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Economic Power

We live in a time of banks too big to fail, of energy companies too big to need to compete, of supermarkets that crush their suppliers, media firms that scare even the politicians and global corporations that negotiate trade deals that are uniquely beneficial to global corporations. Loopholes that allow tax evasion on a massive scale are left unthreatened, tax havens in sunny climates are allowed to operate unhindered, while ordinary people become steadily more impoverished, hit by a combination of frozen wages and rising prices.

Their wages are frozen by big corporations that are major employers, while prices are pushed up by energy or pharmaceutical companies that face no meaningful competition.

The larger the corporation, the greater its power, yet successive governments continue to allow virtually every merger that is put to them. Their disregard for competition is truly remarkable given their professed concern for the economy.

Britain, the United States and increasing Europe, are no longer places where we find the theoretical ideal of competition. Instead we find economies that are dominated by big business, where policy decisions are influenced by supposedly objective think-talks and lobbying groups, funded by big business.

But, there is an alternative.

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Reinventing the Economy

David Cameron and George Osborne constantly talk of how well everything is going. Cameron has said how well the National Health Service is doing – when the newspapers are full of stories of NHS incompetence, high death rates, maternity units having to shut, and the NHS spending £700 insuring each birth against negligence claims.

Obviously, Cameron does not want to admit that the Coalition’s funding cuts are having an impact on the quality of NHS services, so he pretends that nothing is wrong.

But most people know – or at least suspect - that things are going wrong, that highly praised policies are in fact highly dubious. There is a dissonance between presentation and reality, between claims and daily experience. But most people are not sure which is wrong, or by how much. Nor can they be certain what the problem is. Is it that the issues are too complex for them to understand? Are there unknown forces that are preventing the solution working? Or is that politicians lie?

The fact is that politicians and the media give us an impression of reality that is not necessarily. We have to look through a veil of spin, hyperbole and exaggeration before we can guess what the truth is. Reinventing the Economy helps us do that.

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Ideals & Dogma

From the 1920s onwards, Marxism was seen as the only alternative to capitalism – a system epitomised by exploitation, extreme poverty and obscene affluence. Working conditions were sometimes appalling, and often, the very fact of working in a factory shortened the worker’s lifespan.

By contrast, Marxism promised to provide full employment, steady growth, and yet was also egalitarian. In the 1930s it was praised by famous people like George Bernard Shaw. The apparent success of the Soviet Union gave credibility to an ideology that might otherwise be regarded as unworkable. In the 1960s it was linked to political icons like Che Guevara. Being both fashionable and politically credible, Marxism became the accepted view of the world for many on the left.

It was only when the Berlin Wall collapsed that it came to be widely regarded as failed. But for many, Marxism was flawed right from the beginning. For philosophers such as Karl Popper, Marxism was authoritarian and unscientific. For others, it was no more than a faith, a political religion with pseudo-intellectual underpinnings.

This book looks as just some of the flaws of Marxism. At its best, it was idealistic, but this was tempered with an inability to argue logically. And when vague statements are defended with assertions and repetition, they become dogma.

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What's The Worst That Could Happen

The crash of 2008 was caused by the big banks They had been freed of controls by de-regulation and were allowed to grow to giant size by the abolition of any competition policy. They were described as being “too big to fail.” As such, they were also too big to listen to government and too big to behave responsibly. Too big to control.

Countries responded to the crash in various ways. The most popular was austerity. This was also known by the deceptive euphemism of fiscal consolidation. But neither the confident assertions of politicians nor the discreet cloak of euphemism ensured that the policy actually worked. And it didn’t. It created recession in Greece, in Britain and in Europe. This raised the question, were the politicians driven by ideology or was there some hidden agenda?

De-regulation and the lack of any competition policy created giant corporations which lobbied government and coerced our political leaders into paths that were beneficial only to big businesses. So policy was formulated not by our political representatives, or by their advisers, but by corporate executives - or their advisers.

The book looks at the coalition government of David Cameron and George Osborne, focussing on its changes to the NHS, and cuts in government spending. It is shown that austerity is very damaging. It also looks at the United States and the destructive clashes between Democrats and Republicans. And it examines the impact of austerity on Greece, and the way in which the narrative has been set up to blame the Greeks for the debt crisis.

It looks at how bad the recession could get, and the resulting social impact of such an economic crisis. And it argues that there is a working alternative.

But, there is an alternative.


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Politics Today - Issue 1

Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift, is sometimes regarded as a light-hearted children’s story. It would be more true to call it one of the most pointed satires ever written. Lecturer Alison Appleby reveals what Swift was really saying.

When the Korean economy suffered a run on its currency, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stepped in - to help. But were its policy demands really intended to benefit Korea, or was there another agenda. Professor Ki An-Park of Kyung Hee University details the impact of the IMF programme.

The Holocaust was a tragedy beyond belief, beyond description. Yet why did it happen? Was there something in the German character that made them more susceptible to racism and violence, or was there something in German society which made its people more responsive to an authoritarian ideology and a fascist demagogue? Author David Simmons looks at some of the causes of this complex tragedy.

The evidence suggests that politicians, as in the twenty-first century, were the cause of economic chaos and of the social collapse which followed.

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Politics Today - Issue 2

Multinationals are stripping Canada of its forests, and the Canadian government is not only allowing them to do so – it is subsidising this theft of public land. And the companies themselves persuade workers to unwittingly collaborate in PR campaigns, while at the same time, planning to replace those workers with cheap Mexican labour. Author Joyce Nelson, an expert on corporate and environmental issues, follows the trail of corruption.

Blair and Clinton tried to formulate a Third Way, on the basis of the policies which they, and their campaign contributors, approved. Anthony Giddens, director of the London School of Economics and "Blair's guru” added a written work on the subject, containing almost no definite statements on any aspect of the Third Way. Author David Simmons argues for a return to Keynesian demand management economics, with a greater role for government. He also looks at the need for competition, and the role this played in the Scandinavian economies. These arguments lead to a clear, definable and workable Third Way.

£2.50 €2.99 $3.99

Politics Today - Issue 3

Globalisation is one of those terms which refers to a good – or bad – phenomenon, as the speaker wishes. By defining it as inevitable – or corporate driven - it can be presented in almost any way that the speaker wants. Barry Coates, director of the World Development Movement, looks at the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, one of the alphabet soup of trade agreements about which no-one ever asks the ordinary populace, and which was seen as – or presented as – a key component of globalisation.

The single European currency promises lower costs and a more dynamic economy. Yet its similarity to the Exchange Rate Mechanism could tell us a lot about the euro’s likely characteristics. Author Will Podmore looks at the requirements of the single currency, and finds it lacking in both democracy and economic justification.