Titanic Economic Failures Will Lead to Titanic Catastrophe

One of the most tragic aspects of the infamous Titanic disaster is that it was totally avoidable. It was ultimately due to arrogance, hubris and flawed decision-making. And it seems that history is repeating itself. This time, however, the consequences are likely to be far more catastrophic.

titanic1Last week, like the captain of the Titanic, the Chancellor of the Exchequer issued his “Autumn Statement”: a mini-budget outlining the UK government’s plans for administering the national finances. A semi-annual event, this is a legal requirement intended to improve government efficiency and make it more accountable for how it manages the economy. As with most things, however, frequency brings diminishing returns. All too often it can be a bit of a non-event. But not this year!

This most recent statement was considerably more significant than usual. For, while government refuses to admit an about-face, they effectively reversed fiscal policy of the past 8 years. The post financial crisis “austerity” programme, aimed at reducing expenditure and reducing or repaying borrowing, has been binned. Instead government is planning to borrow £122 billion, justified – at least in part – by Brexit. Yet, Brexit or not, such back-tracking now effectively invalidates all earlier efforts. It begs the question, “Why did government adopt that course to begin with?”

There is a natural limit to borrowing. The time comes when you have to repay loans. And repayment comes out of income, meaning there is less to spend on your day-to-day expenses. It happens in all walks of life and is never convenient or nice. Thinking people understood this and were prepared to go along with it, uncomfortable though it was.

Similarly, everyone knows that less money means you have fewer purchasing options and, consequently, fewer resources. For any government department, fewer resources inevitably means a declining standard of service. So you have to ask, “Have services declined to the extent that this change in policy is merited?” And, if the answer is yes, then, “Why did the government ever adopt such a policy in the first place?”

As any housewife will tell you, balancing income and expenditure is not easy. They will also tell you that trying to make up lost ground is extremely difficult, if not impossible. So is trying to maintain or restore fallen standards. You would therefore expect any government to avoid such a state of affairs. Thus, you have to question whether the results of the UK government’s action have not resulted in the worst of both worlds. This makes it a failure of Titanic proportions.    

Titanic sinkingWhat you have here is a classic example of the kind of situation Einstein was describing when he said, “You cannot solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it.” The fact is the system that got us into this mess in the first place has failed. And repairing a failed system is pointless: you have to change it or create a new one. Unfortunately there is no evidence of that happening. Instead we simply shift the deck chairs on the Titanic, resorting to old ideological frameworks that will see us bagatelle back and forth between fiscal and economic policies that continue to fail.  It is a disaster of epic proportions that will leave us all considerably worse off than we need to be.

Never before has there been such a pressing need for change. Now is the time to act. It is up to us.  

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I urge you, please, to get hold of my book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped, and promote discussion and debate around the solutions it offers so that action is taken to address these problems, restore meaningful democracy and safeguard a better environment for future generations.  

Is the Party Over for Political Parties?

Are both Brexit and Trump’s election signalling the demise of the party political system? There are certainly good reasons to think so.

the deathOpponents of Brexit are adamant that the reason David Cameron called the referendum was to silence the rebels in the Conservative party. While there may be some justification to claim this, such cries are pretty disingenuous. People from all parties and walks of life voted to leave and votes were very far removed from party political lines. In fact the disillusion with the EU was a primary factor in the growth of UKIP and the large number of so-called “left-wing” Labour Party supporters voting for a “right-wing” party.Similarly with the US elections, where you had fundamental Christians, anti-abortionists and pro-lifers all voting for Donald Trump.

The fact is that the variety of issues and the positions people adopt on them, make traditional party lines seem achronistic. It is no longer feasible to satisfy such diverse concerns under the umbrella of a single party. Perhaps political parties have reached their sell-by date and the time has come to devise a better alternative. Failure to do so is only likely to result in further frustration and dissatisfaction. In fact, you could argue that the declining voter turnout is an indicator that the attempt to do so results in aligning with particular issues that voters find abhorrent and thus not voting. The election of Trump with only 27% of the eligible vote suggest this. Continuing along this road with the division, intransigence and vitriol manifested in this most recent might ensure the ultimate demise of democracy itself, and not just political parties as part of the system.

What do you think? Do you have any ideas as to how we can improve things? It appears that there is no better time than now to start and make a new beginning.

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I urge you, please, to get hold of my book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped, and promote discussion and debate around the solutions it offers so that action is taken to address

Campaign for Real Change and a New Beginning

The call for change! First Brexit and now Trump. If you doubted it before, you have to believe it now: people are fed up and demanding change! Both results, however, illustrate the problem with protest votes. They also highlight a significant structural flaw with democracy: the rigidity of the process and inability to change.

Both results reflect a yearning for the past. For Brexit this was represented by the desire to “regain sovereignty”, while Trump prevailed with the rallying cry of, “Making America great again.” Whether these represent an idealised perception of the past or not is beside the point: they are calls for real change. The attractiveness of the past is nearly always a sign of dissatisfaction with the present and, all too often, identified as resistance to change. But perhaps too much is made of people being reluctant to move out of their “comfort zone”, and “change resistance” is nothing more than a management term used to justify the inability to “sell” the need for its own vision of change.

