1 August 2023News in Brief

If Britain had even a modest Basic Income scheme, it would prevent or postpone 125,000 cases of depressive disorders and 120,000 cases of clinically significant physical health symptoms a year. This would save the NHS and personal social services £125 million every year, quite apart from the effect it would have on poverty and inequality.

A modest scheme, which would not require any new taxes, would mean giving £75 a week to all adults under 65 and £205 a week to everyone over 65 (…

1 December 2022Feature

The £55bn ‘fiscal black hole’ is not a real thing

Joan Robinson, the great economist, once wrote: ‘The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.’

British politics in recent months has all been about ‘the fiscal hole’, said to be a gigantic £55bn gap in the government’s finances. Journalists and politicians talk about it as though it is a real thing.

It is not.

The ‘fiscal hole’ sounds like it’s a £55bn gap…

1 April 2022Review

Verso, 2021; 256pp; £9.99

In 1895, Mohammed Abduh – later the grand mufti of Egypt – claimed: ‘We Egyptians believed once in English liberalism and English sympathy; but we believe no longer, for facts are stronger than words. Your liberalness we see plainly is only for yourselves, and your sympathy with us is that of the wolf for the lamb which it deigns to eat.’

The ‘bland fanatics’ of Pankaj Mishra’s title are those advocates of ‘western civilisation’ who, in the words of the US theologian Reinhold…

1 April 2019Review

Penguin 2019 (2018); 368pp; £9.99

Originating in a 2013 essay for the radical magazine Strike!, David Graeber’s provocative book is an engrossing, if sometimes uncomfortable, read.

A professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics and an anarchist, Graeber helpfully works up a functional definition of what he considers a bullshit job: ‘a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though as part of…

1 April 2019Review

Corporate Watch, 2019; 52pp; £4.50 or download / view for free online at:

Worlds End is a new 52-page graphic novel exploring climate change, capitalism, and the links between the two.

A recurring theme is tipping points – in the climate system and in societies. Both ecological and social changes can happen quickly. Despite the enormity of the challenges facing our generation, the authors’ message is optimistic, without being sugar-coated: ‘The future is uncertain, it’s also unwritten’.

For anyone who aspires to reject societal norms…

6 March 2019Blog

Benjamin reports on Global Justice Now's recent one-day conference

On Saturday 23 February about 200 activists met in South London to discuss 'Growth, Degrowth and Climate justice'. The one day conference, organised by Global Justice Now (formerly World Development Movement) proved hugely popular with tickets selling out. A larger venue was found and filled, proving that a subject which has been the preserve of university economists can now draw a non-specialist audience.

If the financial crisis of…

1 December 2018Review

Pluto, 2018; 272 pp; £24.99

This is an essential read for anybody – activists very much included – who wishes to gain a deeper understanding of the 2007–2008 economic crash and its subsequent political after-shocks, from the election of Donald Trump in the US to Brexit and rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.

However, first and foremost, the book is a sharp critique of the media’s coverage of the economic crisis.

As well as interviewing journalists, Laura Basu, a researcher at the Institute for…

1 October 2018Review

Verso, 2018; 192pp; £8.99

In John Carpenter’s celebrated 1988 sci-fi film They Live, a drifter living in a shanty town discovers a special pair of sunglasses which reveal a terrible secret that explains the huge disparities in wealth and power that surround him.

Wearing them, the hero is able to see reality as it truly is: his world is being run by aliens working alongside a wealthy human elite (‘the 1%’). Moreover, the aliens are manipulating ordinary people’s thoughts and perceptions to conceal this…

1 June 2017Comment

Why did the Swiss Green Party vote No in a referendum on UBI last year? 

Universal Basic Income (UBI) or Citizens’ Income has been around a long time on the fringes of politics. It’s now become a hot topic among some of the richest and most powerful people on the planet.

UBI has an image as an ultra-left demand maybe associated with the Greens – give everyone an unconditional regular cash payment without means testing or any work requirement.

So why did the Swiss Green Party vote No in the referendum on UBI there last year? Why is the Ontario Public…

1 June 2017Review

Zed Books, 2016; 181pp; £16.99

Consider a system of organised production in which a single person (owner) or a group of people (shareholders) at the top make all the decisions and give the orders; they decide everything from rates of wages to what is produced, how and where it is produced and where it is sold.

Below them are managers who receive and transmit the orders to a group of workers further down the pecking order who are permitted to sell their labour for just a fraction of the wages that those at the top…

1 June 2017Review

Verso, 2016; 160pp; £8.99

Echoing the opening lines of The Communist Manifesto, Peter Frase opens this book with the claim that ‘two spectres are haunting the Earth’: ecological catastrophe and automation.

The first is a crisis of scarcity – of fresh water (think melting glaciers), fish (think ocean acidification and overfishing), habitable places to live (think rising sea levels and rising temperatures) and so on. The second is a crisis of abundance – the prospect that our technology could soon…

1 April 2017Feature

A long-time US peace activist tours the US with his ground-breaking book

George Lakey giving a talk at Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colorado, 13 February 2017. PHOTO: Boulder Book Store

Americans tend to be self-obsessed. That condition goes with being in the centre of a world empire, as British people with long memories may recall. How, then, can people inside an empire get enough of a broader perspective to be able to think well?

‘This guy is fucking relentlessly on point,’ one journalist tweeted in the midst of an author event I led in…

1 April 2017Review

New Internationalist, 2016; 190pp; £9.99

This book, now in a newly updated edition, begins with the hopeful reminder that capitalism is young compared with the human race, that its continuation is not inevitable and that there are many possibilities to build alternatives, some of which are explicitly against capitalism, while others seek to limit the damage it causes.

The urgency of the message, as the S.O.S. in the title suggests, is that in a world of limited resources, a system that relies on growth threatens the…

1 February 2017Review

OR Books, 2016; 128pp; £10

The writer and radical Walter Mosley is best known for his crime novels, in particular those featuring his African-American private investigator Easy Rawlins, hero of the best-selling Devil in a Blue Dress. But Mosley’s prolific output also includes science fiction, erotica, non-genre fiction and five short political tracts addressing issues such as race and US foreign policy.

In this, his latest foray into politics, he turns to economics, proposing a ‘shotgun wedding’…

1 December 2016Feature

Ian Sinclair reviews George Lakey's new book

Though it is written for a US audience, George Lakey’s new book has much to offer progressive activists in the UK concerned about the ongoing imposition of austerity measures and the political settlement that will come out of Brexit.

According to Lakey, the economies of the descendants of the Vikings ‘have a sixty-year track record of delivering increased freedom and equality’ – a political reality he believes is within reaching distance for the US. A visiting professor for Issues of…