A Sideways Look at Economic Growth

A friend of mine recently said in response to Cameron’s claim that Britain should use Christian values. that we need jobs, not social engineering. Avoiding the ideological quicksand that this is, it seems a pretty legitimate statement. Instead of tinkering with the social order, we need to create jobs through government investment.

This is a pretty Labour-ite criticism, and I’ve got no problem with it. Of course everyone needs jobs. Of course everyone is a bit annoyed at Cameron’s increasingly ideological politics, and heavy handed approach, and I’m sure many would relish the chance to get a swipe at him. I mean, when an Eton-educated Oxbridge graduate starts ranting about Christianity as a solution to the problems seen in society today, it’s easy to see how the irreligious working majority of said society could see him as edging into political cloud-cuckoo land.

But does the word Jobs remind you of anyone? The recently deceased alternative technology magnate; Steve Jobs? The sheer amount of publicity surrounding his death made me think of the other thing that the economy requires for success; the confidence of investors in industry. Steve Jobs made a huge impact on the technology industry, and perhaps the world through his innovation in that field and when he died, we paid testimony to this by uploading messages to others and the world about what happened, using technology his company helped made popular.

His company increased the confidence of its investors no end, perhaps even making other more optimistic towards technology industries and I don’t think there was time when Jobs was at the helm that Apple didn’t keep on growing into the technology market. As an individual, Jobs had built up so much of a pubic persona that when he died he did not just fill a column of some financial publication, he had almost unanimous media  recognition. This reveals something about the human nature; we trust faces more than things in some cases, especially faces who make things we use every day.

Making use of a cheap wordplay, why would we need Steve Jobs back then?

To restore confidence in corporations as a concept perhaps, because they generally seem incapable of shaking off their image as devils incarnate. To restore the idea that companies can actually benefit society. Which is of course what we need when world economies are struggling, and companies are failing to create the optimism that Apple did during its rise. Its not just investment we need in a capitalist society; we need innovation and invention to increase productivity as well.

This assumes that a capitalist society is what you want though, or at least what is necessary to prevent “doom”. Charlie Brooker’s Fifteen Million Merits may not have been brilliantly executed or what everyone wants to hear, but it definitely makes you think about where capitalism is going. He intended it to be a modern revival of the Twilight Zone style of standalone dramas in short series, built more to disturb than to impress, and it does do a pretty good job of caricaturing the modern consumer driven brand of capitalism.

Now I’ll introduce my third reference to “something I saw on the internet”, in an effort to tie all the loose ends I’ve left over the course of this article. I saw a BBC article on how schools need to introduce innovative education techniques incorporating modern technology to keep ahead of the game. They linked education to economic growth, and then used the example of China to say how they needed to keep increasing growth figures, if the west was going to compete. Here’s where I link together the two. Looking at the BBC article, I couldn’t help but see the similarity between the technology, specifically ipads, referenced by the BBC article and the  technology caricatured by Brooker’s program.

So what happens when the West runs out of places to look for economic growth? Is it the case that it has already, and it is now turning in on itself, looking for any sort of inward expansion into the people’s lives to increase productivity? The world envisaged by Brooker could be a simplified example of what could happen. To me, and several others besides, negative growth would be a better alternative to invasive corporate control over people’s lives.

The question is; how long are “we” going to allow “them” to continue, and how far are “they”, prepared to take it?

January 3rd, 2012 / Jack Pickering

One thought on “A Sideways Look at Economic Growth

  1. Pingback: Opinion: A sideways look at economic growth | The Open Wall

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