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January 29, 2014


Ian Christie

Very good piece - thanks. The interest shown at Davos in health was purely instrumental and medicine-focused, but yesterday's launch in London of the NHS/Public Health / Social Care strategy for sustainable development was heartening in pointing to a much more holistic approach to the capabilities we all need to have a chance of flourishing (and not just as workers and consumers). Sen and Nussbaum's capabilities approach to well-being is potentially helpful for the programme you set out.
As for the motivation of policymakers and neoliberals to hand power to markets so as to avoid moral debates and decisions, that is plausible - but of course the results show it can't work. For example, taking a wholly instrumental view of the utility to be had from '24-hour-cities' with a night-time economy powered by booze and clubbing seems attractive to neoliberals, but it becomes impossible to ignore the moral dimensions of self-harm, crime and other side-effects for personal and public life. Similarly, financialisation brings an ethical crisis as well as a set of economic disasters. But having been so keen to offload morality in favour of market-based choice, policymakers have no means of speaking credibly about ethics without sounding like hypocrites and inconsistent paternalists. This is one reason why the political elites have done so badly in the wake of 2007-8, retaining power but losing all trust and respect - that they have no language or authoritative position to deal with the ethical challenges, at the same time as having no credible instrumental policies for making finance work again. The fact that so much of the remediation work on finance has had to be done by churches, NGOs and the courts is telling.


Great post, Will. I particularly like 'If I were Owen Jones..' I've long suspected he may be the only active leftist in the country, but this confirms it :-)


My comment ended up a bit too long. So I posted it on my blog...Follower Redistribution

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