The Times They Are A-Changin’ (or are they?)

As Jo Caulfield rather pithily observed on Radio 4’s News Quiz the other week, you know you’re living in changing times when the US is nationalising its banks and Russia is full of oil-rich capitalists.

Then again, there’s more than a whiff of plus ça change about our current economic plight…

“Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men…

Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money…

They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.”

Spookily apposite words from Franklin D Roosevelt’s inaugural address in 1933 – especially today, as Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling plough £37bn of taxpayers’ money into RBS, HBOS and Lloyds TSB in an effort to thaw frozen money markets.

So, is this really the end of an era, or (to quote another song title) just a little bit of History Repeating?

Sadly, I suspect the latter.

I doubt there’s ever been a better opportunity to challenge economic orthodoxy – beginning with the recognition that infinite economic growth is simply not possible within a closed and finite ecosystem.

Yet, even now, there’s no evidence to suggest that the politicians are ready to reshape their attitudes towards growth – e.g. what we should be growing and for whose benefit?

The truly visionary approach would be to seek to reshape the global financial system – one driven by the imperative to grow human, social and natural capital, rather than just making ever more money for the people who already have lots of it.

Instead, we have emergency measures that look to be little more than a sticking plaster and – in the absence of that alternative vision that Roosevelt referred to – it feels like it won’t be long before we’re back to business as usual.


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