RIshi Sunak discovered the power of social democracy. Its ambitious and far-reaching program to deal with the cost-of-living crisis is in the best traditions of social democracy – a willingness to tax the windfall profits that have resulted only from undeserved and unexpected luck , to borrow more, and then direct the proceeds to mitigate a decline in living standards, especially among the poorest and most vulnerable, that they have done nothing to deserve.
It’s, like that thinking Tory titan Richard Drax MP pronouncedanother step towards big state socialism and the sooner the government will abandon these foreign ideas, echoed the Daily Mail, the best. But they work, are morally and socially just, and popular.
It is a radical change, which is occurring in various forms in all Western democracies. Mr Sunak may protest that he remains a tax-cut chancellor committed to the principles of small Thatcherite states, but regardless, he is smart. It cannot have escaped his notice that all of this government’s successes have come from doing the opposite – the furlough scheme, the smart procurement process encouraging vaccine development and now seriously tackling the cost crisis of life. “Conservative” reactions in all of these cases were unnecessary – and would have led to political stalemates.
Similarly, by attending meetings of the IMF and the World Bank or a G7 summit, he will have noticed that, on the international level, there is neither political appetite nor intellectual weight behind the Thatcherite doctrines. When it comes to security, climate change, managing the aging of society, tackling inequality, public health or innovation, the right, particularly in Britain, has no answers beyond sterile, childish cries for tax cuts and deregulation. Citizens everywhere understand that public action is needed and that tax cuts for the rich mean unjustly creating billions of dead money and entrenching unearned privilege. In some versions, right-wing philosophies may reappear in a generation’s time, but for now they are a splintered splinter.
Walk west. In Europe, social democratic philosophies govern or dominate coalition governments in Norway, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Spain and Portugal. Italy, Belgium and Holland are in the hands of centrists with social-democratic leanings. Newly re-elected French President Macron, prince of the centrists, has named a former socialist, Elisabeth Borne, as prime minister, anticipating the left’s gains in legislative elections next month. Canada is leaning in the same direction, and although the U.S. congressional midterm elections promise Democratic setbacks, in the presidential elections the Democrats are winning by clear majorities. And last week came Labor’s surprise victory in Australia, cemented by independents and social-democratic-leaning Greens, despite Murdoch’s manic press efforts to brand the party’s ostensibly modest leader, Anthony Albanese, a revolutionary. socialist. The decent prevailed over the indecent.
Three forces are at work: lived experience, a new intellectual paradigm and a growing awareness that societies must act collectively to face today’s major challenges.
Right-wing economic thinking has been receding for 20 years now. No savvy economist believes that markets alone spontaneously and systematically arrive at optimal solutions that are best for society and capitalism. All the finest economic thought from frontiers explores the dysfunctions of markets, the cost of inequality, and the need to develop better economic institutions – see the list of Nobel laureates in economics since 2000.
Then there is the condition of the people. The world the right has created – soaring house prices, skeletal well-being, the transformation of workplaces into horror shows of insecurity and poor pay, indifference to needs and ambitions young people – has made everyday life unpleasant, even unbearable, for too many people. There is a desire for change.
And finally, people know that climate and weather patterns are changing before their eyes and that biodiversity is under threat. They look to their children and grandchildren, knowing that they cannot with integrity take over this world as it is. Voters from Germany to Australia, especially in wealthier regions, are voting green. There are echoes in Britain.
Boris Johnson, although unfit for high office, understands much of this. But he still leads a party in la-la Thatcherite country, believing that responding creatively would be ‘unconservative’. Its strategists hope that tackling the rising “woke” will reverse the trend.
But a capitalism more concerned with environmental and societal issues is only one response to the explosion of investor worries mirroring those of voters and the tiny audiences of Piers Morgan’s hysterical anti-awakening diatribes underscore that it is about the concern of a tiny minority. What matters is the big stuff that affects lives.
Make sure that the next government, made up of any mixture of today’s opposition parties, will be, as elsewhere in the West, one that sincerely believes in packages of the character and magnitude of Rishi Sunak the last week – and needn’t kneel to the failed gods.