Build Back Fairer: the new mantra for now

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This title is about health equity issues, however, not building better houses. Professor Sir Michael Marmot, author of the Marmot Review – Health Equity in England Ten Years On which was published in February this year, has led a follow-up study called Build Back Fairer: The Covid-19 Marmot Review.

The new report highlights how inequalities in social-economic conditions before the pandemic contributed to the high and unequal death toll from Covid-19.

The enduring social and economic inequalities in society mean that the health of the public was threatened before and during the pandemic and will be after. Just as we needed better management of the nation’s health during the pandemic, so we need national attention to the causes of health inequalities.

Professor Marmot is as unflattering here about the present state of affairs as he was in his ten-year report. He writes, “Poor management of the pandemic was of a piece with England’s health improvement falling behind that with other rich countries in the decade since 2010”. That, he recalled, was for several reasons including that “the quality of governance and political culture did not give priority to the conditions for good health”, that there was increasing inequality in economic and social conditions, a rise in poverty among families with children, plus a policy of austerity and consequent cuts to funding of public services.

“Addressing all of these needs to be at the heart of what needs to change if we are to build a fairer, healthier society as we emerge from the pandemic,” he writes. As the previous report had shown, life expectancy had stalled in more deprived areas, with life expectancy at birth differing by 12 years between the most and least deprived local authorities in England in 2018. It had pointed out the harmful effects of poverty on health, and showed that some ethnic groups, particularly of Black and Bangladeshi and Pakistan origin, had much higher rates of poverty than others. Now the new report shows that Covid-19 has demonstrated and amplified such inequalities.

Analysis of risk factors for Covid-19 mortality clearly shows that risks are much higher for those living in more deprived areas, in overcrowded housing, in key worker roles with close proximity to others, being from BAME groups, having underlying health conditions, as well as being older and male.

Moreover,

Overcrowded living conditions and poor-quality housing are associated with higher risks of mortality from Covid-19 and these are more likely to be located in deprived areas and inhabited by people with lower incomes.

This is a dense review, 221 pages long, which can only be touched on here. So, finally, what does Professor Marmot recommend should be done to Build Back Better?

He writes, “Public Health needs to develop capacity and expand focus on social determinants of health. The pandemic highlights how poverty, deprivation, employment and housing are closely related to health.” The recommendations do not much change the past imperatives, but urgently reinforce the need for them, and for a wide-ranging approach to reducing health inequality with its accompanying social ills.

“The pandemic must be taken as an opportunity to build a fairer society”, he concludes. “In Building Back Fairer we must accept the growing recognition worldwide, that economic growth is a limited measure of societal success.” He states that there must be first of all “commitment to social justice and putting equity of health and wellbeing at the heart of all policy-making, nationally, regionally and locally.”

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* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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38 Comments

  • Helen Dudden 17th Dec '20 - 4:59pm

    This article says it all. There was guidelines produced on the need to improve out dated property.
    Proper affordable heating, and I do support Greg’s on the breakfast clubs.
    We must improve health care, this approach of lock downs, crashing businesses, is one I can’t accept.
    The photograph says it all how many are beginning to feel.

  • Helen is right. About 29,000 extra deaths in England and Wales took place last year due to inadequate heating. Green zealots insist that renewable energy prices are tumbling but this is not true. When you add incentive subsidies and green taxes and payment when the wind is not blowing plus the cost of non-intermittent sources on standby, the cost is about double that of an efficient generator.

    Germany, probably the leader in wind turbine generation, now has the most expensive electricity in Europe.

  • Katharine does well to remind us of the Marmot Report, and as a former Chair of a Foodbank I’d like to add a recent reminder from the Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank.

    It is now more common for people using food banks to be in debt to the government than to family and friends or payday loan companies, according to the Trussell Trust. They report that half of all households visiting food banks struggled to afford essential goods such as food and clothes because they were repaying universal credit debts.

    Monthly deductions taken from claimants’ payments – in most cases to pay back a universal credit advance loan – could reduce household incomes by up to a third.

