The 26th of March has been called as a day of protest in the UK. It’s been organised by the trade unions, who love a good march, but it’s got a pretty wide base of support. NGOs are supporting it, and a number of Christian groups are rallying supporters to attend. If all goes to plan, March for the Alternative will be the biggest trade union organised march for 20 years.
I won’t be going. I’m a passionate advocate of ‘the alternative‘, and I believe the government’s cuts programme is unfair and unnecessary. But here’s the problem:
As a slogan, ‘jobs – growth -justice’ is neat enough. But is the government against jobs? Against growth? George Osborne is due to deliver “the most pro-growth budget in a generation” this week. So how is that an alternative?
The TUC explains its vision of the alternative thus:
…an alternative in which rich individuals and big companies have to pay all their tax, the banks pay a Robin Hood tax and in which we strain every sinew to create jobs and boost the sustainable economic growth that will generate the prosperity which is the only long term way to close the deficit and reduce the nation’s debt.
I agree with the fair taxation, with the financial sector paying for the recovery, and tax dodging is a vital part of reducing the deficit. I’ve been a big supporter of closing the tax loopholes, and of the Robin Hood Tax. But I’m not going to go on a march to encourage us to “strain every sinew” to boost growth.
First of all, there is no such thing as ‘sustainable economic growth’ – not in a finite world. I’m not going to march for something that is impossible. It’s also fundamentally untrue that growth is the only way to close the deficit and end the debt. Pursuing growth is what gave us the debt in the first place. It’s also the big driver of inequality, so unqualified growth is likely to work against justice. The same people demanding growth here are likely to be highly displeased with Osborne’s pro-growth budget, but you can’t have it both ways.
Yes, we need an alternative, but this vision of it isn’t worth marching for. Let’s demand tax justice and call out the financial sector, but let’s demand a better economy, not just a bigger one.