How can we make a greater contribution in the public square?

Tony Emerson reports from CUSP’s latest event, Nature of Prosperity Dialogue: An Economy that Works for All, and asks how JiE can play a greater role.

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The event was quite uplifting to hear the level of agreement expressed by Michel Jacobs (IPPR, and formerly Gordon Brown’s advisor on green economics) and Miatta Fahnbulleh (New Economics Foundation) on the changes of direction needed in economic policy. They described a direction that we would very much agree with

It was also inspiring to hear Clive Lewis, a member of the Labour front bench economics team, say that growth (as currently defined) is not the answer.  A big change in less than five years when Ed Balls and Chuka Umunna lead that team.

The opening address was given by Tim Jackson of CUSP, author of Prosperity without Growth. Tim emphasised the need for the economy to prioritise social and climate justice.  This theme was continued by Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Robert Kennedy, former US Attorney General, over here speaking on behalf of RFK Human Rights. Kerry gave a moving account of the experiences of the ‘left behind’ generation in the US, voting for Trump in despair. She challenged all of us to think about how we’re colluding with the creation of the same conditions for people in the UK.

Clive Lewis made the point that UK carbon emissions had actually increased since 1990 when you include UK contributions to air and sea transport, and our excess of imports over exports.  He also emphasised the limitations of GDP as a measure of progress, and argued that the political left needs a new narrative, and new analytical tools.

Michael Jacobs outlined some of the main recommendations of the recent IPPR Commission on Economic Justice report.  I’d very much recommend reading of the executive summary of this report for the detailed recommendations on tackling gross inequality and climate breakdown, of reforming company law, etc. It’s also notable for the range of people who participated in this commission: including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Global Managing Partner, McKinsey and Company, the General Secretary of the TUC, the Chief Executive, Manchester Airports Group plc, and the Shadow Chancellor.  Miatta Fahnbulleh outlined the six systemic changes that required over the next decade to create the stepping stones for a new economy.

Both Michael and Miatta emphasised the need for building the widest possible consensus.  There is an appetite across the political spectrum for developing a new understanding of social well-being, and new indicators are being developed.  It’s not just a question of being ‘anti-growth’ – reducing GDP would not necessarily lead to greater sustainability, Michael Jacobs added.  There is widespread disquiet about the gross imbalance of wealth and power in society, and with the direction of the current economic and business models.

Finally, the day was rounded off with an address by CUSP patron, Rowan Williams.  This will shortly be available on the CUSP website.

Returning to the question which I headed this report: What more can we be doing in getting the Christian voice heard in support of CUSP, NEF and IPPR in their quest for much greater equality, for ensuring that economy activity does not violate planetary boundaries, radical reform of company law and of the monetary system, etc?  I had a very helpful meeting last month with Louise Davies the new director of Christians on the Left.  She believes that the network Christians in Politics might be very interested in hearing ideas from us, and organising something jointly with us, and with the Conservative Christians Fellowship, the Lib Dem Christian Forum and Christians on the Left.

But what?  Your ideas please.  My suggestion as a starter: a conference ‘Making Laudato Si a reality in the UK in the 2020s’?  But you can come up with a better means of getting our voice heard in the public square!

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