'Economics for the Many' offer a radical, democratic vision for a Corbyn gov’t

Edited by John McDonnell
Verso, 2018

This book is a valuable collection of 16 short essays on the crisis facing modern Britain, coming up with progressive solutions which a Jeremy Corbyn-led government could usher in.

It is edited by and has an introduction by Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell, a long-time socialist and close collaborator of Corbyn’s. He says: “We are seeking nothing less than to build a society that is radically fairer, more democratic and more sustainable, in which the wealth of society is shared by all.”

The first piece, by Antonia Jennings who teaches at the London School of Economics, starts by talking about democratising economics in a post-truth world. She advocates educating the public, who have been misled into accepting the Tory government’s line on austerity, that it is unavoidable and necessary.

Simon Wren-Lewis discusses Labour’s fiscal credibility in context. He talks about the battle between the monetarists and the fiscalists in regulating the economy. He also speculates on a Labour government’s proposed course of action.

Prem Sikka talks about rising to the challenge of tax avoidance, one of the major social and political issues of our times, as HMRC estimates losses of around £36 billion a year in tax revenues through uncollected money due to avoidance and evasion.

Ann Pettifor discusses the need for a “green new deal”. Climate change poses a mortal threat to humankind. By the end of this century, large parts of the world will become uninhabitable at present rates of carbon emissions.

Pettifor suggests the implementation of a green new deal to finance the ecological changes required. In addition, she says it is necessary to build a sustainable economy, one dominated by a green army of skilled, well-paid workers.

Francesca Bria writes about the role of data and how to curb the power of the big tech companies. She says: “The fight for digital sovereignty should be coupled with a coherent and ambitious political and economic agenda capable of reversing damage.”

This will require reconnecting critical digital infrastructures and protecting citizens’ digital sovereignty.

Christopher Procter analyses how economics needs to be re-thought for a new age. He calls for a sharp break from neoclassical economics that dominate university courses.

Rob Calvert Jump discusses better models of business ownership. He suggests workers’ cooperatives as a good way to deepen democracy. He analyses the benefits of renationalisation, posing questions of how a Labour government would achieve such a transformation.

He suggests that in the case of most small and medium enterprises, it would not be that difficult to encourage more co-operative forms of ownership. For large companies, he proposes part-nationalisation.

This is a useful handbook for left activists. The material can be a little demanding for the layperson (but not inaccessible) and I would recommend reading it chapter by chapter. It deals with the standard problems of British society but comes up with some innovative solutions.

[Abridged from Socialist Resistance.]