The UK’s out-of-control consumerist ethos

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There’s an article in the Guardian this morning that reports:

The recent riots in London and other big cities were the product of an “out-of-control consumerist ethos” which will have profound impacts for the UK economy

Pure Guardian stuff, you might think, except:

The report by the global head of research at Tullett Prebon, Tim Morgan, is part of a series in which the brokerage analyses bigger issues for the UK.

And these guys aren’t any brokerage: they’re bang in the middle of the most complex, and as I’d have it the most feral of City activity. But as the Guardian note:

[The report] details recommendations to resolve what it sees as a political and economic malaise: new role models, policies to encourage savings, the channelling of private investment into creating rather than inflating assets, and greater public investment.

And it does on:

It warns: “We conclude that the rioting reflects a deeply flawed economic and social ethos… recklessly borrowed consumption, the breakdown both of top-end accountability and of trust in institutions, and severe failings by governments over more than two decades.”

What’s to blame?:

A typical internet user sees a hundred adverts an hour, the report says, and the underlying message many receive is: “Here’s the ideal. You can’t have it.” Accompanying this is an inflation of government and private debt, a key theme of Morgan’s other work.

“The dominant ethos of ‘I buy, therefore I am’ needs to be challenged by a shift of emphasis from material to non-material values. David Cameron’s ‘big society’ project may contribute to the inculcation of more socially-oriented values, but much more will need to be done to challenge the out-of-control consumerist ethos.

“The government, too, needs to consume less, and invest more. Government spending has increased by more than 50% in real terms over the last decade, but public investment has languished. Saving needs to be encouraged, and private investment needs to be channelled into asset creation, not asset inflation.”

These are all themes I explore in some depth in The Courageous State. It’s good to see the City is likely to provide at least some support even if there are some aspects of Tom Morgan’s report for which I have little enthusiasm.