The case for a programme of publicly funded works

I thought I would share some thoughts about the case for a programme of publicly funded works that I think would be part of the answer for Double Dip Britain:

There is nothing economically unsound in increasing temporarily and artificially the demand for labour during a period of temporary and artificial contraction. There is a plain need of some averaging machinery to regulate and even out the general course of the labour market, in the same way as the Bank of England, by its base rate, regulates and corrects the flow of business enterprise. When the extent of the depression is foreseen, the extent of the relief should also be determined.

There ought to be in permanent existence certain recognised industries of a useful, but uncompetitive character, like, we will say, reforestation, managed by public departments, and capable of being expanded or contracted according to the needs of the labour market, just as easily as you can pull out the stops or work the pedals of an organ.

I sometimes fear the increasing evil of casual labour. We talk a great deal about the unemployed, but the evil of the underemployed is the tap-root of unemployment. There is a tendency many trades, almost all trades, you have a fringe of casual labour on hand, available as a surplus whenever there is a boom, flung back into the pool whenever there is a slump.

I can almost see Paul Perrin spilling his warm milk as he reads this nonsense about public works. But don’t have a go at me, Mr Perrin, paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 above are the words of that well-known radical, Winston Churchill writing in ‘The People’s Rights’, first published in 1909.  It is a powerful plea for ‘a great policy of social reconstruction and reorganisation’.  He was at the time, of course, a Liberal. Whatever became of that great radical party …?

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30 Responses

  1. Within bespoke tailoring, because such garments are bought to last, there is to be found deep seams for letting the garment in or out according to weight gain or weight loss.

    Within the prudently run kitchen there are reserves of dried, frozen, bottled or tinned foods which can be turned to in case the option of shopping is unavailable.

    You are not wrong BPB. Metaphors can be found throughout human life for the use of a public works fund that can rein in or let out economic stresses by financing whatever is needed anyway in the long run – infrastructure. Alas the Green Administration seems persuaded that a viewing pod on a tall pole counts within this category but missing schools do not.

  2. The issue is not just about the underemployed – but is increasingly about the large layer at the bottom of the social pyramid: the underpaid. Our current obsession with allowing the so-called wealth creators to get richer and richer is ultimately at the expense of our civilisation as a whole, and if left unchecked will entail the head eating it’s own tail. In the last 4 years the 1000 wealthiest people in the UK increased their wealth (I refuse to say earnt) by the same amount as our total national debt. Democracy cannot survive under these conditions, with society’s wealth creation being effectively stolen and hoarded by a tiny elite. In the 7th wealthiest country in the world we should not have mass poverty, homelessness etc. We have plenty of resources to go round, we just need to allocate it more reasonably. I am loath to suggest which party might see the wood for the trees here – but it almost certainly won’t be the Labour or Tory parties!

    • If I could like a comment on WordPress this would have taken it! Apart from the anti Lab bit at the end of course!

    • Good OP (nice twist), and good comment. When you have the likes of Ferdinand Mount, author of the Tories’ 1983 manifesto, saying the same kind of thing (if not quite in the same way), then maybe we have reached rock bottom in terms of income inequality, and the only way is up? We can only hope.

      I look forward from some constructive replies from the manic state shrinkers, be they Tory, UKIP, or Orange Book Lib Dems.

    • Those richest 1000 probably got their extra wealth from the government extending the national debt!

      Government *give* our money to the biggest, richest companies owned by the richest people.

      I spend locally and support small business when I can – companies that don’t get a look in when politicians are spending our tax £…

      The government and its spending of our money(/debt) *is* the problem.

  3. http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/may/16/home-care-elderly-local-authorities?intcmp=239 The Green council charging the most for elderly social care in the country. Surely some mistake. With large numbers of elderly people in Brighton, many of them LGBT, this is a ticking time bomb. Is this another case of caring, soft Green cuts?

    I also noticed that the Green Left blog was about to publish a criticism of this entitled ‘The Lowest Cut of all’ but was mysteriously pulled. Is this censorship in the party noted for transparency and open debate?

    And Cllr Kitcat’s explanation for these charges just does not cut the mustard as anyone who works in the social care field will know. Interesting that Tower Hamlets, one of the poorest councils in the country has no charges. An example of where priorities lie perhaps?

    • Stop knocking the Greens in B & H they do a fine job of knocking themselves anyway. Time to think bigger picture like BPB.
      !930s =mass unemployment, rise of totalitarian mass parties in Europe, pre-Keynesian balance the books stance of governments.
      2010s =mass youth unemployment, beginnings of a rise in totalitarian parties in Europe, governments seeking cuts to balance the books and diminishing demand.. Deja vu?
      Keynes thought out of the box to show only government had the clout to kickstart virtuous spirals of growth and that left to themselves firms would seek self-survival rather than national benefit.

