Category: Political Reform

Liberal social democracy, fairness and good capitalism

by Will Hutton
 
The left needs a new language to differentiate between good and bad capitalism; a radical, shared conception of fairness – based on equity rather than equality – to underpin an economy of reciprocity, proportionate reward and mutual ownership

The European left is bewildered, in denial and in retreat. If electorates should have learned anything over the last two or three years it is that financial capitalism is a menace to itself and the economy and society beyond – and that governments are the peoples’ friend.  It is true that bankers are hardly popular, but opinion has not swung behind the liberal left. Instead, the enemy everywhere is government, debt and deficits − scant reward for being the saviour of the hour.

Opinion polls in Britain show that the majority believe that welfare cheats, immigrants and government waste are to blame for contemporary ills, with bankers a long way behind. It is not a dissimilar story across Europe. This is a tough climate in which to build any constituency for liberal left activism, and indeed the liberal left itself is not wholly certain what any such activism should be. What is socialism anyway? What would a good economy and society look like? And what would the popular values be that underpinned them? Does the left in any European country offer a convincing answer?

In this vacuum ugly nationalist movements are flourishing, and on the left one of the few dynamic elements are the Greens. The conventional left needs to do a great deal better, not least for the working people it purports to represent.

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Cut to the chase: 15 political truths for the centre-left

by Andrés Velasco & Francisco Diaz

The world has just experienced the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Over 80 million jobs were lost worldwide. The United Nations estimates that as many as 145 million more people are living in poverty. Scores of countries have emerged from the crisis with weakened financial systems and huge public debts. These nations may be condemned to slow growth and insufficient job creation for years to come.

Market fundamentalism, weak regulation and misplaced incentives for excessive risk-taking helped cause the crisis. Yet in the aftermath of the meltdown, reforms have been few and far between. Local financial systems remain prone to speculative bubbles and the world economy remains vastly unbalanced between surplus countries that earn far more than they consume and deficit countries that consume far more than they earn.

A crisis of global capitalism might have been an opportunity for the centre-left. Yet social democratic parties have taken more blame for the occurrence of this crisis than credit for their efforts to control it and prevent the next crisis from happening. Electorates in many countries have been swinging to the far right as an illiberal, inward-looking mood becomes a by-product of the crisis.

This all poses a tremendous challenge for the centre-left. The challenge, first of all, is to extract the right lessons from the crisis, and then to translate these lessons into a progressive political action plan. Here are 15 ideas to help leaders in that effort.

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A Year of Revolution

by Thomas McDermott

In a year of revolution, causes have been easier to identify than consequences.

In 1989, following the end of the Cold War, the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote in The End of History? of the “unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism”, marking “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”. In the decades since Fukuyama’s landmark essay, the very concept of revolution – at least in the context of the rich, Western world – had itself come to be seen as an almost anachronistic idea. That is, until this year. In 2011, revolution has returned to the center of global geo-political discourse.

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The Arab Spring, One Year On

by Christine Lagarde

Rejecting the Past, Defining the Future

Let me start with the context. As we all know, almost one year ago, everything changed for the people of the Middle East. The region embarked upon a historic transformation. But at the time, few realized where this journey would lead. When Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire last year, who could have predicted that his tragic death would herald a whole new Middle East?

Who would have foreseen that this act of desperation against a violation of human dignity would ignite a flame that would eventually illuminate the entire region, toppling governments and leading to mass awakening of social consciousness?

This much is clear: The Arab Spring embodies the hopes, the dreams and aspirations of a people yearning for a better way of life. Yearning for greater freedom, for greater dignity, and for a more widespread and fairer distribution of economic opportunities and resources. Basic human yearnings.

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Women Responding to War

by Roberta Cohen

Whatever would Aristophanes, the Greek playwright of antiquity, think of the new US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary, Women, War and Peace? In his play Lysistrata performed in the fifth century B.C., Aristophanes depicted women tired of war and angry over its devastation of their and their families’ lives, uniting marching, occupying the Acropolis and withholding themselves to force men to the negotiating table. They triumph: the warring parties sign a peace agreement and the women propose some of its terms. For Aristophanes and his Greek audiences, women in war did not have to be victims but rather potentially powerful agents of change.

Fast forward twenty-five centuries to the US PBS documentary whose five riveting segments also show that when women join hands, they can rise above enormous odds in wartime. Here is some of what they achieved:  

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