Leading article: The road to recovery

Share
Related Topics

In defence of Gordon Brown, once more. The cynical consensus is already firmly entrenched. The Prime Minister's overblown ambitions for the G20 summit have come a cropper, it is written. He has been humiliated abroad, by an upstart Conservative MEP whose unoriginal yah-boo has become a YouTube hit, and by the President of Chile who accidentally echoed George Osborne's line about "fixing the roof when the sun was shining". He has been blocked at home by his own Chancellor and the Governor of the Bank of England.

He wanted a new Bretton Woods, a "global grand bargain" to provide "the biggest fiscal stimulus the world has ever agreed". Instead, this week he gets a fractious talking shop – the main function of which is to provide a focus for disorderly protest and a repressive overreaction from the police.

This is unfair. Worse than that, it is untrue. Of course, the leaders of the 20 main economies will not solve all the world's problems in a soulless exhibition centre in London's Docklands on Thursday. And Mr Brown has not achieved everything that he hoped for. But he should not be faulted for trying. If the scope of his ambition seemed grandiose, then it attempted to match the unprecedented scale of the shock to the global economy.

Some of those who mistake world-weariness for wisdom said they were puzzled by Mr Brown's setting expectations so high that the summit was bound to fall short. This demand for better spin and cleverer media manipulation sits oddly with the fashionable cry of the moment for authenticity.

Not that we would accuse the Prime Minister of being entirely innocent in this respect. His early hope that the summit would agree a new fiscal stimulus, in addition to what governments had already planned, has been finessed. The co-ordinated stimulus that is already in the draft communiqué in square brackets at $2 trillion is, in Mr Brown's words in New York on Wednesday, "what we have done so far cumulatively".

Yet none of this renders the summit either meaningless or counterproductive. Rhetorical commitments to a co-ordinated stimulus, even if they are largely descriptive of what is happening anyway, help to herd national economic policies in a similar direction. They also make it less likely that countries will resort to protectionism, which was a main cause of global deflation in the 1930s. Far better, then, that the leaders of the world should meet, talk and issue bland communiqués than that they should stay at home and indulge in populist gestures, which often include tariffs on imports and subsidies for domestic producers.

And fitting, too, that it should be the G20 rather than the G8: the broader-based organisation includes the emerging economic powers of the 21st century: China, India and Brazil. As Hamish McRae argues on page 84, this economic crisis marks a further step to a world economy in which China takes its place alongside the US.

Of course, it could be argued that even the loose degree of co-ordination achieved by the G20 this week is around the wrong set of policies. That is the objection of the protesters who took to the streets of London yesterday and who will do so again on Wednesday and Thursday. But there are three strands of protest: two of them, the greens and the poverty-enders, are pushing at open doors, with Mr Brown mostly on their side.

It is only the anti-capitalists that see this crisis as yet another moment when the entire system will be torn down and replaced by, well, something else. The vast majority of people all over the world, on the other hand, recognise that a form of managed capitalism continues to offer the best chance of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The argument that really matters is what form that should take, and specifically, this week, whether we need a fiscal stimulus at all. The argument against is made in a weak form by the Conservatives in this country (by Mr Osborne, the shadow Chancellor, on page 43), and is the basis of the differences of emphasis across the G20. They range from Barack Obama at the splurge end of the spectrum to Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, and Mirek Topolanek, the outgoing Prime Minister of the Czech Republic (who called President Obama's stimulus plan a "road to hell"), at the other.

The Independent on Sunday is at the Obama-Brown end of the spectrum, rather than the Merkel-Topolanek end, because the prospect of a global slump is so terrible that it is worth spending money that we do not have to minimise the risk.

For his efforts to tilt the balance of global governance in the right direction, the Prime Minister deserves praise rather than scorn.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Magaluf remains a popular party destination for British holidaymakers, despite a growing reputation for street violence in recent years.  

What happens in Shagaluf no longer stays there

Ellen E Jones
Simon Laird (left) and Sister Simon Laird, featured in the BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets  

Estates of the nation: Let's hear it for the man in the street

Simmy Richman
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?