Europe in 1945 was devastated. A cataclysmic economic crash was followed ten years later by a destructive war. Millions had had been killed in action or in ethnic cleansings. Cities were ruined. Pattern of trade and credit were shattered. The Soviet Union, led by sociopathic dictator Josef Stalin, was gobbling up the countries of Eastern Europe. There seemed little to stop them spreading the rule of totalitarian communism to the west.
Into the chaos stepped US Secretary of State George C Marshall. Ably assisted by British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin (you won’t have heard of him: being Labour and a Trades Unionist, he has been written out of history) a Plan of colossal size, imagination and, let’s say it, generosity was instituted in 1948. It cost $15 billion; that’s an eye watering $3 249 billion in todays money. But it saved Europe, and as Keynes might have said, it saved the world. Cities were rebuilt, trade restarted and prosperity began to rise. The ambitions of Russian Dictators were thwarted-well, for a couple of generations anyway.
There are strong parallels between 1945 and now. Following the crash 0f 2007-08 the economies of the world are in a febrile state. Poverty and inequality are rising. Healthy international trade is failing. Economies are only kept alive by ad hoc, panicky government interventions. Yet the tasks we could achieve are both immense and possible. If accomplished they could lead to a world as broad and sunny as the postwar decades, when everyone (at least in western countries) was enjoying some of the fruits of prosperity and freedom.
It is in this light that we take very seriously the call for a new Green Marshall Plan. We quote from Larry Elliott of the Guardian. But you should find this covered in most world media today Here are the key extracts:
The …. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development will next week publish a report….. on behalf of an advisory panel including the chief economist of the Bank of England, Andy Haldane; Robert Skidelsky, the biographer of Keynes; and Mariana Mazzucato, a professor at University College London…….
The report will call for policymaking to be based around four objectives: environmental sustainability; rising wellbeing (rather than simply higher incomes); lower levels of inequality; and more resilient economies.
The [aim} is to harness the best of the market – its ability to adapt and innovate – with the power of the state in order to bring about economic transformation
Some of our more elderly, nervous readers are becoming anxious about the activities of the more, ah, how to put this?-enthusiastic– members of the green movement. All we can say is that the adoption of the OECD plan would cut the ground from under any number of muddy, well-intentioned feet.
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