      Of course the monetarists showed that demand side economics ignored perils like inflation and that there wasn’t a simple trade-off between more growth and aceptably greater inflation.

      Nonetheless the nature of the present problems stem from government bail outs of greedy banks, private debt transferred to public debt and a simple acceptance of supply-side economics.

      The publics like those in Greece/France have given notice- carry on with austerity at your peril and by implication at the peril of democracy.
      That is why some 3rd way must be found to reschedule debts and repayments and promote growth in much the same way as 1930s oublic works built the undercliff walk betwen Black Rock and Saltdean.

      • Keynes was in a very different environment (even if you believe he was right then). What is there in the UK to ‘grow’? The bubble is still deflating – spending to maintain it will just slow the deflation and drag out the failure…

        The 1930’s has masses of growth opportunities, look at the tech developed since then…

        We are already beyond our natural size, so there is little quick growth potential – what there is will only be sniffed out by letting dynamic small business seek it out and exploit it – not by neolithic state thinking.

  4. If public spending leads to real growth in the economy then why hasn’t a dozen years of labour financial incontinence let to the UK having a massive private sector?

    If public spending generated real growth the USSR would now rule the galaxy, if not the universe… and it would be their massive *private sector* that their public spending had generated/supported that would be running it.

    Not quite how socialism has ever panned out though is it? EU, Euro… got the message yet?

    ‘public spending’ is just politicians taking money from the people who create/earn it and choosing to spend it on things that the creators/earners would *not* choose to spend on.

    Ask any couple seeking fertility treatment if they would give up any future claim on (say) cancer treatment to get it? I think you would find most would all say ‘yes’… but the NHS takes their money and spends on politicians priorities not the individuals priorities…

    ‘Clever’ politicians are always sure they can spend our money better than we can… they are always wrong.

    ps.Interesting you blindly support Winston Churchill – I had assumed you though for yourself and would take changes between times into account… And even then not blindly agree with everything one particular person said…

    • Greater demand leads to growth. Relaxing austerity measures by such devices as consensus rescheduling of debt will boost growth. Too much austerity clearly has the effect of throwing out baby with the bath water.Public deficits are going to have to take longer to clear.
      There must also be very many infrastructure related projects of social benefit that could be developed of public works to get people off benefits. This need not be expensive to public debt given the benefits offset.

  5. ps. How do you rate the performance of the Bank of England with its base rate control of inflation vs the inflation targets – a mechanism that you cite to support your post?

  6. BPB, as you now seem to be a Churchill fan, I thought you’d like this one…

    “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

    So he was right sometimes…

    • The blogger can reply for him/herself (I wish he/she would do this more), but this comment seems to me to spectacularly miss the point. We all know Churchill wasn’t a socialist – the point is, even he was happy to countenance state action to promote demand at a time of economic crisis. HIs mate FDR wasn’t a socialist either, but nonetheless put in place the New Deal.

      I will repeat again: the present levels of national debt have been caused by the bank bailout, not by crazy socialist overspending. And the irresponsible lending that led to the bailout becoming necessary was caused by too little regulation, not too much.

      • The banking bailout is just more labour spending lunacy to go with PFI and all the other nonsense they so fell in love with.

        If the rich bankers had been obliged to cover their own stupid, careless, losses (instead of that nice Mr Brown and Mr Darling getting giving them poor taxpayers money to cover them), we would be just fine.

        If Brown ‘saved the worlds banks’ what is all this carry on in the Eurozone?

        Brown/Darling are amateurs who the banking money men (conservatives to the core) ran rings around. No government can be trusted with any money that you cannot afford to lose… Let alone letting them run up debt for our kids to pay off!!

      • I agree with you on PFI, and that one is just now coming home to roost. On the bailout, I don’t see that they had much choice – the recent NatWest trouble is but a tiny hiccup compared with the cataclysm that would have ensued if the cashpoints had stopped working. And the model of letting a bank fail was tried in the US with Lehmann Brothers, and that didn’t prevent the unfolding crisis either. It’s all finger in the dam stuff, least bad options …

        So I very much doubt that we would be ‘just fine’ if the bailout hadn’t happened. Ultimately we will never know, but your view is not widely held in the mainstream.

