When nothing works

From cost of living to foundational liveability

Editors:
Luca Calafati
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,
Julie Froud
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Colin Haslam
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Sukhdev Johal
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Karel Williams
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The common assumptions of the UK political classes have committed us to the misconceived and unattainable objectives of faster growth and higher wages. The result is a policy quagmire from which there is no escape on the basis of our current understanding. The challenges of our time will only be solved by a fresh understanding of socio-economic realities and a new kind of political economic practice. This book contributes by changing the field of the economically visible and the politically actionable. Empirically, it shifts the unit of analysis from the individual to the household; from averages to measures which highlight inequalities by decile group; and from wages to residual income and the value of benefits in kind. Such new metrics are revelatory: for example, 40 per cent of economically active households receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes. Conceptually, it presents a three-pillar framework for thinking about foundational liveability. The household income which matters is disposable income after tax and benefits and residual income after paying for the essentials of housing, food, utilities and transport. But liveability also requires local social infrastructure and essential services both tax-funded and on market like housing, transport and energy. The foundational diagnosis is that all three pillars of liveability were crumbling for low and middle income households in the 2010s before the energy price spike brought an acute liveability crisis. The only way out of this crisis is through a new kind of political practice of adaptive reuse which finds opportunity in the constraints which frustrate mainstream policies. The central state must learn to empower other actors like trade unions and sponsor distributed social innovation which depends on alliances for change.

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