a government has to produce.
Next came the steel calamity. Freemarket economics told Sajid Javid the market would sort it out. He had the chance to pro-actively take part in the rescue talks; to signal — which is all big business wants — the future size and shape of the UK steel industry and the government’s commitment. He did the opposite and it is not certain that any of the private bidders (who have yet to bid) can rescue Tata. So it is still likely steel will have to be part, or temporarily nationalised. The man whose favourite book is Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, and who thinks ticket touts are “entrepreneurs”, has put 40,000 jobs in a strategic industry in needless peril
Now there’s the Panama Papers. At one level it does not matter if David Cameron has a personal interest in the Blairmore offshore tax dodging fund. The fact that he lobbied to stop the EU imposing transparency rules on such funds, and has sabotaged the already weak-willed crackdown on tax havens should be enough.
Now stand back and ask: what does this look like. Trotsky ( who knew a lot about defeat) once said that when history is with you you cannot make mistakes, no matter how inept you are. It’s the opposite when history is against you. No matter how much elbow grease you put into what you are trying to do, you fall apart.
The tripe crisis — steel, welfare and now tax havens — makes the UK government look like a committee for managing the affairs of the super-rich: assiduously lobbying Brussels to lay off scrutiny of tax vehicles, assiduously ignoring the plight of steel.
The only reason they are not in absolute panic mode is that the media will do everything they can to avoid this turning toxic. Not only because the media are ideologically committed to the freemarket doctrine of smash the poor and avoid taxes. It is because many of the owners are personally enmired in the system the Panama Papers reveal the tip of.
The Greek website editor Costas Efimeros blogged this morning that what journalism should really be doing is not just taking down the individals crooks, but exposing and attacking the system that’s behind them.
The press won’t do this; the public service broadcasters are too timid and rule-bound to do it. The BBC has started using the words “global elite” to describe the beneficiaries of Mosseck Fonseca’s tax scam. As I wrote in Postcapitalism, unless it finds a way to kick the addiction to economic cruelty and inequality, that elite’s time will soon be over.
Neoliberal capitalism is like a zombie, flailing around half dead with its limbs dropping off.
In the zombie narrative, zombies’ mission is to create more zombies but in the movies it never gets to the point where there are no more ordinary people to bite, and they just have to bite each other.
That’s what the Conservative cabinet looks like today. The zombie system is eating the Conservatives for lunch.