    The trust has called on ministers to freeze all universal credit deductions to give struggling families a financial breathing space. It argues it is unreasonable to expect them to be able to repay debts when they cannot afford basic essentials. The most common deduction made by the Department for Work and Pensions is made in repayment of advance loans issued to tide claimants over during the minimum five-week wait for a first universal credit payment. Deductions are also made for benefit overpayment errors.

    A record 5.7 million people were supported by universal credit in October – a near doubling since March, when lockdown began to take its toll on the economy. About 1.3 million new claimants were issued with advances between March and June.

    The Trussell Trust states : “Our welfare system should increase people’s security, not suffering. But right now the government is taking money from the benefit payments of many people using food banks,”. “Taking money off payments to repay these debts makes it much harder for people to afford the essentials and can impact on people’s mental health – this isn’t OK.

    “With the pandemic continuing to hit people’s incomes, the government must pause taking money from benefit payments over the winter months until a more responsible and just system that offers security and support is in place. This would help people on the lowest incomes to keep every penny of their benefits to help afford the absolute essentials, instead of needing to turn to a food bank for help.”

    I hope all Lib Dems will write to their M.P.’s of whatever party to press for change.

    As Charles Dickens wrote over 177 years ago : “God bless us all”, said Tiny Tim.

  • ..

  • Steve Trevethan 17th Dec '20 - 8:45pm

    Thank you for an important and interesting article!

    Might we also look at the roles of finance in the increasing impoverishment of our people?

    The “Finance Capitalism” supported by the three main U.K. political parties, directs finance to the well off, to the cost of the not well off. And, as this article makes clear, the cost to the already disadvantaged is sometimes deadly.

    Quantitative Easing makes capitalism more unequal than it would naturally be.
    Used to rescue the banks, in the totally avoidable finance crisis of 2008, Q.E. drove up share prices. Over 50% of shares are owned by people who are not U. K. residents. 2.4% are owned by pension funds.

    What does the “second hand” share market contribute to our much needed productive enterprise?

    Might we promote “Industrial Capitalism” in contrast to our currently imposed “Finance Capitalism”?
    https://michael-hudson.com/

  • The reality is that poorer people tend to have worse health. The causes of this are clear. They do not have the resources to access good housing, good food, and so tend to live with higher stress levels than those who are richer.
    The party seems to have decided not to talk seriously at its conferences about poverty, and how to eliminate it.
    Unless we can show ourselves the importance of having policies to try to deal with this issue there is little that we have to offer,

  • Peter Martin 18th Dec '20 - 6:21am

    The Pandemic has made us a more unequal society so it’s important to recognise that it’s not simply a matter of going back to the situation of March 2020 when the virus is finally brought under control.

    The Govt’s deficit has increased by about £300 billion due to various lockdowns etc. That’s simply money spent into the economy which hasn’t been returned in taxation. If that money was equally shared we’d all, in financial terms, be getting on for £5000 better off.

    But many are much worse off. So some must have come out of it much better than average!

    Now, despite what Rishi Sunak might publicly say about not wanting to return to Austerity, a closer look at his intentions reveals that he’s keen to start getting some of the £300 billion back with increased taxes and more spending cuts. He was recently quoted by the Spectator as saying:

    “It is clearly not sustainable to borrow at these levels. I don’t think morally, economically or politically it would be right.” and that the UK should be “building up the resilience you need to deal with the future shock that will come along”.

    With inflation at 0.3% p.a. , which is 1.7% below target, there is clearly no need to put the fiscal brakes on at the moment. But Tory chancellors are Tory chancellors. There is something in their DNA which means they don’t like the idea of Govt borrowing. They start spouting nonsense about “resiliance”, “fiscal headroom”, “structural deficits” etc etc. Many in other parties go along with it all. What happened to Joe Bourke BTW?

    So in other words, Rishi Sunak will increase taxation and make spending cuts which will mean that those who have lost money during the Pandemic will be even worse off than they were and those who are better off will be largely untouched.

