For me Prospect stands out a mile as the best regular journal. So OK they’ve got a lurve thang going on with Chris Patten, the acceptable Tory despite his way out of date references, but by the same token they avoid the nepotistic, upper middle class mediocrity that characterises the Spectator. Similarly, they’ll get Labour bods in to write stuff, but avoid the plodding, partisan dullness of the New Statesman. And thankfully, they just don’t do the one-sided free marketeering wank that too often lets down the Economist.
But, here that’s no saying its good, rather it’s saying it’s not bad, whereas it is in fact good. So sure the recent article by some plumb saying Sarkozy’s appeal to France was based on French people wanting to be ridden hard by a sex dwarf was bloody awful (I shit you not. Shame the references were to Nietzche and not Marc Almond), but for the most part the commentary is wide-ranging and the views expressed informative and thought provoking. I mean fuck me a magazine that actually provokes thought as opposed to reinforcing existing prejudice, how cool is that? The problem it has right now though is relatively straightforward – it’s the economy stupid!
I don’t mean by this an exercise in political positioning or sloganeering. Nor is it a question of which party is best equipped to run the Treasury. Rather the reality is that (a) the economy is totally fecked and will be for a good while, (b) following on from that we are going to see a mighty hack back in public spending over the next 3 years at least and (c) we’re currently seeing the rules governing the relationship between the financial sector and the economy being debated before they are rewritten and as such are still up for grabs.
These are key issues and they’re simply not being addressed by Prospect (or anyone else for that matter). Sure they’re getting in bods to explain what quantitative easing is, but so the fuck what? The point surely isn’t to simply explain, rather it’s to analyse, contextualise and relate the implications of this to government policy, the economy and social issues.
Here a quick and easy example –
An obvious response to the recession is for government to embark on a major social house building programme, which would address housing issues and provide jobs.
However, it would also increase government borrowing. The existing level of government debt has already prompted at least one rating agency to make noises about downgrading Britain’s credit rating, which would increase the government’s cost of borrowing.
However, the same rating agencies also said sub-prime was the bees knees despite the conflict of interest whereby the people paying for the ratings where the same ones who would benefit from it getting a high rating.
So should we look at the role of rating agencies, their structure, strategy and technical competency both in terms of rating sub-prime debt and government debt? Like should we rewrite market rules so they can go and fuck themselves?
Even more straightforward, should the issue of social inequality figure in the regulation of pay in banking and the assocaited rhetoric used to justify mega bonuses.
See? Some quick, practical examples that relate social policy to economic policy to financial re-regulation.
And there’s more – the cuts in public sector spending to appease rating agencies arguably render Prospect’s a wee bitty wanky obsession with think tank politics irrelevant. So one think tank says we need to do this to help the disabled, that to help ethnic minorities and the other to address issues of national identity? Piss off, we can’t afford any of them and that’s that really oh and we’re cutting your 2010/11 funding by 30%.
For me unless these realities are addressed and debated it looks like what we’re going to see when it comes to the financial system and the economy is one big vested-interest cluster fuck focused on retaining as much as possible of the old regime, regardless of its flaws .
I should perhaps confess at this point I still think Marx had it more or less right when he wrote -
“these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material forces of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society - the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life determines the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”
i.e. that’s what I mean when I say “it’s the economy stupid”. The challenge we have right now is that outwith the Treasury, the FSA, the Bank of England and the financial system theres too much focus on the superstructure and way, way too much ignorance about the base.