I once thought economics and such were really a blind used by people who didn’t want to get on with something. These days I’m more inclined tot he view the subject should be screaming at us that business-as-usual just doesn’t work and we have a serious problem with the rich. 400 people in the USA own more than the bottom half of the population (it’s only 4000 in the UK) and we’ve seen the very idea that hard work, saving and commitment to equality vanish as a sensible thing to believe.
In many respects we remain ‘teenagers’ in any possible debate, more likely to immerse ourselves in an equivalent of X-box-fest or choosing a new carpet than finding out what’s really going on. While we have held ourselves in this perpetual childhood, capitalism has collapsed more surely than it might had the Soviet tanks ever rolled (though friends serving in our army and conscripted into theirs tell me this was unlikely).
The key thing is we daren’t talk about it. I’ve little doubt this is partly brainwashing, but there is more to this. One can make a rather good living as an academic providing the critique, but possession of it otherwise than as an academic is more or less to doom oneself in the job stakes and any popularity contest. The language of freedom from usury and reasonable equality is once again heresy. Sex, drugs and rock and roll is as dead as a Jack Black movie. We need jobs, wages and honest banking!
Britain has just seen some riots – the scum who generally make life bad for many people finally assembling en masse and coming to embarrassing attention. That we don’t care about the mess as it affects those it’s forced on through housing policies is clear. The Egyptian poor had to be joined by their middle class (ripped off by stockmarketeers just before the Arab Spring). Bankksidebabble has suggested we need to reclaim our streets and I feel much the same. Most of us probably still expect the political and moneyed class to sort things out – but we are generally blind to what is going on, and what we have become in our apathy. We’ve lost the plot and are waiting for a private sector cavalry disbanded long ago. Look at the piss poor ‘ideas’ on show in Dragon’s Den – well over half the ‘entrepreneurs’ at any given time want to open a coffee shop or whatever the current fad is. Most successful businesses spin off from already successful businesses, or provide services business-to-business.
Much as the monasteries were disestablished, we need ti disestablish the rich. We need a plan to break up their centralised power and invest in new programmes of wider wealth generation for a private sector to feed on. We are prevented from doing this because the rich thwart democracy. I think most of us understand this, but can’t make the decision to rebel against it. Just as the workers of the world never united, the democrats can’t either.
When I was being brought up typical arguments against democracy involved a self-interested public that wold always prefer bread and butter to going to war – a public that would always be incapable of making the tough decisions – so hence we had a representative democracy with leaders to do this hard work for us on the basis of the best information available. Another aspect might be summed-up as the ‘Russian curse’ advice that we don’t want to do wish interesting times on anyone except our enemies. Gradual, peaceful change was coming and would lead us to the dream – anything else was dangerous ideological tosh – just look at Soviet Paradise.
When I first heard of human resource management, it was about looking after employees so well that unions would just fade away. Hardened Govan union convenors would admit that working conditions in the new businesses like IBM were so good there was no need for the unions. Now HRM is an evil that has turned workers into costs. There has been no gradual change when seen from the perspective of individuals and communities devastated by the loss of decent jobs and working conditions. The economics on this are so obvious any fool should know. Wages and workers have been subject to decimation and the role of wages in the economy replaced by debt. Look up Steve Keen if you don’t know. As most people find themselves with less cash and lower proportions of wealth as this has happened, the rich have amassed more and more. My view is that most people have not been able to grasp this and have preferred to blame those who have suffered, not realising they would have been hit too if exposed as manufacturing and manual workers to investment going abroad or high levels of immigration. And now it’s coming to our ‘feather-bedded’ cops and general public sector.
The key issue is getting back to a wage-based economy based on people making, growing and providing stuff that builds a society, with liquid assets (cash) in plenty of people’s hands to do with what they will. The money to do this has to be diverted from the rich and we have to do something about rich people on the grounds that we should not be working indentured to them. There have been 5000 years of this problem, and much as we might think it fair to hang on to what we work hard for we should not think it fair to exploit others through wealth.
Even in earning high wages, we should not be able to be keep wealth in the current sense. The top 20% in the UK earn 16 times those at the bottom – even this leads to a kind of wealth that potentially leads to serfdom. This is actually a very difficult matter and the key elements are not under public discussion. The idea has to be to prevent the accumulation of non-democratic power, either through governmental, rich oligarch power or any fatuous ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, without ending up with bumptious bureaucracy. Some task! .
I think we have to try employment solutions – this seems sensible until it dawns that unemployment is being used as a control measure to keep wages low and no one is interested in low skill workers. Wealthy modern economies don’t need them as it’s cheaper to invest where wages are very low and brighter people can be found at much cheaper rates, and skilled, bright people can be brought in. There’s been bullshit around about skilling our own for decades, but this has long been just political lying. Educational standards measured outside the coercion in our schools and universities and their target systems show a decline. We are merely dressing sows’ ears with silk ribbons in the pretence we have produced silk purses. Education is less linked with economic success than claimed – has China come on because of its schools and universities? We’ve actually been doing so badly that we’ve had to import plumbers, doctors, nurses, IT people and taxi drivers – how do our schools and colleges explain not providing these and other skills? I’ve no doubt we could get cheaper, better educated cops too, or university lecturers. When I work abroad, my colleagues are often South Asian and receive less than half my rate, as do a growing number escaping South Africa. Many of our kids, now in their 30’s have had no realistic chance of employment and everyone is surely aware now that many training placements just don’t work.
What we can guarantee is that our politicians will simply lie to us with empty promises. What’s needed is an acceptance that governments will have to come up with national work schemes. Instead they will bullshit about making Britain an attractive place for private sector investment – yet this is precisely what every other country will claim to do, and where the rich have been investing and will continue so to do.
What I would suggest is that governments across the EU agree to an international service scheme on work in all countries that would be open to private sector investment and bidding, but paid for by wealth taxes – all to create wages and work-based learning and product development. Part of this idea would be to get liquid assets back in the hands of the people and out of the hands of banksters. I’d have our universities involved to get substantial numbers of students out of classrooms that indenture them and teach them little. In current thinking such ideas are dead in the water because we are so incapable of seeing democracy as a way of life we have to structure and still believe a private sector that is making us poor is the wealth creator. In fact, it demands subsidies all over the place.
What we need is to escape argument. I could write several books, fully referenced on these issues. It’s no use. What we need is simply the confidence to go ahead. Our money systems and economics are all about confidence. It’s time we got it back from them and demonstrated it through our own actions. We are waiting in vain for a cavalry we don’t need and only exists to kill our hope. Our problems are behavioural. We don’t need more of the economy of ADMASS, cheap Chinese goods and we do need more of our own work creating capital we can all use.