Thursday, September 07, 2017

Welby's Wish List for fairness. A new mandate from the IPPR rooted in the common good.

The IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) has published its interim report 'Time for Change: A New Vision for the British Economy'. Archbishop Justin Welby is leading the publicity with an FT article 'What sort of British economy do we want for our children?' [Digital title: British society deserves an economy rooted in the common good']. He continues the May/Corbyn themes (our last blogpost):
Theresa May, PM: 'We will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us.'
Jeremy Corbyn, Opposition Leader: 'For the many, not the few'.

Welby calls for comprehensive economic justice - socially, regionally, generationally, environmentally - and from the IPPR report highlights his priorities: the need for reform of the education system; a fairer tax system; decarbonisation; improvements in public and private pay and the expansion of the housing stock. He believes most people want a system working in the service of human flourishing and the common good and asks why are we hearing 'Why are so many people so poor when others are so rich?' and 'Why are young people going to be poorer than their parents? 

An interesting aspect of the report is its criticism of recent economic policy.

We have experimented with bold monetary policy, but are constrained by pre-Keynesian fiscal orthodoxy. It points out the significant cuts in public spending due to government austerity programmes and says that austerity has not worked well. It suggests that monetary policy has been majored upon but helpful fiscal policy has been neglected. It wants government-initiated investment for growth and monetary policy to be coordinated to redress this, with the Bank of England advising on the integration of monetary and fiscal policy. Personal note: Ask a high official at the Bank (as I have done) if it would be possible to  invest in an industry by creating money in the QE manner - at no interest and no repayment - and they will affirm that it can be done. The IPPR obviously thinks so too and wants a change. It wants the hands of the Bank untied so that it can join in to help the economy in new ways. 

Most items on the Welby Wish List could benefit from ideas promoted on this blog over the years. Some of these are indeed mentioned in the report, which is a strong vindication of the views of book The Free Lunch- Fairness with Freedom. Such as: Education reform using monetary policy to fund education grants (Prof. Richard Werner); improving pay by  universal basic income ; a fairer taxation system which also helps the expansion of the housing stock through the incentive for development through a new land value tax .

Under the final heading (IPPR p81-83) 'Inequality and public purpose'  the report challenges the way we have measured success over the last 50 years and includes: 
'..inequality is largely a result of the ability of economically powerful groups in society to extract ‘rents’ or incomes beyond those earned by their economic contribution'. 
This gets to the heart of the matter in the way of the principles of The Free Lunch. In the vital matter of banking  (IPPR p80):
 'new insights into how the banking system creates money in modern economies, and therefore the role and limits of government or central bank monetary policy'.
The IPPR needs to look further into Richard Werner's New Paradigm in Macroeconomics who is arguably the first modern economist to have this insight. 

A banking problem from the report shows how only 5% of UK bank lending goes for businesses (15% in the Eurozone) with most going to land and property lending:
'The bulk of real estate loans and mortgages do not increase the productive capacity of the economy or contribute to growth; instead their primary effect is to drive up asset prices'.

To redress the bank lending imbalance the IPPR wants regional banks with 'geographically bounded  mandates to support the local economy' . 
It is happening already! The Hampshire Community Bank is likely to be the UK's first such regional bank and it is designed to that pattern. Additionally, being owned by a charitable foundation it will use its profits for the common good in its area and not for the high staff salaries and bonuses so roundly criticised in the IPPR report and by Archbishop Welby. Hampshire Community Bank in its whole ethos, aims to change banking for the better. Banking for the common good.  The bank, whilst not open for business yet, is currently in its licence application stage under the Bank of England's PRA. Such distinctive banks are needed across the UK. These new banks will play one part in a greater fairness for all.

With political parties broadly united over the fairness theme, and with the IPPR's excellent report spelling out some telling home truths over broad areas of economic life, the prospects that something serious for fairness will be done, are good.

Posted  by Charles Bazlinton. Author : The Free Lunch - Fairness with Freedom.  Director: Local First CIC which is promoting Hampshire Community Bank.

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