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The Courageous State

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  • Posted May 15, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Fine study of necessary reforms

    Richard Murphy is a political economist, chartered accountant and an adviser to the TUC and others. His Tax Research UK blog is ranked the UK’s number 1 economics blog. In this fascinating book, he refutes in detail the libertarian view of the state and presents excellent arguments against the whole range of Thatcherite, neo-liberal policies which have created a ‘feral, neoliberal state’. Capitalism is destroying government to give our tax revenues to private companies. So we now hugely subsidise the private sector, for example, we gave £38 billion to the pensions industry in 2008. Murphy points out, “profit maximisation … increases the well-being of the tiny minority at the expense of the rest of society.” From 1996-97 to 2007-08, the top 0.5 per cent’s incomes grew far more than the economy as a whole, while the incomes of 99.3 per cent of us grew less. The over-large financial sector crowds out the productive sector. Speculative investment grows at the expense of the real investment that creates jobs. This leads to more inequality and so to worse human and social outcomes, as Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett showed in their fine book, The Spirit Level. Markets breed monopoly and monopoly breeds what Murphy calls ‘feral finance’. Every working day $4 trillion is traded in speculation, $1 quadrillion a year, 16 times world GDP. World debt is $150 trillion. With interest at 6 per cent, that yields $9 trillion interest a year, taking 15 per cent of world income from poor to rich. Murphy urges us to ban short selling, split up the banks, end tax havens, impose capital controls, stop buy-to-let, stop privatisations, cancel all PFI and PPP contracts, and create a state investment bank. We should revive apprenticeships, set a maximum for working hours, and restore free higher education, local democracy and social housing. He also proposes that we fund investment by getting the Bank of England to lend to the Treasury. This would break EU laws, which require these loans to be routed solely through commercial banks, via ‘Quantitative Easing’ that profits these banks while not benefiting the rest of us. If the Bank printed money, we could invest what we wanted, without adding to the debt.

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