I enjoyed Ed Miliband’s speech; putting the NHS at the heart of Labour policy was, I guess, some sort of an answer to our prayers. However, the immediate question being asked by Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics afterwards was “What is Labour’s macro economic plan?” – good question, I thought!

Neal asked Andy Burnham and Charles Falconer this question in quick succession, but they were clearly defeated by its simplicity; they riddled around for answers and had to try and change the subject. Now I am not an economist but these intriguing exchanges led me to ponder Andrew Neal’s question from a socialist and health perspective.

Miliband’s speech had delivered a clear message that the UK needs economic restructuring. My assumptions were that this is based on a popular but untried macro-economic philosophy that greater socio-economic equality and greater devolution of power will ‘naturally’ deliver more prosperity. I find this assumption unproblematic, as I think many of my colleagues in healthcare do, but an unproblematic assumption is a pretty rare thing.

As far as I am aware, in organisational terms, e.g. according to the meso-level economic data, my assumption is supported by a growing evidence base: greater income equality does indeed lead to increased productivity, through greater conscientiousness, greater organisational citizenship, greater employee participation, higher levels of worker satisfaction, lower levels of sickness absence and through the tangible as well as less obvious intangible rewards provided by employment.

However, I believe in terms of macro-economic policy Andrew Neal was right to ask Labour to go further to describe their plan for growth and prosperity to deliver a better/bigger NHS; I can hear it now “no growth – no taxes” will be the door-step repost.

From my perspective, the UK like all other living breathing organisms (including the human body) owes its existence to the same economic equation that sustains life everywhere: the productive capital of the organism (i.e. its reproductive potential) must outweigh the costs that the organism incurs as its consumes enough energy to survive.

Economic ill health occurs with the over-consumption of energy and under-production of capital or the alternative, under-consumption of energy and over-production of capital. In case you didn’t notice, these economic alternatives are the anti-theses at the extremes of UK social and economic inequality.

In terms of the micro-economics of the individual human body, the over-consumption/ under-production end leads to surplus energy being stored as fat and cholesterol, which eventually causes the body to malfunction and die, e.g. as in diabetes or cardiac disease. In terms of macro-economics, over-consumption leads to sub-prime mortgages and the credit crunch.

Whereas micro-economic under-consumption/ over-production is equivalent to physical exhaustion and starvation; in macro-economic terms this is like the syphoning off of surplus value from the proletariat by the bourgeoisie – what happens when market traders make billions buying and selling the products of third world sweat shops; or EU trade tariffs bleed Africans of their agricultural base.

Therefore, in order to answer Andrew Neal’s question, my suggestion is that Labour’s ‘big plan’ is to minimise the structural inequality that exists in the UK by optimising the balance between energy consumption and material production at every level of the economic system, in all markets – this, they hope, will return the body to health – at both macro and micro-economic levels.

What should make this theory really attractive to socialists is that it tends to suggest that the ‘real’ value of a product is equivalent to the amount of energy that has been expended on its production and maintenance; energy expended through mental, physical or emotional labour creates value regardless of its exchange value – or so you would think.

This is very different to the Tory belief that a commodity’s value is only what someone is willing to pay for it on the stock market. We know traders only trade in things that have no real value, or rather whose value is endlessly interpretable by the markets (including themselves); that’s what gives them their lucrative volatility and exploitable risks.

So it makes sense that the financial services industries do not add anything to a nation’s productivity – it simply syphons off productive capital in rent; only the investment of energy in material products, e.g. the manufacturing and health industries, can add something to a nation’s productivity and health.

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8 Comments

  1. Put simply Ed doesn’t have an economic policy. he has a wish list and hopes he can balance the books.

    The make-up of that list includes a cap on child benefit, which coming from a so called Labour Party begs the question, if there is a need to cap child benefit, have we then cured child poverty? Answer of course is no.

    There has been a major outcry in the United States for some years now talking about the shrinking middle class, whilst the gap between the Mega Rich and the Poor has been widening, this has been due to the NeoLiberal agenda. Which New Labour have adopted, so I thought it would be useful to see what it really means:

    The main points of neo-liberalism include:

    THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say “an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone.” It’s like Reagan’s “supply-side” and “trickle-down” economics — but somehow the wealth didn’t trickle down very much.

    CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply — again in the name of reducing government’s role. Of course, they don’t oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.

    DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminsh profits, including protecting the environmentand safety on the job.

    PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.

    ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.”

    Ed is a Neo-Liberal.

