The myth of Tory investment

There’s a good comment piece in The Guardian about the legacy of Thatcherite/New Labour economic thinking that dominates today. Among other things, it says

Over the last 30 years the share of the nation’s wealth owned by the bottom half of the population has fallen from 8% to 5%.

In 1978 there were 7.1 million employed in manufacturing, by 2008 that had fallen to 3 million.

George Osborne, last week said his solution to the problems of the UK economy is to unleash “the forces of enterprise” in the economy – i.e remove the state and hope the private sector blossoms.

All of which is classic Tory/New Labour rhetoric, tied into guff about ‘personal responsibility’ and the inherent ‘efficiency of the private sector’. Thatcher closed down state enterprise because she felt state investment ‘crowded out’ private investment but research from CRESC in Manchester University, suggests this isn’t the case.

Since 1998 state and state-related industries make up more than half of the job creation nationally and in ex-industrialised areas (where Tory reforms were felt most) this figure is much higher. It sounds a casual observation but it’s completely fundamental to how we think about the UK political economy.

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2 thoughts on “The myth of Tory investment

  1. A-ha that comment piece is good. And frightening. This comment is completely to the point – that the Tory’s “economic legacy is a massive transfer of wealth and power away from the majority of the people to capital, away from the poor to the rich, and away from the country to London.” Tying nicely to this week’s editions of the Evening Standard, which, for once, are getting commuters to read something other than the Metro and think about ‘London’s Dispossessed’ – http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/advertorials/dispossessed.do

    Though, all this rhetoric on ‘personal responsibility’ is something to be watched out for, it’s not just guff. It’s everywhere, and it’s at times difficult to argue with. It’s appealing to very common-sensical notions about what it is to be a good citizen and support your own family and yourself. Some things you can’t argue with – when public health, in the case of transmitting viruses for example, is bound to personal responsibility for hygiene: it’s obviously right to learn to wash your hands and put a variety of self-aware cleanliness into action. I wonder though, if this might be connected to something more politically abhorrent. Veena Das, who seems to have taken on heroic proportions for my degree recently – http://anthropology.jhu.edu/Veena_Das/index.html – brings up this idea: that a notion of public health as an equal resource is increasingly excluded to the dominance of health as a public good. I think that what she’s saying is that health is increasingly privatised as a (buyable) ‘thing’, rather than seeing health as a state which everyone seeks and is rightfully entitled to. When you tie this to the troublesome guff on personal responsibility, you get an argument that says public health is one’s own responsibility to afford. Your right to healthiness depends on not only how much you are prepared to pay for it, but to what extent you will try to move up a social hierarchy so as to capitalise on other’s shortcomings (which, at the end of the day, are their own fault, their responsibility, not yours). This is really awful. Personal responsibility does not in any way promote an idea of health as an equal resource. Disagreeing with personal responsibility is not just about arguing that the state should provide ‘more’, it’s about arguing against an entire conceptual movement about how we approach health.

    For instance, all that nonsense about Flibanserin (see earlier post) – personal responsibility in that instance requires that you at first accept an idea that there is something wrong with you if you’re a woman and are sexually dissatisfied. It’s worrying to me that people will get hung up on considering how they can better themselves and their health by being more responsible, rather than stopping to question what that ‘better health’ is. So, yes: sexual health is something we should all be resonsible for and self-aware about. But, no: it should not stop us from thinking about what we’re being sold as ‘better health’.

    I’m finding this hard to grapple with, but there’s the rambling.

    It might seem a bit odd, but I really do see it everywhere once I get thinking about it. The British Library has an infuriating video they display on a huge plasma screen above the cafe, silently, all day – it’s promoting their Business and Innovation Centre and is endless visual chat about using the library as a resource for becoming an entrepreneur – completely tied up with personal responsibility for livelihood. It’s a library, goddamnit! There are so many other ways in which people are using it as a public space, to better themselves, not just capitalise. Truely infuriating, might have to wait for another post…

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