Matthew Parris, Stephanie Flanders, Martha Lane Fox and others set out their thoughts for the coming year. Things will be tough—but there are bright spotsby Prospect / December 14, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
The 2012 zeitgeist is about analogue lifestyles with digital comms. You will be eating baked beans and tweeting from your iPhone. Cheap food, high energy bills—so you can fuel your open fire with old paperbacks while re-stocking your Kindle with the books you already paid for. As the streets go quiet we’ll be able to hear the nuances of acoustic music again.
The phrase “intellectual property” will get its first word elevated above its second: people will start to value what is intellectual and share it. Rock-festivals-cum-book-clubs at Minehead Butlins will be the “in thing.” Personalised placards, two-man tents and Maalox (an antidote to teargas) will go mainstream. Hunkering down will be the human reflex—even if we can’t all retreat to a Welsh farmhouse we can build a farmhouse of the mind in our tiny urban apartments. The buzzword will be “anomie.”
Paul Mason is economics editor of Newsnight
It’s difficult for economists to find reasons to be cheerful: difficult, but important. So here’s one thing we in Britain should be thankful for in 2012: the quality of our national economic debate, and the relative strength of our economic institutions.
Tuning into the Today programme or prime minister’s questions could make you think otherwise. But at least the sides talk to each other, and their arguments cover how government can support the economy. By contrast in the US, most debate is by megaphone, and the starting point, for many politicians and commentators, is that government can only be a force for bad.
Global investors may not care that our political culture is healthier than in the US. But they do care that our policymakers have the power to act. When ratings agencies watch George Osborne’s autumn statement, they don’t only see a man who is sticking to his guns when it comes to public borrowing (give or take £100bn). They also see a chancellor who could change course, in a heartbeat, if circumstances demanded it. He could halve the standard rate of VAT—or double it—in weeks. It wouldn’t be popular, but it could be done.