These developments were the result of nearly 40 years of free market economics and what is increasingly seen as the depredations of “hyper-globalisation”.
In the now all-consuming British debate over Brexit – a rupture with the EU caused in part by austerity – it is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. The catastrophic collision between Anglo-American de-regulation, the crash in the financial markets it engendered, and the strictures of German and Eurozone austerity sent a firestorm through southern European economies that should never have been allowed to join the single currency in the first place. And it has helped fuel populist movements on both left and right.
Despite some of the EU safeguards, hyper-globalisation has encouraged an explosion in debt, a continued fixation with short-term profit, and a failure to invest in long-term productive manufacturing – all largely to the benefit of the top 1%, today’s greedy and gross super-elite. Not only do we know that the catastrophic collapse in the Anglo-American financial markets resulted in precisely not a single banker being held accountable – but today it is still largely business as usual for the banks. Ironically, EU competition law that largely prevents state bailouts or nationalisation, was suspended in the case of the banks, who had trillions thrown at them or which were nationalised, courtesy of the taxpayer.
A report published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development next month identifies some of these corrosive trends and suggests ways of reordering the world economy.
Mark Seddon is a former UN correspondent for Al-Jazeera English, and speechwriter for the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon