Physically and mentally, I’m feeling fragile, at least in part because of my recent Covid infection; this virus doesn’t carry the menace of its predecessor, but should still be avoided in your eighties. Ailments I’m susceptible to, normally kept at bay, are paying unwelcome visits. Another ‘fragility’ comes from watching Russian tanks pound citizen housing in a European city; I believed we were more removed from such outrage.
Over the years, our global economy has been turbo-charged by the inclusion of China, India and the former Soviet bloc; Russian gas exports rose eight-fold; since 2000, until the present war, Ukrainian corn production rose ten-fold; there was more than enough for everyone – until the Chancellor’s spring statement brought home just how fragile the globalised economy is. All it takes is one unstable leader like Putin, suffering a late-life crisis, and the whole thing unravels; necessities like food and fuel are suddenly precarious for millions.
But our greatest crisis of fragility is what global warming is doing to our planet – with whole sections of society in determined denial. The Chancellor has budgeted £83billion this year to service UK borrowing (that’s not to repay loans, the £83billion is interest to bankers): down the centuries, surely the most powerful of vested interests, the money-lenders. Until someone invents a way to marketise degrowth (a contradiction), I don’t expect the financial sector to lift a finger to save the planet. It’s easier for some to consider the end of the world, than the end of capitalism.
With the demise of SENScot, the term social enterprise will gradually take on a different meaning in Scotland; Shona Robison, our third sector minister, seems to favour the English model of SE UK, which includes private businesses and public sector organisations. The SE community in England is much influenced by the social investment industry – linking with impact investment – an ‘asset class’ for mainstream financial markets. Is this then the vision of Scottish Govt for our own SE community moving forward? A move toward loan finance and the free market? What about the several thousand small, local organisations with no higher ambition than to provide a service.
Particularly with regard to energy and housing, the UK Co-operative sector has the potential to expand; Les Huckfield writes about some of the challenges in the current Tribune magazine: “Our co-operative and social enterprise sector has the potential to be a real alternative to neoliberalism – but it is too often captured within the free market dogma that it might replace”.
The Sunday morning political show, which Andrew Marr did for 16 years, will now be hosted by Laura Kuenssberg – which I think is a good choice. This particular media slot has become pivotal for me – the events and people who shape our politics. It is very important that the inquisitor combines intelligence, sufficient gravitas, and a well-parked ego. Go for it!
So many people changed employment last year, that it got called the ‘great resignation’; I enjoyed thinking that this trend was the pandemic causing people to re-evaluate their lives for something more fulfilling; but this Conversation review of the research suggest that, for most people, the reasons for job change were far less romantic than that.
Paul Waugh, in the ‘i’ this week, writes that Rishi Sunak should level with the public – that by reducing trade, Brexit has scarred our economy. It is rare to find balanced journalism, which honestly assesses the pros and cons of leaving Europe; the right-wing English establishment doesn’t like it. It is likely that an independent Scotland will apply to re-join.
This is the closing passage of Michael Sandel’s book ‘What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets’.
“Democracy does not require perfect equality, but it does require that citizens share in a common life. What matters is that people of different backgrounds and social positions encounter one another, and bump against one another, in the course of everyday life. For this is how we learn to negotiate and abide our differences, and how we come to care for the common good. And so, in the end, the question of markets is really a question about how we want to live together. Do we want a society where everything is up for sale? Or are there certain moral and civic goods that markets do not honor and money cannot buy?”.