Gender Neutral 1

Gender-neutral (G-N) is a very hot topic at the moment and as such there are contrasting views as to whether it is a genuine cry for understanding as a sexual orientation. Or has it been made into a political stick with which to beat traditional society. A number of schools have introduced G-N toilets/washrooms but so far extremely few in the wider community.

A question immediately springs to mind of why that should be. And, a secondary point is why in primary schools. Opponents will shoot straight from the hip that the reason is that it would not be tolerated in adult society. Therefore the argument goes on to suggest that it is an attempt to push the issue through the backdoor.

Another point raised is the number of people who consider themselves as G-N and inevitably what percentage they make up in society as a whole. We do not know but it would seem to be small, very small. This leads to the next question of why should society change to accommodate such numbers and, should society change to suit a tiny minority. A case of the tail wagging the dog!

The latter points have some credence because a change to G-N would necessitate a considerable change in outlook. It would entail a huge financial commitment by governments/States/businesses throughout the world to implement it. And, that assumes that the sexes would readily accept the new environment. Questions arise:

  1. There have been clashes between G-N supporters and feminist groups. Therefore, does it have widespread support?
  2. What would be the extent of embarrassment to both sexes which can lead to feelings of intimidation?
  3. Would urinals be included or would all be expected to use cubicles? I’m sure that many women would welcome the addition of more cubicles within existing arrangements, instead of the perpetual queues that many endure.
  4. Who would be in charge of the seat-up/ seat –down predicament?(no pun intended)
  5. Would disable / child facilities be incorporated?
  6. Would women’s private functions be catered for adequately?
  7. It could take generations for males to respect the new arrangements. (and in the meantime?)
  8. Sex is a most predatory instinct! Is this to be flushed away? Can it?

? In a multiple of places I have seen separate disable and child changing arrangements. Why not a similar idea for gender-neutral?

Therefore, is the promotion of G-N an attempt to manipulate society through a political desire for change? This brings us to the classic philosophical debate of whether the needs of the individual should supersede the conditions set by the majority. Taking a purely elitist liberal stance the individual is supreme. Does that therefore mean that the individual has no responsibility to the community? John Stuart Mill has a lot to answer for.

A supportive view is mentioned by Francis Fukuyama, (534) when he suggests that majorities in a democracy can ‘violate the rights of individuals and minorities,’ and find ways to impede there progress. It is, he submits, a question of law and who implements the law. However, democracy itself can and is circumvented by powerful interest groups to get their own way. In many cases this can be simply put as ‘the louder you shout the more you get.’

Big Q: Who owns the franchise on openness? 

Can manipulation be condoned when following an ‘enlightened’ agenda? The alternative view must be that no form of manipulation can be acceptable because we can never be sure of the long-term consequences of change. To be welcomed by most change must happen at a pace that can be tolerated by the population, otherwise you are likely to be hit by various fault lines.

A scenario of a backlash leads us directly into the old –traditionalist V the avant-garde which is a false setting. The given scenario allows the promoters of change to castigate the mainstream as backward etc. This of course is a huge misrepresentation as many who wish to hold tight to the reins of change just want to ensure that the baby is not tossed out with the bath water.

 

It is indeed rational to want to digest possibilities, to think things through and eventually feel comfortable with the proposal. Youth on the other hand has a tendency to charge ahead without due consideration. If it sounds exciting, if others are doing it, then we can’t be seen to be a stick in the mud. Charge!

“Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.”

Tennyson

 

As an alternative we might look to Ambrose Philips 1671 – 1749

But when reflection comes with riper years,

And manhood with a thoughtful brow appears;

We cast the mistress off to take a wife,

And, wed to wisdom, lead a happy life.

Hm. It’s all a matter of perception which fosters opinion but reflection should be a critical element in our thinking and development. It may be fun to run but a walk gives us time to talk.

Moreover, how much consideration has been given to the long-term consequences of G-N on a world bases? Or is there a built in assumption on the part of the G-N lobby that their programme of change will make everyone happy. Everyone get on board – the Titanic comes to mind. (Unforeseen consequence)

Questions arise:

  • How will the education system be affected?
  • Can we expect greater sexual confusion?
  • What percentage of the new society will consider themselves G-N?
  • How will it affect relationships?
  • How will that affect population/species survival?
  • Will there be an input from genetic engineering?
  • Will opposition be allowed to thrive?

