The downward spiral

Richard Murphy may well be correct in suspecting that Truss and Kwarteng purposefully engineered an economic crisis (or should we say a severe spike in the endless crisis of the economic system) in order to justify a massive round of privatisations. (Liz Truss ‘might want economic crisis to prepare NHS for privatisation’) The idea is all the more plausible given how obvious and inevitable were the consequences of Kwarteng’s ‘mini-budget’. I mean, what did they expect would happen if not exactly what has happened?

Another explanation that must be considered is that both Truss and Kwarteng are actually as stupid as their actions make them appear. We cannot discount the possibility that this is one of those situations where two heads are much, much worse than one. One of the questions I keep asking myself is why did nobody stop Kwarteng? His civil servants must have warned him about the potential impact of his actions. Where was the rest of the cabinet while all of this was being planned and implemented?

The answer, of course, is that pretty much all checks and balances have been removed or eroded to a non-functioning nub. The British executive has accrued to itself near-dictatorial powers. Some would argue that I am being over-cautious in applying that qualifier. If nobody could stop Kwarteng wrecking the economy, deliberately or otherwise, then how does that differ from the powers of an absolute monarch?

Even if Richard Murphy is wrong about the destruction of the economy being part of a cunning plan, he is almost certainly right about the privatisation of public services. That’s because politicians are opportunists. The very convincing appearance of conspiracy arises when an outcome benefits those responsible for the action(s) that led to that outcome. With hindsight, it is temptingly easy to selectively connect the dots of decisions that led to the result. But it is t least as likely that the outcome was entirely unplanned and that the circumstances created are just being seized upon by those opportunist politicians.

None of this is new. None of it is particular to the Tories. If it appears to be worsening that’s because it is. A defective system can only deteriorate over time unless and until an appropriate corrective is applied. The public are all too easily persuaded that the appropriate corrective is to elect the other party. It isn’t, of course. If it was, the situation would not be deteriorating at an accelerating pace. Even a defective system defends itself. Power perpetuates power. The structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state may be such as to give rise to a political system which inevitably leads to Boris Johns and Liz Truss, but it is so entrenched as to be beyond the reach of any but the most drastic corrective.

Here’s the horrible thought. Even if the system is killing us, and even if we know that it is killing us, we can’t do anything about it. Not so long as we operate within the parameters of the system itself. Parameters which are part of the system’s defences. As with the corrective for Scotland’s constitutional predicament, the appropriate corrective for the British political system as a whole is not to be found or contrived within that system. To stop the deterioration of a defective system it is necessary to act in ways which the system deprecates or prohibits. The courage this demands is an exceedingly rare commodity.

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14 thoughts on “The downward spiral

  1. Actual economists aim for stability in the economy. That is what fiscal policy (via the Treasury) and monetary policy (via the Bank of England) are for. To balance the ship, ensure that economic growth is sustainable and to arrest volatility in money and currency markets.

    However, economists hardly ever get the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer, at least in this British state.

    What we get as Chancellors are hedge fund managers (Kwasi Kwarteng, Rishi Sunak) and (dodgy) ex-(dodgy) businessmen (Nadum Zahawi Sunak and bankers (Sajid Javid).

    For me volatility is what these guys promote. For in chaos, hedge funds and speculators thrive. It’s intentional.

    Truss may not know what’s going on but these Chancers of the Exchequer do.

    For Truss and Kwarteng read Dumb and Cunning.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I fear you many be doing a disservice to Kwarteng who is described as a brilliant academic. His policies might actually be theoretically correct but if the rest of the world is irrational then shame on him.

    In any case you’re right on the privatisations. Lots of talk in the right wing press on how the NHS is broken and we need to move to a German-style social insurance model. Of course, Germany was picked to make it sound like a step up from what we have now.

    The Tories must realise that their current tenure is coming to an end. What better to elect Truss for a couple of years to remove the last of the barriers from stopping the UK economy from going into a free-fall and then hand the mess to Labour. It’s not as if they have a cadre of financial experts waiting to step in and fix everything.

    In the midst of all of this the SNP sit there, like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck.

    PS It will be Labour that kill off the NHS and the Tories will reap the profits.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think they know exactly what they want to achieve with these policies, Stuart, but the ramifications? Nah. People of limited imagination never do see the longer term outcomes of their own stupidity.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do think that ideologically this is the budget that everyone wanted – Thatcher Plus, with the extra twist of privatising the NHS in the foreseeable future. However Julie McAnulty of the ISP is thinking it’s really a robbery, I think I’d need to see more evidence for that though perhaps the crime has been committed but the thieves haven’t yet put the money in their pockets.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. And have not yet replaced him. Tom Scholar’s subordinates are either jockeying for his job or they’re trying not to join him in the dole queue.


  3. As usual you have hit the nail on the head, but there’s nothing to ‘like’ about the contents even though I’ve ‘liked’ the post!


  4. Kwarteng looked coked out his head at the queen’s funeral, another useless chancellor George Osborne was sent out of the HoC, after cameras picked him up as well looking as though he was coked out his head as well.

    As you say privatisation is the order of the day, the UK’s NHS has long been on the radars of the US health companies, Chomsky said If you want to privatise something first defund it, the people will cry out for something to replace it, and that’s where privatisation comes in.

    The big problem is that there’s no accountability, no pride in what they are doing, in days gone by a minister would resign if he or she messed up or brought shame upon their party. The same set up has now occurred in Scotland, no minister took the fall for the disaster over the prosecution of Salmond, and no one will fall on their sword over the five years late and tens of millions over budget ferries fiasco.

