Progressive Governance Conference

Chile ’09

PGC blog – Think big and be bold, by Paul Hofheinz

Posted by progressivegovernance09 on March 27, 2009

Progressive leaders meet in Valparaiso, Chile in an edgy mood, and it isn’t hard to see why. Many of them – like Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner, Brazil’s Luiz Lula da Silva, Britain’s Gordon Brown and Chile’s Michelle Bachelet – find themselves in power at a moment when the too-easily-accepted shibboleths of the past no longer provide the solutions for the future. But as speakers told us at this morning’s session, the challenge also poses a huge opportunity. It’s a chance to demonstrate the traditional strengths of the progressive movement: economic competence, political imagination and a commitment to social justice that resonates with voters. And a possibility to define a new narrative for 21st century politics – one which could give progressives a new lease on life and usher in an unprecedented period of prosperity in the countries they lead.

What then should progressives do?

1) Think big and be bold. Tony Blair told us that seven years ago, and it is still a fundamental truth. The world is facing unprecedented challenges. The solution does not lie in pursuing what is politically obvious, but in imagining what is practically needed.

2) Put people first. In an era of knowledge, investment in education gives us jobs, innovation and social inclusion, as Sweden’s Mona Sahlin reminded us. We must redouble our efforts in this area, making our societies into centres of learning and opportunity.

3) Attack the problems, not the symptoms. USA’s Robert Reich put it well: structural imbalance got us in this crisis; and only reforms in this area will get us out. For the USA, this means a focus on addressing excess wage inequality to raise aggregate demand.

4) Give us a Doha deal. We must act decisively to stop economic nationalism, which threatens to overwhelm us all. We need to show markets we can still deliver important fundamentals.

The meeting continues tomorrow.

Paul Hofheinz is president of the Lisbon Council, a Brussels-based think tank

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