This book does not call for a lurch back to the left, however. If politics is to be of any use in facing down the current crisis, it has to transcend the old, glib definitions of left and right. A new economic paradigm will produce a new political paradigm: one that has far greater moral ambition, one that recognizes that the twin goals of protecting personal freedoms and promoting social justice can be reconciled, and one that doesn’t offer an unhelpful choice between state ownership and regulation and unfettered free markets, or a compromise between the two.
None of the options currently on offer addresses fundamental problems with the economic system. The monetary system consistently fails to provide a stable monetary base. This has to change.
The taxation system taxes the wrong things – labour and enterprise – instead of consumption and resources. This places an unnecessary burden on wealth creation and encourages the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources. And the financial system fails to channel sufficient investment into productive enterprises, choosing instead to fund a gigantic global casino, entry into which is restricted to the already wealthy. Changes in each of these spheres would help us move towards an economy dominated by small-scale enterprises owned by the people who work in them. This would liberate communities from the pernicious power of unaccountable corporations and help bring the economy back under democratic control.
These may sound like radical proposals; their gradual imple-mentation would certainly lead to considerable social change, but that change would clearly benefit the majority of citizens in all countries. The only section of society that would need to make a sacrifice would be those among the top one per cent whose wealth is derived not from entrepreneurship or hard work but from the unjust and unsustainable process of making money out of money.
The consequences of not taking action are obvious: more of the same, but much worse. Inequality will continue to grow, poverty will continue to deepen, the symptoms of social breakdown will increase, and many more lives will be lost to the effects of environmental degradation. If you doubt this, or if you think this vision of the future is unavoidable whatever we do, then stop reading now because this book isn’t for you.
If, on the other hand, you believe in the possibility of progress towards a more just and inclusive society, one that rewards hard work and curtails the unearned wealth beloved of the elite, then keep on reading. Don’t be put off by those who claim a better world is impossible because of the failings of human nature, or because natural resources are running out, or levels of population growth are unsustainable. Each of these is a challenge that must be overcome. The world will never be perfect, but it could be a great deal better.
– Excerpt from Four Horsemen – The Survival Manual