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The big picture

(46 Posts)
ipsogenix Sun 12-Jun-16 09:15:17


I keep feeling that there is a big picture that is being missed in the referendum debate and I wondered if others see what I see?

It seems to me that the times we are currently in are rather similar to the times that my grandparents saw in the 20s and 30s.

Back when my Granny was young they went through the roaring 20s which was a time of huge financial excess, kind of like the time that we had in the early 2000s when cars seemed be getting bigger and bigger and sofas were getting bigger and bigger and generally there was a feeling that we were all a bit invincible.

Then back in my Granny's day, the period of excess was followed by a big financial bust called the Great Depression, which had a lot in common with the huge financial crash that we have just had.

In the Depression there was a huge amount of austerity going on as the countries tried to get back on their feet, just like we are seeing now.

Then because of the austerity there was the rise of the far right across Europe as people got angry about the poverty. I think that this is what we are seeing in Europe as all these populist parties come to the fore, like the BNP and UKIP and the party that was nearly voted in in Austria recently.

The next stage in my Granny's day was that the pressure built and built and built, and finally WWII broke out.

I worry that the pressure is building in Europe just now and that there is a risk of some kind of conflict again if we don't all manage to keep our heads and be sensible about it all.

However, I'm not sure whether the sensible thing is to stay in the EU and talk talk talk to solve all these problems, or to come out of Europe in order to take the pressure down a few notches.

I also wonder whether the best thing is for the polls to show clearly our dissatisfaction with Europe and hope that there will be an 11th hour renegotiation of EU rules in just the same way as there was an 11th hour renegotiation of the UK Union just before the Scottish referendum.

I wondered if anyone else sees these parallels and has any good ideas of how to take the pressure out of the situation? I think the rise of all these populist parties across Europe is a clear sign that many many countries are unhappy about how things are going, and that just having a knee-jerk Brexit as a kind of fit of pique is not a very well considered response to what could be a fairly serious build up frustration across the whole continent.

It seems to me that the EU was created so that we would have a talking shop in which problems like this could be diffused by discussion rather than by coming to blows. I really worry about walking away from that talking shop, just as it seems likely to be needed.

I wondered what you all think?

howtorebuild Sun 12-Jun-16 09:28:29

I thought IS have been trying to start WW3 for a while.

I think we will be having a GE in September.

ipsogenix Sun 12-Jun-16 09:29:21

I would love a GE. Sorting out the English primary school curriculum is very high on my list of priorities and we're going to need a new government for that.

YokoUhOh Sun 12-Jun-16 09:29:56

DH and I had exactly the same conversation this morning, right down to the 1930s parallels.

We've discussed leaving the UK should Brexit win on June 23rd. Perhaps NZ or Canada (if they'll have us).

ipsogenix Sun 12-Jun-16 09:35:15

I'm so relieved that someone else sees it. We discussed Canada too. :-)

ThroughThickAndThin01 Sun 12-Jun-16 09:37:33

I thought it's the left that's anti austerity, not the far right? The right are riding because of anti immigration etc

Anyway, I'm not sure that you aren't right but I think all that might happen regardless of brexit. Long term I can't see any of the eu being allies, we are too different. Over 40% of the French want us to leave the eu, and they banned us from joining in the first place!

fourmummy Sun 12-Jun-16 10:40:34

It's an interesting point, OP. Financial crises tend to be cyclical and occur fairly frequently. In terms of standing back and looking at the bigger picture, it seems to me that several things are important in this case, in particular the two facts that we've seen a rise of global corporatism to unprecedented proportions but Europeans stopped producing consumers. The EU is not a bad idea in principle but it has become a slave to corporatism, which needs feeding. There are parallels with the trajectory into violence during the historical period that you mention but the reasons are different to the present. We can leave, consume less 'stuff', and lead a quieter life more within our means.

YokoUhOh Sun 12-Jun-16 11:35:29

The French didn't ban us from joining, De Gaulle did.

ipsogenix Sun 12-Jun-16 11:55:17

What do you mean fourmummy. I'm interested by your point about consuming less stuff, as it is very similar to the point made by the nationalists during the Scottish Independence campaign. Are you suggesting England also switch towards a more socialist outlook, or just a little bit more make-do-and-mend?

GhostofFrankGrimes Sun 12-Jun-16 12:45:43

We can leave, consume less 'stuff', and lead a quieter life more within our means.

We live under a service economy reliant on the populace buying tat they don't need. Stop consuming foreign made electronic goods and all we have left is house price speculation. We don't make anything because the manufacturing base was sold off in the 80's.

