There is a great view from the top of the ‘Cheesegrater’, or the Leadenhall building to use its formal name, right there in the City of London.
But when I was there on May 8, for the launch of the final report of the Intergenerational Commission from the Resolution Foundation, there was a distinct haze around Canary Wharf in the distance: was this dirty air or a temporary fog?
It is not just the financial world either. There is another fog that surrounds the political world about what to do to increase the living standards of the people of this country.
There is no doubt that this report is an important and useful piece of work. It is very thorough and packed with data. Hopefully, it is not just another report that is scanned by a few and put to one side. But, sadly, its ten policy recommendations, while well intentioned, are not bold or radical enough to make a significant impact.
In some ways, this is not surprising: the commissioners of this report included both Frances Grady of TUC and Carolyn Fairburn of the Institute of Directors. Both spoke eloquently at the event, but one would expect them to come at this from different viewpoints.
So in an attempt to please all, the policy proposals are piecemeal interventions that just paper over the cracks, but they remain an important contribution to the debate.
There is no overriding theme or principle running through these policy recommendations and they focus more on the symptoms not the causes. As one might expect, the older generation have most of the wealth but that the younger generations now have less change of accumulating wealth on the same scale and will be worse off.
So just come out and say it: we all create the wealth, but it is accumulated by the few.
Once we can accept that, and develop an economic system that makes sure that wealth is shared more equitably and used more for the common good, then we will start to make progress.
This concept is difficult to acknowledge for some, as they believe business owners or leaders create the wealth. I used to think so too. I had had my own business the majority of my career, and – certainly early on – I thought I created the wealth. I took the risks, I sometimes had hard years, I put in long hours and it was constantly on my mind, so it was right that the value in the business should be mine.
But how was I able to build a business (apart from sheer drive and determination), I had a good education (who paid?), good health, (who paid?), good infrastructure to enable movement of people and goods (who paid?). So I could not have done this without the contributions of many others.
So my view changed. I realise now we all create the wealth, some of us are enablers or entrepreneurs and we develop businesses because we have a good idea, think we can do things better and want to support our families.
So if we take the evidence from Resolution Foundation, we can actually offer some bold policy recommendations that would make a huge difference to the living standards of the majority of the country. I have some definite ideas on bolder practical policies which I can address separately in another article
I can see clearly now that we all create the wealth, and we need to collaborate together to make sure it is shared more equitably, so that we will create a better society, greater opportunity and potential prosperity for everyone.
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