    1. Steve Adshead says:

      Interesting comments Mervyn, but I really don’t recognise them from Ed’s speech, or Labour Party policy? Perhaps you can post some references or quotes to illustrate your arguments?

      1. The Neo-Liberal agenda is not publicised by politicians of all colours, no one has in fact come out openly and admitted that they are Neoliberal, but their actions over the years, the joined up language they use indicate quite clearly to the private sector just who’s side they are on.

        The evidence you request is everywhere today, New Labour’s introduction of the Internal Market, the privatisations carried out under New Labour. One key pointer today also is the term “Preferred Provider” for the NHS, that actually means that “Private Companies” can still compete with the NHS.

        This campaign document has video content from leading British health experts that condemn Labour’s privatisation agenda as well as the Tories: http://www.savelewishamhospital.com/reinstate-charlotte-monro/

        Gordon Brown’s PFI agreements were examined by the public accounts committee and found that a Direct Labour Force would have been much cheaper, instead we are left with 30 years of impossible debt, and it is the Bankers and private sector builders that cream the profits.

        http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/jul/05/pfi-cost-300bn

        I could go on but clearly what New Labour say and the code they speak in is classic Tory Spin, “Preferred Provider,” doesn’t mean an end to private provision in the NHS, TTIP is a Neo-Liberal agreement that will end democracy as we know and corporation will dictate what kind of society that we become. Ed supports TTIP but pretends that they will have guarantees for the NHS.

        http://action.sumofus.org/a/tpp-lawsuits/

        1. Steve Adshead says:

          Personally, I am quite sceptical of classic conspiracy theories that start off by saying ‘there is no evidence for it therefore it must be true’.

          However, with the benefit of hindsight, I think there is wide recognition on the left that PFI was a bit of a disaster and it left the NHS exposed to privatisation by the back door. But at the time it did undergo full and transparent democratic review in parliament, after a ‘no new taxes’ mandate had been received from the electorate, it was consistent with New Labour’s ‘third way’ economic policy and was a genuine response to a dilapidated NHS infrastructure. So I don’t think your argument that it was a neo-liberal policy (as you yourself have defined it) actually stands up.

          The legislation that removes the NHS ‘preferred provider’ status and replaces it with ‘any qualified provider’ is actually the ConDem’d Health and Social Care Act 2012 that the Labour Party, (Miliband and Burnham personally) have committed to repeal immediately after the 2015 election. So again your argument that the current Shadow Cabinet are embarking on a neo-liberal conspiracy against the UK electorate again does not stand up.

          The widely reported TTIP has NOT actually been tabled yet as a policy by any party in the UK and EU. So we can either waste time discussing something that doesn’t exist, using conspiracy theories to justify our anger with the world, or we can get on with the reality of forming the next government.

          I know what I would rather do but you are completely entitled to your own opinion and to raise your views on this platform.

          1. I am sorry to say you are conflating what I actually wrote and here it is again so that you amend your comment accordingly:

            “The evidence you request is everywhere today, New Labour’s introduction of the Internal Market, the privatisations carried out under New Labour. One key pointer today also is the term “Preferred Provider” for the NHS, that actually means that “Private Companies” can still compete with the NHS.”

            What I have said above and you improperly responded to, was; that Labour say they will repeal Lansley’s legislation and replace it with the “Preferred Provider,” which in plain english means that the private sector can still tender for contracts. The real proof of the pudding though is whether Ed adopts Dr Allyson Pollock’s Bill to reinstate the NHS.

            I further note you say that my view is a classic conspiracy theory and so here is further evidence for you straight from the horses mouth.

            Gordon Brown’s boast to the World Bankers and Businessmen, at his 2006 Mansion House Speech, where he actually states how he and Ed Balls were involved in the LIBERALISATION of the financial sector, just before the Crash:

            “I am grateful to many of you here tonight, including the Lord Mayor, who has agreed to serve on the new City advisory group.

            Ed Balls, our new City Minister, will work with you to develop publish and then promote a long term strategy for the development of London’s financial services and promoting our unique advantages and assets. We will set a clear ambition to make Britain the location of choice for headquarters and services, including R&D, for even more of the world’s leading companies.