    Inequality is set to worsen.

  • Peter Martin 18th Dec '20 - 8:44am

    @ Steve,

    “Quantitative Easing makes capitalism more unequal than it would naturally be.”

    Not necessarily.

    In a narrow definition of the term QE is simply the purchase of bonds by the BoE. So neither the seller nor the borrower end up any different than they were. It’s just an asset swap. In a broader definition the Treasury enters the picture as a seller of new bonds which buyers will pay more for than they would – safe in the knowledge that they can resell to the BoE.

    The purpose of it all is to lower longer term interest rates which is what naturally happens when bonds are sold at a higher price. Whether lower interest rates benefit the rich more than the poor is debatable. Certainly many are struggling to meet mortgage repayments at the moment so wouldn’t welcome higher rates.

    Of course lower rates do change market conditions which the financial sector can then take advantage of. One way is for companies to borrow money cheaply which they then use to buy back their own shares and so force up their price. But possibly they are just creating a bubble and overvalued shares will return to what they should be soon enough.

    It should have some benefits too. There’s no need for Govts to pay more interest than it needs to. Savings could be passed on to those repaying student loans for example. If Govt borrowing is at 0% there’s no justification for students to be charged 5%.

  • @Peter

    I think that you are conflating “excess winter deaths” (EWD) with deaths from inadequate heating. EWD is how many more deaths there are in winter compared to the summer and there were indeed 28,300 excess winter deaths last winter but they can fluctuate a lot. Most EWDs are caused by things like seasonal flu being more prevalent in winter.

    The charity National Energy Action estimates that there are 3,000 deaths a year directly from inadequate heating – obviously 3,000 is 3,000 too many but 90% less than the figure you quoted and in the context of 66 million people. There *may* be more people who die from indirect causes of inadequate heating – possibly around 1/3rd of the EWD total but in general I would surmise that this is quite difficult to disentangle from other sources such as generally poor quality housing.

    On green energy – the first thing “green zealots” would advocate is insulating properties properly and indeed this would massively help those in fuel poverty.

    Renewable energy is now thought to be competitive with fossil fuel. I am no electricity infrastructure engineer (!) but a little search of the internet indicates that baseload can be met in large part by renewables and there are ways of configuring the whole system better. Some renewable sources – thermal, hydro etc. are particularly good at meeting a spike or providing a baseload. Linking together wind farms effectively provides a “baseload” and less intermittent generation. And while it may not be sunny every day in Britain when it is sunny it is during the day (surprisingly not at night!) and we mostly use electricity during the day. But batteries for storage have improved greatly and are likely to improve even more.

    @Peter Martin

    I am not sure whether covid has made us a more unequal economy – normally in recessions economies become more equal as people on high earnings move from astronomical to just high!

    I think you are missing out of your figures – the hole created by the recession (which has then been filled by the Government borrowing).

    But you are right on borrowing. The fear is deflation not inflation. And it is cheaper for the government to borrow and do something today than tomorrow with negative real interest rates – such as… um… insulating people’s homes.

  • John Marriott 18th Dec '20 - 9:40am

    I see that Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comments about UNICEF’s aid programme targeted at the U.K. have rightly brought cries of indignation. I supposed it could be argued that this noble organisation is producing the funds to help to feed children, while the Minister for the 18th Century, with his burgeoning family, is producing the children!

  • Richard Underhill 18th Dec '20 - 10:28am

    Katharine Pindar | Thu 17th December 2020 – 4:21 pm
    If any body wants to say that Sweden handled the virus threat better than other states they should check with the recent, rare, statement from the KIng of Sweden apologising for their failure.
    “King” is a four letter word which is underlined in red on the spell-checker.
    Can this be corrected please?

  • Richard Underhil 18th Dec '20 - 10:39am

    Peter Martin 18th Dec ’20 – 6:21am
    “It is clearly not sustainable to borrow at these levels.”
    The USA is likely to need to do more and is likely to pass the Senate,
    all because of the incompetence of the outgoing President about the Pandemic.
    The Senate majority have been stubbornly stupid about the impeachment of Donald Trump as the patiently expert massive Russian cyber-hack has shown, affecting all the allies of the USA.
    Japan has not been included, they have luckily been excluded from Five-Eyes.

