Despite the few, short years of questionable pseudo-socialism of the Blair-Brown era, Britain for the last half a century has been dominated by neo-liberal, or rather classical, economics. Thatcher and her children would deem themselves neo-liberals suggesting that they have modernised the classical ideology for the better, yet the truth in fact is that government is returning to the ‘Night-watchmen’ state of the late 19th Century. As stated before, in previous pieces, that the current government are creating an argument that will leave the public to call out for the NHS to be re-privatised, Thatcher’s wildest, wettest dream. What is more, current funding of the wider welfare state is not keeping up with demand. The conservatives have stated how in fact, they have not cut all spending in the public sector, yet the fact is that they are still not under-delivering in comparison of what they should.
Owen Jones, in his definitive book The Establishment, states how the ‘neo-liberal’ movement were only ever allowed to move in for the kill when the cracks of the post-war consensus were begging to show. Instead of attempting to reform the problem, a tactic used by Major after Thatcher’s administration, the right-wing think tanks and media moved in for the wholesale slaughter of the only representation many workers had; the Unions, as well as the vital public sector services. Now is the time for the pro-welfare state activists, supporter and politicians to act. When the post-war consensus broke down, Thatcherism took over. Now the conservatives have taken working class families and welfare state to the brink of collapse. Now is time that those who oppose austerity should take over. This was highlighted in the news this month when tweets from 2012, posted by Ben Brady showed that he suggested mass vasectomy for working class people. There are three main areas where the effects of austerity are clear; homelessness, unemployment and mental health.
In terms of homelessness I have again already posted a blog article on here attacking the disgusting comments made by Windsor town council leader. Yet again it is a sign that the government is failing their people. The homeless charity Shelter conducted their annual research into homelessness in 2017, stating that around 307,000 people are homeless. One in every two-hundred. This is a rise of 13,000 in just a year alone. 4,700 people are reported as rough sleepers, with the highest ratio being in Birmingham, where 1:88 are homeless. Of course these statistics included people living in temporary accommodation, as well as homeless shelters and rough-sleeping. However there is no doubt that an increase in homelessness is the clearest sign of a failing economy. Thatcher argued that the rate of unemployment and the failing public sector of the 1970s was an indication of a need for change, now her own liberal economic strategies are proving even more damaging to services. Liberal economics promotes laissez-faire, free market capitalism, allowing the market to regulate itself and leaving the government out of any and every business. Now, for market growth, there does need to be freedom for fluctuations, which ultimately are good. However supporters of classical liberal economics demand total freedom, no control, allowing for the rich to dominate the market and stop growth of smaller business, placing a glass roof over anyone whom has not been born into wealth. Although, as Jones describes, liberalism could be seen as elite socialism, creating jobs and money for those already born into the establishment, it must be reiterated that ‘liberal economics’ is very different than liberal social politics. A sort of reverse Robin Hood, as I like to think about it, taking money from the poor, including money from services vital for their very existence, and giving it to the rich, who once were held more accountable for their gross bonuses and paycheques.
The Conservatives would try to tell you that unemployment is at its lowest since the 1970s, which in itself is ironic as it was the last decade of true socialism. “Fake news!” The official percentage is 4.5% of the population being unemployed, yet the real number is 8.83 million of us, around 21.5% according to The Business Insider. People who are taking time off work, are stay at home parents or have given up looking for work do not count as unemployed, yet technically are. Although this has not really changed in recent years, it is the myth-busting the website has produced which is why the true rate of unemployment is so significant.
The next topic, as I’m sure many of you who are reading this, is personal to me as I have been one of the millennials who have had their own battle with anxiety and depression. Of course, any commentator might suggest that the number rate of people diagnosed with these illnesses is due to the fact that society has become a culture of ‘snowflakes.’ Not only is ‘snowflake’ a very offensive word with historically racist epitomes, but as a society we have just become more aware of the effects of words and policies. The real reason for this ‘increase’ of diagnosis, is the fact that people have the confidence to express their emotions. A quarter of adults will experience depression or anxiety directly. The free-market only enables and enhances the development of depression. This is through the pressure of ‘making it’ that the laissez-faire style economics promotes. There is a direct link between poverty, or being in the lower, socio-economic groups and depression. Not being able to afford clothes, food, bills and toys for your children at Christmas let alone random times throughout the year. The pressure of how your child dresses whilst at school, or the knee-sliding school discos. Constantly comparing yourselves to other parents. Even if you don’t have any children, the constant comparisons to those in the media or friends who have ‘made it,’ due to their flashy new car, could lead to these illnesses. No wonder suicide is the most common cause of death for 18-34 year olds. The lack of money caused by those who have started with none, and the inability for social mobility created by the Conservatives has a direct impact on depression and anxiety.
Ben Brady, like the majority of conservative voters, think tanks and politicians have kept up the rhetoric that poor people are there because they do not work hard enough, and rely on other people’s money. Thatcher once said, “The problem with socialism is that one day, you run out of other people’s money.” Disgusting and untrue, the country is currently still listening to this dogma. The stagnant economy of the 1970s brought in the Tories, now there is a consensus produced by the economic crash, established in 2010 with the coalition government. This has to be beaten back. Austerity is not the answer now. There is a working and middle-class crisis. Even if many are blind to it as they are not currently struggling, soon the 99% will be struggling. The hardest working people, with the greatest anxieties and the greatest fight in front of them need the total equality of opportunity, rather than the stricter inability for social mobility. The problems economic-liberalism produces has more than just an effect on the poor becoming poorer; it’s causing long-term, deep depression which concludes in someone, a human, taking their own life.