13584418 - ploughing on a cloudy spring afternoon

Arguably both results prove that people are willing to change. And, as a species, humankind is naturally curious and thus progressive and up for change.  The desire to go back to old ways is simply the natural choice to return to something familiar in the face of either, or both, unpleasant current circumstances and the failure to envisage a new, viable alternative. This means the current situation is, more than anything, a failure of leadership. And that is the paradox of democracy, because it makes little provision for leadership.

After all, if government (those elected) are doing the will of the people, it means the people are leaders. This is implicit in the ideal that their representatives are accountable to them and can be removed from office whenever the people are dissatisfied. This makes innovation a challenge, as any attempt to introduce new ideas requires popular support beforehand; something that most developed nations have failed to build into their democratic processes.   

As a result the world moves on while our democratic systems remain largely unchanged. Perhaps inevitably, this leads to the kind of disequilibrium we are currently experiencing – where increasingly dissatisfied, disenchanted and disengaged voters feel angry, and express it in the way they vote, or even don’t bother to vote at all.

Unfortunately, this rarely turns out well. In fact, to coin a phrase, it creates situations where you, “vote in haste and repent at leisure.” You are already seeing this after both these recent cases. For example the very narrow winning margins have left those who did not vote the “right” (winning) way unable to accept the results. Thus you end up with anti-Trump protests, (totally understandable when he was elected with only 27% of the eligible vote) and legal efforts to stall Brexit and perhaps even invoke a second referendum. Voters simply do not feel the margins were a large enough mandate to merit the significant changes the results are likely to bring.

This is likely to exacerbate the polarisation already prevailing prior to voting. Yet it is difficult to separate cause and effect. The level of debate on both sides for both campaigns was disgracefully bad and gave voters very little insight or understanding of what their votes would actually mean. Rather arguments sank to the lowest level of negative claim and counter-claim, with nary a whiff of policy or constructive ideas, and – as has subsequently been demonstrated – no clear idea of how to proceed after winning.

Truly, this democratic disconnect has become a chasm. There is, therefore, a desperate need to find solutions to regenerate and restore true democracy before it disappears completely and becomes little more than a footnote in history.  This demands a campaign for real change. It means taking the time to re-evaluate the whole political, social and economic order and – much as the US founding fathers did – developing a fresh system to address the historical shortcomings that have caused the current situation, and, simultaneously, provide the capability for leadership, ongoing evaluation and continuous improvement.   

As Zig Ziglar said, “We cannot start over, but we can begin now and make a new beginning!” Let the campaign begin.

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I urge you, please, to get hold of my book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped, and promote discussion and debate around the solutions it offers so that action is taken to address these problems, restore meaningful democracy and safeguard a better environment for future generations.  

Desperate Times + Defiance + Democracy = Donald Trump

Donald and Hillary

Donald Trump Triumphant

So, Americans have voted and Donald Trump is now President-Elect. Certainly an historic result. Now the world waits – anxiously – to see whether this is good historic or bad historic.

The great irony, perhaps, is not so much that Trump won, but the continuing failure of the political system (and pundits) to recognize just how angry voters are: how fed up people are with a system of vested interests that persists in ignoring their plight while taking them for granted. And this despite the warning signs of Brexit. Trump himself said that his election would be “Brexit times 10” and the consternation the results have brought suggest, for once, his hyperbole might not have been misplaced.  Persisting with the analogy, however, just as Britain is faced with a “soft Brexit” or a “hard Brexit”, so the world is faced with a “soft Trump” or a “hard Trump”. That ultimately will determine whether this is a good historic or a bad historic.     

Any thinking person recognizes that the issues facing the developed countries today revolve around the following inter-connected issues:

  • An aging demographic, with an unprecedented demand for healthcare and social support;
  • Unprecedented debt levels eroding investment and lowering living standards;
  • Climate change and the increasingly urgent need to safeguard the earth in order to ensure any kind of future, also placing unprecedented demands on financial resources;
  • Tax systems which are not fit for purpose, but which penalize the poor and compound government’s inability to raise the revenues to provide reasonable social support and necessary infrastructure investment;
  • Rampant technological and artificial intelligence (AI) development eroding jobs and compounding both the lower living standards and the revenue collecting abilities.   

This is a pretty dangerous combination. They create a sense of foreboding and desperate times that lead to despair. And when there is no sign that these issues are being dealt with people become defiant. Unfortunately, the US election campaign failed to identify or address any of these issues. Consequently we are left with a result that is ultimately a massive act of collective defiance.

While you can undoubtedly take some positives from Trump’s measured victory speech, it contained nothing to suggest that he has any plan to address these issues. It is all very well to talk about looking out for the people, “doubling growth” and “making America great again”, but none of that will be possible without addressing these enormous problems. The extent to which he does get to grips with them will determine whether it is “hard Trump” or “soft Trump.” When we know that we will know whether the result is a meaningful one, or simply a last great act of defiance.

Last great act of  defiance_____________________________________________________________________________ 

I urge you, please, to get hold of my book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped, and promote discussion and debate around the solutions it offers so that action is taken to address these problems, restore meaningful democracy and safeguard a better environment for future generations.