Perhaps the single biggest difference any government can make to improve the wellbeing of both society and the economy is to reduce income and wealth inequalities.
Free market fundamentalists, backed up by a narrow right wing press will label such proposals as stale, regressive ‘old Labour’ type policies, but current government policies draw from an even older strain of dangerous and discredited economic thinking that hears back to the laissez faire capitalism that lead to the Great Crash of 1929 and to the more recent financial crash of 2008.
Unless inequality is addressed head, we are left with policies directed at piece-meal improvement of children’s education, vocational training, tackling obesity levels or mental ill health; these will never gain real traction and sustained improvement unless they are part of an over-arching coherent vision to tackle fundamental economic inequality. The evidence to support such a claim is overwhelming but the political will to do so is weak and in many cases works against the interests of the majority in favour of the affluent few. Some of the suggestions set out by policy experts working on this issue include:
- A robust and progressive taxation system. The size of the challenge is set out in a report on tax evasion by the tax expert Richard Murphy which estimated that in 2014 alone, the tax gap of £120 Billion – more than the total annual cost of the NHS.
- Decrease the wage gap through introducing low pay ratios, a ceiling on top rates of pay and a living wage
- Promote trade union and employment rights by extending industrial democracy and worker representation.
- Fundamental monetary reform that removes the power to create money from banks and instead, give this to Bank of England or a new committee that decides whether to create money – it must be accountable to Parliament and protected from abuse by vested interests. Just as importantly money creation should be free from debt and spent in the real economy to create jobs.