“Constructing a Humanist Politics”


Issue No 5 Friday 3rd October 2008



This week


·        Financial Meltdown May Produce Moral Meltdown As Well.



News Stories

Highlighting  news stories important to the Civic Republican view, particularly those that are overlooked or little covered in the main media.





·        Financial Meltdown May Produce Moral Meltdown As Well.


The credit and banking crisis of recent days is simply a continuation (it is too early to say culmination) of an unwinding process, that begun over a year ago (at least, as far as the public were concerned) with the crash of Northern Rock. A result has been a sea change in the economy, but parallel to this a profound political change has occurred.


The political change may not be so obvious to many people as they struggle to come to terms with the cataclysmic economic and financial events that are running away with the headlines every day as a new twist, a new failure, a new exposure of misdeed is revealed. But they are there already and any astute politician must be beginning to pick up on them.


If the Brown government is destroyed at the next election it will primarily be because of its economic mismanagement. But it is not just that that has left the British people with such an abiding sense of disgust with the New Labour project. It is the fact that the people themselves were for the most part taken in by the promise of the end of boom and bust and the myth of the New Labour “sound economy” and “prudence”. It is one thing to be tricked by someone, but it is when you know that you allowed yourself to be tricked and went along with the trickery and the economic story telling that the aftertaste is especially bitter.


No future government is ever going to allow itself to be destroyed in the way that the New Labour project is likely to be destroyed. And this destruction is happening because the forces of money capitalism were allowed to practice their trade unrestrained. Brown promised an end to “boom and bust”. This he delivered. In its place he put Boom and financial Armageddon.


If New Labour survives the next election it will only be because the alternative in Cameron’s Tories is so unthinkable.


But this is not a story of New Labour. It is the story of American and British economic policy since the 1980’s. As the economist, Paul Krugman, said on the Today programme recently “the age of Reagan, the age of Thatcher, just ended”. He is, of course, referring to the process of financial deregulation that Reagan and Thatcher started that was hailed as the great economic saviour of mankind that has brought us to such a sorry turn which this generation and maybe future ones are going to have to bail out.


But the historic events we are currently living through go beyond politics and economics. For people are discovering a sickness and an anger within them about events. Society can only run successfully if there is a certain level of decency and morality accepted by the majority and particularly those with power, either economic or political. Civic Republicans thinkers throughout history have always had as a major concern the avoidance of excessive corruption. Corruption in this sense has never meant just using political position to line one’s own pocket it has also meant corruption in the sense of excessive selfishness and not seeing the need to contribute to society in any way. The absence of all-pervading corruption is vital to enable the development of civic virtue. Civic virtue is vital to bind society together and to enable it to function.


The sheer greed displayed by many in the banking community goes beyond anything most people have witnessed before. People are simply at a loss to understand, for instance, how Adam Appleyard, the man who ruined the business he managed, Northern Rock, and who created misery and uncertainty for the people connected with that business, can walk away with 183 million pounds plus a 6 million pound a year pension.


There are countless similar examples. And what do we ever hear of these people afterwards? Do they ever use their wealth to do good in society, to give something back? There are plenty of cases of modern philanthropists, but they are never the bankers who have ripped us off.


A profound and lasting effect of this unwinding (it can’t be called a crisis as it will last too long) is that we will have lost a sense of trust. The British government is currently urging civil and public servants to show pay restraint to “help the economy”. How on earth can a government ask hard-working people to show restraint in the atmosphere of greed and incompetence and unjust rewards for failure that it has presided over?


Many commentators have discussed the difficult economic and political times that lie ahead. But there will also another long term effect that has been caused by disastrous and shabby collusion between politicians and their friends in the City. The loss of morality and trust.



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…….Until next week