Listening to the various party conferences you would think that the politicians THIS time have learned the lessons of boom and bust and are now going to revamp macro-economic policy, remake the relationship between state and citizen, write off large chunks of eurozone debt and lead us into a brave new world of social justice and prosperity.
Because the truth is that any levers that the politicians have in a modern market based economy are generally pretty ineffective. They may pontificate about grand capital projects like high speed trains, tramways, arenas, flood defences and so on, but this is pretty much a combination of political posturing and feeding the professional and financial beast which we call the ‘regeneration industry’. I sometimes think that ‘Degeneration Industry’ would be a more accurate moniker. As this refreshingly honest trader put it, ‘Governments don’t rule the world: Goldman Sachs do‘.
Recovering the economy is not primarily a function of politics, but a function of enterprise. About people using their skills and knowledge to provide products and services that people want, marketing and selling them effectively at a price that adds value to the customer and makes a profit. Transactions in which all parties gain. Good business if the methods of production and distribution are environmentally sustainable and neither harm nor exploit.
But, improving the economy through enterprise is not the only thing that matters. We also need to improve our communities, making them better places for as many people as possible to live full and rewarding lives in which everyone who wants to is supported to explore their potential and express it to the full. And, these are not 2 distinct activities but 2 facets of the same process of development.
The challenge is not to find the right ‘macro-economic policy’ but to engage large numbers of people in living their lives to the full and doing what they can to help others looking to do the same. It is about mass engagement, facilitation of ideas, and support.
You see the politicians can’t build good communities and sustainable economies. We get these things as by-products of large numbers of people pursuing the projects that they believe in and helping each other wherever they can. And occasionally falling out. Great communities and their economies spring from people living their lives to the full and making the best of their potential.
It’s about time we recognised that and helped to make it happen.