We need a Courageous State now – because neoliberal politicians lack conviction

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Jackie Ashley made a profound comment in the Guardian this morning:

Do the political classes have what it takes? Privately the Bank of England high command thinks the eurozone is bound to fail, which could make what we are going through look almost benign. As the coalition unveils its pro-growth Plan P (for panic) this week, its real division is over Europe. We think we are living through a crisis. The real crisis may barely have begun.

Beyond the passionate intensity of Ukip and the far left, nobody is speaking with boldness and clarity about how to deal with a eurozone collapse. The [r]est lack all conviction.

The original said 'best' - I have a strong suspicion that is a sub-edit error. It makes little difference to my argument, made in the Courageous State that we now have a cowardly state, populated, as Ashley says, by politicians who lack conviction. As I put it in the introduction:

The economic crisis we are now facing is the legacy of Thatcher and Reagan because they introduced into government the neoliberal idea that whatever a politician does, however well-intentioned that action might be, they will always make matters worse in the economy. This is because government is never able, according to neoliberal thinking, to outperform the market, which will always, it says, allocate resources better and so increase human well-being more than government can.

That thinking is the reason why we have ended up with cowardly government. That is why in August 2011, when we had riots on streets of London we also had Conservative politicians on holiday, reluctant to return because they were quite sure that nothing they could do and no action they could take would make any difference to the outcome of the situation. What began as an economic idea has now swept across government as a whole: we have got a class of politicians who think that the only useful function for the power that they hold is to dismantle the state they have been elected to govern while transferring as many of its functions as possible to unelected businesses that have bankrolled their path to power.

Were seeing the same on the Euro.

And we'll see the same on the economy tomorrow: Osborne will ritually wring his hands, and then deny all responsibility for what follows.

But as I also argue, we need Courageous politicians in a Courageous State:

A Courageous State is populated by politicians who believe in government. They believe in the power of the office they hold. They believe that office exists for the sake of the public good. They know what that public good is. They think it is their job to help each and every person in their country to achieve their potential — something that is unique to each person and which at the same time is a characteristic we all have in common. And they believe they can command the resources to fulfil this task — whether through tax or other means — and that they should command those resources so that we as a country can each achieve, both individually and collectively.

We have not had politicians like that for a long time. These are politicians with the courage to work out when the market is absolutely the right mechanism for delivering what society needs — and which backs those who wish to partake in that market openly, honestly and accountably by providing them with the environment they need so that they can flourish, while delivering all the resources required to curtail those intent on market abuse.

And they are politicians who are as capable of deciding when the market can never deliver — because it is wholly unsuitable for the task in hand — meaning that it is the job of the state to ensure that what society needs and wants society shall get, at the lowest possible cost for the highest possible outcome for the benefit of all involved.

These are politicians of integrity. Who will carry their conviction with pride. Who will stand up to those who get in their way, not by ignoring them and not by bullying them but by presenting them with reasoned argument that shows that these politicians have worked out what they are doing, and why, and how they mean to achieve it.

I suspect a great many of us want such politicians. Politicians who are strong and effective; people we can believe in and who inspire but who we know we can hold to account through the democratic process. Politicians we can hold up as examples. Politicians with the ability to admit mistakes and move on. Politicians who we are willing to follow. Politicians of the stature of those who built the post-war consensus in the UK, for example, which proves that such people can exist.

It's clear what we need.

Would they now step forward, please? It will take some courage to do so - to say what they think, and to say they'll act on it - but that's exactly what we're asking for from politicians.

Is that too much to ask? Surely, not?