Markets need regulation not morals….
Gordon Brown has a piece in The Guardian arguing:
without values to guide them, free markets reduce all relationships to transactions, all motivations to self-interest. So, unbridled and untrammelled, they become the enemy of the good society.
This is all very true and warm and fuzzy. Brown’s piece continues like this is much the same vein for its entirety. When it comes to the role of the state he talks about the role of the state to be an enabling state and empowering the active citizen. So far so good you might think; however, one thing that is missing from Brown’s article is the recognition of the need for ‘values’, ‘morals’ and ’empowerment’ to produce concrete action ie, regulation.
This shows that Brown still has the New Labour shyness of seeing the state as an active agent when it comes to the market. To my mind recognising the limitations of the market is reduced to just words if that recognition is not backed-up with action. For example, Brown may well argue that ‘morally’ large bank bonuses are wrong all he likes but without a High Pay Commission to enforce that morality the market will continue to do as it pleases.
You get the distinct impression the Brown is in fact arguing for these morals to actually avoid the question of regulation which is concretely how this question manifests. This is not however a question Labour or Brown can afford to dodge. ‘New Labour’ is not equipped to deal with the world that Brown outlines; the one that recognises the limitations of the market and their structural nature and is increasingly demanding change. However, if Labour looks back into its past it will discover a perspective that is….the question is whether it has the courage to look back and remember what made it the party it is.