Poverty is on the rise, the country is divided more than ever and we’re barreling towards a global climate catastrophe. The current political and economic system is not fit to tackle many of the issues we face today and will face in the future. There needs to be a dramatic shift in the way we deal with the challenges of today. A ‘turning point’ if you will.
Unfortunately, despite the current rise of Conservatism around the world and the dominance of capitalism in the West over the last 40 to 50 years, a Conservative student-led movement advocating for free markets, limited government, personal responsibility and duty to others have taken that name. Turning Point UK see reducing regulations and opening up capitalist markets as a way of solving the problems of today, and they’re fully entitled to have that opinion. But what they offer isn’t a turning point at all, it’s just a less regulated version of neoliberal capitalism – something that’s been the main economic driver of many Western countries for decades.
In the last couple of days, Turning Point UK has been officially launched in East London and have visited a number of other cities with a couple of the American founders of the movement. So it only seems right to take this time to discuss why the UK and countries all over the world need a ‘turning point’, just not the one that they offer.
I mean, do we really need a turning point from Conservatism to more Conservatism?
Turning Point UK
Turning Point UK is a Conservative student-led movement looking to educate young people on the values of free markets, limited government and personal responsibility. The ‘About Us‘ page of their website then goes on to attack left-wing politics, the education system (which I can only assume they feel is brainwashing students in some way??) and the Labour Party who somehow want to “disarm the nation”.
They start off meaning well. But, like many of their posts on Twitter, fall into the same rhetoric they argue is a problem with the left. They claim to be against the growing division seen in the UK, but continue to divide. They also claim that capitalism has the tools to solve the growing problems we see around the world, but show no evidence of how.
The End of Capitalism as We Know It
I will start by saying that I am not opposed to capitalism. It’s why I can write this blog on a MacBook Pro and share it across social media. However, what I am against is looking towards the free market and limiting government influence in order to tackle the problems we have today.
Capitalism has been the dominant economic model for much of the Western world for centuries. Neoliberalist policies in the 1980s that led to the privatisation of a number of many sectors have shaped not only the UK economy but national economies all over the world as well. It’s allowed for the economic growth we continue to see and has pulled millions out of poverty.
However, whilst it has done wonders for national economies, and the global economy, it has devastated the environment and is a huge cause of the social division we see today.
The bottom line for the free market is, understandably, turning a profit and reducing the costs of their product as much as possible, no matter what the impact. There are of course many companies that are more environmentally-conscious, and that can often become a unique selling point, but many still put profit well ahead of the environmental or social impact they have.
In the past, profit generation and growth have come at any cost. However, we are now more aware than ever of the impact we are having. This is pushing governments to pass tighter regulations and restrictions to have greater control of what industries can do. They are still able to generate profits and grow but must do so with a more environmentally- and socially-conscious mind.
The 2008-09 financial crash was a result of the rollback of regulations of the financial sector. Banks were allowed to make more risky investments with less control from governments and the taxpayer had to pay for it. In the UK, taxpayers paid billions to bail out a number of banks after the crash and austerity soon followed, arguably leading to the social decline we’ve witnessed in the last decade.
Also, the oil industry has looked to exploit countries where there is little regulation in comparison to many Western countries that now have much tighter regulations on the production, transport and refinement of fossil fuels. You only need to look at what Royal Dutch Shell has been doing in the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta in Nigeria.
That’s what a lack of regulation can do.
Ultimately, the capitalist system as it is is unsustainable.
To me, regulation is vital if countries are to tackle climate change and the challenges of a divided society. Governments have attempted to enforce regulations on companies operating within their borders to control what can and can’t be done. Regulations do place a limit on the Free Market, but it can also direct companies and businesses to innovate in a particular direction. It also provides protection for consumers and ensures companies are operating with good will. To the smarter companies, this regulation opens up a new market to invest in.
Take the energy industry as an example. Fossil fuels are being increasingly regulated because we’re aware of the damage they do to the natural environment and how they contribute to climate change. It is likely that regulation and peak oil will eventually increase the cost to where it is not viable, even for the billion-dollar oil and gas companies. This is where investment in renewables can open up a whole new market. Clean energy that is becoming increasingly cheaper to produce and store and will become the future of energy.
The Need for a New Economic Era
The globalisation of the world and the rapid spread of information that is possible today means that we are increasingly aware of the role we play in the world. As great as capitalism has been for economic development, everything we’ve built and achieved has come at the cost of the environment and, increasingly so, society.
Turning Point UK would argue that the solutions lie within the free market. The belief that industries can come together and reduce their environmental and social impact, or even create a net benefit to the environment or society, is one that many Conservatives share; technological advancement that comes with economic growth will solve all our problems.
But it’s a very idealistic viewpoint. We’ve seen time and time again that industries will cut corners and cause more problems than they solve without regulation. As much as we believe that the free market will have humanity’s best interests at heart, its profit line will always come first.
Those on the left don’t see it that way. Some go as far as saying Socialism is the answer, however that is for another blog. What I believe, as someone who would say they are on the left side of the political spectrum, is that the enforcement of regulations stop industries from causing damage to the environment and to society, with the eventual goal of providing a net benefit to both, and it is the development of these regulations that will force industry to adapt and truly start helping to solve the problems of today and the future.
We absolutely need a turning point. However, the last thing we need is Turning Point UK…