GhostofFrankGrimes Sun 12-Jun-16 12:47:55

A general election would be a waste of time in event of Brexit. We would end up with a hard right government. Think Gove, Johnson, Grayling, IDS. Social division in this country would become even worse.

ipsogenix Sun 12-Jun-16 13:17:55

Ghost yes that worries me too. In that event, and if Scotland became independent I'd be tempted to head off to Scotland or Ireland.

fourmummy Sun 12-Jun-16 13:33:13

Ghost - consumerism does not necessarily involve material things. We also consume services, images, ideas, concepts, etc.. I was mindful of the 'more, more, more' aspect of our culture and a recent Andy Haldane talk I went to where he only talked about 'growth'.

Ipso - I don't like communism because it stops human development, is fascistic in some aspects and advocates State control, which I am against for all sorts of reasons. I am similarly against unbridled, pyramid-shaped capitalism and individualism (which results in massive differences between the richest few and the poorest many), resulting in the control of society by big business, which needs a constant churn of consumers in order to grow. A form of socialism where a free education, health and all the things that we have here are available to the general public, where jobs are available according to capitalist needs rather than created according to communistic principles, and where people can work towards something on a personal rather than 'altruistic' basis (which is what communism advocates), combined with a 'regulated' capitalism (where State intervenes under certain conditions) is ideal, in my view. I believe that people can be happier and we can progress in human terms with less consumption (of everything), less growth resulting in fewer profits for the corporates (but hey), more 'make do and mend'. Not chasing growth will lessen the need for more consumers, which in turn will make us happier. However, this requires bridling big business and as far as I can see, the EU and big business have become inexorably entwined. It doesn't have to be this way.

fourmummy Sun 12-Jun-16 13:56:08

Actually, I don't mind consumerism as long as a) quality supersedes quantity (so, not mindless consumerism) and b) the fruits of our consumption (say, of ideas) are fairly (not necessarily equally) distributed. I can't see any of this in the EU, which, as I mentioned previously, has been enslaved by big corporates. Metaphorically, I feel as if we need a breather - to slow down, think, make do and mend, prioritise and get back in control.

GhostofFrankGrimes Sun 12-Jun-16 14:02:53

Fourmummy - I like the premise of your ideas but how do we actually move away from mass consumerism/corporations when it is so deeply entrenched in our economy? An economy based on replacing your mobile phone every year.

In the event of Brexit we'll still have Google, Sport Direct et al.

MuddledMuse Sun 12-Jun-16 16:07:31

I'm glad you posted this question, OP, as I was thinking of posting something similar, but didn't because I thought I would be considered a total loon. The following might be a bit of a ramble, so I apologise in advance if it is.

I'm a fence sitter at the moment. My personal circumstances (reasonably well to do professional living in the South East) suggests I should be voting In. However, my background is working class, I still have family and other connections in my home town, and I have real concerns about how society has been moving over the last 2 or 3 decades. The gap between rich and poor is far too great and is widening as I type.

My belief that the poor have been shafted by the way the EU is run is merging with my perception that the basis of the world's economic policy, based as it is on the need for constant growth, is fundamentally flawed, and the result is that I am being pushed towards Leave.

Over the past few days, I have been reading about whether constant growth is a necessity and the majority view is that it is. DH's view is that there is no other way - we buy stuff so other people can grow/produce stuff, so people can be employed in that production and earn wages, so that they can buy stuff. I understand this, but it is the sheer VOLUME of stuff that is being produced, bought and sold which is the problem. We are plundering our planet, and I can't see how this can end other than by Mother Nature giving mankind a severe kicking.

Moreover, the acquisition of more and more stuff does not appear to make anyone any happier, and can actually increase anxiety as people are putting themselves into debt to acquire this stuff.

Working conditions have for many people become worse because, increasingly, further growth requires increased productivity, so fewer and fewer people are required to do more and more work. The working times directive is a joke as many workers are obliged to sign away their rights.

No-one will convince me that the influx of cheap labour into the UK has not had an impact on the pay and working conditions of the workers at the bottom end. I have been very surprised that in all the discussions about Sports Direct, there has been very little mention that the vast majority of workers at the Shirebrook factory are Eastern European migrants. It is a fundamental fact to be taken into account, as it has allowed them and the few workers who originate from the local area to be exploited in a way that would have not been possible had a larger proportion of the workforce been from the locality. Please do Google Shirebrook and also look up what the odious Professor Jeremy Baker said on Radio 4 about this - he was basically encouraging the exploitation of migrant workers.

Something that received very little comment in the UK was the recent vote in Switzerland about the citizens income. The idea behind this is that everyone is paid a monthly amount, whether they work or not. The reasoning behind this is that increased automation will inevitably lead to fewer workers being required and increased levels of unemployment. However, if the unemployed receive an income, they can still consume.

