Pop Producer Brian Eno analyses British economy – and wants to reorder society

The Guardian has published an interview with pop producer Brian Eno under the headline

Brian Eno: ‘We’ve been in decline for 40 years – Trump is a chance to rethink’

The revered producer has been at the centre of pop since the days of Roxy Music. But don’t ask him about the past – he’s more interested in how to reorder society

It is astonishing how many mistakes can be crammed into just three sentences – not to mention the megalomania of wishing to “reorder society.”

Like virtually all of the developed and most of the developing world, Britain in 2017 is healthier and wealthier than it has even been, despite the constant stream of negative headlines that give the opposite impression.

This, of course, is not to say that everything is fine – a winner-take-all society has emerged with a precariat doing multiple low-paid jobs to keep afloat and mass immigration has shattered the cohesion of the West.

Eno’s response?

Actually, in retrospect, I’ve started to think I’m pleased about Trump and I’m pleased about Brexit because it gives us a kick up the arse and we needed it because we weren’t going to change anything. Just imagine if Hillary Clinton had won and we’d been business as usual, the whole structure she’d inherited, the whole Clinton family myth. I don’t know that’s a future I would particularly want. It just seems that was grinding slowly to a halt, whereas now, with Trump, there’s a chance of a proper crash, and a chance to really rethink.

Eno thus sees Trump as an opportunity, but we have, of course, been here before. Marx and the Bolsheviks were also constantly hoping for “a proper crash” – and the result was tens of millions of deaths.

Not content with that, Eno gets his economic history totally wrong:

Most people I know felt that 2016 was the beginning of a long decline with Brexit, then Trump and all these nationalist movements in Europe. It looked like things were going to get worse and worse. I said: ‘Well, what about thinking about it in a different way?’ Actually, it’s the end of a long decline. We’ve been in decline for about 40 years since Thatcher and Reagan and the Ayn Rand infection spread through the political class, and perhaps we’ve bottomed out.

In fact, Britain’s relative decline began in the 19th century as Germany and the United States overtook it in agricultural and industrial production, but again, wealth and health gradually improved.

More recently, the developing world has joined the international economic system – allowing hundreds of millions of low-paid labourers to enter the global work force and thus compete with Western workers, depressing wages in the US and Europe while at the same time offering the West cheaper goods.

Had the Hayek-Friedman revolution under Thatcher and Reagan never occurred, globalisation would have hit the West anyway as the developing world began to compete.

In the United Kingdom, for example, shipbuilding was hamstrung by restrictive labour practices. I remember a British documentary from about 1970. A welder working on a supertanker had to walk hundreds of metres to fetch an electrician when necessary, interrupting the electrician’s work and necessitating the electrician having to walk back to his original work.

The South Koreans? One worker did all the jobs as needed. The result? The British shipbuilding industry was decimated, along with its European counterparts.

The Guardian would have been better advised asking an economic historian to give its readers a proper analysis.

 

 

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