You may have already heard UnHerd’s investigation into the state of western capitalism. Within the forty minute programme, Juliet Samuel talks to Ruth Davidson, Niall Ferguson, Simon Wolfson, Victoria Bateman, Ann Pettifor, Liam Halligan and Paul Mason. As is the case with all curated programmes like this, however, only a small fraction of the interviews conducted actually get broadcast. Hence this new ‘from the cutting room floor’ feature. There’s so much rich material in the interviews we’ve been conducting with the likes of Alastair Campbell, Niall Ferguson and Jonathan Taplin that we plan to occasionally publish them in unedited form so you can hear everything they said – rather than a few clipped extracts.
We start today with the economist, author and political activist Paul Mason and his answers to Juliet’s questions on capitalism. I’ve summarised the main points below.
MAIN POINTS FROM PAUL MASON’S INTERVIEW (PARAPHRASED)
1min30secs; I’m a radical social democrat, I’m not an anti-capitalist. But there’s a 30 to 50 year problem because of capitalism innovating so fast through ai/robotics which will be characterised by such upheaval that it’ll challenge existing institutions and policies. Additionally, there’s a 5-10 year project in which academic, political and economic elites must recognise that like Keynesianism, neoliberalism was a temporary but increasingly incomplete policy framework. Market forces worked well for 15 to 20 years – but stopped working and are now going “spectacularly badly” – we need a replacement. We need to replace neoliberalism.
2min50secs: All capitalist systems – whether Chinese state-led, the Russian model characterised by surrender to mafia groups, Latin American capitalism under IMF instruction, or Thatcherite capitalism – all are different models but all suppress wages, atomise and defeat organised labour. Our response must be the same, too – union empowerment or at least worker representation. Enforced self-employment is the particular new threat.
5mins: Unlike much of Left I don’t want to go back to model of 60s/70s but we do need to rethink the meaning of competitiveness. It cannot continue to mean a race to bottom, as in Anglo-Saxon economies. Theresa May should be aiming to create one million high-paid, high-skilled jobs and reform our model of competitiveness to enable that.
8mins: The countries that will survive automation with their social fabric intact, are the ones that compete for the high-skilled future business – right and left could agree on this. France’s decision to set up three new English-speaking schools on edge of Paris is an example of what govt can do to support a high-skilled economy.
12mins: Globalisation has been a net good for the world but we need to compromise and that means curtailing neoliberalism’s policy of freedom of movement – because it undermines our economic self-interests. At same time we could take more refugees and potentially more high-skilled immigrants. It would be a more intelligent, self-interested approach to globalisation – designed to protect the interests of the British people rather than the peoples of Poland, the Czech Republic and Lithuania.
From 18mins: Much of the growth we’re currently experiencing – powered by what central banks admit is “life support” – is “illusory” – and the times ahead may be as difficult. The £50billion tax increase wasn’t the big thing in Labour’s manifesto but the £250billion investment fund to prepare us for this difficult future was the potential game changer. It would transform the UK economy (think of £10billion+ poured into Plymouth, Truro and other parts of the neglected Devon & Cornwall peninsula) – and businesses will have to be taxed to pay for this – as, in due course, they’ll also benefit from the skills, innovation and roads etc that this investment would deliver. As a last resort, capital controls might be necessary to stop footloose individuals and companies escaping those taxes.
21mins: We’re going to need changes as big and ruthless as Mrs Thatcher delivered in the 1979-83 period. It will be “spectacular”, “might go wrong” but unless we replace neoliberalism Britain will drift.
22mins: Look at Japan. You can have a lot more debt. Don’t underestimate our wiggle room. Our borrowing has been stupid. It’s financed non-structural change. Public sector pay cap is creating skill shortages. Remember the Wanless report? The 2003 report that called for digitalisation of NHS – to turn it into an information machine. You still can’t email your doctor. It’s staggering we’re still funding unmodernised public services. Labour could well be more ruthless in reforming public services for people – actively embracing digitalisation in particular.
28mins30secs: Delighted to see Labour propose funding for one million new homes – half of which being social housing. Not the social housing of old but green, beautiful – winning design awards – overseen by a Beaverbrook figure, charged with making it happen.
TOMORROW’S FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR: Niall Ferguson.