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I have been asked a couple of times to comment on the Truss Government’s self-defined ‘growth’ strategy, which so far has met with fear and scorn in some circles, and an instantly tanked pound which hurts energy prices and other imports. Only ‘true believers’ and hedge fund managers seem to think Kwarteng’s ‘fiscal event’ was a great set of moves.

I am a business person not an economist, though I am old enough to have lived through a couple of self-inflicted Tory ‘boom and busts’. Some contexts are of course different today. The UK is facing a triple whammy of economic shocks – Brexit (also self-inflicted, like it or not), a Pandemic and the Russian War (both globally inflicted). Also, in fairness most of what Kwarteng has done so far is roll a few things back – other than banker’s bonuses, which is a massive and needless own goal scored by a tone-deaf Chancellor and Prime Minister. A ‘fiscal event’ to make inequality worse.

To me, though, it seem to be economics 101 that you can’t control inflation and quickly ease a major cost of living crisis affected all of society by reducing the tax burden on the richest, and then pinning your hopes on ‘trickledown’ theories which at best will take years and at worst won’t happen.

Rather than debate this, it made me recall Donella Meadows ‘Limits to Growth‘ and the 30 year update she co-wrote in 2004.

This quote:

The task of managing in an era of limits demands greater subtlety, more careful classification. Some people desperately need more food, shelter, and material goods. Some people, in a different kind of desperation, try to use material growth to satisfy other needs, which are also very real but non material – needs for acceptance, self-importance, community, identity. It makes no sense, therefore, to talk about growth with either unquestioning approval or unquestioning disapproval. Instead it is necessary to ask: Growth of what? For whom? At what cost? Paid by whom? What is the real need here, and what is the most direct and efficient way for those who have that need to satisfy it? How much is enough? What are the obligations to share?‘ (page 74)

I’ll leave this there.

MEADOWS, Donella, MEADOWS, Dennis & RANDERS, Jorgen. 2004. The Limits to Growth: The 30-year Update. Abingdon: Routledge

Header Photo: WPA Pool via Getty

1978 – The Good Old Days?

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September 23, 1978, Blondie’s Parallel Lines is released, going to UK number 1 in February 1979, and becoming that year’s best selling album.

And, in other news … 1978 was an up and down year (recognise any similarities with 2022?)

  • January 18 – The European Court of Human Rights finds the British government guilty of mistreating prisoners in Northern Ireland, but not guilty of torture.
  • January 31 – 18-year-old prostitute Helen Rytka is murdered in Huddersfield; she is believed to be the eighth victim of the Yorkshire Ripper.
  • February 15 – Rhodesia, one of only two remaining white-ruled African nations (the other being South Africa), announces that it will accept multiracial democracy within 2 years.
  • February 27 – The first global positioning satellite (GPS), the Rockwell International Navstar 1, is launched.
  • March 30 – Conservative Party recruit advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi to revamp their image.
  • April 20 – A Soviet air defense plane shoots down Korean Air Lines Flight 902; the plane makes an emergency landing on a frozen lake.
  • May 8 – Norway opens a natural gas field, in the Polar Sea.
  • June 5 – 5th Annual World Environment Day, founded by the UN.
  • June 13–16 – Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena pay a state visit to the United Kingdom. He is made a Knight of the Order of the Bath, and she an honorary professor of the Polytechnic of Central London.
  • June 25 – The rainbow flag of the LGBT movement flies for the first time (in its original form) at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade.
  • July 25 – Louise Brown, the world’s first test tube baby, is born in Oldham, Greater Manchester.
  • September 7 – In London, a poison-filled pellet, supposedly injected using an umbrella, fatally poisons Bulgarian defector Georgi Markov; he dies four days later.
  • 7 September – Prime Minister James Callaghan announces that he will not call a general election for this autumn, and faces accusations from Tory leader Margaret Thatcher and Liberal leader David Steel of ‘running scared’. Callaghan also announces the end of the Lib-Lab pact.
  • September 16 – A major earthquake affects the city of Tabas, Iran and at least 15,000 people are killed.
  • September 26 – 23 Ford car plants are closed across Britain due to strikes.
  • October 1 – Vietnam attacks Cambodia, and fully invades in December. This stopped the Khmer Rouge Genocide.
  • October 27 – Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin win the Nobel Peace Prize for their progress toward a Middle East accord.
  • November 4 – British bakeries impose bread rationing after a baker’s strike led to panic buying of bread.
  • November 5 – Rioters sack the British Embassy in Tehran.
  • November 23 – Pollyanna’s nightclub in Birmingham is forced to lift its ban on Black and Chinese revellers, after the Commission for Racial Equality concludes that the nightclub’s entry policy was racist.
  • November 30 – An industrial dispute closes down The Times newspaper (until 12 November 1979).
  • December 14 – The Labour minority government survives a vote of confidence.
  • December 21-22 – The BBC is hit by a series of strikes. BBC One and BBC Two are taken off air.

Plus ça change ? The Good Old Days?