The economic consequences of Mr Greenspan

Nora Connolly 

Image © IMF Photograph/Stephen Jaffe

Dedicated to David Wright who is about to celebrate his 50th birthday.

Alan Greenspan the former chair of the Federal Reserve has just published a book an occasion that allows time for reflection. In his pomp he was known as Saint Alan and the economic consensus he helped shape, today appears unruffled and widespread. The austerity programme followed by the UK government recently commended by Greenspan, a supporter of George Osborne. One of the important ingredients for economic success according to Mr Greenspan (speaking several years ago) is the need for `growing worker insecurity which reduces pressure for compensation and decent working conditions` the UK government is following that piece of advice to the letter. Meanwhile in the USA wealth resides in the hands of a tiny fraction of the population a `section so small that the census doesn’t even pick it up…a tenth of a percent of the population`. This has political implications because power is held in limited hands and helps explain the ideological hinterland of Barack Obama, a centrist amid a right wing consensus. Unsurprisingly there has been no Obama New Deal. Given this situation, one need not wonder why adherence to the market continues unabated. Even though the crash of 2008 is considered worse than 1929, but in the 1930s a new consensus emerged, while today a conservative orthodoxy dominates.   Read more of this post

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Gay marriage takes one more step forward

Dominic Turner

Image © Fritz Leiss

When President Obama yesterday announced his support for gay marriage he made an important and symbolic gesture, not merely of his own ‘evolution‘ on the issue, but of the Western world. It goes without saying that Obama, in trademark timidity, waited until the polls indicated that gay marriage was supported by a majority of Americans, and that even whilst he is personally comfortable with gay marriage, he is bringing forth no legislation to make it a reality. Nevertheless, yesterday marked a historic moment in the Gay rights movement.

I am not gay, and neither are any members of my immediate family. I have many friends and members of my extended family who are, but the issue of gay rights has never affected me personally. But the struggle for equality of all peoples is not a cause to be fought by only those who are affected. Good white men and women marched with their black brothers and sisters to end segregation and apartheid in the 20th Century. Gay rights are fundamentally civil rights and another articulation of the cause for equality.

Here in Britain we have come a long way since the 1980’s and the despicable s.28 Local Government Act, which outlawed the supposed “promotion” (and by that they meant discussion) of homosexuality in schools. Civil Partnerships now allow gay couples to enter into the legal equivalent of mariage. The Human Rights act has been used to allow the same rights of succession in housing for gay couples. One of the most encouraging aspects of the last decade is the leadership of the Conservative Party’s support Civil Parternships, and gay rights. But the hesitation from the lunatic fringe of the Tory Party to recognize gay marriage reveals, at its heart, a regressive and dogmatic conservatism. Civil Partnerships but not Marriage? Those who hold this counter intuitive position march under the same ideological banner that sustained segregation. Seperate but equal. Read more of this post

The Object of Torture is Torture:10 years of Guantanamo Bay

Dominic Turner

Image © U.S. Army

In the South-Eastern periphery of Cuba lies the province of Bahía de Guantánamo. Unlike the rest of the Caribbean island, its vegetation does not grow green and abundant. If only the signs of American imperialism were limited to the Cuban mainland’s only McDonalds and Starbucks. If only the crimes perpetrated in this naval base concerned the validity of the United States’ occupying lease, obtained under the threat of force.

Ten years ago, Guantanamo Bay received its first detainees and began an unending tale of human suffering and degradation for children as young as 13 and men as old as 98. Eye witness accounts detail a nightmarish existence of systematic beatings, torture, and humiliating treatment. But its not just the physical abuse that destroys the victims of Guantanamo. Its in every spiteful action, in every callous deed, the breaking up of families by denying prisoners even the right to exchange letters. By desecrating copies of the Quran and imposing unimaginable periods of solitary confinement.
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