Recruiting the true Elite
In my last post I talked what I see as being the true agenda behind Brexit, which a neo-liberal agenda of seeking to preserve the EEA as a free market trading block, but to weaken or destroy the political union that is the EU in order to prevent it being used as a means of regulating markets. In this post I want to develop that theme by asking, what can we do about this?
Well, it seems to me that the key difference between what I have called social liberals and neo-liberals is their attitude towards regulation (by which I mean, not just regulatory rules, but also Keynesian style intervention to manage markets). The neo-liberal views regulation as a millstone round their neck and fears that, if not checked at the root, it will end up being hijacked by populists who will rise to power by advocating interventions that have mass appeal but are completely destructive to business. Social liberals, on the other hand, recognise that regulation is morally necessary in order to create a just and fair society (which places them on the same spectrum as Marxists so far as the neo-liberals are concerned), but more than that, an astute social liberal also realises that the right kind of regulation is actually good for business; far from being a millstone around its neck, well managed regulation lets business do more and prosper in ways it could not without that regulation.
I see this as the crucial point. Those of us who believe in the political union have thought we were in a battle with what one might call the lower end of society, the alienated mass who are struggling to cope in increasingly sophisticated and international markets. So, many of us have been trying to find populist ways of selling the EU. In doing so, however, I argue that we are putting the cart before the horse, what we really need to do is to sell the idea of good regulation of markets to the wealthy elite who are currently almost exclusively backing a strong neo-liberal agenda. If we can win enough of that elite over to gain their support in standing up for the EU – and I mean the EU not the EEA which they already value – then not only can we turn this thing around, but we can become the true middle ground that bridges the gap between the elite and the mass an unites both together in one common society for the good of all.
Can we sell them on positive regulation? Keynes did, and his policies worked well for quite a long time. In the Keynesian model, however, the key was the ability of the British Government to operate across the entire economy without any issues of competition to undermine its interventions. For a while that was effectively true, but as globalisation began to really take off in the last three decades of the 20th century that ceased to be the case.
At that point, Keynesian interventionism began to fail and we saw stagflation setting in. This was widely interpreted as proof that Keynes was fundamentally wrong. Of course, he was wrong. He was wrong to ignore the importance of global competition, but his basic demonstration of the way that regulation was absolutely necessary to allow business to grow and develop unhindered by cycles of boom and bust was absolutely correct and has been borne out by the cycles of boom and bust that have beset the unregulated global economy ever since.
The dominant response of economists since the failure of Keynesianism with the advent of globalisation has been for nation states to respond in the same futile and destructive ways that Keynes talked about individual companies responding to a failure of demand. Despite its failure, Keysianism itself points the way to an alternative response, and that is try to create the kind of agency to regulate the globally economy that Keynes thought the British Government could be within the national economy. And, the success Keynesian style economic enjoyed in Britain prior to globalisation is proof that this could work if we embraced it.
The EU is the one organisation in the world that has the real potential to become that regulatory body. It is now big enough and influential enough to make a modern version of Keynesianism work as an alternative to austerity, boom and bust, and nations and businesses held being back by unremitting competition.
I am looking for the help of the elite to back the development of modernised versions of Keynesian economics, to withdraw their support from the anarchy and destructive individualism of neo-liberalism and help us to develop the EU into a true regulatory body capable of supporting, not impeding, the development of the EEA into a well-run global market. If we can convince them of the desirability of this, we can prevail. But so long as they remain committed to neo-liberalism, the EU is in deadly peril for they have too much power and skill in manipulating politics for us to beat them in a conflict.
Thus, recruiting as many of the wealthy elite to our cause, selling them the desirability of global regulation and the possibility of the EU providing that, is, I suggest, the one strategy that could really turn this mess around preserve our membership of the EU.