Saturday 20 October, 3.30pm until 5.00pm, Cinema 1 Keynote Controversies
The Western economic slump is conventionally attributed to a surfeit of capitalism, a market that is too free and insufficiently regulated. The financial crisis of 2008-9 is often assumed to have been caused by the unrestrained greed of bankers, personifying the financial excesses that crashed the economy. This narrative extends into a wider critique of the problems said to result from ‘neoliberal’ ideology. David Cameron, for example, quotes variants of GK Chesterton’s phrase, we have ‘too much capitalism and too few capitalists’, as he distances himself from what is termed crony or irresponsible capitalism. The heartless free market is said to exacerbate social exclusion: too much pay for the rich is said to widen inequality and reduce social mobility; too much consumption and we over-exploit and endanger the planet to the detriment of future generations; too much debt from trying to live off the future produces an economic millstone that condemns us to years of austerity.
Some, however, argue that the state has become increasingly involved in a market that, far from being free, is much more heavily controlled than ever before. In this view, our current problems are really caused by the absence of a genuine capitalism; society is being let down by too few people being prepared to promote the virtues of capitalism, with tomorrow’s entrepreneurs being driven offshore by punitive tax demands, and the business sector choked by health-and-safety legislation and bureaucratic red tape. For such critics, a political climate in which even the Financial Times can appear supportive of the Occupy movement, and in which governments plump for bailing out uncompetitive industries in the interests of short-term political expediency, can hardly be described as overly capitalist. Maybe capitalism actually needs to be freed up to renew itself through ‘creative destruction’; to concentrate on being profitable rather than responsible. Such critics demand a much-reduced role for the state to set the animal spirits of capitalism running free.
So is the market too free or too constrained? Is it as simple as cutting the red tape or must the state continue to take a leading role in kick-starting growth? If it does not, might the reality of contemporary capitalism pose an unacceptable cost to life and liberty? Just how can we manage capitalism in the twenty-first century?
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author, The New Few: or a very British oligarchy; former editor, Times Literary Supplement
economist and business manager; author, Creative Destruction: How to start an economic renaissance
board member, Centre for Economics and Business Research; economic advisor, British Chamber of Commerce
senior vice-president, industry affairs, SABMiller
convenor, The Academy; author, Being Cultured: in defence of discrimination
The case against making increased GDP per capita the overriding policy objective is that it doesn’t deliver the increased happiness or welfare if promises.Robert Skidelsky, TLS, 28 September 2012
Politicians ignored or downplayed these in creating the Euro and indeed made the problem worse by watering down the controls that were in place. If the Euro is to survive in the long term, even greater political and fiscal integration and cooperation will be required.
Vicky Pryce, Biteback Publishing, 9 September 2012
Banks are one of Britain’s great assets but they have lost their way; we must urgently inject some real capitalism back into the City.Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph, 23 July 2012
This was supposed to be the era when democracy came into its own, but instead power and wealth in Britain have slowly been consolidated the hands of a small elite, while the rest of the country struggles financially and switches off politically.
Ferdinand Mount, Simon & Schuster, 26 April 2012
Demonising debt distracts us from what caused the public-debt crisis in the first place – the sluggishness of the productive economy.Phil Mullan, spiked, 13 March 2012