Friday, 28 December 2007

Andrew Glyn

I was sad to hear that the Left economist Andrew Glyn died just before xmas. I read Capitalism Unleashed last year and I thought it was an impressive piece of work. Two bits stuck with me from it, one fairly obvious, the other less so.

The first is that the decline of organised labour has coincided with a decline in the share of profits going to labour. I guess most people will think that this is an obvious development, but it is a very important one. Unfortunately many people these days wonder what unions are for, given that government can legislate to address workplace issues. Well, that's true to an extent. But if you are concerned with economic inequality, or even just with getting your fair share of the economic pie, then you ought to favour re-unionisation of the workplace. Incidentally, when I have made this point to people, even those who are hostile to Labour, let alone the rest of the Left, I have found people quite persuaded by it. That gives me cause for a bit of 'optimism of the will'.

The second point from Glyn's book is a bit more of relevance to this blog. This is that with along with the decline of organised labour, and the restoration of profits, the macroeconomic environment stabilised. As such you would expect to see the level of business investment increase, and indeed it was predicted by supporters of market 'reform' that this would occur. Only it hasn't really happened. This is still something of a puzzle. This isn't covered in Glyn's book from memory but there is some suggestion that in countries with large capital markets, or in its place significant foreign ownership of companies, investor pressure for short-term returns may make businesses reluctant to invest. It's an area that is worth further exploration. A number of studies recently have looked at how short-termism on the part of investors is self-defeating, but few go on to conssider how this may impact the wider economy.

Finally Glyn also devotes quite a bit of time in the book to the rather radical idea of Basic Income. I think this shows that he still harboured a desire for radical reform, despite having moved on from his earlier Marxist approach to economics and politics.


Charlie Marks said...

Are you talking about domestic investment?

I know that if I was a capitalist I'd not set up shop here... Lower wages elsewhere in Europe, no?

Mystery solved?

Paul said...

God I hadn't heard that Andrew had died. For the last few years he's done a slot on the TUC's Leading Change programme - he was one of those rare academics who could take complex ideas and present them in an engaging and practical way. More than that he was a really good bloke and comrade and he'll be sadly missed.