Jeremy Hardy thinks… about a planned economy

'Millions of people have mind-numbing and soul-destroying jobs manufacturing crap we don’t need'
December 2011

Bursting a tyre in a pothole, yards from my home, I wondered why Keynesians might feel the need to pay people to dig holes and fill them in again. There are tons of things that need doing in this country. And tons of people doing jobs that add absolutely nothing to the sum of human wellbeing.

But, since the Great Depression, there has been a perception that it doesn’t matter what people do, so long as they have money to spend. Likewise, it doesn’t matter what they buy, so long as someone gets paid for making it. So millions of people have mind-numbing and soul-destroying jobs manufacturing crap we don’t need, and the only objection to that fact is that so many of them are now Chinese rather than British.

And the only reason mainstream politicians are now berating a boom that was fuelled by credit and property values is the fact that it ended. The Tories now profess a love of British manufacturing but until 2008 they were as much in love with the City as Gordon Brown was. Indeed, by the time John Major left power, this country was making nothing but Kendal Mint Cake and instruments of torture, and Conservatives were quite happy for our consumer goods to be sweated out of people in hot countries, while we just sold them to one another.

And despite being divided about exactly how to provoke a ‘recovery’, both main parties have junked any real concern about the fact that we are rapidly using up our planet and heading for an environmental disaster that will make pensions largely unnecessary. There has never been a stronger case for a planned economy, and one with a great big heart.

Jeremy HardyJeremy Hardy is a comedian and writer who regularly appears on BBC Radio 4's The News Quiz and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.


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Ji 12 December 2011, 11.27

A planned economy…. Surely this is a comedic line? Hasn’t our economy already been planned by the powerful and wealthy to benefit themselves? Also known as, the services sector…. It may not be explicitly planned by a boardroom of autocrats, yet it still remains, we are living in a planned economy, just not the right plans at all. I don’t really understand what this article is trying to inform me of.

Paul Lockwood 15 December 2011, 14.50

Governments pumping money into the economy simply to make people spend, without regard for what the money is used for, is Keynsianism. Governments pumping money into the economy to ensure that the economy is productive and makes things that are useful for society is socialism. The two are not and never have been the same. Too many people on the left are infatuated with Keynes without really understanding the difference.

Dan Clayton 1 January 2012, 15.53

We dont realy need comedians – crap or otherwise. But does this mean we should get rid of them?
When Hardy states that ‘millions of people have mind-numbing and soul-destroying jobs manufacturing crap we don’t need’ I wonder what jobs he wants to get rid of? Is he referring to the production of race horses, formula one cars and luxury yachts? Or is it the small pleasures of ordinary people he’s against? Who does he think he is to tell people that some of the things they buy is crap they dont need?
Surely radicals have better things to do than inspect people’s shopping trolleys.

Laurence 8 January 2012, 00.39

Of course Jeremy is absolutely right, as he always is. We need some effective planning at some level. With respect to who should say what we need, the general guiding principle is that we decide for ourselves, but at the same time, there must be some socially derived guidelines and limits – this is one of the features of living in a society in which we are interdependent, rather than all isolated individuals. The establishing of such guidelines and setting of limits should be subject to democratic processes. This article is trying to counter the widely-held belief that the market is the be-all-and-end-all, and that planning for social good impossible – i.e. the creed that New Labour swallowed after Thatcher. It’s high time for some constructive thinking about HOW we can introduce elements of planning and progressive forms of social ownership.

Pete 29 January 2012, 13.25

What economic framework would actually allow us to plan for human well-being within the ecological limits set by nature?

Frank Rotering comprehensively addresses this important question in his (free PDF) book entitled Needs and Limits — a credible pointer to a post-capitalist world.

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