Time to reflect

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Sometimes one has to take time to reflect. The last month or two have been furiously busy. I have travelled too much (not always apparent from what appears here, I admit). And the world economy has changed if not beyond recognition, then at least significantly. I need time off to reflect on this fact, and will be undertaking some of that reflection this week. You never know, I might also play some football with my sons, go crab fishing with them and even take my wife out to dinner. These have not become novelties, but it will be good to give them a little higher priority than has been possible over the last few weeks.

The consequence might be I'll be a little less focussed on the news stories this week. I trust you'll forgive me. But the big issues remain on the agenda, and I might comment on those as this week progresses.

What I hope has become clear over the last few weeks is my concern that the policy initiatives that are required and the thinking that might inform it are flowing way behind the need for them. So strong has been the neo-liberal consensus, so firm has been the belief that markets solve all problems, so convinced have governments and their civil servants become of their own irrelevance and incompetence under the assault of that approach (until, of course those self-same politicians and civil servants leave to become consultants, at which point they are suddenly empowered) that alternatives have not been developed. And we have a desperate need for them.

I saw that last week. With three or so colleagues in civil society I have helped establish the benchmark data on illicit financial flows in the world to which the World Bank, the US Senate and others make reference. This is despite there being vast armies of people who could do this work but who are instructed not to do so. It made me realise that however important the Bretton Woods organisations are, however important the OECD it is pointless to think of them as locations where change might happen.

These organisations are staffed by reasonable people: people who mould themselves to the ways of the prevailing world. Civil society is lead by unreasonable people: those who believe that they can mould the ways of the world to suit their aims. All change is predicated upon the existence of unreasonable people.

My wife will tell you, I am very unreasonable. It was she who introduced me to this definition.