There are many different ways of talking about the competitiveness of nations, but we are particularly exercised by what we like to call the Competitiveness Agenda.
Economists can (and do) use the word ‘competitiveness’ to mean whatever they want it to mean, but for us the terms ‘competitive’ and ‘competitiveness’ in inverted commas refers to a particular meaning. In a nutshell, the Competitiveness Agenda involves special pleading on behalf of Capital and its owners, in the name of the competitiveness of the whole economy. For example, ‘cut corporate taxes, to make your economy more competitive.’
This agenda is underpinned by a rarely questioned assumption that transferring resources from other parts of the economy to these capital owners in the name of ‘competitiveness’ – via corporate tax cuts, wage cuts and many other mechanisms – will benefit the economy as a whole.
This agenda is backed by certain statements and assertions and threats, such as:
“The wealthiest people and large corporations are the ‘wealth creators‘ and others — whether in government or in more humble occupations — are just piggy-backing on their achievements.”
“The threat, which is generally a variant of “If you don’t cut taxes or loosen regulations, the ‘wealth creators’ will flee to a foreign country.”
TINA, otherwise known as There Is No Alternative. Global forces are so powerful that countries have no choice, they say, but to engage in a race to the bottom. In the words of Stuart Fraser of the City of London Corporation: “Many politicians have an illusion that they actually run their country, when actually they run their country within the confines that the global financial system places on them.”
The Competitiveness Agenda tends to produce a range of harms, outlined here.