Comments on Labour’s 2017 Manifesto

In relation to:
Labour Party Manifesto

I believe it would be helpful for the next Manifesto to distinguish between current and capital budgets.  This is done in UK budgets, as well as being a common business accounting practice. It might make Labour more recognizable to the corporate bean counters and their wannabes. It should be clear that the Manifesto seeks to balance the operating budget but incur debt for capital projects that generate a long-term public return (education, health, infrastructure, R&D, and so on).  

In the narrative on holding businesses accountable, I wonder if there's the same process of public chartering of private business in the UK as there is in the US.  I favour limiting the length of a public charter and threatening to withhold renewal (every twenty years, say) if a company behaves badly (as you define it, violating labour standards, not paying suppliers, abusing the environment ...).   Perhaps the Manifesto could reinforce that private corporations are public entities in that they, even now, must have government approval to exist, and that government approval, approval by representatives of the people, will not be given to irresponsible private actors whose corporate power abuses the public the government is elected to protect.

This leads me to some final thoughts on security.  
I regret that Labour would commit to the 2% military target Trump is demanding of NATO partners.  Support of Trident and nuclear power go in the wrong direction, too, it seems to me.   

In this context, though, I would urge language challenging the idea that "security" is the province of military and police.  In the U.S. we have begun to explain that "security" for people requires employment at a living wage.  Security requires a functioning public health system.  A person cannot be secure without a solid education to understand the technical and social conditions in which s/he lives.

Security is much more than freedom from bombs in the Tube or protection from ICBMs.  We have found that this helps to explain why it is so important to shift budget resources away from the military to these other aspects of personal and public security that are dismissed as "soft" concerns when stacked against the needs of the military and police.
But Labour would do well to make it clear that security, using the word, means these social programs.  In the budget section, in the discussion of raising taxes on the top 5%, it should be clear that the money will go to security in this broader sense, allowing an increase in the military without sacrificing other aspects of the security portfolio. 

Michael Zweig is Emeritus Professor of economics, State University of New York at Stony Brook, New York.

This Commentary may be downloaded as a pdf here.  

Michael Zweig