The ‘anti-austerity’ marchers really do need a reality check

Russell Brand speaks at the End Austerity Now rally in Parliament Square, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION

Russell Brand speaks at the End Austerity Now rally in Parliament Square, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 20, 2015. See PA story INDUSTRY Protest. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Last weekend tens of thousands of protesters marched through London calling for “an end to austerity”.

I’m sure most of them were sincere, but what were they really asking for? Do they really think the British government, working on its own, can totally reverse the basic laws of economics and human nature?

Frankly multi-millionaires like Charlotte Church and Russell Brand might do well to ask what ordinary people want before they make a spectacle of themselves telling the rest of the country how badly off we are!

I’m not a huge fan of pure monetarist economics of the type promoted in the past by Milton Freedman. However, I do not believe it is possible for an individual country to buck the economic facts of life.

Any government that does that is deluded – and will eventually end up in the kind of economic mess we had in this country in the 1970s and we are seeing today in Greece.

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Countries, and their governments, need to earn money before they can spend it – or at least to show that they can service the debts. If they cannot do that, investors, both within the country and outside, will lose confidence, and without that confidence an economy is shot.

That does not mean, of course, that all the “austerity” policies are necessary or desirable.

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It does not seem to be unreasonable to question the cost of replacing Trident when many feel the money would be better spent on improving conventional armed forces that are far more likely to be used.

Some of the more draconian welfare cuts will actually save a tiny amount of money while causing serious misery. Is the bedroom tax really necessary?

And while the talk is of “welfare cuts” we have to remember that the cuts being proposed are not primarily aimed at those who are out of work – their number is now mercifully very low.

Those now being targeted are those in work but whose employers do not pay them enough to live. They may well be “hard working” but the rewards of their labours are insufficient to live a decent life!

So where would I cut? I’d look at the universal benefits enjoyed by pensioners, however wealthy they are. Is it really right that just because you reach a certain age you’re entitled to free transport, free television licences and help with heating bills – however wealthy you are?

And I would look at reducing bureaucracy by simplifying the tax system – abolishing National Insurance and combining it with income tax to come up with a much easier and fairer taxation system.

But marching for “an end to austerity?” Be realistic. You might as well march in favour of ensuring we have 16 hours of daylight every single day of the year!

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