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Occupy’s analysis praised by Bank of England’s Andy Haldane – but this must only be the beginning

 
  • Haldane echoes Occupy’s analysis by linking inequality to economic instability

  • In questioning from audience, notes that there is ‘no great ideological chasm’ to jump on a Financial Transaction Tax and the risk of banks moving abroad is “somewhat overblown

  • Many of Occupy’s concerns remain to be tackled; panellist Mick McAteer, consumer advocate and Director of the Financial Inclusion Centre, notes that “winning the propaganda war” isn’t enough.

As part of Occupy London’s ‘New Putney Debates‘, Monday night’s packed ‘Socially Useful Banking?‘ event at Friends House saw the Bank of England’s Director of Financial Stability, Andy Haldane, assert that Occupy had been “right, not just morally but analytically” in identifying the problem of “deep and rising inequality” as lying at the heart of the crisis. [1] [2]  Haldane’s full speech is available here.

In his identification of inequality as a cause of fundamental instability, Haldane echoed the attack on “systemic economic inequality” of Occupy London’s Economics Statement, which was agreed by consensus almost exactly a year ago. [3] Further Occupy themes – including calls for the abolition of tax havens, complex derivatives and the relationship of economy and environment – came out strongly in the two hours’ lively questioning from the floor that followed Haldane’s statement.

“As Haldane has previously argued, banks are too big,” said Rich Paton, Occupy supporter and one of the panellists at the event. “Yet a ‘ring-fence’ might become a string vest.”

“What was particularly significant this time, was Haldane’s linking inequality to the debt crisis – not only as effect but as cause. That context is something he can affect less directly than banks, in his role as regulator. But it was a significant endorsement of some key Occupy themes and arguments.”

Part of Occupy London’s current series of public debates, dubbed ‘The New Putney Debates‘, celebrating the 365th year anniversary of the original debates in 1647, the ‘Socially Useful Banking?’ event was chaired by Lisa Pollack of the Financial Times’ Alphaville blog, with panellists alongside Andy Haldane and Rich Paton including Duncan Weldon (TUC), Andy Green (Bully Banks) and Mick McAteer (consumer advocate and FSA non-executive board member).

With the free Putney Debates events running until 11 November (donations are welcome) focusing on what is needed for a more just and equal society, contributors include Natalie Bennett (new Leader of the Green Party), Michael Mansfield QC, George Monbiot, Polly Higgins, Jeremy Leggett, John McDonnell MP, Halina Ward and Professor Conor Gearty, Annette Zera, Joseph Choonara, Hilary Koob-Sassen and many other writers, theorists, artists, and activists. [2] Full programme at http://thenewputneydebates.wordpress.com.

Towards a Socially Useful banking system

For his part, Haldane broke some interesting ground during the evening’s extended question-and-answer session. At one point, he signalled that “there was no great ideological chasm” preventing the adoption of a Financial Transaction Tax that would be “felt disproportionately” by high frequency traders and that the risk of large banks moving their headquarters out of the country was “somewhat overblown … Lots of countries now have seen the perils of having big banks on their doorstep, especially when they blow up.” [1]

In recognising that a “new leaf” is being turned, Andy Haldane’s speech specifically mentions how Occupy has played “a key role in this fledgling financial reformation.”

Mick McAteer, a consumer advocate and Director of the Financial Inclusion Centre, also on the panel, warned that sustained, targeted pressure would be necessary: “civil society groups are good at winning the propaganda war but we have a habit of losing the peace … We need to back up moral arguments with hard headed policy arguments.”

A full transcript of the debate will be published shortly on the Occupy London and Socially Useful Banking websites.

Notes

[1] Bank of England: A leaf being turned – speech by Andrew Haldane

http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Pages/speeches/2012/616.aspx

Telegraph – Occupy protesters were right, says Bank of England official

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/9641806/Occupy-protesters-were-right-says-Bank-of-England-official.html /

Guardian – Bank of England official: Occupy Movement right about global recession

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/29/bank-of-england-occupy-movement

Top Bank ofEnglanddirector admits Occupy movement had a point

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/top-bank-of-england-director-admits-occupy-movement-had-a-point-8231521.html

[2] Full programme for The Putney Debates – http://thenewputneydebates.wordpress.com; All events are free but donations are welcome to help fund them http://www.sponsume.com/project/new-putney-debates-2012

[3] Statements of Occupy London General Assembly and Working Groups – http://occupylondon.org.uk/about

 

 
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