As its chair, Tom Kibasi, director of IPPR, noted in his introduction to the report, the “members of the Commission come from all walks of life [including business, labor, local government, civil society and the church] and different political viewpoints.” Given the range of opinion, the group reached “a remarkable degree of agreement,” which its members hoped might be “reflected in a wider national consensus about a new direction for the UK economy” (vii).
Skimming the report this morning, it clearly has a great deal to teach us about possible new directions for the American economy as well. Over the next few days, I will offer brief summaries of different sections of the report, as a way of opening a broader discussion about its proposals and invite readers to send their comments and reactions.
The central argument of Prosperity and Justice is that “a fairer economy is a stronger economy.” According to its authors, we need not “choose between prosperity and justice: the two can, and must, go hand-in-hand. But without fundamental reform, [the UK] economy [and, we can add, the US] will continue to fail large numbers of people. We have to ‘hard-wire’ justice into the economy, not treat it as an afterthought” (1).
“To ‘hard-wire’ justice into the economy,” the report’s authors insist, requires “rethinking the way the UK [US] economy works: what it produces and how, and the rules and institutions that govern it. It will require governments to take a different approach to economic policy, and demand change of businesses, workers and investors alike. But the prize will be great: an economy where all can flourish, in a country that can be proud of its success” (1-2).
Prosperity and Justice is a comprehensive document, consisting of 250 pages of text and another 80 pages of footnotes. As such, it is also an important document, written by some of the best economic and policy minds of Great Britain, which affords us an excellent opportunity to think more deeply about what is wrong with our own economy and what we can do about.
In addition to short summaries of the report’s principal arguments, therefore, Prosperity and Justice will also serve as the text of an experimental LEARN study circle, which will be offered on the “Our Best New Jersey” web site. If you would like to participate in this study circle, or host your own, please contact me at Michael.Merrill@rutgers.edu or LEARN@rutgers.edu. It strikes me as an excellent way to learn more about how the economy works, why it often doesn’t, and what can be done about it.