  • The money thrown at the present crisis proves that with the necessary will there would and should be no need for so many to live in poverty. Whatever our position in life that is the least we expect from the government!

  • Richard Underhill 18th Dec '20 - 10:45am

    The attempted impeachment of the obviously incompetent Donald Trump was rejected by the US Senate. With hindsight the huge cyber hack demonstrates that they were wrong.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Dec '20 - 10:46am

    ‘Building up the resilience you need to deal with the future shock’, Rishi Sunak’s advice to the country, is not something people on Universal Credit can possibly do. So many of them, as Davud Raw points out, are struggling to pay back the advance loans they had to take out from the system after having to wait weeks for the first scheduled payment. The Trussell Trust is saying, taking back loan payments should at least be paused for the winter months. People already shocked to find how much they are expected to live on during months of unemployment should not have to be struggling to repay the loans from the money they need for food and other essentials. We should surely also demand that grants, not loans, should be made when people face sudden difficulties, as for instance when essential household equipment breaks down or their family circumstances sharply worsen. We need a more compassionate welfare system.

  • Richard Underhill 18th Dec '20 - 10:53am

    Did anyone see a programme about a female priest who wanted a bus service in the village?
    Her political bias was about the Sermon on the Mount,
    A Conservative won the local election.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Dec '20 - 12:47pm

    People living in poverty to tend to have poor health, you are so right. Tom Harney. And I do agree with you that our party is not talking seriously enough about the problems of poverty and how to eliminate it. I’d like us to adopt the Oxfam slogan, We won’t live with poverty. Going beyond words to action for us also, Michael BG and I have written a new motion for Spring Conference calling for the working out of a new Beveridge-type Plan for a renewed national Social Contract. Chief among the aims of the Plan we want the party to work out will be how to eliminate poverty, which is the equivalent of Beveridge’s first Great Evil which he called Want. We think the example of Beveridge, who wrote for the aftermath of the Second World War, should inspire us now for the post-Covid and also of course also post-Brexit hard times the country is going to face in 2021. Our party can and surely should take a lead now in demanding better times for the poorest and most disadvantaged people of our country, and forming a Beveridge-2 Plan and campaigning for it will give a structure for doing so.

  • Peter Martin 18th Dec '20 - 1:00pm

    @ Michael1,

    “I am not sure whether covid has made us a more unequal economy”

    It’s not so much the Covid per se. It’s a combination extra Govt spending and reduced Govt taxation receipts. So that extra spending has to have gone somewhere and someone is paying less tax than they used to. So it must follow that there is an extra amount of money in the economy which could lead to extra inflation. We all know of many who have less money than they did before so it must follow that many are better off than they were. They are perhaps receiving their pensions as usual and aren’t spending on new cars, restaur and holidays which would generate VAT receipts.

  • Richard Underhil 18th Dec '20 - 1:03pm

    Please also note the decision of the UK Supreme Court on air quality, over-riding the court of Appeal.
    A nine year old girl needed to walk to school along the busy South Circular Road.

  • Peter Hirst 18th Dec '20 - 1:22pm

    Recovering from the pandemic allows us to create a fairer, more socially just society that also address other major concerns such as climate change, trafficking and international issues. Importantly, it might be our best chance to have a more resilient society that is better equipped to tackle the threats that it will face in coming years. Having a fairer, freer and happier society is not only desirable in its own right but also will equip us better for the future.

  • Steve Trevethan 18th Dec '20 - 4:27pm

    Indeed, Q.E. has plural purposes and consequences, stated and unstated, overt and covert.

    Despite the 2008 crisis being the fault of the banks, H M G chose to rescue the banks and their financial backers using Q.E. It managed the price of long term interest rates and contributed to a rise in share prices through putting “national” money into the “Financial Economy”.
    This made some, if not all, wealthy people wealthier.
    Did H M G know this would happen?

