It does not take an Einsteinian definition of insanity to realise that there is something profoundly wrong in one of the world’s richest economies when there is an ever-increasing demand for food banks. Yet on discovering that our financial markets do not work, somehow our governments of the past three decades have persevered with the same, misfiring model.
Fisher is a trades union policy adviser who lives in Croydon, and happily he has often contributed thought-provoking articles for this website. In this book, his first, he has expanded on many of the themes he has touched on in the past to describe how the financial crash of 2008 was not some unforeseen accident, but the inevitable consequence of government policies stretching back to the times of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
Chillingly and convincingly, Fisher essays how successive Thatcherite governments have, piece-by-piece, managed to drag back vast and valuable chunks of what were nationally owned assets, to turn them over to private interests. It is the Robin Hood effect in reverse: the robbing of the poor to hand over to the rich.
Fisher details Thatcher’s great economic experiment, the implementation of reductions in public services, the privatisation of industry and housing, labour market reforms and the deregulation of the finance sector. These “reforms” struck at the heart of the distantly remembered achievements of Clement Attlee’s 1945 government, and even the socially enlightened policies of the Labour government of the 1960s – progressive taxation, social security, state pension provision, public housing and workers’ rights.
Through the Loadsamoney boom of the 1980s and similar economic growth periods in the 1990s and 2000s, the Thatcherite experiment provided illusory success, sustained only by squandering state assets and North Sea oil revenues, a trick repeated into the 1990s and 2000s by debt-fuelled consumption and house price speculation.
Fisher’s book has been praised by figures from the Left: Labour MP John McDonnell called it “an excellent piece of work”; a review for the Morning Star described it as “a must-read analysis of the economic and social crises caused by an unchecked private sector, the rich-poor divide and the attack on employment rights” [pause for breath]. Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Croydon North and a leading light in the Bliarite Progress group within Labour, has as yet had nothing to say on the work.
For Fisher’s book is just as critical of recent Labour party politics as it is of the 18-year term of Tory domination at Westminster, when the notion that capitalism and privatisation could do no wrong held sway.
Anyone who has ever seen Peter Sellars’ last movie, Being There, will already be familiar with the Dystopian vision of government which Fisher holds. In the film, Sellars plays an naif, Chancy, uneducated and innocent, who works as a gardener for the rich and influential on the American east coast.
Chancy’s quiet pauses and odd sayings, misunderstood by his well-to-do employers for pieces of great profundity, see him introduced into the political elite and propelled, in the interests of big business, towards the big job at the White House. Once installed as a puppet President, his strings are pulled. The film was released at around the time Reagan was about to become the most powerful man in the world, and so was utterly convincing. Any re-make might have starred George W Bush.
Fisher’s view is clear: after four decades of handing over slabs of the country’s industries and utilities to corporations, it is now these multi-nationals who control Britain, not our government. Why else, for instance, would the nation have to endure four years of “austerity” measures, when the public effectively owns large chunks of the banking sector, but where the “bad old” bankers’ bonuses continue to be paid out as if the crash had never happened?
Where Fisher really succeeds is in the manner in which he presents his arguments, involving often complex economic issues, using straightforward and accessible language. He even suggests one or two radical solutions.
- The Failed Experiment And How To Build A Future That Works by Andrew Fisher (Comerford and Miller, £9.95 ). Order your copy online here
- The council’s in a hole, and yet they still keep on digging
- Read other previous columns by Andrew Fisher here
Coming to Croydon
- Norwood Society Talk: The Concrete Church, June 19
- David Lean Cinema: Suzanne, June 19
- Airport House swing dance free event, June 21
- Classic Car Show at Purley Rotary Fields, June 22
- David Lean Cinema: Feet from Stardom, June 23
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
- David Lean Cinema: The Lunchbox, June 26
- Warnings to the Curious, Spread Eagle Theatre, June 27
- St Peter’s Village Fayre, South Croydon, June 28
- South Norwood Allotments open day, June 28
- Fragile, Spread Eagle Theatre, July 24-26
- Coast to Capital business briefing, July 4
- CODA’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at Wandle Park, Jul 30-Aug 2
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, Aug 10
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
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