Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Disability hard hitter: Mark Littlewood, small thinker

In the BBC's You and Yours phone-in studio discussing today's Hardest Hit march was Mark Littlewood. See: The premise was "should disabled people take their fair share of the cuts just like everyone else" or words to that effect. Now you'd think that most sensible people would see the premise as gratuitously provocative given that the idea is self-evidently outrageous but it nevertheless pointed up a way of thinking about disabled people (and therefore by association all vulnerable people) which has been encouraged by the embrace of austerity.

This thinking was distilled in the black-diamond sharp articulation of Mark Littlewood. He is the Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs and which makes claim that he is a leading thinker on how free markets can help solve many of society's ills. This is a really interesting and philosophically dark link to explore to get an insight into an organisation with government connections.

Unsurprisingly, he did indeed feel that disabled people were just one more group pleading to be exempt from the cuts in this Age of Austerity. He advocated insurance mechanisms (presumably because he forgot we all pay National Insurance), charities and dependence on localism to solve the (presumably social ill) of disability.

You know, I'm not going presume advocacy on behalf of disabled people. I'm not disabled (though I do care for someone who is). I just think that the entire premise is so beyond reason; so indicative of the sort of world that Mark Littlewood wants us to be that it speaks volumes for itself... and about him.

The reason he believes what he does is perhaps because he has bought into an outdated construction of the world that believes in the objective reality of something called the economy. THE ECONOMY is out of control. But that is because we have failed in our ability to control it. Not because we have spent too much; not because bankers broke it; not even because economists have lost the plot but because we have put it so much in the centre of things that our life revolves around THE ECONOMY.

Instead we could conceive it differently. THE ECONOMY should serve the sort of national and individual life we want to live. I doubt that this sort of radical thinking will gather much momentum within the next few decades, but when commodity reliant-growth slows (as anyone who has even the faintest grasp of the law of physics knows it will) our way of life will have to be rethought and the economy will have to toe the line. We will have to make it so just as we have made the current ECONOMY. Let's hope we will eradicate its volatility, its corporate love affairs, its corrosiveness of good society.

So Mark Littlewood, I think you think small thoughts. I think you want a world driven by THE ECONOMY and you are on the gerbil-wheel of trying to make it so - why else would you be so in love with 'free markets'. Well, they aren't really about freedom are they? How can THE ECONOMY or a free market make disabled people free? No. Let's call it what it is. The greed market.

Mark. Think big.

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