There are too many questions. It’s time I started on a book!

  • Francis Fukuyama – Political Order and Political Decay

 

Naomi Klein V Trump 3

Politics is riven across the globe just like between Klein and Trump which makes things jolly-dee for the elite. Therefore, The Economist must make good reading when it writes that America is divided. It suggests a political gridlock and economic inequality. A huge disturbance for the ‘left’ is the New York Times report that 53% of white female voters put their mark for Trump and, 30% of Hispanics did likewise. There doesn’t seem to be a clear road ahead.

www.economist.com/news/21723797-the-future-of-america

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/22/us/after-success-of-womens-march-a-question-remains-whats-next.html?

Any unifying organisation has the problem from the contentious question of how many suitcases each individual organisation should bring with them. Therefore, the argument that ‘Indigenous peoples rights are sacrosanct’ (242) and individual movements must be ‘protected’ (243) and ‘identity politics’ (91) must be supported and ‘reparations for slavery’ (125) is a weakness. Ms Klein commits the crime of playing to the gallery.

“… to have hope of changing the world, we’re going to have to be willing to change ourselves.” (261)

If the movement for change is to take us to a better society for all, then we must – start as one- not as a host each with baggage; because somewhere down the line factions will peel off. They still might!

The Big Q. Do I stand for all or do I stand for me?

The driving force must be equality of opportunity; from there we work out what is needed to make it a reality: better welfare system, free education, medical care and nursery places for all etc.

Ha-Joon Chang, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism – Thing 20 (210-220)

We cannot right the wrongs of the past no matter how heinous. The best that can be offered is to come along and help decide. That’s democracy! There are some on the ‘left’ that want the frog-march as the compulsory dance. I prefer, slow, slow, quick, quick slow waltz. It’s more fun.

Thanks…
for my world

Unfortunately, there will be no ‘leap’ on climate change, though it is necessary. In an article for the UN April 2016, How to Finance Global Reflation, Andrew Sheng wrote, “An estimated $6 trillion in infrastructure investment will be needed annually over the next 15 years just to address global warming.”

James Rickards, The Road to Ruin (87)

Ms Klein has looked at this question of finance and come up with some figures (247). However, the guardian newspaper suggests that subsidies for the fossil fuel industry were around $5.3 trillion in 2015. The problem is how to get that money used for renewables? We can’t just slice it off, though that would be nice. It would have to be weaned off as thousands of jobs are tied up with the money. The argument for a waltz is really powerful.

www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/01/

Nonetheless, some problems are more pressing and require immediate attention. “We are, it bears repeating, out of time.” (235) But ‘superhuman speed’ might not be possible. (69-70)Paul Mason Postcapitalism (250) using the IEA data that suggests we must cut CO2 emissions by 50% by the year 2050 and that is only possible if we arrest it by 2020. A very tall order! The game is afoot. Mason (262) makes this point:

“So we need to inject into the environment and social justice movements things that have for twenty-five years seemed the sole property of the right: willpower, confidence and design.”

People around the world are already aware of climate issues but there needs to be a concerted effort, a ‘superhuman’ push to bring coordination to a campaign. It’s called marketing; the wherewithal is out there it just needs wakening. There is no shortage of evidence:

Europe –

  • UK – London pollution levels breached for 79 days 2016 even though it has a charge £.
  • France – Paris is to introduce stickers for cars based on the age of the vehicle at €3.50 each
  • Germany – Stuttgart worse pollution in the country. Citizen groups taking the state to court. City to introduce ‘fine dust’ days.

America – A mountain of evidence! www.uk.reuters.com  June 2017 reports thousands of extra deaths annually. A study by Harvard School of Public Health states, “…this is not just a health issue, but a social equality issue as well.” Study by Qian Di et al. Other sites include cbsnews.com/news and Health.com and many more.

Drivers are prosecuted while the real criminals go free. The injustice of it all!

The material is available it comes down to focus, presentation and access. What is needed is a sponsor: an organisation, a newspaper, a charity or all three. Reaching out to the wealth of talent that is out there and a multitude of possible approaches can be taken.