Whilst not wanting to appear to be a Luddite or a member of the tin hat brigade, I fear that there is an inevitable conclusion to this way of thinking. Work is beneficial for reasons that go way beyond cash, but the difference between the citizens income and a salary from paid work would cause tensions, to say the least.

In fact, Switzerland voted against the proposal and, ironically, one of the main reasons was that it was clear that they would be flooded with people from all over the EU!

I do have other points, but I feel I have rambled enough.

Spinflight Sun 12-Jun-16 16:37:08

An excellent and well written post MuddledMuse. It is refreshing to see someone who is considering the wider effects on the country rather than their own narrow selfish interest.

It is an incontestable fact that a banker earning £1m+ in London would be seen by George Osbourne as better for the 'economy' than 20 who are currently unemployed earning half that amount between themselves. This economic disparity has lead to levels of inequality not seen since Victorian times.

Also that many of the poor immigrants, especially in agriculture, represent little more than indentured servitude, which is almost akin to slavery.

Both the banker and the crop picker would be seen as a positive by an economist, I think we all know in our hearts that they are wrong.

ipsogenix Sun 12-Jun-16 16:48:33

Thanks so much for that MuddledMuse. I'm slightly worried now, that I didn't see it as tin hat stuff at all, but I hope it was okay to say it all.

I also find the need for constant growth weird. They said we needed 2% global growth, but I don't understand why. I'm not an economist, so if anybody wants to come along and explain, I'm all ears.

ipsogenix Sun 12-Jun-16 16:50:48

So much of the world seems to be run along economic rules these days, and very often those economic rules seem divorced from reality.

ipsogenix Sun 12-Jun-16 16:56:31

The other thing I find worrying is that in the old days when we were all separately run countries, there would usually only be a few places at war at any given time, and we could all become refugees and go and live in the peaceful countries.

Now that globalisation has come along, does that mean that we're all going to get in a strop at once, and the whole global system will have a bad year all at the same time?

Where are the refugees going to go? Mars? I know it sounds daft, but I think it's a serious thing.

In that sense, I think it would be better for all of the countries to run themselves so that there's a passing chance that at least one or two would have a sensible government regime in place at any given time.

At the moment it seems to be Canada that has its head screwed on. Well done Canada. The rest of us all seem to have taken leave of our senses.

fourmummy Sun 12-Jun-16 17:41:24

At one point during the Andy Haldane talk that I went to, he mentioned how Italy hadn't invested in such and such (forgot what it was now) and as a result, their growth was zero. Cue derisory laughter from the audience. I think that we've forgotten that if someone invests, they want growth and expect growth (otherwise they wouldn't invest). That is why we need some State intervention, so that we can have investment without necessarily that expectation. Ghost - I agree with you that these things are a huge part of our life now but we can change course. There will always be 'trading' and 'capitalism' in the sense that we'll always want to turn our one bag of flour into two or move from a tiny flat into a bigger house - these are universal and seem to be inescapable aspects of humanity. These things are not bad in and of themselves. They represent human progress and achievement. The key is to be able to say, 'Enough for now'. However, the fact that the EU has shackled itself to big business, in the form of banks, TTIP, corporations, etc. means that there is an expectation of growth given the investment. This is the reason for the migrant crisis. We have stopped producing people (consumers and producers) so the EU needs to get them from elsewhere. The only way out is for corporations to accept that they'll make less profit, that we won't have a bigger house every five years, and that we won't change our phone every year. Our growth may be slower but so what? Does it really matter? We can just just slow down or even stand still for a bit. More and more, I see the EU as a runaway train, needing and expecting an annual 3% growth - exponentially. The sole reason for this is because of corporates and their investment, which, in this case, is not a good thing and does not represent human progress because the primary outcome is profit for the few rather than the many (if they were happy to accept smaller profits, that would be another matter). If the EU had shackled itself to some other mechanism, then things perhaps would be very different. It made wrong decisions and got coerced by big business.

ipsogenix Sun 12-Jun-16 17:56:44

fourmummy yes I see what you mean. I've kind of decided to have reduced "growth" just to try and make life sustainable. We decided to stop after one dc so that he can have our house after we have finished with it, rather than having to work himself into the ground earning a house from scratch. I think that fits with what you're saying.

Appletreeblossom123 Sun 12-Jun-16 18:53:11

MuddledMuse, I understand your concerns, but I would turn the question around and say, bearing in mind that if we brexit we will be brexiting with a right-wing Conservative government (with no hope, as far as I can see, of Labour winning the next General Election) do you really think that in that context a Brexit will help poorer people in our society?

