Living in a Less Unequal World: The making of renewed progressive global policy

Published Thu 5 Jul 2007
In this paper, Tony Payne issues a new call for progressive thinkers and policymakers to better harness an understanding of the realities of global power to the moral purpose of reducing global inequality. In doing so, he warns against the more common progressive approach of asserting a moral basis for policy which then proves unable to withstand first contact with reality.

Foreword

This is a key moment for progressive policymakers in the UK. Reflection and renewal are necessitated both by a world much changed since 1997 and by the resignation of Prime Minister Blair after ten years in power. This is, consequently, a rare and short window of opportunity to question conventional wisdom, to generate new ideas to meet new challenges, and to push for new ways of thinking on the challenges that have been with us for far too long.

Nowhere is this latter task more required than on the issue of global poverty and inequality. The sheer scale and nature of the consequences of policy failure on this issue demand a place for it at the top of the progressive agenda. Governments around the world must not only do more to address it but must also deliver on the promises already made to do so. While the current Labour government has a better track record than most, not least on the politics of debt relief and on raising the international profile of the development challenges facing Africa, there is obviously still much more that can and should be done.

In this paper, which complements an earlier ippr paper by Ngaire Woods on global economic institutions (Woods 2007), Tony Payne issues a new call for progressive thinkers and policymakers to better harness an understanding of the realities of global power to the moral purpose of reducing global inequality. In doing so, he warns against the more common progressive approach of asserting a moral basis for policy which then proves unable to withstand first contact with reality. As such, he offers progress while avoiding the inevitable frustrations of wishful thinking. His analysis of both the material and ideational aspects of global power today also allows him to direct his recommendations at both the ideological and material aspects of the problem in creative ways.

This paper is a thoughtful, timely, and well argued reminder that the debate on equality does not stop at the water's edge. It calls for a broadening of the governance arrangements of key global economic institutions and for more 'development space' to be given to individual states. It also challenges policymakers to nest specific British foreign policy choices within a deeper structural understanding of what might be called a progressive global policy. On all three of these issues it deserves to be taken seriously.

- Ian Kearns, deputy director, ippr

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