Tuesday 23 October 2018

What does inclusive growth mean in practice?

Since the banking crash ten years ago, it should have been clear to the most bone-headed of policymakers that there was something wrong with our economic orthodoxy.

Unfortunately, the bone-headed seem to have had a most amazing political resilience. The terrible divisions across the USA and the UK too may be one result. The silver lining - and there is one - is that, with no steer and little help from national governments, our cities have found themselves in the economic frontline.

It hasn't been easy but I believe there is a small cadre of local government leaders in the UK, as there has in the US, which has emerged prepared to think and act imaginatively. And fascinatingly, there is really only one game in town now - and it is called inclusive growth.

This is what Charlotte Aldritt says in her new essay on the subject:

"Conventional local economic policy suggests that places must build on their assets and high growth sectors. This is indeed critical. But we should not be deceived that continuing pockets of poverty are likely to be subsumed in growth in deep sea technology or biomedical sciences or gaming software design. They might help if the wealth from these successes trickled down, but the whole reason for inclusive growth is that we have seen time and again that the chances of this are slim..."

It is in short a critique of trickle down economics, which not even the most diehard orthodoxy can now sustain. The difficulty is that city leaders, all too often, simple project their own assumptions, hopes and fears onto the process known as economic growth. As Charlotte says, inclusive growth does not mean old-fashioned redistribution; nor does it mean some kind of abandoning of economics.

She describes something of the process that cities need to go through to get there - but this is difficult stuff for ultra-conservative city leaders of all political colours. Yet in inclusive growth, we have the first glimmerings of a new kind of orthodoxy altogether, post neoliberal, post third way, post Trump perhaps too. It is such an important issue for those reasons.

If you want to join in the debate about what it does mean in practice, you could spend a bit of time in those cities gearing up to do it - Barking & Dagenham, Bristol, West Midlands, North Tyneside, Oldham and so on. Or you could come along to take part in the debate in person with the Centre for Progressive Policy (I'm certainly going to be there) in London on 30 October.

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