Extracts:

michael wilkesThe distressed state of the economy is as much a moral problem as an economic one – although the economics alone are dire enough. Unless issues related to the absence of worthwhile values are resolved, the present circumstances are certain to persist, scandals will recur and the wellbeing of the population will continue to be neglected.

The values that are now regrettably lacking in society were once internalised by organisations as well as individuals. They were taken for granted and were largely unspoken. Citizens are now seen as gullible profits fodder fit for deception and exploitation rather than people to whom a genuine, valuable and above all trustworthy service is provided. The number of organisations that can be regarded as ethical is rapidly diminishing.

Companies, including household names once trusted take advantage of their customers through the careless or culpable sale of useless (banks) and contaminated (food retailers) products and ‘discover’ flawed ‘supply chains’ or that child labour or appalling working conditions underlie their brands and their profits. And tax avoidance by rich individuals and corporations, the disgraceful extent of which is only recently being revealed, and the consequent avoidance of social responsibility and the common good continues to grow apace . . .

In allowing globalised companies to (manufacture) these things that our forebears would have regarded not just as disloyal but as insane, we as a country also lose our self respect as well as our self sufficiency and a sustaining part of our national culture goes by the board. All of these things are sacrificed on the altar of private shareholder short-term profit.

Respect, confidence and trust have been severely eroded – between individuals, between people as customers with companies and between people as citizens and the government – and in fact between the state and its people . . .

The key to the land of found content is a shared vision and a ‘citizenry of good intent’ in all their doings . . .

In the virtuous economy it would be measures of public wellbeing and employment levels rather than national output such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that are targeted by government . . .

In material terms there is a case for supporting a refreshed ideal of a genuine free and fair trade system – a balanced and reciprocal free trade that is. This is something that is sharply distinguished from the current excesses of laissez-faire globalisation with its plundering of natural resources, associated human exploitation and profiteering . . .

(M)arket forces are not sovereign unless we choose to make them so. They can reflect incomplete information and the transient, self-seeking and short-termist views of the herd.

Concerted action by national governments with the backing of the law could bring markets to heel. But the escape from their embrace and threats will not be easy or quick. And much of what are passed off as ‘market forces’ – for example in the excuses for grossly excessive executive pay – are nothing of the kind. The ‘markets’ involved here are nowhere near competitive. They have the properties of informal cartels and bear more resemblance to an exclusive club than even an economic bazaar. More of a fiddled Libor market than a labour market in fact . . .

As a nation we must become more oriented towards the longer term at individual, business and government levels and have an effective industrial policy in order to regain our former strength in engineering and manufacture, retain our dwindling influence in world affairs, promote the common good and rebuild national morale . . .

In all of this, wise investment directed at economic re-balancing towards manufacturing is essential to construct capital rather than merely bolstering balance sheets.

After referring to the ‘richly populated necropolis of bankers, power companies, fuel firms, food producers and telecomm providers’ Michael Wilkes says:

Enter the unlikely (potential) heroes in the form of local Government. We need not resort to garlic or religious icons. We must ensure that our services put ordinary people first, bemused and exploited as they are, and we should restore former services such as municipal banks that would offer a simple and trustworthy alternative to the financial creatures of the night. Oh for the days when a city such as Birmingham also had its own water, gas and bus companies – and a highly visible and locally accountable police force. Surely this is a line-up that would ward off the bloodsuckers and remove the so-called ‘need’ for savage cuts in local government.

A profound cultural renewal is essential to achieve (decent behaviour) in a society and a world that needs to rediscover basic, acceptable values on which to build a better future. Such a renewal will not be easily achieved since great damage has been done to the moral fabric of both the economy and society as a whole. However, given the malleability of human beings and the intense desire for a better society, this can be done, and a start should be made. People are increasingly alienated by a ruthlessly selfish society, they want to belong to a world in which people have a decent regard for one another and so are valued themselves.

Recommendations set out in the next sections:

  • Regenerating the economy,
  • Getting there.

As we know to our cost, the present mode of operation of society both in its economic and social aspects is increasingly dysfunctional and citizens are ill served by many institutions as they now stand. This is the damaged state that the country is now in. We are faced with choices that we do not want but if, in the longer term, we want to see an end to austerity, anxiety, inequity and lost esteem then I believe that the measures set out above need to be taken and they define the path that society should follow.

Read the 22 page paper here: http://ourbirmingham.org/?page_id=3242

 

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