Saturday 31 October, 3.30pm until 5.00pm, Courtyard Gallery
What kind of economic future can we imagine? In the past recessions have led to real clean-outs in existing industries and to innovative advances in new sectors: gales of Schumpeterian creative destruction. There is a hesitant and indecisive quality, however, in the responses to this recession, which seem to duck or defer difficult decisions. Should the US, for example, allow General Motors to fail and invest instead in American bio-technology while China takes over automobile production? It is impossible, in addition, for many to countenance a future in which China mass-produces billions of cars for domestic and international consumption.
Over the last twenty years anti-growth ideology in every sphere has become more and more fashionable. Will it represent more of a barrier to continued growth than the actual state of the economy? Some, like the environmentalist Peter Victor, argue that ‘we can either design a slower-growth economy over the next few decades, or we’ll get there suddenly, through environmental disaster’. In many quarters GDP growth has become an index of all that is wrong with our greed driven societies: as Richard Layard, the happiness economist, puts it ‘many policies to drive up income harm precisely those things from which we derive our quality of life’.
Can we imagine a place for the kind of innovation and investment in R&D that might lead to genuine economic advances? Technological innovation rather than the relentless rise of financial innovation and public spending? In June the British government published Digital Britain, a policy framework for the communications and technology and media sector that represents a shift towards ‘industrial activism’. With a £6 per head levy top-sliced off the BBC licence fee, it aims to put in place 2Mbps broadband to every home by 2012. Given that South Korea is aiming at 1Gbps over the same time frame, this seems to represent incredibly low horizons. Is this really the kind of industrial activism that the British economy needs in the wake of recession? While the UK remains the world’s sixth largest manufacturer for now, can we imagine this remaining the case in the future or even its standing improving?
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|Lord Robert Skidelsky|
emeritus professor, political economy, Warwick University; member, House of Lords; author, Keynes: the return of the master
|Professor Robert Wade|
professor of political economy, LSE; winner, Leontief Prize in Economics 2008; author, Governing the Market
founding editor, Green Futures; visiting judge, Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy
interim director, European Animal Research Campaign Centre; government affairs, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
Greed Is Good? Michael Moore Begs to DifferManohla Dargis, New York Times, 25 September 2009
Robert Skidelsky's latest book on Keynes gives a clear and concise account of the current economic crisis, but its faith in Keynes as the 'master' of economic debate is seriously misplaced.Sean Collins, spiked, 25 September 2009
French president urges more emphasis on quality of life; report criticises 'gross domestic product fetishism'Lizzy Davies, Guardian, 15 September 2009
Advances in research enable us now to develop broader measures of well-being. Health, education, security and social connectedness all are important to quality of life – but are not adequately reflected in GDP.Joseph Stiglitz, Financial Times, 13 September 2009
In the current financial crisis Keynes has been taken out of his cupboard, dusted down, consulted, cited, invoked and appealed to about why events have taken the course they have and how a rescue operation can be effected. Why have we gone back so emphatically to the ideas of an economist who died fifty years ago?
Robert Skidelsky, Allen Lane, 3 September 2009
The green movement's fixation with technology reveals that we are asking the wrong questionsPaul Kingsnorth, Guardian commentisfree, 31 July 2009
Our society has become tremendously risk averse at every level. Common sense tells us it is unlikely that we can create a more dynamic and innovative economy when we are afraid to send our children to the park on their own, and how likely are these over protected children to become confident risk takers as they grow up?Rob Killick, UK After the Recession, 22 May 2009
Why have free marketeers joined greens and ‘anti-capitalists’ in arguing that economic growth is a bad thing?Daniel Ben-Ami, spiked, 11 August 2008