#Angrynomics or how mainstream democracy can take back control by writing Capitalism a brand new script…

One of the many details in the long crisis in democracy what I think people persistently miss through all the rows about fake news and the rise of populism is how global Capital is failing in its part of the bargain with Labour to create and fairly distribute wealth.

If those terms seem quaint and old fashioned terms which reek of smoky stacks of northern England of the 1940s and 1950s, you need to get yourself a copy of Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth’s great wee tome, Angrynomics.

In their definition of Labour, they pretty much include most of us who actually have to work in order to create the wealth we need to live on. To some extent, this can even include folks who may already own their own houses, when it comes to finding a solution.

That’s because taxing wealthy wage earners can never yield the sort of resources needed to rebalance the way assets are heavily stacked in favour of a wealth rich elite who have long since been able to retire from work to retain their money.

The core argument rests on the idea that capitalism as software which needs upgrading. Why? Because Mark Blyth explains elsewhere, after 2008 we made big companies solvent, but what they did with the public money was buy back their own shares.

Some 90% of all stock market activity is comprised of big companies making themselves more valuable through such buyback activity to the extent that it has barely registered the collapse of the real global economy.

This he and Eric Lonergan, argue through a compelling dialogue, that after the Milton Friedman upgrade to Capitalism 3.0, we are at least ten years behind the next one, which will address the growing asset poverty in a majority of the population…

This profound in some sections of the community. Last month Blyth quoted the quite shockingly uneven differential of wealth between two race groups in Liberal Boston…

So where does this fit in with anger? Instead of looking for the whole, liberal elites have comforted themselves with the idea that globalisation was making everyone richer, on average. What they neglected to account for is that no one lives an average life.

Having abandoned braking a market that no longer cared what happened to those on lower wages (Gordon Brown’s effective privatisation of the Bank of England being an example), centre-left politics resiled to virtue signalling over concrete action.

Enter populism. The book defines this as almost any political philosophy that sites the blame for present misery with some ‘other’. Its primate virtue is that it listens and gives voice to the otherwise unheard, but it turns out they are poor software scripters too.

What they do have is great tunes. Indeed, the book proper starts with the Parable of the Angry Folk Singer in the heart of the Irish capital in a bar not far from Stephen’s Green (I think I know which one, but Eric didn’t tell in my podcast with him):

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Populists have prospered either because they ignore the mass anger created by the misery and distress of the asset poor. Mainstream politicians have tended to ignore it feeling there is nothing they can do to change the way the system delivers.

But Lonergan and Blyth have done their homework. In a final chapter called ‘Calming the Anger‘ they outline a number of fixes which allow governments to start tapping the huge sump of interest-free (but otherwise useless) cash, without putting up taxes.

Putting up taxes right now would be as daft as austerity (a word carefully chosen by the British conservatives because it echoes the housewifely virtues of Mrs Thatcher’s shopping basket that heralded the serious arrival Capitalism 2.0) has been.

And yet attacking ‘austerity’ without offering a practical alternative approach fix for the extent of the crisis proved disastrous for Labour in both England and in Scotland where it got crushed by two mutually contemptuous nationalisms.

As Blyth points out elsewhere some of the most heavily Brexit voting areas in northern England had up to 60% of their local government budgets cut. Just when the poorest communities needed resilience most, austerity was removing it by stealth.

This for me is the core value of the book. It offers itself as a competitor for as Eric puts it as “fundamentally new ideas about who owns what and who gets the returns to assets”. This big idea puts sustainability at the base of all its thinking.

It’s devoid of the blame/revenge rhetoric of the populists. Refloating the banks had to be done, but what went missing was an understanding that states also need to refund their communities as communities of citizens, not just consumers.

Large scale tools already exist for the job, but, beyond Norway and a few others, they are not getting used. Angrynomics focuses on redistribution of assets, not helicopter money (which like windfalls are gone before you know you’ve had it).

Politicians with any decently sharp instinct for the furtherance of democracy and/or their own survival would be well advised to get a copy of this book and sleep with it under your pillow. “What has been lacking” says Eric, “is a simple zero-sum solution”.

And, I would add, a zero-sum solution capable of delivering on the sort of transformative scale our institutions need to be able to match the far-reaching ambitions of our young who will see far further into the future than we will.

So if you have had enough of the gesture politics (if black lives really do matter to us all, let’s sort the asset deficit problem now?), getaway on out, preferably to your nearest local independent bookseller, and get yourself a copy of #Angrynomics right now.

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