Image: Paul Mason in conversation with author Martina Devlin at Elmwood Hall in Belfast
By VIEW editor Brian Pelan
Journalist Paul Mason told a packed audience at Elmwood Hall yesterday in Belfast that he would vote to remain in the European Union as he could not “let the future of the UK be written by Conservative politicians Michael Gove and Boris Johnson”.
But he was also scathing in his criticism of the European Union.
“My main problem with the European Union is that it mandates austerity. This was written into the European Treaty. We are tied to an economy which is the only one in the world that mandates austerity. We have an undemocratic system in Europe that aid these policies.” He argued that we need to change that system.
The former Channel 4 economics editor, who was appearing as part of the Belfast Book Festival, was asked a series of questions by writer and Irish Independent columnist Martina Devlin about his belief that capitalism will be abolished by creating something more dynamic. He calls this “postcapitalism”
In a wide-ranging address to the audience, Mason said: “As with the end of feudalism 500 years ago, capitalism’s replacement by postcapitalism will be accelerated by external shocks and shaped by the emergence of a new kind of human being. And it has started.”
He also voiced his interest in the idea of an unconditional basic income scheme.
Mason, in a recent article said: “The ‘unconditional basic income’ has a long history in economic thinking, with proponents on both the left and the right. For conservatives it is a way of radically cutting the administrative costs of means-tested benefits, and subsidising low-paid work. For those on the left, who embraced it after the 1960s, it is seen as a way to alleviate inequality. But if the basic income has any relevance to today’s economy, it is as a solution to a much bigger problem: the disappearance of work itself.”
I enjoyed the event. An exchange of ideas about capitalism and can it be replaced is a vital debate in a world where millions of people struggle to survive and refugees are held in camps on Europe’s borders, desperately seeking a new life. We should be organising more public discussions in a city that has often focused on narrow-minded subjects.
Personally, I remain unconvinced by many of Mason’s arguments, including his belief in utopian socialism.
I would like to see him debating his ideas on stage with a Marxist economist.
The sparks would surely fly.