    It also took money out of the “Real Economy” by imposing increased poverty on the already poor, through “Austerity”.

    This also brought benefits to the “Financial Economy” as the poor were effectively, if not theoretically, pushed further into debt, for which they have to pay increasing debt charges.
    Did H M G know this would happen?

    Poverty contributes debt and debt contributes to poverty.

    Why did H M G choose to Q. E. support the “Financial Economy” and not the “Real Economy” and the “Economy of the Natural World”?

    Increasing “Survival Debt” is an indicator of flawed economic policy. Rectifying such is an essential efficiency as well as proper behaviour.

    Is there a deep trans-party government policy to prefer the “Financial Economy” to the disadvantage of the other two?

  • Sue Sutherland 18th Dec '20 - 4:38pm

    Of course Katharine is right and I much admire the work she and Michael B.G. are doing to bring the party back to an anti poverty stance.
    Can I suggest, as a practical measure that all we old fogies who comment here, who receive a winter fuel allowance but don’t actually need the money, should donate it to their local food bank or to the Trussell Trust, or to a community group trying to help those who are falling through the existing safety net.

  • @Peter Martin

    ….. um

    I am not sure there is extra money in the economy because GDP is considerably down. If there was it would be up.

    I am trying to think this through. And as a simplified example suppose there is one restaurant affected by covid that has to shut and the employees have to be furloughed. Suppose for simplicity that it is only frequented by pensioners whose sole income is the state pension.

    The pensioners can’t visit the restaurant. The Bank of England “prints” some money (generates some figures on a computer). The government then pays the restaurant workers 80% of their wages. The economy is then down by the wages. The pensioners have more cash but they get the same value out of having it as savings as spending it on a meal out. I can’t see that anyone is better off in this scenario.

    Now things can “unwind” again in time when things return to normal . The pensioners have savings so they can afford more meals out. The restaurant workers earn more money. The Government takes that money in tax and repays the Bank of England. Although as we have said before Governments especially those that have their own currency can create their own money so it may not need to.

    Now life is more complicated than this! In particular there are capital goods that are not being used productively – machines, cookers, kitchens, buildings. There are negative multipliers – the restaurant workers have 20% less to spend in the wider economy so that economy is down and so on.

    But in short there is idle spare capacity – labour and capital goods that are lying idle at the moment.

    If a large number of people become unemployed there is a surplus of labour so it is likely that wages will be forced down for at least a while. And consumer confidence will go down as people will fear that they will be made unemployed and as we discuss in the rest of this thread – welfare benefits are not super-generous! And if consumer spending is down that has a large effect on the economy. A large part of what we saw in the 30s until Keynes came along and said were there is idle capacity it makes sense for the Government to use that.

    Now it is not to say that there are not winners and losers. And those that have continued to be work and get 100% of their wages – probably have accumulated savings as there is less to spend it on – especially on nights out.

    @John Marriott

    LOL !!!!!

    Very good 🙂 !!!!!

  • Steve Trevethan 18th Dec '20 - 7:09pm

    “Progress in tackling inequality was never gifted by political leaders. It was won through people power.”
    Ben Phillips author of “How to Fight Inequality” which is well worth reading and using!

  • Peter Chambers 18th Dec '20 - 9:27pm

    @Steve Trevethan

    I would be happy to use the term Industrial Capitalism to describe the economic activity that led to the building of mills, roads, canals, railways during the Industrial Revolution and afterwards.

    Confusing this with Financial Capitalism is a trick similar to pretending that the Adam Smith Institute studies the work of Adam Smith.

  • Peter Martin 18th Dec '20 - 9:38pm

    @ Michael1

    “I am not sure there is extra money in the economy because GDP is considerably down. If there was it would be up..”

    No because GDP only registers when money moves. ie when people spend. So its quite possible for the Govt to deficit spend more money into the economy but if it doesn’t move afterwards then it won’t do anything for GDP. If it moves too much we could have an inflation problem. So Govt’s are really in charge as much as some might think. It’s what we do that matters just as much -if not more.

