Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
The Courageous State is an indictment of the behaviour and agendas of contemporary politicians. Richard Murphy argues that we have ‘a government … run by cowards who believe that there is nothing they can do but acquiesce to the demands of the market’ (p6). He juxtaposes the cowardly state, whose politicians have swallowed the lie that market outcomes are always better than state-designed outcomes and run away from their responsibilities by leaving everything to the market, with the Courageous State, whose politicians have integrity, who know that the future is uncertain and that there is a great deal they do not know, but also know that they must take responsibility, must choose and must act. He asks how we can expect people to have faith in politics and politicians when our politicians themselves have no faith in themselves but only in ‘the market’.
This is a book bristling not only with indignation, but with disbelief at the thinness and absurdity of the claims of neoliberalism: for example, that markets know everything but people make mistakes, that people are always selfish, always rational, always motivated by financial gain, and that transactions or exchanges are irrelevant unless they are cash-measurable (Murphy recognises that there are more nuanced neoliberal arguments, but makes a case that politicians act on the meta-narrative). The book shines a strong light on the narrowness of the economic vision that informs UK policy from Thatcher onwards.
Murphy wholeheartedly rejects neoliberal economics as the framework for thinking which got us into our current troubles, and makes a passionate and compelling case for a new framework which might get us out of them.
Part 1 of The Courageous State refutes the neoliberal analysis of the state and demonstrates how and why the state is not simply important but the very bedrock of a healthy and sustainable economy. However, Murphy does not simply offer a critique, though he does this with useful factual detail and conviction, but in Part 2 proposes an alternative model of economics. Running through the book are two conceptions of human nature: the grasping homo economicus of neoliberalism is displaced by an empathic, relational being who can only flourish, perhaps only exist, in society and in community. The former is motivated by acquisitiveness, the latter by the drive to maximise human potential (both individually and collectively). Murphy recognises that these are not new ideas; simply that they are new to mainstream economics.
The main aim of The Courageous State is to explore the kind of economics we need if this is who we are. Murphy proposes an alternative framework for thinking (he rejects the scientific connotations inherent in the word model) in which the goal of economics is to help us maximise our potential in four areas: material well-being, emotional well-being, intellectual well-being and our sense of purpose (which he judges a central human need). For me, this is one of the central charms of the book. The collective aspects of human identity are placed centre-stage as a human need and as a motivating force.
Murphy’s vision is clearly communicated, and The Courageous State offers us practical and conceptual tools for rejecting the neoliberal ideology which has underpinned government policy for the last thirty years. He distinguishes the cash economy of ‘feral finance’ from the real economy, and argues that the Courageous State should reduce and limit the former while promoting the latter. Part 3 of the book offers an exhaustive wealth of ideas on policies, including with regard to tax as a central right and power of government, that politicians could choose if they were guided by the broader vision of economics that Murphy proposes. In the bicentenary year of the Luddite Rebellion, I feel compelled to make the point that when Murphy says he is a not a Luddite but that we should provide tax relief to encourage employing people instead of machines, he is indeed making a proudly Luddite argument: that technology should not harm people and communities.
Murphy’s policy proposals are a key strength of the book. They overwhelmingly demonstrate, in very specific and concrete detail, that There Is An Alternative. Yet whilst Murphy invokes democracy throughout the book, both as necessary to the Courageous State and as threatened by the cowardly state and the reality of feral finance, I found there to be a central question which the book does not answer: how do we – as democratic citizens – act to create a Courageous State and not a cowardly one? Murphy’s perspective is powerful and compelling; it would only be strengthened by a more central analysis of power. Neoliberal politicians are not merely cowardly – by and large, they are themselves amongst the elite who benefit from the appropriation of resources by a tiny wealthy minority. They will not simply choose to be courageous. It is we, as active democratic citizens, who must demand it. This book is, however, a significant resource in that campaign.
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have now taken part in mass rallies for Corbyn's Labour. Eli Regan soaks up the atmosphere in Warrington
The under-30s could be decisive in the general election. Frances Grahl meets young people hit by Tory austerity and looks at what's driving their support for Labour
“To them it’s just another number, someone else being sent back. But when you’ve got three children being left without their dad … it’s quite major,” writes Rebecca Omonira-Okeykanmi.
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
Contagion: How the Crisis Spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe
How Empire Struck Back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency
Empire en Vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy
Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network
Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker
In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing
After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry
Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again
Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood
7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.
After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani
If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945
On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.
Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow
The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite
Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally