More and more homeless people sleeping rough in London. The solution? Put spikes in the pavements. Three people a week found sleeping in refuse containers, at risk of being crushed in compactors. The solution? Lock the bins! London will soon have rich mansions in the fashionable city centres and shanty towns on the periphery. Is this what economic growth, wealth and prosperity means? Is this what we want? Is this the choice we wish to make? All these incentives to get rich in the crap shoot of life, so that we can walk by on the other side of the street? Do we want to be surrounded by dire poverty and depravity and the complete lack of any real opportunity for self advancement or a reasonable quality of life for the vast majority of the people?
One side of the argument says it is the market and we must let it work its magic because everyone benefits in the long run. This is a bogus argument because the market is far from free, it is a set of government policies, a set of economic choices, like any other, and at the moment it is stacked in the interests of monopoly capitalists.
The other side of the argument says all this talk about the benevolence of the market is a lie, that economic theory is in need of a total and complete overhaul. The so-called free market system we have today creates obscene wealth and obscene poverty. It is destructive to the environment. It is uncaring and incoherent. The ideology of the free market is a belief system not founded on fact. It is simply a devise to allow the rich to impose a certain order, more or less unopposed, on the rest of society.
Why is it that we believe in incentives when it comes to the salaries and bonuses of chief executives (to encourage them to stay in the field, to not flee overseas where life may seem more rewarding) yet when it comes to teachers and NHS staff we ignore the effect of employment terms and conditions and just keep trying to work them longer and longer hours for less and less remuneration and more and more difficult living conditions so as to reduce costs? When we end up having to actively recruit overseas to fill staff shortages we then create a climate of fear over immigration levels, pitching workers against one another so they attack each other instead of the real culprits, those government cronies who lined their own pockets stealing from the rest by coming up with schemes to pay zero taxes, to undermine regulations, to skew the statistics and buy up the media, the police and parliament.
We see nothing but appalling mismanagement of the economy everywhere we turn: falling living standards, poor housing, poor transport, declining services. This was not caused by too much government spending, or too much debt, or by the need for austerity measures. This was caused by unregulated greed that lead to risky practises and economic destabilisation, and then a total collapse in demand in the private sector mirrored by a shrinking of the public sector. Successive government’s have had the objective of shrinking the size of the public sector for many decades. At the time of the banking crisis this was even more than ever the exact opposite of what the economy needed.
During all this the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. There is plenty of money for services and for investment but it is sloshing around in off-shore bank accounts. The government would have us believe that there is plenty of money for expensive bombing campaigns but there is no money for welfare services.
Some CEOs made many millions selling weapons in the Middle East. Those weapons are now used in war. This should come as no surprise in a troubled region, one destabilised by our own previous bombing campaigns. There are many ordinary people living in the MIddle East who oppose both sides, all sides, of the wars. Their homes and livelihoods are, nonetheless, obliterated by bombs reining down on them from all sides, so it should come as no surprise that they flee for their lives.
We turn our backs on them, though we made money from their misery. We call them ‘economic migrants’ rather than ‘refugees’. They flee by any means possible, dying in their thousands on the way. We don’t allow them to work. If they steal they get deported back to a bombed out war zone. All they have to rely on is charity and that is wearing thin. They become poor and dirty, homeless and destitute. They live in fear. They try desperately not to cause any trouble. What little they have we take from them. We are making a rod for our own backs while exploiting the misery of others. History will judge us very harshly.
We need to remember how, historically, the push of British capitalism has taken the form of a drive to extraction of ever larger profits from subordinated, disenfranchised peoples around the world, both at home and abroad. How across the oceans and at home it lead to ugly and brutal repression of human rights, short life expectancy, and conditions of dire poverty, alongside isolated pockets of extreme wealth.
Capitalism seeks profit by any means possible, whether cruel, corrupt and inept or otherwise. Slavery is not a free labour market, yet it was the form that capitalist competition took for many decades. The expediency of defending the interests of the super-rich by whatever means available is the underlying unifying theme of the corporate world. Lobbying governments and enlisting the help of the military is frequently the first port of call. This is a million miles away from the benign world of perfect competition we quaintly like to think capitalist competition is based on.
Many emerging nations across the globe today illustrate that growth results from public-private co-operation, underpinned by state-funded, state-of-the-art, education, and the strong foundations of good infrastructure and cutting edge technology. The British electorate should be voting in favour of enlisting government policy to work actively on behalf of this vision of a high income, high productivity economy. The sooner we unlearn the false ideology of the invisible hand the better. Britain needs a government that works on behalf of the people and not just of the privileged few.