    @ Katharine,

    With the proviso expressed above, Govts should try their utmost and do what it takes to keep the economy buoyant after the virus is brought under control. That’s not going to completely eliminate poverty but it will be the most effective way to limit it. We’ve all seen, during our lifetimes, that poverty is much worse when the economy stagnates.

    Keep it from stagnating and we’ll all be in a better position to help those who won’t naturally benefit from increased earning potential.

  • Katharine Pindar 19th Dec '20 - 11:01am

    Poor-quality housing is one of many conditions adding to the deadly effects of the Virus mentioned in Build Back Fairer. It is the breadth of Professor Marmot’s study and vision in his two reports this year on health equity in England which make the reports such worthwhile reading. He links social and economic conditions strongly with health inequality, and writes that “to build back fairer from the pandemic, multi-sector action from all sectors of levels of government is needed”. The new review has large sections on the need to improve early-years and later childhood education. And, writing in The Guardian on Tuesday, (December 15), Professor Marmot mentions the necessity of “ensuring wages (or benefits for those who cannot work) are sufficient to lead a healthy life”.

    But how is all this range of necessities for action by progressive politicians to be tackled? I suggest the ideas of another brilliant knight of the realm who wrote a report nearly eighty years ago are entirely relevant. Sir William Beveridge organised necessities for action under five headings, eliminating want, disease, squalor, ignorance and idleness. A new Beveridge-2 Plan can organise actions needed under the equivalent headings of today, namely poverty, health, housing, education and employment. They are all linked, as Professor Marmot shows, and a structure for tackling all the problems arising in these social and economic conditions can be met in the proposed Plan. The working-out and developing of this I ask our party to take on.

  • Steve Trevethan 19th Dec '20 - 3:59pm

    Industrial Capitalism refers to an economic and social system in which trade and capital are privately controlled and operated for a profit.
    https://www.answers.com/Q/What_does_industrial_capitalism_mean

    Finance/Financial Capitalism is the subordination of processes of production to the accumulation of money profits in a financial system.
    https://www.bing.com/search?q=finance+capitalism&form=ANNTH1&refig=43d02c0840fb4df9a34b4281d4fc19d7&sp=-1&pq=finance+capitalism&sc=8-18&qs=n&sk=&cvid=43d02c0840fb4df9a34b4281d4fc19d7

  • Katharine Pindar 19th Dec '20 - 9:40pm

    We have to work within a capitalist system, Steve, but I believe we should continuously modify it. So, if now consumer spending exceeds spending money available through work, it seems to me that we need better-paying work, perhaps by government clamping down on the gig economy with its blurring of the boundaries between employment in a company and self-employment. I suppose we don’t want to curb consumer spending, so long as it is keeping home industries productive (there was a Buy British slogan prevalent once, which Brexiteers probably enjoyed).

    I am venturing here on economic questions where I am no expert. But fostering employment opportunities which are sustainable and well-enough paid and which are within the carbon-limiting necessities is surely a task for government, national and local, and so should be part of a Beveridge-2 Plan. Lib Dems would want to impress such ideas on this government, which is unlikely to be thinking of upping the wages of the poorest workers in any near future.

    Sue Sutherland – thank you for your kind words, Sue. And I am sure many of us will do as you suggest and give to some good cause excess pensioner profits from government schemes. But 1.3 million of the last-counted 14.4 million British people living in poverty were still pension-age adults, though the proportion has happily fallen in the last few years, thanks it seems to the triple-lock provision. To compare figures, 8.5 million of working-age adults were found to be living in poverty, 22% of the whole working -age population, according to the Social Metrics Commission report of earlier this year.

  • Another example of why some of us life-long Liberals find it hard to forgive the Lib-Dem Coalition years :

    The Guardian : Toby Helm and Michael Savage Sat 19 Dec 2020 17.53 GMT :

    “Children living in temporary homes increased by 75% in a decade. Fears for families spending lockdown in cramped B&Bs, while charities expect to see more young people sleeping rough

    The number of new rough sleepers has risen in London this year amid the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic.

