Why Trussonomics imploded

As the Conservative Party descends into chaos again following Liz Truss’s resignation, can we draw any lessons from the failure of her plans for the economy? How should we understand the now-abandoned ‘Trussonomics’? And could it have made any real economic difference, if it had been given the chance?

One lesson is that whoever emerges as the next prime minister is unlikely to solve our problems. This is not just a reflection on the individuals involved. Any new leader, regardless of their economic insights and thoughts, is likely to be caught in the stranglehold of Westminster. Over several decades, the political class has absorbed the undemocratic notion that governance is a process of delivery, rather than of leading and persuading people about how things might be changed for the better.

Truss’s government failed to understand that the only audience that it should be accountable to is the electorate, not the fetishised ‘financial markets’, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). Not that Truss or her legion of critics understood this.

The fatal flaw of Truss’s brief administration is that having sensed that a growth plan would be disruptive, Truss and her team failed to lead the UK through those great upheavals. They failed to bring the people with them. This was a dereliction of democratic duty. People aren’t going to put up with ‘disruption’ as an edict from Downing Street. They can’t be expected to just go along with it. They need to understand the reasons for the economic tumult. Ultimately, they need to understand why it is necessary to reorganise and rebuild production anew.

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Britain’s zombie economy stands exposed

Britain is in the grip of financial turmoil. Over the past week, the pound has crashed and rallied, as has the bond market. Pension funds, at one point, looked to be on the brink of collapse, prompting an emergency intervention from the Bank of England. All this has followed last week’s now globally infamous mini-budget, unveiled by prime minister Liz Truss and chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng. While there is no doubt that this incoherent budget acted as a trigger, it is not the underlying cause of Britain’s woes. It simply brought the UK economy’s underlying fragilities to the fore. There’s more to this market meltdown than Truss and Kwarteng’s hapless ‘mini-budget’.

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The battle for growth

Written and published before Kwasi Kwarteng’s Chancellor’s statement on 23 September, this article explains the background to the mini-budget and the financial convulsions that followed. It argues that a serious and credible plan for growth can’t be reduced to tax-cutting. It goes on to contend that successive governments have failed to appreciate the scale of the economic task at hand. And that is a cultural failing as much as anything.

This failing has three key elements. First, policymakers are plagued by an intellectual shallowness, which underplays the depth of the economic challenges. Second, they adopt a fatalistic approach to economic developments, which underestimates the capacity of the state to change things. And third, the political class has evaded responsibility, with governments repeatedly recoiling from making the decisions needed to bring about an economic renaissance.

Read the full article here.

Brexit is not to blame for our economic woes

There is little doubt that the British economy is in a worse state than most other advanced industrial economies. This calls for a nationwide debate over the causes and potential fixes for this productivity slump. But to say that it’s all Brexit’s fault is a specious thesis that has little to do with economics.

Moreover, the determination to blame Brexit for everything going wrong is letting the Tory government off the hook. Politicians used to blame the EU for their own inaction on economic policy. Now that Brexit gets the blame for Britain’s continuing economic woes, the failure of successive governments to pursue a programme for productivity growth can be downplayed.

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We are lurching from crisis to crisis

The cost-of-living crisis is not just a question of increasing prices. The reason the current inflation can be considered such a crisis is that the UK has not been creating enough wealth for people to afford these higher prices. And while the recent dislocations and disruptions caused by the lockdown reopenings and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have had a huge impact on prices, the British government still seems incapable of acknowledging that things were not going well economically both before the war and before the pandemic.

Even when the current rapid pace of inflation eventually slows, many households will still be struggling to meet those higher prices of essentials like food and energy. And even if those particular costs began to subside, many people would continue to live on the edge, until the next shock sends them deeper into privation. These scenarios reveal that today’s cost-of-living crisis is not just a product of price increases.

Why have the increased costs become so unbearable for so many households? Why is there so little capacity at an individual, business or societal level to cope with these price spikes? Without addressing these historical issues underlying the current hardship, we are likely to see a continuation of crisis management rather than a durable fix.

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