Editorial – That’s not all, folks!
Last month the world looked on with bemused fascination as the UK Tory leadership attempted to handle the economy the same way the iceberg handled the Titanic, reminding everybody once again, as if Trump and Bojo were not lesson enough, that it’s possible for people to get into positions of power who really have no idea what they’re doing.
The markets dived, pundits gaped and soberer heads than Liz Truss, like Putin, Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un, scratched their heads and wondered if the British state had been taken over by Warner cartoon characters. An anvil dropped on the old Chancellor after he pulled the trigger on his Trust the Market bazooka, Keir Starmer rocketed like Wile E. Coyote into the stratosphere and the Tory PM ran out of road and fell off a cliff. The new Chancellor, who had been hastily whistled up to deploy an Acme Damage Limitation gizmo, started unpromisingly by conceding in his first speech that ‘governments do not control markets’.
We’ve been saying all along that governments can’t do this, although never underestimate their ability to make things worse (see Cooking the Books, this issue). Markets don’t deliver public benefit, they deliver profit for a few and cause misery for many and destruction for the planet. And if they deliver an earthquake, governments normally prefer to blame the opposition, or the unions, or latterly Putin, or their own staff. You can hardly blame the system one minute, and then ask people to vote you into office to control the system the next. The fact that Jeremy Hunt has admitted this shows you what a desperate hole they were in. The only thing they can hope for come next election is a large dose of public amnesia.
Most people will simply shrug and say, that’s what happens when you put criminals or idiots in charge. The next lot will be better, they say, because they couldn’t be any worse. Experience suggests otherwise. Whole government institutions, not just leaders, can display surprising levels of incompetence, as we discover with the British intelligence services (see Spycatchers, this issue). And why follow leaders anyway? Much better not to put anyone in charge, but instead take collective charge ourselves (see Pathfinders, this issue).
The alternative left-wing media outlet Double Down News provided some fun in the form of an exquisitely venomous take-down of Truss and Kwarteng by former Daily Telegraph journalist Peter Oborne, in which he argued that the vainglorious duo had sold out common sense and political reality in order to promote the interests of their favourite hedge fund managers and super-rich oligarchs. But one wonders what he thinks political leaders do the rest of the time. Serving the interests of the rich and powerful is what all governments do, no matter how progressive and reformist their speeches might look, because once they’re in power they have to run capitalism and that means doing what the rich want them to. And that’s not all, folks. Until we get rid of this system, the capitalist cartoon disasters will run and run.