Britain has already suffered four years of crisis, economic stagnation, and rapidly declining living standards. Imagine for a moment, that this becomes the norm; that Britain slides into a lost decade of zero growth.
It isn't so hard to imagine, is it?. That ghastly vision becomes more vivid by a quick examination of the recent economic history of Japan. In the 1980s, Japan enjoyed a massive asset bubble, and like all similar credit fuelled expansions, it was followed by an even bigger crash. For 20 years, the Japanese economy has limped along, occasionally recording growth of around 1 percent, but typically remaining flat.
Like Japan, Britain has many of the pre-requisites needed for a lost decade. It has bloated bankrupt and dysfunctional banks, an over-leveraged private sector and a public sector crippled with a massive debt stock. It also has an enfeebled political system that is happy to be distracted by irrelevant issues.
This latter point rarely gets enough attention. What are our legislators up to? Are they soberly confronting the massive divergence between tax revenues and public expenditures that threatens to ruin the country? Or are they fooling around?
Parliament is certainly busy. In the current parliamentary year, it has a colourful list of draft bills under consideration. Top of the agenda is the vitally important draft Groceries code Bill. This desperately needed legislation will create a Groceries Code Adjudicator that will enforce and oversee the Groceries Code "in the ways described in the Bill." Lets not worry about the public debt stock, which is now over a trillion quid. Britain needs at least one more public employee to watch over our groceries.
Parliament is also working towards a major reform of the House of Lords. However that reform goes down, it is a safe bet it will cost more money. But before we get to another round of fundamental constitutional reconstruction, there is need to pass the Third reading of House of Lords (Amendment) Bill. This crucial piece of legislation will "prevent members of the Armed Forces and those 'undertaking other public service' such as diplomatic service abroad from losing their membership of the House." Don't be fooled by the reference to the Armed Forces. This is an entirely self serving piece of legislation, allowing Lords to take on jobs in the public sector without leaving their cushy sinecures in the upper house.
The "Eradication of Slavery (UK Company Supply Chains) Bill" is also on the list of proposed legislation. No right minded person would be in favour of slavery, but this particular bill isn't really about that. It is about regulating and inconveniencing business.
This bill would require "retailers and manufacturers in the UK to make annual statements of measures taken by them to eradicate slavery and human trafficking and exploitation from their direct supply chains. UK firms would also have provide customers with information about measures taken by them to eliminate slavery and human trafficking and exploitation.
Finally, firms would have to provide victims of slavery with necessary protections and rights. I am not sure how that last provision squares with the legislation passed in 1831 that banned slavery throughout the British Empire. Lets leave that one to the lawyers.
Firms already have powerful incentives to disassociate themselves from exploitative labour practices.This act will only encumber firms with irritating and costly reporting requirements. Human trafficking and exploitation will doubtless continue, irrespective of mountains of paper generated by this bill here in the UK.
The legislative programme currently before parliament reveals much about the current state of British politics. Our legislators have given up. They no longer take politics seriously. Instead, they delve into irrelevant issues, and casually plaster the country with unnecessary regulations.
Successive parliaments meekly handed authority over the Brussels. Stripped of power, parliamentarians now contents themselves with nonsense like bills to create groceries adjudicators, or passing self serving Acts such as House of Lords (Amendment) Bill. And when it is really bored, it tries to relive old glories by passing an Eradication of Slavery act. The fact that slavery was abolished 180 years ago is a minor detail. The main point is that the current parliament can piously protest that it is against slavery now.
Meanwhile, the economy stagnates, and a lost decade beckons.