Read My Lips

Gordon Brown on Renewing Western Economies

According to the former UK prime minister, what needs to be done to revive the Western economies?

Order Gordon Brown's Beyond the Crash

Takeaways


  • A society that basically relies on arriving at a smart interpretation of collective responsibility while respecting basic individual freedoms, requires far fewer saints.
  • In Europe and Asia alike, there is a basic acceptance of the logic of collective over individual action.
  • No complex issues can be resolved particularly well in a society — such as the United States — that emphasizes individual responsibility above all else.

1. What is the biggest problem facing Western countries today?

"Time is running out on the West."

2. What do these countries need to realize?

"Both Europe and America have yet to digest the fact that all the individual crises of the last few years — from the subprime crisis and the collapse of Lehman Brothers to Greek austerity and Ireland’s near-bankruptcy — are symptoms of a deeper problem."

3. Namely?

"Our world is undergoing a far-reaching, irreversible and, indeed, unprecedented restructuring of economic power."

4. What is the biggest consequence of this change?

"Western economic dominance — 10% of the world’s population producing a majority of the world’s exports and investment — is finished, never to return."

5. What role will politics play in this new scheme of things?

“The heart of what politics is about is not the contest between competing parties, but the battle for jobs and justice.”
(Brown: Beyond the Crash, December 2010)

6. Who will replace the Western economies as world leaders?

"After two centuries in which Europe and America monopolized global economic activity, the West is now being out-produced, out-manufactured, out-traded and out-invested by the rest of the world."

7. What will happen if the West doesn't face the new reality?

"It faces the grim prospect of steady decline, punctuated by brief moments of recovery — until the next financial crisis."

8. How about jobs?

"Throughout it all, millions will be without jobs."

9. How has globalization also contributed to the situation?

“Unsupervised globalization has not only crossed national boundaries — it has crossed moral boundaries too.”
(Brown: Beyond the Crash, December 2010)

10. And finally, what will save the West from this grim forecast?

"The world needs to agree on a financial and economic strategy for prosperity far bolder than the Marshall Plan of the 1940s."

Editor's Note: All quotes in this Read My Lips have been sourced from Gordon Brown's essay, "Reviving the West," published by the Huffington Post on December 17, 2010, and Mr. Brown’s recent book, “Beyond the Crash,” published in December 2010 by Free Press.

Each edition of “Read My Lips” presents quotes made by the featured individual at the time specified in the answers. However, it is a “virtual” interview only — insofar as we have added questions in order to provide a better context to the thoughts expressed.

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