    The number of children living in temporary accommodation has risen by more than 75% since the Tories came to power in 2010, despite the government’s repeated claims to be tackling homelessness and child poverty. Figures unearthed by Labour from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show the number of children without a permanent home rose from 72,590 in the second quarter of 2010 to 128,200 in the first quarter of 2020. The latest figures also reveal that the number of households in temporary accommodation has increased by 83% over the past decade.

    Helen Barnard, director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said: “These figures show there was an unacceptable rise in the number of families experiencing homelessness even before Covid-19 hit, and we know the pandemic has hit private renters hard.” Vast numbers of people in rented accommodation were approaching Christmas in despair. “Polling by JRF last month found millions of people anxious about paying the rent over winter, and 700,000 households already in arrears,” she added.

  • Steve Trevethan 20th Dec '20 - 1:11pm

    “Capitalisms come with all forms and devices!
    Some are quite good
    And do as they should.
    Others are bad and steal prizes!”

    Yes, we can and should work for economically and socially sound forms of economic theory and practices.
    We have got some way in undermining prejudice so we can do the same with inequality. (See “How to Fight Inequality” by B. Phillips)

    A form of capitalism which might be of interest is the “Cooperative Capitalism” practiced in the Cornish Tin Mines in the 17th and18th centuries. It would need work on the social domain but was a profoundly profitable business approach. Advances in steam engine design were shared between all the mines so that all became more efficient. It is described in a book by M. Boldrin and D. Levine entitled “Against Intellectual Monopoly” which has useful ideas for making capitalism more efficient by making it more socially equitable.

    Perhaps two of the big cheats of currently powerful “Neoliberal Economics” are that economics needs minimal regulation and that it should be as obscure as possible?
    If so it is unlike pretty well every other social activity.
    Perhaps what is needed is optimal regulation so that, unlike current neoliberal economics, the economy serves the society and not the other way round?

    Perhaps we might think more in terms of resources rather than dodgy book-keeping?
    Our best resource is our people whom we should make sure are healthy, well housed and educated and employed usefully and interestingly and with decent pay, terms and conditions? (See “The Deficit Myth” by Stephanie Kelton)

    P. S. for K.P. Currently you are better off not being an “Economics Expert” as current orthodox economics is too concerned to promote the interests of the “status quo”. Your
    excellent articles show that you could be a formidable “Economic Impert”
    https://www.definitions.net/definition/impert
    Please read some interesting heretical economics writers such as M. Hudson and S. Keen and try the “Introducing” Comic Books featuring economics and economists. Then you will have more and powerful tools with which to advance your crucial cause!
    https://www.introducingbooks.com/
    They are a delightful doorway to being better able to interrogate current economics which gives a great grip on economics!

  • Katharine Pindar 20th Dec '20 - 10:27pm

    David Raw. Thank you for this latest information on homelessness, David. It’s a great shame that so many people have to approach Christmas in temporary accommodation or with fear of eviction through rent arrears. We owe much to Joseph Rowntree Foundation research.

    I was just alerted to their Destitution in the UK 2020 report, which makes very troubling reading: it records that ‘even before the Covid-19 outbreak destitution was rapidly growing in scale and intensity. Since 2017 many more households, including many families with children, have been pushed to the brink.’ Though it acknowledges that the UK and devolved governments have quickly provided temporary lifelines, it calls for more sustained efforts to keep people afloat.

    Among its recommendations are that the temporary increase in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit be permanent, and that the five-week wait for the first UC payment be cut (Lib Dem policy is to three weeks I think), showing that the wait is ‘a core driver of destitution’. The report also calls for local welfare assistance., ensuring that every English local authority has a scheme to provide direct support , including cash, to households in crisis situations, and for the establishing of a targeted grant programme to support both private and social renters who have fallen into arrears. Finally, and equally important perhaps, it suggests that there should be extended employment rights for low-paid workers with strong and effective enforcement. We surely do need to focus with JRF on limiting the gig economy.