 

Banksy

I’m always amazed looking out of the train window at the effort and sheer class of some of the graffiti. It needs to be harnessed. Likewise, the creative expertise of video makers utilizing their skills to get a positive message across. Add the array of other talent within social media working on a campaign. Of course there will be trolls and hackers out to mess it up. Some probably paid by the big boys to do exactly that.

Is it possible? Willpower! One possible script would be a competition of graffiti artists to submit their design by photograph having done their art on a 6 x 4 canvass. Not Trump Tower! The designs would be collated by the sponsor and the artists themselves would choose the winner. It would take a few months to complete but that’s exactly what is needed. It could generate a great deal of interest. A similar exercise can be employed for video makers. It’s about releasing the creative juices.

  1. Slogan writers; who knows what talent is out there. People might get involved just for the hell of it. Creating some weird and wonderful crap but they’re participating and having fun doing it.
  2. Pollution masks with the tag – end fossil fuel subsidies. People can make their own, groups, organisations etc. use an old scarf; put it on a pinny (apron). Have a fun time on social media. Have a facemask day, mask party, mask rally, fashion show, international day. It’s a policy of keeping the momentum. It’s about generating wider public awareness.
  3. Have a talent show of the worse and best song about pollution. Viewed online!
  4. Produce a cartoon or comic strip of 5 plates.
  5. Its E-Mail Day every 3 months send an email to your politician: end fossil fuel subsidies – make it happen or GO.

To local rags /national rags – Government are paying hitmen to bump us off –                   end fossil fuel subsidies.

The winners of graffiti, video caption, and slogan, can have their entry made into an email postcard that can be downloaded and sent to…..

  1. Recycling, already up and running but still a good avenue to increase awareness. ALL packaging must be recyclable!!!

Release the juices, let the vats flow! Be ambitious, be confident and release the creative powers of the people.

Generate the scale of numbers, and politicians will cause a rush on toilet paper! Let the ‘powers that be’ try to spoil the party.

 

Naomi Klein V Trump 1

I saw the book title, ‘NO is not enough’ by Naomi Klein, read the blurb and thought this is my cup of tea. However, I was met with a cup of gloop. No doubt well-meaning and to some extent forward thinking. But! Then I hit the last pages and began nodding my head, yeah, I’ve hit hard core. Ooh! I was at last excited, Klein and I are on the same train heading to somewhere better. But!

The mention of dismay that Hillary Clinton failed and could not be, “…a role model…” (17) had me reaching for the megaphone to scream the title of the book. Clinton was and is an entrenched and fully paid up member of the establishment. Many in the Democratic Party did not support her and actively campaigned against Clinton as their candidate. The champion of the hour was Bernie Sanders.

In hindsight, perhaps, the ruling elite of the Democrats regret their decision to force Sanders off the ticket. He could have beaten Trump but the fat cats at the top did not want to wrestle with Sanders brand of politics.

Ms Klein to her credit supported the Sanders campaign but later found fault in his policy decisions. Notable was the decision on reparations for slavery. (125) Klein quotes Sanders that reparations would be ‘”divisive”’ and that that decision may have cost him a substantial black vote. Is she suggesting he play to the gallery just for votes? I disagree with her analysis and believe that Sanders showed more understanding of the big picture of what it takes to unite the people.

Opposition to Sanders on that issue points more towards a lack of understanding of the bigger picture, which has become characteristic of the ‘Left’ in politics. There are too many questions associated with the policy of reparations: would payments be generic or individual? How much overall? Who decides how to spend it? Spend on what? The whole episode could prove fractious in the extreme. Not to forget the rest of the poor looking on.

The ‘left’ get a policy idea and run with it without much, if any, debate. You are either with them or against them. It’s an assumption of righteousness. On the mild side it’s patronizing on the other it’s dictatorial. We know what’s best for you! They get so engrossed in pursuing their own agenda they don’t see the need to consult or feel the anxiety of the poor. It’s the Moses syndrome!

Isn’t ironic that Klein supports Sanders only to go nit picking when he fails. She should be having a go at the hierarchy of the Democratic Party for their lack of vision and courage, which she acknowledges (123). But then all the guys at the top think alike. They may sport different colour ties when they meet up at the country club but eat at the same table.

Going back to the possibility of Hillary Clinton as president would only have ensured a continuation of the same old policies. Gender has no bearing on what a leader does; it’s their politics, their belief system. A female leader does not ensure a more thoughtful or caring approach to policy.

