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September 01, 2010

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Luis Enrique

What makes you sure that tax credits, the minimum wage and increased spending on education didn't achieve both (greater) economic efficiency and greater equality?

I don't understand this opposition to "top-down managerialist policies". A great many sensible policies are such, for example changing prices to reflect externalities (a carbon tax or subsidizing solar panels), taxing behaviour that increasing systemtic risk in banking, or a land value tax.

These type of policy are also distinct from some mythical conception of leadership.

Lots of left-wingers say they dislike New Labour, but my impression is that few of these also want to abandon policies like tax credits, the minimum wage and increased spending on education.

Also, if you actually have any concrete policies that will bring about this world in which power hierarchies are dismantled, mightn't you need a charismatic and skilled political leader to get elected on such a manifesto?

Francis Sedgemore

Chris – All five of your points above appear sound, but forgive me if I take issue with the conclusion, and offer instead a naively optimistic view.

The current concept of leadership is indeed at fault, but the British polity, like those of other liberal democracies, appears to be locked in a death spiral from which it cannot extricate itself. Or at least, any public attempt by senior politicians to break free from this cycle of bullshit will result in such a severe loss of face for one or more parties that the exercise is doomed to failure. A better approach may be for the wiser political leaders to continue talking the usual rubbish, and thus keep the media happy, but behind the scenes adopt an entirely new gait.

Paul Evans complains that there is nothing conversational in any of the Labour leadership candidates. On one level that may be so, but it doesn't necessarily mean that none of the candidates has the wit to take things forward. One of the reasons why I put my name to Miliband Minor's campaign is that Ed is more a doer than a waffler. Unlike his gobby sibbling, Ed Miliband leads by example, and is an highly capable facilitator.

Perhaps that is what Labour needs now: a facilitative leadership, rather than a charismatic leadership masking an inflexibly managerialist ideology.

So it's goodbye to New Labour; you'll be missed, but not for long.

Forlornehope

If you "empower" public sector workers why would they seek greater efficiencies that would only put them out of work? "Empowerment" only works in the private sector when there are both incentives and penalties. Usually that means a realisation that a company can only pay you if it stays in business and that you are out of a job if it doesn't.

Morlock

"New Labour’s promise of macroeconomic stability ... was mere good luck which has passed, not something which it is in the power of governments to create."

Really? I would agree with you _if_ one allows external forces to impact the nation's economy, but if such forces are restrained...? Or are we all neoliberals now?

Paolo Siciliani

Agree that the current market failure in the labour market is demand-side based, so that traditional supply-side policies are nowadays largely ineffective.
Then what about demand-side intervention?
How? We know a lot about this kind of intervention in markets from the fields of antitrust and consumer protection. What about then figuring the employee as a customer and applying the insights from antitrust and consumer protection? For example, is there any info asymmetry regarding salary levels and ranges face by current and prospective employees that needs some rebalancing, this is particularly so for those at their beginning, with too short a tenure to be able to guess. Is there a problem with rival employers pulling together their remunaration treatments to survey their relative positions - or, wouldn't it be only fair that these surveys were accessible also by employees? Would it be good practice that rival employers compete fairly to offer fairer payment, rather than enforcing those perfomance policies that are meant to put colleagues one against each other? Would this fairer system constitute a comparative advantage with which rival employers could compete for best resources, those more happy to work in a fairer and more collaborative job place? And so on and so forth. I believe this would constitute a (bottom-up, non-managerial) political platform fit for todays challanges.

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"New Labour’s redistributive policies were just about sufficient to offset the increased inequality generated by private sector forces."

Looks to me as though the Gini coefficent has been flat since 1990.

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=332

Apparently these market forces only began their forcing at almost the exact time these redistributative policies were enacted.

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