Posts Tagged ‘Food Shortages’

‘I’ Newspaper Publishing Economist Articles to Promote Economic Orthodoxy?

January 6, 2019

The I proudly announced yesterday, 5th January 1919, that it had now made an agreement with the Economist to print articles from that magazine. Now the Economist has a reputation for excellent journalism, and for clearly explaining complex issues for a lay readership. But it is, unsurprisingly as a business magazine, firmly behind the current economic orthodoxy. Which is that capitalism is great, and state intervention and the unions are to be strongly resisted.

The I started out as a digest version of the Independent, which adopted its name in order to show that it was independent of party political bias. The I undercut its parent paper, which has now, I believe, gone on the internet. As for the I itself, while it is supposedly free of overall political bias, it has shown itself to be consistently and fiercely biased against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour party. If followed the rest of the press, for example, in promoting the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour leader and his supporters.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that capitalism in the west is now in serious trouble. In Britain a quarter of a million people now have to rely on food banks to fend off starvation, a sizable proportion of whom are actually working. Tens of thousands of people are homeless, and the present generation of young people in Britain and America are now looking at a future in which they will never be able to afford to buy their own home. Even rented property may be out of their reach. Recent polls show that 55 per cent of American young people now have no faith in capitalism.

And in Britain this is all set to get worse, much worse, with Brexit. Which is why Tweezer has set up a department to deal with food shortages, and has prepared to put 3,500 squaddies on Britain’s streets in the event that Britain crashes out without a deal with the EU.

This must worry the ruling elite, which worked hard throughout the Cold War to stop the peoples of the world taking up Communism and has consistently attacked, destabilized and overthrown liberal and left-wing governments and political leaders around the world. This has not prevented the business papers in the past recognizing that there were profound problems with current economic policy. In the 1990s, for example, the Financial Times carried a number of articles demonstrating very clearly that poverty was increasing, and that the majority of the new poor in America and elsewhere were actually working, not unemployed. This was when the newspaper supported the Lib Dems, though that didn’t stop one of its columnists telling his readers that he supported workfare. According to Private Eye the FT is, like the rest of the lamestream press, losing readers. It has tried to reverse this by switching its support to the Tories, but this hasn’t stopped its readers from leaving it.

Looking at this arrangement between the I and the Economist, it seems that these journals are also in trouble. The I‘s management seems to hope that this arrangement will encourage some of the Economist’s readers will also start reading the paper, while it can be inferred that the Economist’s management probably hope that some the I’s will start looking at theirs.

Now this doesn’t mean that the I will start having a strong political bias towards one party, although it has always attacked Corbyn and his supporters in Labour. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t have a political bias at all. It does. Like the Groaniad, it is biased towards the current worn-out Thatcherite political and economic consensus. Hence both magazines’ attacks on Corbyn because he and his supporters have rejected it and are determined to overturn it.

It seems to me very strongly that the I has therefore made this arrangement with the Economist, not just to boost sales, but also to try to reinforce and promote the popular acceptance of Thatcherite economic orthodoxy, an orthodoxy that is accepted uncritically by the Blairites and the Lib Dems outside the Conservative party, but which is rejected by the Corbynites. An economic orthodoxy that is increasingly shown to be wrong, and catastrophically wrong, to an increasingly large number of this country’s citizens.

The I and its owners, like the press, are terrified of this, as is the rest of the press. Hence the decision to try and bolster Thatcherite capitalism through the republication of Economist articles, even when claiming still to be politically independent. But it’s only independent of particular parties. Ideologically, it’s still Thatcherite.

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Helping Labour to Win in the Countryside: Financial Support to Farmers

December 16, 2018

A year or so ago Mike over at Vox Political asked what could be done to enable the Labour party to win in the countryside. It’s a good question, as Britain’s rural areas tend to be Tory/Liberal strongholds. The countryside is in crisis. We have seen a number of agricultural crises force small farmers out of business, while at the same time local people are being forced out of their villages because they are unable to afford the house prices there, as housing is bought up by rich outsiders. Local services in these areas are also being cut back. Bus companies have reduced the services to rural areas, post offices, pubs and banks are closing around the country, not only in rural areas but also in towns. This also hits local businesses, and so the small businesses in these areas may also be forced to fold. The danger is that if these trends continue, Britain’s countryside and villages may decline from real, living communities to dormer suburbs consisting of retirement accommodation for the rich.

Brexit may also have an impact on this process. At the moment farmers are, or have been supported by a number of subsidies from central government and the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy. Any subsidies from the EU may vanish if and when we leave the EU. How then can we save our farmers from bankruptcy?

Some indication of how this may be done could come from Roosevelt’s New Deal, as described by John Strachey in his A Programme for Progress (London: Victor Gollancz 1940). In it, Strachey discusses how the Roosevelt administration tried to give help for farmers by reducing the rate of interest on their mortgages and extending credit to them. Strachey writes

It was not, then, mainly by means of transforming the Reconstruction Finance Corporation from being an agency for the relief of big business in distress to a method of providing cheap credit to the American people generally, that the Roosevelt administration began to show it progressive character. It did so rather by a variety of methods of both lending and of spending (distributing money) directly to various sections of the community. Let us pass these methods in review.

The American government began in 1933 to distribute money to two classes of the population-namely the farmers and the unemployed. In the case of the farmers the Government not only spent (i.e. distributed money), but also lent. The farmers were dealt with by the Farm Relief Act which the President signed on May 12th, 1933. This Act was in two parts. The first part set up the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. The Second part, called “The Emergency Farm Mortgage Act of 1933”, was designed to reduce the rate of interest paid by farmers on their mortgages. The principle on which they Agricultural Adjustment Administration, or A.A.A., worked is well known. Substantial payments were made to farmers on condition that they restricted their production of all the basic farm crops and products in accordance with the directions of the Department of Agriculture. The money for these payments did not, however, come out of the Federal Treasury as such, but was raised by a special processing tax, imposed up0on the output of these same farm products as they passed on their way to the consumer.

The second part of the Act established the Farm Credit Administration, to which farmers could apply for loans with which to pay off their existing mortgages. This measure appears to have resulted in a reduction of the interest rates paid by farmers from over 5 per cent to 3 1/2 per cent. Moreover, the average period of these government loans was raised to thirty years, instead of the five years, which was the average period during which the private loans had to be paid off. By September 1934 these government credit agencies held 37 per cent of the farm mortgage debt of the country. This, the less spectacular part of the Act, is often forgotten. But its effect has been of great importance, since it has driven down the whole structure of interest rates on farm mortgages. It affords a model example of the use of government credit to depress interest rates at a particular important point. (pp. 188-9).

I am not saying that this precise policy needs to be introduced, as I understand that at the moment interest rates are low and that, if this country does suffer food shortages due to loss of imports following Brexit, we may need our farmers to increase production rather than reduce it. But it is an example of the general type of policy that may need to be put into practice to regenerate the countryside: aid to farmers and country dwellers to be able to buy their properties and maintain them as proper communities in which people live and work.