My way or …

I’ll refer you back to 1979 in the UK and the premiership of Margaret Thatcher. Her policies battered the working class into submission and caused severe damage to the manufacturing base of the economy. Her approach involved the ‘shock’ attack of neoliberalism, economic thinking of the Chicago School.

And recently, we have the rule of

Better my way …

Angela Merkel, a so called centrist politician leading a left leaning coalition. Well!! If we are to believe Yanis Varoufakis, finance minister of the Greek government 2015 and no one has refuted his analysis of what took place.* The sting began with the bailout of €110bn to the Greek economy in 2010, the first of three. Varoufakis is adamant that as the money poured into Greece it was just as quickly siphoned off back to the German and French banks that were facing collapse.

*Yanis Varoufakis, Adults in the Room (34)

This blatant and shameless robbery of the people’s money to save the banks was one of the most audacious scams in our history. To pay the debt Europe was forced into austerity. Merkel used the clout of the troika* to impose the deal. A decade later the debt is still being paid. Europe has been put on a very strict diet while Germany feasts on its ill-gotten gains.

*European Commission, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Klein bemoans that Obama did not take the opportunity during the financial crisis (2008) to steer America in a different direction but no such condemnation of Merkel. Instead Merkel is commended for the creation of 400,000 green jobs (214) while coal still remains the basic energy provider for the nation. The decision to extend the green environment may have more to do with a dependency on Russian oil and gas.

Moreover, the ordinary people of Europe have paid an extreme price to bolster and maintain the German economy. Cracks are now appearing as the duration of the German plan continues to hurt. The EU is in deep trouble!

We must commend Ms Klein for accepting that Merkel’s raid on Europe was “merciless” (214). The actions of Merkel were a precursor to Trump’s campaign. Merkel put Germany first and had no concern for the needs of others. Trump has stated on numerous occasions that he will put America first come what may. Is he following Merkel’s lesson plan?

Merkel kicked democracy into the tall grass while she went about her business. Clear evidence can be found with the troika’s actions in Greece and Cyprus. Will Trump go that far?

Let’s leave the last word to Yanis Varoufakis:

I witnessed first hand what I can only describe as a naked class war that targeted the weak and scandalously favoured the ruling class.

The Great EU Swindle

I witnessed first hand what I can only describe as a naked class war that targeted the weak and scandalously favoured the ruling class. Yanis Varoufakis

Trust is a dead word! The EU political elite have sapped the hopes and aspirations of millions of ordinary people throughout Europe. Nearly a decade of austerity has cheated them out of €billions to save the French and German banks.

In a stampede to maximise their profit the European banks lead the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ into the cesspit of derivatives. They wanted their cut, to cash in in the quick buck world of finance. They stood to make €millions but, there is always a but, the 2008 financial crash squeezed their balls till they screamed.

Thoughtless in their pursuit of dosh (€/£/$) and fearing they might lose out and look like idiots to the rest of the financial mob, they galloped headlong into the fray. BOOM! BOOM! Their bonuses blowing in the wind they trundled back to beg governments to bail them out. Governments did at phenomenal cost and then passed the bill to the ordinary people. Austerity!

“I witnessed first-hand what I can only describe as a naked class war that targeted the weak and scandalously favoured the ruling class.”1

The Double Whammy

The people were bludgeoned twice. This was a heartless mugging; the subprime mortgage crisis left millions without homes, struggling to survive and then came a decade of austerity. Such is irony. Joseph Stiglitz shoots with both barrels when he states, “…U.S. subprime crisis meant exploiting the poorest and least-educated among us.”2

As the 2008 crisis hit the governments of the EU passed power over to the troika: the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). All decisions about bailing-out fell to them. The crisis appeared to suggest the collapse of the EU.

Angela Merkel berated the Americans for causing the debacle but soon had to eat her words as she handed over an initial €406 billion to German banks. She hadn’t realised they were burst too. Moreover, the German banks had previously loaned $477 billion to the weaker states of the EU.  Later, Merkel would hand over another huge amount.

The banks of France, Germany, Netherlands and UK had a $30 trillion exposure, which meant that if the slightest thing went wrong they would collapse. A massive bailout was needed and quick.3 The troika with their gang of technocrats were called to action.

