Thinker's Corner

After Seattle: globalisation and its discontents, edited by Barbara Gunnell and David Timms (Catalyst, 33 Bury Street, London SW1Y 6AU, 0 9533224 5 9, £5.95). All of the essayists here agree that there is a need for a rules-based global trading system. The issue the authors address is how, after Seattle, the problems of globalisation of trade can be adjusted for the benefit of everyone. Most agree that to reverse globalisation and disband the international financial organisations is not an option. State-led growth has failed and free trade benefits many. But reform of the World Trade Organisation and the globalisation process is vital. The system must become more democratic and inclusive for poorer states that have little influence at present. Solutions offered include allowing developing countries to liberalise at their own pace, and seeing trade as a means, not an end. Trade should not serve only the interests of big business, but bring tangible benefits to all.

Home Pages - A new domestic agenda for the next government, Ferdinand Mount (Centre for Policy Studies, 57 Tufton Street, London SW1P 3QL, 1 903219 05 1, £5). Mount puts forward a tentative case for the part- privatisation of the remaining public services. Britain suffers from a severe shortage of nurses, doctors, teachers, etc, and we lag behind our European counterparts in terms of hospitals and schools. The difficulty is, says Mount, that the taxpayer is not prepared to re-elect a government which "adds substantially to the burden of taxation". The state needs to broaden the funding base for public services, so that they are "systematically and permanently enhanced". But state provision must remain for the worse off, argues Mount. He also believes the problems faced are local, and must be dealt with at that level. The cap on local public spending should be removed, he argues, thus loosening the straitjacket imposed on local decision-makers.

This article first appeared in the 01 May 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Why I am voting for Ken Livingstone