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Rewiring our economic thinking

Rewiring our economic thinking

Monday 10 January 2022

Rewiring our economic thinking


“Its the economy, stupid" is a phrase that was coined by James Carville in 1992.

Carville was a strategist in Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign against incumbent George H. W. Bush.

The phrase was directed at the campaign's workers and intended as one of three messages for them to focus on. The other key messages were, "change vs more of the same" and, "don't forget healthcare."

We now read that the new political party system in Jersey is gathering pace in preparation for the General Election in June. Jersey Alliance, Jersey Liberal Conservatives, and the Progress Party will be battling it out with Reform Jersey, who formed in 2014 to secure our votes. 12 Constables are also up for election and inevitably there will be a handful of Independents for us to consider before casting our votes. 

Manifestos will be provided and no doubt canvassing in the weeks ahead will increase as all the candidates aim to secure our attention hopefully influencing our decisions early on in the race.

It has been suggested in recent days that ‘The Housing Crisis’ will be a key area of debate as electioneering hots up but inevitably the seemingly endless conversations about the new build hospital will continue to focus attention.

Meanwhile, coronavirus statistics dominate the daily news and it is hard to ignore the alarming announcement of 7 January that "global dementia cases are expected to triple by 2050."

It seems therefore, that the three key areas campaign workers were told to focus on during Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign of 1992 mirror those the candidates and parties seeking our votes in June of 2020 may well need to similarly be well prepared to meet. 

Journalists and others in Jersey have ample opportunity to formulate their questions and no doubt anyone interested enough to study and read the manifestos will be seeking answers from those standing for election.

In his excellent paper 'Exploitation of the Earth, Exploitation of People', Revd Dr John Weaver argues that ``economic thinking based purely on the ‘market’ tends to assume that there are unlimited natural resources, which clearly there are not. Ecological concern reflects our intrinsic human value as citizens, whereas the market economy emphasises our extrinsic value as consumers."

Jersey's government appears to be wedded to the idea that the ‘market’ should determine and inform its economic policies.

Only recently we have heard Housing Minister Russell Labey discuss the challenges he faces trying to tackle the problems of affordability in housing. The main social housing providers are now required to use a percentage of market rate in order to set rents!

The cost of living including high rents and soaring housing prices are resulting in people moving away from the island or choosing not to come. This is leading to the problems of staff shortages in key areas in the island's workforce, not least in Health and Social Care.

We have an ageing population and it is inevitable - if the headlines about the rise globally in dementia cases includes our own population as surely it will - that the strain on HSC and carers will become a significant challenge if not the case already.

Clinton’s campaign suggested "change or more of the same" had to be a key area of focus! Will our new party political system as unfolding offer us real change or the status quo? 

What does seem clear to me, even now, is how the economy is managed by our new government will determine what can in reality be achieved to address the challenges of today and moving forward. 

The new government will have its work cut out to meet the needs of the island and its citizens. How the government values its citizens must be priority number one and how we as individuals choose to live must play a part in setting government  policy.

Our exploitation of the earth and assumptions about its resources are impacting heavily on our way of life. Covid gave us all time to think, reflect and review. Have we learned anything from the pandemic and are we prepared to rethink our priorities? 

We might all look rather stupid if we fail to change but whoever we elect in June requires our support as they face the challenges of government. More of the same will not cut it and the importance of good health care remains as ever a top priority. 

Unless we get the economics right, everything else becomes much more difficult to address. 

Perhaps rereading Charles Dickens as follows might help us all rethink? 

"My other piece of advice, Copperfield," said Mr Micawber, "You know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery."

The Government of Jersey has no money of its own - it's ours, the taxpayers', and collectively we need to manage and spend it wisely.

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