    The truth is the public has accepted this kind of failure, and scandals are just shrugged off as accepted. We’ve become complacent to politicians’ shenanigans, not enough people care, many are far too busy struggling to make ends meet to give a toss about what Truss, Kwarteng, Sturgeon or Swinney are up to, and that’s a pity, because its these politician and ones like them that make their lives harder due to their political failings.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Apologies for two almost identical comments above but for some reason wordpress has asked me to log in twice and then has not taken me back to the page!


  6. Thatcher was spectacularly wrong in both the short and long terms at least as far as the welfare of the mass of the population is concerned. Trickle down economics do not, have never worked – especially when you open up the country’s ability to take massive amounts of money out of the country at the same time. All that happens is that those with the massive bonuses and hedge fund/speculative investments rocketing to the stratosphere simply take their loot out of the country and place it in off-shore tax havens and Swiss bank accounts. How that is supposed to encourage economic growth – should growth always be encouraged? – is far from obvious,, but it certainly grows the accumulated funds of the wealthiest at the expense of the poorest – which, of course, is the whole theme of Tory economics, anyway.

    No policy should ever be undertaken till all possible ramifications have been tested rigorously as to its possible effects across the board. I cannot make up my mind whether these policies and so many others are the result of vicious and irresponsible disregard or sheer incompetence, or a mixture of both. A mixture of both, I suspect. I think that the vast majority of politicians today are largely unable to prevent exploitation by global interests (again, because they allowed this to happen in the first place) and so self-interested in an unenlightened way that they would do nothing to stop it if they could and see their job as mitigating the very worst excesses in so ineffectual a way as to be useless. The market that now drives everything is the financial market, global interests and billionaire psychopaths (who drive the global interests and much of the financial market, too). In biblical terms, it is called Mammon.

    The post war consensus (albeit the Tories were always looking for a way to dismantle the welfare state and anything else that might have been of benefit to the poor) required that all parties had to be of one mind if a ‘better Britain’ was the emerge out of the carnage. What the people who put their heart and soul into this new consensus failed to appreciate was that the more extreme form of the Tory species always views the poor with a jaundiced eye, believing it to be all their own fault. Thy also failed to see that an accommodation with this viewpoint would start to take root in all other mainstream parties, too, so that we have our current situation.

    The Scottish philosopher and economist, Adam Smith, knew a thing or two about unenlightened self-interest and where it will always lead. Unfortunately for us, the Adam Smith Institute would have the old man birling like a Catherine Wheel on speed, so far removed from his warning and checks and balances is it. That post war consensus lasted around thirty years. Unbridled neoliberalism and unfettered capitalism have lasted much longer already. However, those who understand Smith’s message also understand that social revolution is always begat by those twins of economic psychopathy – usually after a period of extreme political upheaval and misery.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. It seems obvious, the present tory Regime didn’t expect this backlash from the international financial markets.
    They neither expected it, nor even now, care about it!
    All they cared about was cutting taxes as they promised.
    But, that they really think this will grow the UK economy, and create their much vaunted recovery, is truly astonishing.
    We are reminded of those Dictators, who’d insist on a particular policy, regardless of consequences to both their own nation, and the wider World.
    Vlad Putin of Russia springs to mind!
    The last Shah of Iran, insisted on the most lavish of ceremonies to mark some jubilee or other.
    He didn’t care one bit about the extreme poverty that was all around him, tho he was asked if he’d spend some of that money to help his ppl, and he chose not to.
    And we all know the tragic consequences for both him, and the rest of us.
    So it is here, with the tories.
    It is crystal clear, they do not care.

    What is equally outrageous from a Scottish viewpoint, is the powerlessness of it, and yet, the present SNP leadership insist on bowing down to London dictate!
    We are reminded of Labour all during the Thatcher/Major years girning off, and off, and yet got nowhere, and again from the Scottish view, so utterly useless!
    They would rather be run from London than have Independence, and it is the same with Labour, today.

    We do wonder tho, how long Truss will last for. Her Chancellor is abysmal.
    We need Independence asap, and waiting around for London “permission” may yet lead to the downfall of SNP.
    But if voters turned from SNP at present, and that allowed unionists into power in Scotland, or more pro London MPs, it would be an absolute disaster.
    The SNP is playing a most dangerous game here, with its hope that we have no one else to vote for at UK elections.
    If they keep up with this charade, they will certainly pay dearly for it soon as we do get Independence. And if things continue as they are, SNP could pay for it, even before Independence.
    Labour was wiped out in an instant, and the same could well happen to SNP, if they don’t push more for Independence.
    Scotland cannot wait any longer for SNP game playing, which is what we are having to put up with these days.
    How it pans out, time will tell.
    But it can’t continue any longer.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I think the financial markets would have gone along if the government hadn’t promised the bailout on energy created by the sanctions on Russia in order to stay in power. I also think they genuinely believe that their Singapore-on-Thames project is exactly what’s needed to restore UK fortunes and of course their own fortunes in the process. If they have to break a few eggs in order to create the omelette then that’s a price they are willing to let the poor pay.

      I don’t think the SNP are playing a dangerous game. They are simply trapped with no way out and no idea of what to do next. Sturgeon wants her gold standard knowing that Westminster will never deliver it. She can then take that to the bank, literally, when she ascends to join the other neo-liberal elites in her next career move.

      As for the future? If people take to the streets, I agree, it’s over for the SNP and likely in a spectacular fashion. However whether people revolt is still open to question.

      These truly are amazing times and we’re just getting started.

      Liked by 1 person

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