The General Election in May will be the last “feel good” election in the UK for a considerable time. This year the politicians are fighting to reassure people that their delusions of sustainability are in fact possible, and that they each have the most assured path to that illusion.
Who will soothe us to sleep with the sweetest lullaby?
We are living unsustainably. That means it cannot be sustained, it will not carry on, that there is an end to much of what we take for granted today. This is not just an ecological-environmental fact, this is a financial-economic and a human-social fact. To believe otherwise requires an almost super-human capacity for self deception.
After the next financial crisis, and the break down of “middle class” expectations, it will seem incredible that we did not see it coming. Unprecedented levels of financial debt, never balanced budgets, massively unbalanced trade, and millions of humans consigned to the margins of society: these are well known and completely visible facts about our society. We are living in a house of cards, and this house will fall before the following general election.
The UK’s general election could be tame compared to what happens in Europe in the coming half-decade, where populist movements from the left and right will dis-integrate what we currently call the EU into a shadow of its current state. (Of course there’s also the very real possibility that the UK will break up or leave the EU after this election.) A combination of pressures related to energy, trade, immigration, solvency, and demographics will transform the cozy into the crazy.
Shifting trade and monetary winds around the world will make much of the current debt loads obviously unsustainable in the coming five years. Economic growth will not regain it’s pre-Crisis levels, and combined with generalised deflation, the debts of all but the most secure will crumble into default. There is not enough safety on earth to provide havens for the all the liquid cash in the world, and it is too late to regulate the flow of capital or shore up the weak.
By the next time the UK goes to a general election we will have double or treble the unemployment, a hole in the budget the size of the NHS that we cannot fund through more borrowing, and the reality, that is already obvious now, will have become inescapable.
So enjoy this little charade through May. Worry about the little things, and agree not to discuss the bigger things. Latch on to the good news, and ignore the facts. This will be your last chance to do so, and seeing as pretty much everyone is on board with the story, you may as well enjoy the ride.
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