Thursday, 23 September 2010

Shame on the Minister who took down Keynes's picture..........

Several delegates at the Liverpool conference reported that a Liberal Minister in the Treasury had taken down a picture of Keynes and put up one of Gladstone . Shame on them. There is nothing wrong with Gladstone you understand -he did so much to usher in our representative democracy, establishing principle of universal franchise, secret ballot, decentralisation etc.  In foreign affairs his belief in an ethical policy and that our role lay in international co-operation especially in 'the concert of Europe' are core Liberal beliefs. In economic policy he was a man of his time and in his time the average life expectancy of a Victorian working man was only 35. The provision of services like pensions, health care were seen as no business of the state. Later generations of Liberal changed all that as one of them wrote:
'Conservatism leads nowhere; it satisfies no ideal; it conforms to no intellectual standard; it is not even safe, or calculated to preserve from spoilers that degree of civilization which we have already attained Half the copybook wisdom of our statesmen is based upon assumptions which were at one time true, or partly true, but are now less and less true day by day. We have to invent new wisdom for a new age. And in the meantime we must, if we are to do any good, appear unorthodox, troublesome, dangerous, disobedient to them that begat us'.
That man was Keynes. He was a Liberal and his ideas were first fully expressed by the Liberal Party in the Yellow Book of 1928 and the subsequent manifesto for the 1929 called 'We can Conquer Unemployed'
It is therefore scarcely necessary to say that it is not appropriate to just adopt the old 1929 policy un-amended but it would be wise to keep firm hold of the belief that governments can and should do something about the economy. We should strive to run the economy as if people matter. If the impact of the cuts is to pull us back into recession then we must be prepared to change tack. Let me finish (for the time being) with another quote from Keynes:
We believe with a passionate faith that the end of all political and economic action is not the perfecting or the perpetuation of this or that piece of  mechanism or organisation, but that individual men and women may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly'

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