The Sting

Five countries needed transfusions: Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Greece. In 2010 Greece received a €110bn loan from the troika. “As soon as the bailout loans gushed into the Greek finance ministry, ‘Operation Offload’ began: the process of immediately siphoning the money back to the French and German banks.”4

Of the money given over some 66% came from the EU taxpayer and 33% from taxpayers throughout the world. Thus the banks were salvaged at the expense of the people. Greece was left to cope. During the period 2010 – 2012 Greek government spending dropped by 15%. More bailouts required.5

A second then a third bailout was needed in 2012 and 2015. The Greeks got the blame for mishandling their finances as the people of Europe made snide remarks about the Greeks, not realising that it was Merkel and gang passing it on to the banks.

Little Cyprus suffered too at the hands of the troika. In 2013 Cyprus got a 10bn bailout but the strings attached were severe, the Popular Bank (Laiki Bank) was forced to close. Like other countries within the block Cyprus had to accept austerity. Wikipedia March 2013

Outside of the corridors of power the deal was condemned.

  1. Paul Mason, then a reporter for BBC Newsnight queried,

    “What is Germany doing? It triggered the Cyprus crisis and is playing hardball,…”

  2. Economist Richard D. Wolff described it as “blackmail”.
  3. Dr Jeffery Stacy believed “…it hurt Cyprus and Europe”.
  4. The economist magazine described the deal as, “…short-sighted and self-defeating.”

They were small, they were weak, they were used as a lesson plan to the rest; don’t step out of line! Democracy be damned – and it was! The BBC put the blame firmly in Merkel’s corner. While the Guardian newspaper warned that Cyprus would suffer.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18586532

www.theguardian.com/money/blog/2012/may/18/euro-crisis-cyprus-next

The bailout of Cyprus, “… raised profound questions about the democratic nature of EU decision-making.”

www.Ise.ac.uk/

The people had no say, democracy was ignored, the needs of the elite were met. Meanwhile the poor had to take the medicine without exhibiting any symptoms.

Anyone who reads Yanis Varoufakis book Adults in the Room and still believes in the EU need to see someone!!! But don’t take the word of Varoufakis. The German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble makes it as plain as daylight when speaking to Varoufakis:

“In the Eurogroup you are probably the one who understands that the eurozone is unsustainable. The eurozone is constructed wrongly.”6

The ‘powers’ may argue that they done what they did to save Europe for democracy. It was merely a temporary suspension and, strong arm tactics were necessary to achieve restitution. BUT!

  1. The cost was one-sided. Ordinary Joe paid in full.
  2. Banks were saved without consequential costs.
  3. Banks continue to make huge profits and top employees to make awesome bonuses.
  4. The ‘powers’ never explained their actions
  5. The ‘powers’ succeeded in smashing the concept of fairness.
  6. And succeeded in destroying trust.
  7. Political leaders could not think of an alternative plan.
  8. The elite went scot free!!!

Democracy was cast aside; kicked in the balls and dismissed as a troublesome kid. There can be no clearer evidence that the people were used as pawns to benefit the elite.

“It is unfair to accept benefits but refuse to pay.” The bankers did!!! Johnathan Wolff  7

  1. Yanis Varoufakis, Adults in the Room (481)
  2. Joseph Stiglitz, The price of Inequality (xlv11)
  3. Y V (38)
  4. YV (27)
  5. YV (19 + 499 note)
  6. YV (407)
  7. J. Wolff, Political Philosophy Third Edition (59)

 

 

Drawbridge Brothers 4

Banksy

Diversity is a weak glue. Its purpose is to placate today’s society. It is based on a vision that suggests that society will not change. The basic premise is that of equal opportunity and a general respect for the rights of the individual, inclusiveness. Unfortunately, this brings diversity into conflict on various aspects of its tenets.

You must admit it is a lovely picture, well drawn and you can see why many are attracted to it. But it was drawn in charcoal, posted on the outside and it rained. The jolly old rain!

We can all agree with Ha-Joon Chang1 that “Equality of opportunity is the starting point for a fair society.” But and it is a big but, “However, it is equally unjust and inefficient to introduce affirmative action and begin to admit students of lower quality simply because they are black or from a deprived background.” From any angle we come back to the obvious conclusion that we are dealing with discrimination.