I share your concerns about plundering the planet, but do you really believe that the actual Conservative government that we will have post-Brexit has its heart set on doing anything about that? It is, after all, the Conservative government that has been so keen to push ahead with fracking, notwithstanding widespread concern about its long-term effects, and it has also been keen to relax planning laws to make it easier for developers to gain planning permission. Interestingly, Friends of the Earth has declared itself in favour of Remain because of the EU's enviromental protection measures, and other pro-wildlife charities have taken the same view.

I certainly agree with you about the acquisition of more and more stuff not necessarily making people happier, but I really can't see the Conservative government that we would actually get doing anything about this.

The working times directive is a joke as many workers are obliged to sign away their rights. I could be wrong here, but I thought that the original working time directive would not have allowed people to sign away their rights, but that the ability to do so was negotiated as part of Britain's opt out from the working time directive. But whether I'm right on that or not, at least the EU was trying to take measures to protect people from excessive working hours, unlike our own national government.

With respect, when you are considering where to point the finger in terms of the gap between rich and poor widening, I think you should be looking a lot closer to home, ie at our own national government. I think the right wing media has been pretty successful in convincing many ordinary people that the government would do so much more for them if only its hands weren't tied by the EU. However, decisions such as the decision to reduce the top income tax rate from 50% to 45%, and to reduce tax on death benefits paid from pension funds in income drawdown (the latter probably passed most people by, but the details are such that it will benefit almost exclusively the better off) were entirely domestic decisions in no way forced on the government by the EU. Ditto the decision to put up the 40% tax threshold by more than the rate of inflation in the same Budget that announced reductions to disability benefits. EU law does not prevent the UK government from implementing tax policies which impose a greater tax burden on the better off. Our income tax regime reflects the political choices of our national government. The level of the minimum wage is set by our national government, which can also choose what level of resources to devote to actually enforcing it. So under current EU law the government can not stop workers from Eastern Europe coming to our country and working for Sports Direct. But it can decide how much effort to put into ensuring that all workers, regardless of nationality are paid the minimum wage, and it can decide to give all workers greater legal protection against unscrupulous employers. In this respect, the Conservatives chose to increase the minimum period of employment for bringing an unfair dismissal claim from one year to two years. It also chose to massively increase the fees for bringing an Employment Tribunal claim, meaning that for a lower paid worker it is entirely possible to have a valid claim, but not be able to afford to bring it. In contrast, the EU has required members to put in place measures to protect workers who are potentially more vulnerable, by making it illegal for employers to provide workers with less favourable treatment just because they work part-time or on a fixed term contract.

Personally, I suspect that the right-wing senior Tories leading the Brexit campaign are probably not that bothered about high levels of immigration from Eastern Europe. I'm sure they are quite happy to stir up anti-immigration feeling as a way of getting votes for the Leave campaign, but I think the measures that the EU has put in place to protect workers' rights (and the fact that national governments can't simply get rid of them) are precisely what the senior pro-Brexit Tories don't like about the EU.

Anyway, MuddledMuse, I certainly don't think you're a loon, but I do think think that someone with your views ought to be voting Remain. I have tried to address your points in a considered and reasoned way, so I am hoping you will consider carefully the points which I have made.

fourmummy Sun 12-Jun-16 19:09:58

Apple haven't read the rest of your post yet as kids are getting in the way again (!) so I'll have to go but I thought I'd comment on this for now:

I certainly agree with you about the acquisition of more and more stuff not necessarily making people happier, but I really can't see the Conservative government that we would actually get doing anything about this.

We can keep trying until we evolve our society into the kind of place where we all want to live. It won't happen overnight and I for one accept that it may not happen during my lifetime. But it may happen in my children's or grandchildren's lifetimes, and then it will all have been worth it. We already know what the EU represents - it's shackled to banks, and other conglomerates. If we leave, we'll have a Tory govt. for a bit but we can change that. Heck, one of us can stand for power if there's no-one available! All of this is possible. With the EU, we are forever expected to produce growth as a result of the investment of banks and multi-nationals.We can change our government. We can't change the EU.

Appletreeblossom123 Sun 12-Jun-16 19:47:39

fourmummy, I frequently see people posting that we have the power to change our own government if we don't like it. However, given our first past the post electoral system, I frankly don't think our own national government is that representative of the views of the UK population as a whole. For example, in the 2015 General Election, over 60% of the electorate voted for a party other than the Conservatives. Yet here we are with a Conservative government which can push through its own policies without needing the support of any other party. (Yes, it hasn't escaped my notice that Tory MPs are not exactly a united bunch at present, but nevertheless where they do agree on policy, they can implement it without the need for support from any other party.) So I think the idea of being able to vote out our own government if we don't like it is a bit of a red herring. Perhaps some people prefer a system that is relatively simple and therefore more easily understood, but as democratic systems go, that's about all it has going for it.

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