            And just as two years ago we promoted the action plan for liberalising financial services across Europe, I can tell you that the Treasury is now working with Charles McCreevy and with you to ensure that the forthcoming European financial services white paper signals a new wave of liberalisation”

            The full speech can be seen here:
            http://www.theguardian.com/business/2006/jun/22/politics.economicpolicy

            TTIP is probably the biggest threat to a democratic government there has ever been and here is more evidence for you as to how serious it really is:

            http://action.sumofus.org/a/tpp-lawsuits/

            Yes I do have opinions but I also like to back them up with facts, you on the other hand misrepresent what I say and are blindly following
            rather than making evidence based judgments.

          2. Steve Adshead says:

            Thanks Mervyn,

            I have read the two URL’s you have posted: the first is Gordon Brown’s Mansion House speech as Chancellor in 2006; the second is an brief article published by ‘Sum of Us’ apparently an anti-globalisation campaigning site (no date and no author provided). Brown’s speech is promoting the case for Globalisation against Protectionism; but I think you are wrong to suggest that his view of Globalisation is a Neo-Liberal idea.

            Despite the modern fashion for mixing Marxism, anti-capitalism and anti-globalisation protests I am personally not a fan. Marx recognised the pursuit of global capitalism would ultimately increase the power of the middle classes, reduce the power of the Aristocracy and progress the world towards International Socialism (e.g. “Workers of THE WORLD unite, you have nothing to loose but your chains!”).

            In addition, I think people confuse ‘Neo-Liberals’ with laissez faire economics at their peril. Laissez faire market economics was promoted by the Republican Socialist revolution in France; it was seen as a force for individual autonomy and freedom, breaking the chains of slavery, i.e. it was a Liberal ideal not necessarily a Neo-Liberal one.

            In my book, Neo-Liberalism (somewhat ironically) is the economic model of the Neo-Cons, a right-wing Christian evangelical movement who preached American Imperialism in the name of freedom, NATO (thus, also the EU) and the Western dominance in the arms manufacturing industry (thus, the association with medieval crusades, etc.).

            I think the way Brown uses the term LIBERALISATION in your quote isn’t actually anything more than a commitment to review the Labour Party’s policy on the UK’s Financial Services sector; and a commitment to the Liberalisation of the financial services sector within the EU (that had been made ‘two years ago’, e.g. 2004). Unlike you, I read this as being a clear message of continued support for the European project, a single currency (not including the UK), and EU trade tariffs (even if this is a protectionist measure); as a Mansion House speech this would have probably been required material. I would agree that it is a fairly clumsy phrase and open to interpretation (fairly typical of Gordon unfortunately), but I personally think it would be an over-generalisation to extend its meaning to an argument for global Neo-Liberalism.

          3. Steve: Whilst you do indeed interpret this differently it is further proof that I have obtained over the years of exactly where and how New Labour have privatised services under the guise of efficiency and saving money, which of course is classic Neo-Liberal doctrine.

            Secondly I have also personal anecdotal experience to fall back on in the I asked Gordon Brown himself on a telephone conference phone in, as to why at that time was he trying to privatise the London Underground , knowing the history of all the failed privatisation that have been evidentd before, His reply was:

            Well Mervyn, this is a Labour Privatisation, That was when I ceased to become an active member of the Labour Party. I also note that his political aid tried to interject and deflect my question, but he answered it any way.

            There is in New Labour a distinct attitude that prevails; in that they avoid where possible to involve in real debate, rather they set out bulletin points for discussion, and merely sum up what was supposed to be a forum debate, where they closely framed the the questions to get the answers they want.

            Ed Balls at last years conference avoided speaking to John Harris of the Guardian, and finally had no option but was compromised to meet him and after a very short his friend Chukka Umnna who was with him at the time, made noises that he should move on. From his body language and Chukka’s intervention it was clear to me that he did not want to talk to the Guardian.

            We have of course seen very little of Labour’s front line spokes people and they remain aloof, which for a party in opposition, you would think that they would use every opportunity to get their message across. Waiting until the election period is very risky and begs the question as to whether they are just hoping that the Tories are so unpopular that they win by default.

            Definition of Neo-Liberalism:

            http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/neoliberalism

            (And the definition of Laissez Faire is: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/laissez-faire?showCookiePolicy=true so you can decide on which one is the real definition? update by Steve Adshead 11.05 25/09/2014)

  2. George Nieman says:

    Ed spoke well and with conviction. I hope that like all good speakers he will refer to notes to avoid missing anything out, and we all know that does happen. People will see that the Labour leader was speaking honestly and from the heart.
    I say to everyone give the Labour leader a chance to lead our country and I feel he will make a great job of it.
    Make sure we have a Labour government next.

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