  • Katharine Pindar 20th Dec '20 - 10:38pm

    Steve, thank you for commenting again, and for your kind words! I am always a bit baffled by the breadth and diversity of your suggestions, and think perhaps that it is you that deserve the ‘impert’ name, whereas my further ventures into economic propositions might rather be called ‘impert-inent’! I like the look of the Comic Books, and I have some idea of writers you mention, but fear that delving into more books is impractical for me.

    Whatever happened to the idea of Christmas leisure to read books? Ah well, I suppose it vanished with the idea of an extended Christmas holiday. Poor Tier 4 people, forced to stay home, may one hopes find some consolation in books as well as media resources. (I hope you will have a good Christmas yourself.)

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Dec '20 - 3:40pm

    As we are barred in our homes for Christmas, and as Britain is fenced in by other countries fearing the new strain of the Virus, it’s going to take a great national co-operative effort to get us safely through the next two weeks. The necessary emphasis on supporting the hard–pressed NHS workers, dealing simultaneously with increased Covid cases and sharing out the Vaccine, will have to be accompanied by care for our communities, and our neighbours with the most severe problems, whether social, medical or economic.

    I think the Liberal Democrats will play the part we should. Our emphasis on helping the poorest and most disadvantaged families will be of a kind with Marcus Rashford’s effort to ensure no child goes hungry. We may be able to spend some of the enforced leisure, if not only in physically helping locally, but also perhaps in looking afresh at our policies and how they can be developed to meet the crying national needs of our citizens in the coming year. We have the values and the heart to lead, and people will give us the support a relevant progressive programme will deserve.

  • Peter Hirst 22nd Dec '20 - 1:50pm

    As I am sure others have posted, a fairer society is a more united and resilient one. With climate change rushing down on us and the effects of Brexit uncertain and certainly undesired at least economically, we need a society where everyone feels included and eager to play their part. We can’t all be famous politicians, entrepreneurs or award winners but we can all feel part of the whole and coming together to conquer adversity is possibly the strongest unifying force available.

  • Katharine Pindar 22nd Dec '20 - 11:20pm

    Yes, Peter, well said. And I think the mood of the nation will be with us when we seek that fairer society which has been so lacking. The national situation in these mid-winter weeks may well evoke the kind of spirit they had in the great wars, with that resolve to conquer adversity which as you say may be the strongest unifying force possible.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Dec '20 - 9:15am

    @ Katharine and Steve,

    You’ll probably be asked “where is the money going to come from?”

    Richard Murphy and, indirectly Neil Wilson, explain the detail of how the BoE can always provide whatever money is needed! Good eh!

    So money isn’t an object. Just the potential inflationary consequences that spending too much can bring. The latter is sometimes ignored by fringe devotees of MMT but not by the more serious minded of academic opinion. Which is why MMT doesn’t favour the introduction of a UBI.

    Incidentally you’ll like Richard’s pro EU stance! I was going to add my tuppence worth but I’ve been banned for expressing eurosceptic views. And so has Neil!

    https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2020/12/22/uk-law-has-already-enacted-modern-monetary-theory-and-was-last-updated-to-do-so-in-2000/

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Dec '20 - 10:52am

    Peter Martin. Thanks for putting in your two-pennorth as ever, Peter, and thank you everyone who has contributed to this thread. As to paying for the needed reforms, I saw that a writer in The Times was advocating a sudden wealth tax. Only he was thinking of starting to pay off the huge deficit, which of course we are not!

    Interesting article by Daniel Finkelstein in that paper a week ago, pointing out to the Brexiteers that their economic aims and political aims are simply incompatible, and that Britain and the EU actually both want ‘broad adherence to the European model’. After all the pain just now, perhaps Remainers will be seen to win the substance in the end.

    Happy Christmas, everyone. I hope you are able to enjoy the one Day.

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