A number is enough to be aware of the bleakness of our economic outlook: 6,202,700 unemployed. Our economy is literally and progressively decomposing in a crisis that began more than 5 years ago with the bursting of the real estate bubble, and it has all the signs of perpetuating itself among us.
Faced with this great social debacle, we impassively witness a great social circus in which the different “tribes” show their catalog of “recipes” to tackle the great evils that afflict us and none of them seem to really hit the nail on the head. On one side is the tribe of the “myopic fantasists“: they only advocate consolidating the public sector’s debts, cutting their expenses in any way possible. They are fanatics of privacy and blindly trust the market. Of course, everything public gives them real grimness and they want to reduce it to the minimum expression. I classify them as myopic, because they do not see beyond the symptoms and fanciful because trusting in the operation of the market in Spain is like believing in the Three Wise Men. But can someone really mature trust that by cleaning up the public accounts, we will be able to get out of the wasteland we are in?
On the other, there are those who, in addition to cleaning up public accounts, demand a better functioning of the markets with the confidence that if they behave well, they will be our catapult for the future. In this way they propose to us, prescribed from Europe, the already well-known structural reforms. From the harsh reality and, of course, simplifying: save the banks’ ass at any cost, make it easier for companies to dismiss, lengthen the retirement period, reduce the salary of civil servants, give a pen to renewables, cut the spending on education and health and giving alms to entrepreneurs… I call them the tribe of “surprised ortho-lazy“. In the path of the orthodoxy of classical liberalism, they fell by the wayside. The most curious thing is that they are surprised that our economy does not pick up. If with these measures it had regrowth it would not be orthodoxy, it would be a miracle.
Maybe it’s a sub-tribe of the previous one or maybe not, but it is true that we have another group of “strict orthodox” who trust the market and who argue that the reforms are not they are working, because they have not been done as required by the canons. They are partly right, because it is true that there has been a lack of conviction and leadership in the reforms, but I fear that not even the most efficient markets would be able to fill the hole left by the speculative economy in which we lived.
There are also many other “tribes of outraged” who denounce the innumerable immoralities of an unjust and crisis system, but I fear that their lack of organization and their patent lack of power , leaves them with a very secondary role and very few really take them into account beyond the momentary morbidity generated by their protest actions in the public space.
A large and until recently much reviled “Keynesian tribe” is currently gaining strength throughout Europe, insistently calling for “growth policies” that, following the spirit of the Great British economist and riding the wave of the relative success of Obama’s policies, advocates increasing public spending to wake up the real economy. I am afraid, however, that in the current situation this type of macroeconomic policy in which spending priorities are not detailed and, above all, how they can be paid for, is little more than “talking for not keeping quiet.” There is no doubt, however, that they are mobilizing a renewed social debate in which a reinforced public leadership is called for with a vocation to intervene proactively in the economy. In this direction goes the alternative of my small tribe that will surely be baptized as that of the “deluded penitents“. We firmly believe that there is a way out and that we can get out of the hole if we really get down to it decisively and start building a different future from now on. To begin with, fiscal consolidation and cuts are excessively thick words. Undoubtedly, it is necessary to cut, and not only what is superfluous and what does not work, which is not in dispute, but also everything that may be dispensable in a serious analysis of prioritization and social profitability. And this is so because the bursting of the bubble has turned us into a poorer society that cannot pay for many things that it could before.
But for our tribe, the cuts only make sense if they are used and serve to be able to invest decisively and more than ever in the only two engines that, in our opinion, can get us out of this with a certain solvency: education and innovation both closely linked to each other. These are the two great structural reforms that we need and on which we have to focus our efforts, capacities and enthusiasm. Our country has to stop talking and think about cuts to give way to creativity and illusion to forge exciting projects that create the future.
The first is to reform the education system from top to bottom so that our children and young people are taught by the best and most prepared. So that our schools really motivate and reward the excellence of their pupils and give them initiative and entrepreneurial capacity. So that our students leave schools really knowing languages and with international experience. The second is to radically transform our system of science, technology and innovation, which is completely obsolete. We need to abandon outdated concepts that focus on research as a reality isolated from real economic and social problems and commit to building an innovation ecosystem that looks at the market squarely and without complexes, convinced that good research is the that brings real value to the society in which it operates.
Education and research are the binomial of a new society that is firmly committed to people and their talent as a motor for development. And all this requires a lot of leadership and a lot of public and private funds, which will have to be obtained from anywhere.