Is it ok to discriminate against a rich kid because their family has money and therefore his/her life chances are so much better? To which group should we lend our support – an underprivileged female or an underprivileged black person? Michael Sandel2 deals with this question expertly.

Sandel prompts us with a proposition that affirmative action is acceptable because it fulfils a ‘socially worthy aim’. That still leaves us with the problem of discrimination. The real question is why society needs affirmative action or diversity, what is the root cause? We are always skipping over the big question as though it is too big to solve. Stay clear a political volcano is about to erupt!

Professor Johnathan Wolff3 opines that affirmative action can be ‘patronizing and degrading, and, in the long term, may do more harm than good’. America has had a form of affirmative action since the mid-1940s. While a number of black and Hispanic people have gained from the initiative the vast majority are still on the bottom rung of life chances.

As Wolff points out, ‘…equal political rights are worth fighting for, but they are of little value if you are still treated unequally in day to day life.’ So, even democracy may not solve the problem. Representative democracy is subject to corruption and nepotism to mention but a few distractions.

Tony Blair came to power in the UK 1997 with a sound bite of ‘education, education, education’. Later his left-wing credentials were left shattered on the ground as he became more Thatcherite than Maggie.  We have to take a serious look at the power of the market over our lives to find a solution?

In South Africa, apartheid was shown the way to …. Off. However, the ordinary people are no better off financially or socially; they are free, but free to live in poverty. The ANC has not delivered!

We are constantly told that a strong and growing economy is the best way to ease the burden of poverty. It seems to be one of Theresa May’s favourite sayings and guess what, she’s wrong. The 2008 financial crash is testament enough. The market ruled and the people lost – big time.

Therefore does ‘trickle-down economics work? According to J Stiglitz4 the nations that adopted the Washington Consensus – the American way – strong growth everyone wins “…the poor have benefitted less from growth.” This is supported by Ha-Joon Chang1 “Trickle down does happen, but its impact is meagre if we leave it to the market.” Poverty is as widespread today as ever.

Therefore, the concept of diversity sounds good looks good but is wishy-washy. It is all things to all people. I’m sorry but that cannot be the way forward. We cannot allow certain sections of society to spew their intolerance for others as a belief. We cannot allow a minority group to dictate policy for the nation.

If we are to build an understanding that will last then we must accept that that will take time. We must talk not push, we must listen not railroad, and we must argue not fight. Remember inclusiveness! Let’s put it to music

The road is long

With many a winding turn

That leads us to who knows where

Who knows where

But I’m strong

Strong enough to carry him

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

 

Songwriters

Bobby Scot, Bob Russell

Read more: Hollies – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

1.       Ha-Joon Chang, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About CAPITALISM (p210) (pp137-138)

2.       Michael Sandel, Justice (chap:7 pp167-183)

3.       Johnathan Wolff, Political Philosophy (p186 + p91)

4.       J Stiglitz, Globalization, (p79)

 

Democracy: Can it Survive?

 

Democracy holds more emotion in its wake than any other political theory. It has stimulated a considerable amount of discussion and hyperbole from the earliest philosophical writers to the present day. But the burning question is whether democracy can work, and, can it work for the majority of society or is it a pleasant guise for control by an elite?

Certainly, the thought of democracy has wetted the thinking of many writers considered among our best intellects over the centuries:

Plato: was not a fan as he condemned it “… followed citizens’ impulses.” rather than the common good.

Nietzsche: was not enamoured either, he wanted to be, “… beyond the lowlands of the herd conscience.”

Machiavelli: likewise; as the intellects would be the prisoner of the “whims of the people”.

Charles Maurras: believed we should accept that we have, “natural hierarchies”.

JS Mill: was concerned by, “…the moral coercion of public opinion” that the individual was sovereign and bemoaned the ‘tyranny of the majority’.

www.serendipity.li/jsmill/jsmill.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-democratic_thought

Without being disparaging these were yesterday’s men with yesterday’s prejudices, when the very concept of democracy held a fear of control by the ‘herd’. Mill’s focus on the individual is little more than a scream of a narcissist. Along with the others mentioned their fear was brought on by the prospect of the uneducated rabble who survived in vermin infested hovels having jurisdiction over them.

They saw no potential in the hoi polloi. They simply looked at the uneducated mass and contrasted that with their own highly educated self and, were blinded by that fear and blatant snobbery.

