Mindless Arguments

George OsborneI get very tired of the level of debate in this country on occasions. It seems that people are extremely uncomfortable if they cannot put you comfortably in a pigeon hole.

Remember Iraq? – oppose Bush & Blair’s vile, illegal and unjustified war and you must, by default, support Saddam Hussein. Oppose the Afghanistan war and you must be in favour of the Taliban and terrorism, oppose Cameron, Osborne and their coalition government and by default you must support the labour party – it goes on and on.

For the record, I, (and I suspect millions of others), opposed all of the above – but that doesn’t mean I automatically support what others consider to be the ‘alternative’. Often they are not alternatives at all, simply more of the same.

Currently the options seem to swing between ‘Austerity’ and ‘Growth’ as if there were no choice – you must have one or the other. You must support complete, unbridled and rampant Capitalism or support a form of Socialism pretty much akin to Communism.

The argument is weak, lazy and unworthy – disliking Cameron or Osborne is not necessarily the same thing as supporting Milliband and Balls – although I suspect these individuals would love it if the choice were that stark.

It is back to my old hobby horse that our problem is not with individual politicians – it is with Parties – it is the Party System that needs to go!

It might surprise a few people to hear that I am a great believer in private enterprise – I actually don’t believe that everything should be owned by the State – that is a lazy version of the argument in the same way as leaving everything to private enterprise is.

I am, in my own very inefficient and hopeless way, running my own business. Many of my friends work hard every day trying to make a success of private businesses. They are good people, with mostly a great ‘work ethic’ and, like most of us are trying to do their best to get by in a system that does, frankly, very little to support them.

Private Businesses are important and we should support them where we can. But we should not be suckered into believing that it is a good idea in all cases, especially where these businesses are running things that are essential to human life.

If Apple decides to put up the price of an iPad – good luck to them, I just wont buy it – but I don’t have that luxury of choice for example where my heating is concerned – I wont die because I don’t have an iPad.

But the argument that ‘Private Business’, per se,  is some kind of panacea for societies ills is a joke and the headlong pursuit that this Government is pursuing down that route is mindless nonsense (in my not so very humble opinion of course).

The kind of rampant capitalism we have experienced since the 80’s IS the problem, not the solution. (And yes, that includes both Tory, Labour & latterly Liberal Democrat regimes so this is not a party political issue).

Capitalism as I understand it assumes that private money is used to create wealth, which rewards those investors who risk their private money, with a return via a dividend, assuming the business is well run and returns a profit.

The wealth generated by this process also enriches the rest of us by creating employment, so workers are paid rather than being a burden on the state, these employees in turn pay taxes that can be used to improve our society and protect the vulnerable. In addition, the businesses themselves generate taxes that also goes into the central ‘Pot’ and creates funds that can further be used to improve society and pay for all the things we need and of course protect our more vulnerable citizens.

This is the Capitalist Utopia the World has bought into in a big way over the last 30 plus years as even admitting that you might have slightly Socialist leanings indicates that you are at best slightly loopy and at worst a dangerous anarchist.

It is, of course, complete nonsense.

Such is the level of this nonsense that I would normally use a more basic description utilising the slang term for part of the male genitalia, but I will endeavour to remain politically correct to prevent certain people from leaving this page without reading on,  using my bad language as a convenient excuse.

Some, maybe even most, small businesses do operate this way but as far as our major private institutions are concerned it is as far from reality as David Cameron is from ever getting a vote from me – and that is about as far as you can get!

Firstly, major investors do not ‘risk’ their money (much of which is actually our money anyway through our pension funds, savings etc) – they insist on and usually get a dividend regardless of how well or otherwise the business is doing. Further, greed dictates that not only do they demand a dividend, but they often demand an increased dividend again in total disregard to the economic situation or the efficiency, or wellbeing of the business.

The idea that they provide employment opportunities is also laughable. With the connivance of governments of all flavours, there has been an inextricable ‘rush to the bottom’ to endlessly pay employees less money forcing employees into real poverty.

We hear a lot about the cost of the benefits culture. The facts are that the vast majority of benefit claimants are actually in work! So in reality Capitalism is being funded by the State to subsidise criminally low wages. Far from being the alternative to a huge benefit bill, they are in many cases the cause of it.

I would suggest that if profits can only be made by paying people wages that are so low they need subsidising by the state this is a flawed business model not private efficiency.

This is, incidentally, the reason public sector pensions are now apparently so much better than private sector ones (for poor people that is) – Thatcher and her lot sold off public sector jobs to private companies who immediately renegotiated employment contracts, lowered wages and withdrew benefits to make private sector terms and conditions inferior to public sector ones – the so-called ‘rush to the bottom’ – it is not that public sector pensions are good, they certainly mostly are not, it is just that private sector ones have become particularly bad!

What about the risks that these businesses are taking? What risks I would ask. What most privatisations have meant, (and the NHS believe me will be exactly the same), is that we have outsourced the PROFITS to private companies but retained THE RISKS in the public sector.

Banks fail, the public purse pays. The rail companies take the profits and we pay 4 times the amount in subsidies than we did when we owned them lock stock and barrel.

Water, Gas, Electricity need to invest in new energy – it is funded from increases in our bills not from the massive profits they are being allowed to take out of the business.

British Gas alone INCREASED their profits by 23%, pay massive dividends to shareholders and are still allowed to increase our prices by 6%.

Well, at least we can of course reassure ourselves that all this profit is helping the tax take can’t we?

Unfortunately not – companies are allowed to pay obscene wages and bonuses to individuals who have their tax bills cut rather than increased while the rest of us suffer and the companies themselves are allowed to pay little and often no tax on their ill-gotten gains. The tax write off for Vodafone alone is equivalent to the amount Osborne wants to take out of the benefit system so far (and he hasn’t finished yet).

People like Philip Green are allowed to pretend a dividend is going to his wife who lives in Monaco so he doesn’t pay tax on it. To put it in perspective the amount he saved in tax on that single transaction was 10 times more than the amount that was spent on the Olympics opening ceremony!

ebay, Facebook, Google, Starbucks pay little or no Corporation tax despite massive profits.

I could go on for a few more pages, but hopefully you get the point – Capitalism, at least the current version of it is not working and is in my view tantamount to a criminal conspiracy to steal money from us all.

Some call it greed, others business – I call it a rampant confidence trick and in many cases straightforward criminality and if it isn’t criminal, it should be.

We need a few (or even a lot) of these high-level criminals in prison and some massive recovery of our stolen money (whether through tax recovery or windfall taxes if necessary – either way make it quick). We should also recover much of our infrastructure, institutions and industries from these private conspiracies – maybe then we will feel a little more like we are ‘all in it together’.

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About societyfirst

A blog dedicated to the desire for a more equitable and caring society which explores opportunities to create a better way of life for the majority of our people.
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