Thursday, 16 April 2009

Virtues of a Social Democratic State Re-Discovered...

From a guest post on the, ahem, Naked Capitalism blog:

Most people cannot deal with the stress of investing their own money or selecting between funds that are offered to them...... the reality is that most individuals cannot handle these responsibilities.

This is why I recommend we scrap private pensions altogether and create several large public defined-benefit plans that are capped at a certain size. These funds would follow the highest standards of governance and they would be managed by professional money managers whose interests are aligned with their stakeholders and pension beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, Willem Buiter makes a strong technical case for the proposition that banks should never be too big to fail and, in any event, should always be regulated by the host nation which must have the ability to tell them what to do.

The ideological supporting props of Thatcherism rot away, one at a time. I await the sudden shift of comprehensive education back into fashion, and the quiet junking of the 'choice agenda' in public services.

But there's a problem here: we lack a social democratic party. I don't just mean that Labour has long since ceased to have any recognisably social democratic policies, though that is clearly true. I mean it is now extremely vulnerable - as its more honest supporters like Paulie recognise - to the charge of astroturfing. It's membership has fallen dramatically, and the social composition of that membership has changed significantly. I have a real sense that it now barely connects into most working class communities except in its role as government. It speaks to, not from, the mass of the people. 'Social Democracy' purely and simply from above, unconnected to any mass cultural or sociological segment of the population is a weird prospect.


  1. "we lack a social democratic party"

    But surely there are one or two hardline Rosie Barnes-ites hanging in there like the proverbial Japanese sniper, somewhere in South East London?

    ...nope, it appears not,_1988)

  2. ps thanks for linking to the Buiter article.
    Wow, he can really kick ass!

  3. Hi Strategist,
    I'm using 'social democratic' to mean 'traditional Labour'. I see the old SDP of the 1980s as the direct ideological forerunner of New Labour.

  4. Charlie, I thought so, I was just teasing.

    It is interesting how the self-identification "social democrat" has become rehabilitated in left circles, as the memory that there ever was a traitorous thing called the SDP fades.

    I can't actually reference this off the cuff, but I think I remember that if you read the 1983 SDP manifesto it's quite surprising how left wing it reads in the light of a coupla decades of Thatcho-Blairismo. Some more attractive ex-SDP folks like Shirl the Pearl are like Roy Hattersley, they've stood still politically as the centre of gravity has shifted and now criticise New Labour from a position way to the left of them. But others got back into New Labour and turned out to be as horrible as everyone always expected them to be.