Would a look at a more modern picture reveal a more sympathetic view?

Robert Michels: opined “… that democracy is a façade legitimizing the rule of a particular elite…” He suggested that democracy naturally slides into an oligarchy. He himself moved from being a socialist to become a fascist. Can we see a trend?

Rabbi Elazar Shach: had no doubts, “Democracy is a machinery of lies, false notions, pursuit of narrow interests and deceit.” His preference was to follow the teachings of the Torah.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opposition_to_democracy

Not much succour there for believers so let’s come right up to date:

A study carried out by Martin Gilens & Benjamin Page (2014) concluded that the majority of the American public had little influence on U.S. government policy. I have encountered that view several times and have raised it on previous posts.

A more damning assault on the weakness of democracy comes from ex U.S. president Jimmy Carter (2015) who is reputed to have said that the USA is now “… an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.” Wow! Don’t mince your words Jimmy. Again, it is a slight that has its own choir of substance.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oligarchy

We have come across the term oligarchy a few times and can now add other nouns such as plutocracy and fascism.

  • Fascism – strict rule by a leader & a small group of supporters.
  • Oligarchy – government by a small group.
  • Plutocracy – government by the wealthy.

Political scientists and sociologists will no doubt condemn me but the terms come across as much of a muchness. Or to put it more informally – money talks!

The political class will scream and bring forward an array of quotes from notables to try to establish that they don’t fit into any of the categories above. The social democrats in particular will holler their disapproval of any such characterization. In response I would suggest that they look in the mirror and learn the true insightfulness of reflection. They have ruled, especially in Europe for the last few decades, so anything that has gone wrong has done so under their watch, e.g. the rise of fascism and far-right groups.

“…extremism flourishes in an environment in which respectable voices offer no solutions as the population suffers.” Paul Krugman (p19) End This Depression NOW!

We’ve had ex-president Jimmy Carter, Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, so let’s hear from political philosopher Noam Chomsky. “It’s getting so that when I hear the word ‘democracy’ uttered by a politician or government official I automatically reach for my BS detector.”          Chomsky – Language and Responsibility There are a whole, whole lot of people do exactly the same as Chomsky.

So nobody likes democracy from the educated of the past to the educated of the present. What shall we do? Dump it in the rubbish can or just leave it to rot. For me, sitting on the next to bottom rung of the ladder of power (big ladder), I say keep it. As it has not yet completed its cycle.

There are weaknesses but there are in all political philosophies. There are also solid strengths as experienced in 2016 with the march of ordinary joe who shocked the political establishment with their voting power.

The body blow to the political class in UK, USA and Italy is a very hopeful sign, though a move to the right it was not a bridge to far. A thoughtful and inclusive campaign can swing things around.

A further strength of democracy is the ability to remove poor governments and the dirtbags whose back pocket is weighing them down. The system while open to abuse is also open to voices of descent and those who aspire to a good society. It’s just unfortunate that the latter voices cannot sing in harmony and as a choir.

Note what Charles Handy (p89) writes, “In a democratic culture, if it is not to degenerate into a battle between interest groups, it is particularly crucial that we find a common cause.”               Handy – Empty Raincoat

False Hope

To this end the social democrats and the general left of the British political scene probably thought they had found a ‘common cause’ with their promotion of political correctness (PCism). They were very wrong. It may have been perceived as a positive step forward towards a good society but it was clumsily introduced and implemented as tactfully as a bulldozer at a F1 race.

One can’t condemn fascism and communism as totalitarian regimes then seek to impose a political agenda, even if that agenda may be construed as for the common good. But to then lacerate opponents and doubters with vile accusations and, invoke the law to enforce its acceptance is hypocritical. It is not equality at work.

Any political agenda which is imposed may be considered as totalitarian. “What is a totalitarian regime but one in which variety of opinion is suppressed and conformity to a particular ideology is enforced.”  Catherine Rowett, www.academia.edu/1766239/A_dangerous_opponent_of_democracy

A more moderate view of PCism comes from Graham Good – University of British Columbia: “… it catches a certain kind of self-righteous and judgmental tone in some and a pervasive anxiety in others…”   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness

It may be shrouded in Karl Popper’s term ‘piecemeal social engineering’. Others may liken it to B.F. Skinner’s (1904-1990) view that society should develop ways to condition people to behave in a more appropriate way.  Book: Walden Two 1948

Some will associate it with George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (p241 (Appendix)) and his version of Newspeak, which was devised, “…to meet the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism.” The sole purpose of Newspeak was to, “…to make all other modes of thought impossible.”

http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/piecemeal-social-engineering

Nonetheless, many right-wing activists believe that PCism is ‘indoctrination’ an attempt at ‘brainwashing’. Can the left in politics answer this view without being curt, inflammatory and dismissive? Dialogue is our only way forward in a positive vein.

