By Amitabh Pal on May 13, 2010

If you follow America’s lead, you’re likely to get into trouble.

Just ask Great Britain. All it has had to show for using the United States as a role model over the past decade is a lousy war and a ruined economy.

A good part of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s project to fashion “New Labour” was to align even more intensely their country with its former colony across the pond. One facet of this was Blair’s decision to join in George W. Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq.

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But it wasn’t the Iraq War that did the Labour Party in, since the British people, like their American counterparts, are keen to forget that fiasco. It was the mismanagement of the British economy. As chancellor of exchequer under Blair, Brown handed over the keys to the banks, mimicking the way U.S. Administrations let Wall Street take America to the cleaners. This was the Blair-Brown way.

“Brown bent over backwards to help big finance: he lobbied for it in Europe, gave it a euro test all of its own, and actively marketed Britain as the home of light-touch (even no-touch) regulation,” Larry Eliott writes in The Guardian. “Philosophically, New Labour accepted that the less the government interfered in the workings of the economy, the better.”

Even Brown himself offered up a tardy mea culpa, and took a U-turn by nationalizing and splitting up the Northern Rock bank and proposing a global tax on financial transactions.

“Gordon Brown attempts to launch a political fight back today by declaring that he takes ‘full responsibility’ for his role in the banking failures that led to the global recession, and claims that the downturn marks the end of the era of laissez-faire government,” The Guardian reported.

But with the Conservative Party now in power, free-market dogma may come to the fore again. Incoming Prime Minister David Cameron is already seeking some space to implement rightwing policies by stressing the dire situation Brown left the country in.

“No government in modern times has ever been left with such a terrible economic inheritance,” Cameron claimed to reporters.

It’s a wonder what laissez-faire economics and a belligerent foreign policy can do to a country.

Amitabh Pal is the Managing Editor of The Progressive magazine.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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