Whatever happened to “stakeholder economics”?

When Blair swept to power in 1997, Will Hutton‘s vision of a stakeholder economy was central to New Labour‘s vision. While the idealism of those years is now derided, I prefer it to the negativity of today’s commentary.

Listening to “Wake up to Money” this morning, a contributor states “the problem for HSBC is that they have to pander to so many interests”. You don’t have to look it up –  “One who caters to or exploits the lower tastes and desires of others”.

The PPI scandal that was under discussion is only one of a number of breakdowns in the relationship between financial institutions , their customers m their shareholders and society at large.

While Hutton’s vision saw a balance between these interests for the common good, today’s language is that of the brothel where favours are dished out from the trough filled with the proceeds of rip-off Britain.

The way we talk about social economics is both indicative of the current economic climate and prophetic of the future of our country’s financial well-being. We cannot expect to get out of the current economic slump by thinking in such negative terms about our behaviour.

Which is why it is right for Steve Webb to talk about aspirational or ambitious pensions. He has understood that we are not going to solve the problems of those retiring today and in future by assuming that they will ripped off.

I am pleased that the ABI have finally admitted that they are not doing the right thing by those at retirement and cannot continue to allow their customers to misbuy annuities. It is better that they do so now than later though now is far too late.

Popcorn Pensions is our phrase for a way of thinking that moves companies on from moaning about what they have to do to focussing on how they can do the very best for their staff with the resources they can afford.

In our vision, the low charges introduced by NEST should become the aspirational target for all DC accumulation charges.

We share with David Mowatt a vision of a NEST for pensioners which offers them the efficiencies in retirement available to the State and the largest companies when they pay out pensions.

We share with the Dutch and the citizens of Jersey a desire to create mutuals funded on a defined contribution basis  from which collective pensions can be paid.

Having these ambitions is not naive, it is the flip side of the negativity that pooh-poohs change on the basis of what’s gone wrong in the past will go wrong in the future.

I have no wish to slam the professions, the lawyers, accountants and actuaries. Instead of laying into them for framing the current agenda, I’d like to see them being at the forefront of a new optimism.

I’ve no wish to prod negative journalism, or weak politicians or corrupt banker. We know they exist but to focus on the failures and ignore the successes is a recipe for continued hardship.

Will Hutton’s vision of stakeholder economics seems a million miles away – infact it is only fifteen years old. Since 1997 we have not seen the economic growth we expected but that does not mean we have to write off the next 12 years.

The drivers that fuelled the optimism of New Labour – the technology dividend, social responsibility and the values of our civilised society have not gone away. The wood is still there and the trees need not stop us.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen, Director of First Actuarial, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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4 Responses to Whatever happened to “stakeholder economics”?

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