What happens after the tsunami?

October 16, 2009 at 1:29 pm 2 comments

By Peter Baeck

Yesterday I attended the IPPR seminar, The Politics of The Recession, Where Andrew Gamble who is professor and Head of Department of Politics, University of Cambridge, presented some of the main points from his recently published book, The Spectre at The Feast. One of the questions Gamble raised at the seminar is how politicians, academics and people in general understand the financial crisis and its implications for society, at a time where the first signs of financial recovery are starting to show around the world and it looks like we have gotten through the worst faces of the crisis.

Gamble described how it is never possible to turn back the clock to a pre financial crisis situation, but a look at how policy makers and society in general is responding to the crisis is that the majority react as it was all just a bad dream, and now it is back to business as usual.

Gamble made a number of arguments that made clear to me how relevant the work the Innovation Unit is doing on Radical Efficiency is. As he pointed out, the financial crisis is like a Tsunami that has hit our society, the question is what do we do after it the water has settled. Do we rebuild everything like it was before or do we think of alternative ways of construction our system so that the next Tsunami is less likely to hit us and if it does we will be better at dealing with the consequences, and thereby avoiding a crisis as deeply rooted as the one we have just seen.

One of the people IPPR had asked to comment on Gambles presentation was Paul Mason from BBC Newsnight. One of many interesting points made by Mason was that the reason why we haven’t seen a substantial change in peoples way of thinking is because the crisis hasn’t really hurt properly yet. State support and subsidies has ment that most people have been able to sustain a relative level of wealth and consumption. It is when state intervention affects these factors that change is more bound to happen. As it was pointed out during the QA then we aren’t  back to a pre financial crisis situation, which the new focus on how we construct our financial system and the increased focus on state-orientated crisis policies are examples on. As Carey Oppenheim from the IPPR pointed out,  polling also shows that people have changed consumption behaviour and focus towards the family and the secure as a result of the crisis (polling I would be very interested in seeing if anyone should know where I can find it).

Gamble recognized this and ended the seminar by stating that there is reluctance within policy circles to think in radically different ways, despite the fact that there is a growing movement outside policy circles towards this. He therefore stressed how important it is that radical thinking on new ways of designing society and public services is being translated in to feasible policy recommendations. This emphasis on policy feasibility stresses the importance of the experiences learned from the casework in Radical Efficiency, and the recommendations derived from these.


Entry filed under: Innovation Policy, Research.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alecpatton  |  October 20, 2009 at 8:29 am

    This reminds me of an article that John Cassidy wrote in the New Yorker, called ‘Rational Irrationality’ (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/05/091005fa_fact_cassidy?currentPage=all).

    There’s one quote that struck me particularly: ‘As memories of September, 2008, fade, many will say that the Great Crunch wasn’t so bad, after all, and skip over the vast government intervention that prevented a much, much worse outcome.’

    I have a mild issue with the term ‘tsunami’, because tsunamis because you can’t PREVENT tsunamis, you can jsut respond to them. The financial crisis is perhaps a bit more like an oil spill, which looks like it’s being fairly effectively cleaned up at tremendous public cost – and the danger is that rather than redesigning oil tankers or changing shifting routes, that everyone will say ‘well, that wasn’t so bad after all!’

  • […] easily incentivize greater risk-aversion, as well as encouraging people to try new things. And as Peter’s blog earlier this week pointed out, whilst households may be beginning to change their behaviour as a result of the […]


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