It’s been six years of austerity since the banking crisis plunged our economy into a deep recession, followed by a painfully limp recovery. It’s been a hard time for our citizenry; and needless to say, toughest for the poorest amongst us. In the run-up to a bitterly fought election campaign, the Guardian recently reported that Britain’s wealthiest saw their assets rise by 112% since 2009. When austerity measures were being introduced, the coalition government had promised that the poorest would be least affected by cuts to public service spending; we bought into this even though those who rely on public services/welfare system to get by, are amongst Britain’s poorest.
Normal households up and down the country, whether they be working professionals, single parent’s, the heavily disabled, or small business entrepreneur’s; everyone has suffered due to the harsh austerity measures. Even though it has been argued by a leading Nobel prize winning economist that the austerity measures were not necessary and in fact very damaging in the long run, much worse is the case if Britain’s wealthiest have become increasingly prosperous, whilst the poorest remained the same, if not worse. Inequality is seen by many Economists as bad for the overall health of the economy. Economists describe ‘inequality of outcome’ as having undesirable consequences, such that – for example – children from poorer backgrounds are not granted the access to higher quality levels of education, thereby entrapping them in the cycle of unskilled labour.
This is overall bad for society, and if continued unabated, could lead to greater social unrest and other negative side-affects such as increasing mental health and social problems amongst the poor. Simple logic will suffice in concluding that the business class and the capitalists, profit off the working and middle classes from their spending power; this relationship being exponential.
People like Richard Cross – Disraeli’s home secretary – in the 18th Century understood the importance of equality and flow of capital. His government oversaw the creation of transformative social networks. Of these was the education network, the health network, the sewerage network, to name but a few. What is being misunderstood by current parties, is that these things we inherited share a common overarching principle, that of universality. Universal in the sense that these things must be available for all in society to use, and – like in Disraeli’s government – the lion’s share of the capital must come from the rich; all this for the common good. When a society comes together to help one another in such a virtuous way, all sectors of society benefit. The working class are happier, giving way to their higher productivity per capita, which is reaped by the business classes for whom they work; a circular system. It is this circulation of wealth which is of such prime importance to a healthy economy. What comes to mind as Muslims are the verses of the Quran where God details whom war booty should be distributed fairly amongst; kinsfolk, orphans, the needy, the traveller in need. ‘This is so that they do not just circulate among those of you who are rich’.
The importance of financial regulation to make [pre-existing] financial systems fairer is demonstrated to us as Muslims in the profundity of God sending a Messenger to the people of Midian, just to admonish them for cheating whilst trading and spreading financial corruption on Earth. As Muslims we are reminded to be people of moral rectitude and fairness wherever possible, and to encourage that amongst the masses, be they Muslims or not. In the same way we must be people who encourage and lobby policy makers in order to make Britain a fairer, healthier and wealthier country.
 The Quran, chapter 59; verse 7.
 The Quran, chapter 11; verses 84-5.