Article by Heather Smith
Here is Mark being interviewed by The Jist’s founder, Josh Hamilton, for his The Jist Podcast of political chatter.
Here’s a summary of the interview, which had some really interesting observations from Josh, particularly from his perspective as a millennial.
Tell me about your proposition that:
‘Many developing countries, including the US and the UK, are unwittingly pursuing economic policies that will result in the unwinding of twentieth century civilisation before we reach the year 2050’
Mark talked about the ‘social contract’ and how the current UK government is unravelling so many aspects of it.
What is the difference between the Golden Age of Capitalism (1945-1980) and Age of Market Capitalism (1980-2015)?
Mark explained the rationale for looking at 35-year periods of time from 1945 to 2050 in his book 99% and talked about the Golden Age of Capitalism and the Age of Market Capitalism – the ideals behind each period; the economic performance and looked at who benefited. For the age of market capitalism, he described it as a: ‘System where morality is defined as wealth’
What changed around 1980 when the age of Market Capitalism began? – particularly the shift from an economy that served the needs of people, to an economy that serves the needs of capital?
Mark talked about the oil shocks in the 70s which led to the change in economic regime and the introduction of market capitalism. However, Mark noted that although growth in the 70’s had been low compared to the Golden Age of Capitalism, it was still double the level of growth we have experienced for the last 10 years.
Josh queried the measure of growth
Mark explained that overall economic growth (GDP per capita) was about twice as high in the 1970s as it has been in 2010-2020. Even more importantly, in the 70s, peoples’ earnings were still rising. Now we have had 13 years of mass impoverishment – where most people are poorer than they were in 2007.
Josh observed about the 1970’s that – ‘… someone of my generation has never experienced what that period of growth [the 1970’s] may have been like…’
What about the increase in inequality?
Mark noted that upward redistribution was a deliberate policy – brought about by shrinking government and reducing public services.
He talked about how the Government used the ‘Myth of unaffordability’ to justify austerity despite creating money whenever it needs to. For example, QE of £895 billion since 2009, and noted that in spite of creating those enormous amounts of money, current levels of government debt are not actually that high – merely average over the last 300 years, according to the Bank of England.
Why is this not reported?
Most mainstream media titles are owned by offshore billionaires who have been avoiding tax for decades. They are wedded to the idea of media as distraction mechanism from what is really happening in the UK.
Mark talked about the current generation of young people being the first in living memory to be poorer than their parents – when he had always assumed that children having greater opportunities than their parents was ‘a law of nature’.
What about cynicism? And how do we change the system without a major crisis and escape the madness?’
‘We’re in a crisis – we’re in several different crises, right now. There’s no way of avoiding a crisis…. And there’s a climate crisis as well.’
If you’re a market fundamentalist you don’t want to reengineer business to make it green. The facts about climate change are so obvious. The same is true about the economy. Once people become aware of the facts, then we can achieve a change in consciousness. And a peaceful move to a better state without a revolution.
Josh quoted Brett Weinstein on cynicism:
‘No matter how cynical I think I am, it turns out I am still naïve.’
So what needs to change?
Mark outlined his 5 actions to protect our social contract:
- Democratic reset including separation of powers/ rules on media ownership/ strengthen constitution to govern for the majority
- fact-based policy and penalties for misleading the public
- policy for growth and fair sharing
- Wise investment in the future
- Clean competition in business
‘WOW! YOU’VE NO IDEA HOW MUCH MORE HOPEFUL I FEEL RIGHT NOW.
…That you’ve articulated things that I’ve considered to be a problem but never quite understood how we fix it.
…In 5 minutes, you’ve said concisely how we attempt to fix all of the MONSTROUS PROBLEMS WITH OUR CURRENT POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL SETUP
And you’ve done it in an understandable, easily digestible and beautifully succinct way that seems like common sense.
I AM BLOWN AWAY.’
Josh final question:
What’s the alternative if we don’t address any of the problems and carry on as we are?
If you extrapolate the trends of the last 10 years, the UK won’t look like a Northern European civilised country. It will look more like South Africa (the world’s most unequal society) where most of the country live in poverty.
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