17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 25 June 2012
We have all heard the arguments about how fair/unfair the tax system is. Lansley doesn't go there. Wisely, in my opinion, because most of us have already got fixed ideas about that.
The strength of his book is that it takes a new angle, namely, that inequality stops a free enterprise system from working properly. His target is workability, not morality. He then shows that it isn't new. The same arguments were being made years ago, and it was only when they were heeded that the recovery from previous great depressions began. Lansley doesn't rely on rhetoric, however: he presents plenty of cogently-argued evidence that the same conditions which produced the Great Depression of the 1930s were also visible in the 2000s. What's more, many people saw it and warned what was to come. The politicians put their hands over their ears and refused to listen, like an over-excited child who's been told it's bedtime.
The fact is that if too much wealth is held by the super-rich, they don't do anything productive with it. No one can spend that much on consumables, so they spend it on pushing up the value of van Goghs and on financial speculation. That accumulates even more money, but it doesn't produce anything. The squeeze is on the rest of us. This argument is very similar to that of the Patriotic Millionaires in the USA, who argue that they should be taxed more in order to leave less well-off people more free cash. What creates jobs and new businesses is ordinary people having money to spend. That's what creates demand, and without demand there can be no growth. It remains to be seen whether "quantitative easing" will make any difference, but my hunch is it won't, because the money goes where the money already is, not into demand.
Sounds simple? It is. Everyone should read this book.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 1 November 2011
This is a must read book. Beautifully written, the author has made economics enjoyable and easy to understand. The book demonstrates that excessive profits over wages and vice-versa will result in an imbalance in the fragile working of the western economic model and lead to the dire consequences of the 1930s, the 1970s and more recently since 2007. The book has many examples of how the greedy 1% seek to invest in high risk financial instruments, despite their wealth generating the highly volatile speculation which the City of London facilitates to the detriment of the other 99%. Whether you agree of disagree with the arguments in this book, it is a great read and highly recommended to anybody who is at all interested in the current state of world economics.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 10 August 2012
This book isn't as 'high brow' as I had feared and explains quite clearly how and why the economy is up and down like a yoyo. It also paints a very grim picture of the greed of those at the top - and the outcome of this greed on those at the bottom. That those with so much can still want so much more is very sad, especially when to get it the ordinary working person is sacrificed. I now understand what hostile take-overs are and why jobs are 'shed' in the name of profit. This book won't make me an economist, but I now have a better grasp of what goes on in the world of big business.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 21 November 2011
A superb review of the power and importance of money in the world today.
As someone curious, but almost totally ignorant of the factors involved, it has given me real understanding of the current global economic crisis.
Credible measures to try to tackle the crisis are suggested.
A compusory read for all thinking people.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 May 2013
A well presented argument that brings together, analyses and explains many strategies and situations about which, I, for one, have been concerned for many years. The book is worrying inasmuch that it demonstrates how power and greed conspire to ignore the indications of a bleak future and also, with misguided political connivance, how these traits have catapulted what should be a service industry to the position of the major player. Unfortunately, this player is parasitic and has all but killed off the real economy.
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 2012
This excellent book looks at how huge and growing inequality affects Britain's economy. It complements Richard Wilkinson's splendid The spirit level, which looks at inequality's moral and social effects.
Since 1980, Britain has had three recessions, 1980-81, 1990-91 and 2008-09, in which output fell by 4.7 per cent, 2.5 per cent and 6.4 per cent.
These crises resulted from worsening relations between the classes: Thatcher's attack on the working class cut wages, causing a fall in demand. Inequality is not the cause of the crisis: it is an effect of the current state of the class struggle.
As two IMF economists, Michael Kumhof and Romain Rancière, wrote, "The crisis is the ultimate result, after a period of decades, of a shock to the relative bargaining powers over income of two groups of households, investors who account for 5 per cent of the population, and whose bargaining power increases, and workers who account for 95 per cent of the population (and whose bargaining power has fallen)."
The ruling class, primarily its financial component, loot the productive economy. We, the vast majority, suffer a slump. Since 2005, our living standards have fallen every year. The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that our real take-home pay will keep falling till 2016 at least.
Thatcher's hero Milton Friedman said in 1980 that Britain's industry should be allowed to fall to bits. Financial services would fill the gap. Thatcher embraced this view and enforced it. Labour followed Thatcher.
Thatcher removed lending controls, enabling the growth of credit card companies, loan companies and building societies turned banks. But between 1979 and 2009, financial services generated only 140,000 new jobs.
It is not that the state is `crowding out private endeavour', as Osborne claimed, but finance is crowding out industry. In Britain, the economy grew by 2.2 per cent under Thatcher and Blair, by 3 per cent between 1950 and 1973, pre-Thatcher.
Between 2000 and 2008, Britain's real growth rate was not 3 per cent a year, but 1.5 per cent. 1.5 per cent was Brown's bubble borrowing. Between 2000 and 2007 consumers' spending grew by £55 billion more than their income. A rise in debt means creating money without wealth.
Finance grows from debts and fees. If a typical British and a typical Dutch person save exactly the same amount for their retirement, the Dutch person will get a 50 per cent larger pension. When we are sold pensions at a charge of 1.5 per cent a year, this will mean 38 per cent of our possible income being lost to fees over the lifetime of our pensions.
British companies invest less in R&D than their competitors. In 2005 they spent £17 billion on R&D, but between 2000 and 2008 they spent £86 billion a year on mergers, which destroy wealth and jobs, but paying vast fees to those who financed the mergers.
Between 1999 and 2007 domestic bank lending tripled, but their lending to manufacturing halved, to just 2.4 per cent of all loans: £1000 billion went to property investment, just £50 billion to manufacturing. Between 2008 and 2010, banks doubled the rate of interest they charged on loans to small businesses.
In the first half of 2010, Britain's top five banks made £15 billion profits (largely by financing mergers). But they lent less than they got in repayments. In 2009 Barclays paid £113 million corporation tax on record profits of £11.6 billion - a 1 per cent rate! Also in 2009, 300 staff at government-owned RBS got more than £1 million each.
New rules, Basel-III, drawn up by bankers, impose tighter controls on banks, but won't be implemented till 2019 and won't prevent other crises, according to Mervyn King. As he said, "Of all the many ways of organising banking, the worst is the one we have today."
Lansley rightly urges the need for a National Investment Bank to provide affordable loans and grants for industry and infrastructure projects. Of course, the EU would try to stop us creating such a bank.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 16 May 2012
Usually progressives don't like free markets because, they say, they are often unfair to the weak and cause high degrees of social inequality. Free-marketeers retort there's no other way to efficiency, so everybody is due to become better off at the end of the story. In this readable book British economist Stewart Lansley explores and summarizes a new set of ideas: too much inequality leads to heavy losses of efficiency, so in the end it is harmful to all. Profits and very high incomes that outstrip productive investment opportunities lead to an overgrowth of finance; and financial instability now risks throttling productive capitalism. Lansley is no enemy of free markets; he only wants to show they work better if carefully regulated towards fairness.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 October 2012
A serious economic and social review of the world society for all. very readable. For every country where disease and famine is no longer the threat, the threat of inequality in finance is abundantly clearly demonstrated. For me this is almost apocalyptical. If there isnt agreement on balance, countries/societies will gradually fail with recessions after recession damaging the ever decreasing fabric of society and its ability to live peacefully. Ignore this book at the peril of the world's future.