On Friday, October 14, Liz Truss, prime minister of Britain, held a so-called “press conference”. It was, in the words of the political sketchwriter of ‘The Times’ (paywall): “nine meagre minutes” and when she left the room, “the scissored blonde bob swayed to her tread like the curtains of a speeding Cairo taxi.”
That’s pretty funny but there was a deadly serious point to the nine meagre minutes: Ms Truss’s insistence that she would continue to deliver her “mission”.
That mission, for those who aren’t following along, is trickle-down economics. Ms Truss wants to create “a high-growth, low-tax economy”, off the back of massive unfunded tax breaks for the richest.
For Britain in 2022 to adopt such an economic policy is so pathetic it is pitiful. The world has entered a post-neoliberal phase and developed countries are increasingly adopting industrial policy that’s neither so laissez faire nor unbalanced and anti-worker as the Reaganomics-Thatchernomics model from 40 years ago.
Don’t just take it from me. Rana Foroohar, global business columnist and an associate editor at the Financial Times, based in New York, recently recounted a quite remarkable anecdote. She said (paywall) that a senior Biden administration official told her, in her words: “business leaders are coming to Washington and asking for a signal in the noise of deglobalisation — should they be in Vietnam, Mexico, South Carolina? Should they put investment into clean technology or biotech, or both? They are also looking for increased public support for more domestic production in the wake of the semiconductor industry’s multibillion-dollar boost.”
The reason for that is not a move to a command-and-control template such as China. Instead, says Ms Foroohar, it is recognition that government-directed economic policies should support “equitable growth, rather than simply becoming a boondoggle for already wealthy corporations”.
She also notes that neo-liberalism meant the only priority was to incentivise gross domestic product but now policy-makers know that “growth is people plus productivity”.
In the future, writes Ms Foroohar, “managing climate change and issues of income distribution (at both the national and global level) will probably be the top priorities. So policymakers will have to ask whether their prescriptions support lower use of fossil fuels, the transition to clean energy, and middle-class job creation.”
But not Britain’s top policy-maker, Liz Truss. She just doesn’t get it, a level of knowledge-deprivation that has to inspire pity rather than anything else.