There was an article in the Sunday Herald in Glasgow yesterday, by the financial journalist Ian Fraser, whose book on RBS is due for publication shortly. It reported on some of the events of the Edinburgh Book Festival with an economic slant, including mine. It quotes me being staggeringly optimistic:
"This is the calm before the storm. Given the poverty of the current political and economic arrangements - and our own understanding of the way things actually work - I believe that change is about to happen. If we meet again here in five years' time, there will be a different political spirit abroad. There will be a much greater focus on finding ways for our children and our children's children to live meaningful, interesting, comfortable lives away from the tyranny of landlords and employers."
That is indeed what I said, among other things about the decline of the middle classes, relating to my book Broke – and the peculiar upside down notion of kick-starting the economy with Help to Buy. A bit like looking after today by devouring your children.
A couple of people came up to me afterwards to ask me why I was so optimistic that change was coming, given that politics has become so stuck.
The answer is, I suppose, that I believe in human ingenuity. My reason for believing that new economic solutions are emerging is partly because I can see them – the emerging entrepreneurial energy, the rise of the employee mutuals, the growing understanding that the current banking dispensation is actively corroding our wealth.
It is also partly the opposite. Conventional economic thinking is so disconnected from the real world, so devoid of purpose, so empty of demonstrable success; the idea that wealth will trickle down rather than hoover up is so bereft of evidence.
Even the most conventional policy-makers will find that it sticks in their throats.
The third reason why I’m optimistic is that the middle classes are waking from their long dream, understanding that the economic destruction visited on the working classes is now in store for them – understanding the futures their children face: 25 years indentured servitude to their mortgage provider, in jobs they loathe, paying out such vast sums to tyrannical landlords in the interim that they can't quite manage to bring up families of their own.
What the middle classes want, they will eventually get. When they understand the dark future ahead – and the slow corrosion of UK life as our lives become unaffordable – they will create a political force capable of tackling it.
Every generation or so, UK politics generates a radical shift. It did so in 1906, in 1940, in 1979. It is now 34 years since the last one and we are due another. It will happen sooner than we think.
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