        And if ‘no government can be trusted with any money that you cannot afford to use’, then what is the alternative model? Yes, they need to be watched, as do all powerful individuals and institutions – but a government is at least democratically accountable. So, rather that than outsourcing public services to institutions that aren’t. And rather a government that intervenes positively rather than one that just folds its arms and says, ‘sorry, the market is sovereign, not us’.

  7. Seems to be becoming a bit or a monologue(!) but if anyone was wondering about a public works programme for (say) wind farms, they might want to look at this first…

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1350811/In-China-true-cost-Britains-clean-green-wind-power-experiment-Pollution-disastrous-scale.html

    First forest cleared to grown ‘green’ biofuel, now people and land poisoned for ‘green’ windmills – the best thing the greens could do for the environment and the health of its creatures and plants seems to be to simply cease to exist… scheduled in for the next elections I believe…

  8. Just realised – you’ll all be out with UAF in Brighton hoping to get the big fight on our streets that you are all so looking forward to.

    If you UAF nutters keep turning out and making a big noise, I am sure the EDL nutters will take up your constant challenge and come down and the result will make the policing costs look like a bargain.

    Then won’t you be the clever ones – creating a problem so you can feel self important by going to oppose it every bank holiday…

    Its a shame the Greens and other miscellaneous lefties hate the city so much…

  9. I started reading this blog because it showed a fairly even handed and thoughtful analysis of local issues. A shame that the comments seem to be monopolised by negatively focused screeching at ‘how wrong’ ‘greens’, ‘lefties’ and whoever ‘UAFs’ might be, with boring and childish insults, and with quotes from the ‘Daily Mail’ (!). Disappointing.

    • Unfortunately, our esteemed Blogger’s recent silence has rather left the field open for Paul in particular to try and engage us in debate. Any blog will only reflect those that take part, and it is the Green Party supporters in particular who have slipped away from this particular blog.

      • Dr Faust, indeed I have just had a look here, and find that the comments are now much like the Argus Readers’. How would people like that come across on the doorsteps?

      • Why me ‘in particular’?

        Its quiet here (for some reason) and I raised several points that people could challenge if they disagree… theres been no challenge to the content, so I assume everyone agrees with me – which is excellent!

        If some people want to challenge the messenger rather than the message, I think we all know what that really means!

  10. I take it as a sign that the Blogger has been disheartened by the “readers’ comments” that we do not have here his/her view upon the Chief Executive’s leaving. For my part, I do not have any particular “take” on this. Part and parcel of a large organisation. JB (to use another Council term) and I met on buses – and talked of jazz, books, bikes, even the Council – and indeed of buses. Life moves on, perhaps more quickly than buses on Church Road. I wish him well, and I might even get to the Bauhaus exhibition at the Barbican before he does.

    • Greens cut his pay to help towards their ‘pay multiple target’ – which they now like to pretend was highest on TEN times pay of the lowest paid.

      However their manifesto was for EIGHT times… not TEN… They don’t like being reminded of that…

      They won’t like being reminded of their ‘excuses’ for keeping Barradell and the Strategic Directors either… it was… ‘because he was brought in to implement intelligent-commissioning and has spend the past x years putting everything in place so it can be delivered from mid 2012’.

      So why would corp of london want him, when he has delivered *NOTHING* of note in his current role?

      Slash and burn, get out before the chickens come home to roost – fully aided and abetted by Labour, Conservatives and Greens….

  11. Is there some way we could publicly fund the return of the Brighton Politics Blogger?

  12. Yes, come on blogger, give us your view on Barradell and the latest Dawn Barnett outrage. You are missed!

    • How right you are Clive. Brighton is so lucky to have the likes of ‘Boudicca’ Barnett sending forth her chariot out of Hangleton against all not painted in blue wode and for us reds to take pot shots at .Major redevelopment of Conway St should surely invite comment?
      Is Barradell a new Spainsh wine bar? Perhaps BPB is just engaged on something else-let’s hope so or there is a void needing to be filled.

  13. I think it can only be assumed that BPB has realised that (s)he has been backing the wrong horse all along it taking time to reflect before being reborn… UKIP is the only party not singing from the old failed hymn sheet, so where will BPB find him/her self now??

    Anyone going to talk up about rising global temperatures and the desperate need to cut carbon emissions? (other than to avoid moronic EU taxes of course…).

    Anyone going to talk up on cutting speed limits, making major roads single lane so stop/start behind buses and bikes? So increasing traffic emissions, and then complaining that pollution targets are being missed so EU fines/taxes will kick in again?

    No? Thought not…

    • No Paul, a line space in one of your posts does not equal general assent…

      If the BPB joins UKIP I will dance naked around the Peace Statue.

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