politics wealth

Who wrote this?

As I was doing some research for my talk on happiness and wellbeing this week (which went well, thanks) I came across this nice little summary of one of my points. I won’t tell you who wrote it. Have a read, and see if you can guess who this is for yourself.

For the past few decades we have witnessed unparalleled prosperity. But it is hard to escape the suspicion that there is something not quite right. In some cases, it’s difficult to put your finger on exactly what it is: a feeling of emptiness, and a lack of defined relationships and solid social structures. In other respects, it is clearly identifiable: rates of drug abuse and depression are rocketing.

It goes to show what most of us instinctively feel: that the pursuit of wealth is no longer – if it ever was – enough to meet people’s hope and aspirations; that over-consumption of the world’s resources cannot satisfy our most inborn desires; and yes, that quality of life means more than quantity of money.

Any ideas?

The answer is David Cameron, circa 2008, a time we might want to refer to as ‘peak Dave’. Two years later he would be out of opposition and in government,where his more holistic vision of wealth was swiftly forgotten. The scepticism he voices about GDP in this essay was replaced by promises of a ‘relentless focus on growth’. The push for solar power that he advocates was replaced by hymns of praise to fracking.

Looking back at this essay now, which you’ll find in the book Do good lives have to cost the earth?, I can almost imagine an alternative reality where David Cameron managed to convince his colleagues and followed through on his instincts. He would have left a very different legacy.

Lest we forget, the politics of opposition are different from the politics of government. Always worth remembering during election season.


  1. The unbridled desire for material things is an effect of spiritual emptiness. It cannot be fixed without fixing the cause.

  2. It wasn’t his colleagues he had to convince but the voters. Under Lynton Crosby’s advice he ‘ditched the green shit’ in 2015 and won a majority nobody expected against parties who put a greater priority on environmental matters.

    That’s democracy. The people have spoken, the bastards.

      1. He did, though Crosby was telling him to cut the green crap for several years before the election and it doesn’t change the fundamental point that as an elected politician he was responding to the views of the electorate.

        If he had ignored Crosby’s advice and convinced his colleagues to follow his 2008 thoughts then his legacy would be that of a 1 term prime minister who lost an election to Ed Miliband. ED MILIBAND for goodness sake!

        1. The surveys show that most people actually oppose fracking and support renewable energy, and the ‘greenest government ever’ had become a standing joke anyway. The Tories didn’t win in 2015 because they dropped the green policies, but because ‘Ed Miliband for goodness sake!’

          1. Hmm, if they were great vote winners why did Crosby want them dropped so much?

            You have to be careful when polls say a policy is popular. It might be on its own but others that conflict might be as popular and crucially, of greater importance in the eyes of the voters. Or it might be popular with those who aren’t going to vote for you and unpopular with those why might.

            How many excuses are they to avoid the fact these aren’t big vote winners?

            1. I didn’t say they are vote winners, but they’re not vote losers either. Almost nobody made up their mind about who to vote for in 2015 on the back of green policy. If nobody cares, mentioning them is a distraction, is more likely to be Crosby’s take.

          2. I think the narrative context was important. It is hard to talk about controlling energy prices while pursuing green energy policies. Supporting fracking does fit though. Lower energy bills have a greater importance to most voters.

            I do doubt that Cameron would have gained his majority of he had followed through on his early green policies. It is the imperative of politicians to be elected and you do that by positioning yourself along side the majority of public opinion. Which as discussed doesn’t rate green policies very highly.

    1. I mis-remembered. It was ‘Cut the green crap’, not ‘ditch the green shit’. But the electoral effect was the same.

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