Moreover, PCism was introduced throughout the western world. This would suggest a concerted and determined plan to impose it by the social democrat political elite. However, their haste was their undoing because they never took the time to talk it through with the electorate which suggests a contempt for ordinary joe. This fervent flurry to have it implemented and cemented before the likelihood of political change may have forced their hand to try to secure it with the weight of the law.

The law may remain in force, even after political change and, will stop people from openly voicing an opinion but will not change their mental attitude. The use of the law will foster resentment and that resentment will fester. The cost will be high.

There is a considerable loss of trust between the people and their elected representatives, admittedly, not solely due to PCism but it is a serious nail in the democratic coffin. Other costs include:

  • A decided move to the right in politics.
  • The rise of fascist parties in Europe.
  • People ‘feel’ the contempt of the political class.
  • Division in society.
  • A set back in the quest for a good society.

Of serious concern is that once people move to the extreme right in politics they very rarely move back to the centre ground. They become entrenched.

A chasm has opened between those in favour and those against PCism. A vehement opposition has emerged. In some parts of America it has reached fever pitch, with radio talk show hosts lambasting PCism at every opportunity and shows like South Park taking the mickey. It has given the right in politics a ready-made platform from which to pillory the left.

Jokes about PCism may not be heard much on television in the UK but are common in local pubs and clubs. And every time a silly case gains media attention it reinforces the held view and encourages others to join in.

Such a rallying of opposing loud hailers may appear as a positive thing for a healthy democracy but it is not. Entrenchment on either side makes it nigh impossible to find common ground, and a ‘common cause’. Thus the advocates of political correctness may have set back the very principle of equality because they failed to make it inclusive.

Call me a cynical conspiracy theorist but could the failure have been deliberate. In order to maintain the alliance of the political class and business interests and the windfall that comes from corruption.

Without doubt democracy has many challenges but still has room for development. In my opinion PCism is an exemplary example of the dangers inherent in democracy; it was too one sided and the brain child of a cabal of thinkers. The result is that we have factions of right and left at loggerheads or at worse entrenched and bitter.

People Power?

The weaknesses of democracy are apparent if we re-examine the views expressed earlier. We can dismiss the fear of the ‘intellects’ of the past as their vision of despair did not materialize. On the other hand there is a degree of truth in the more modern analyses.

Michels view that democracy is a ‘façade’ for rule by an elite is insightful. If we think in terms of the political class and the present feeling of alienation by the people, that gives credence to Michels’ observation. However, we do have opposition parties and organizations; perhaps not as strong as they should be but that could have as much to do with our lack of involvement as their whispered voice.

We can add to the voice of Michels the study of Gilens and Page and their conclusion that the electorate of America have ‘little influence’ on government policy. The obvious point being made is that the public are simply ignored. That being the case gives credence to Michels other contention that democracy slides into oligarchy.

I would lump together Rabbi Shach’s view on ‘deceit’ with Jimmy Carter’s condemnation of ‘bribery’. They both contend that corruption is rife in the political hierarchy. We should all be aware that corruption plagues our political system. It’s as widespread as trees in a woodland. There is not a country in the world which you could say was squeaky clean. Daunting, isn’t it?

In America, supposedly the great democracy corruption is second nature to the politicians. It is given the name ‘clientelism’ which simply means; you scratch – I scratch and both our backs are covered because the money given to my campaign is just a donation. And my vote for particular legislation is that I support it. A whole lot of $millions is involved.

The problem is so embedded in India that the government has recently changed its currency; new notes for old in an attempt to flush out corruption. As the Indian government has recognised corruption harms the economy. Good luck. However, we should take our hat off to them for such a bold move. Good to see some politicians with a large degree of bottle.

Another positive story comes from South Korea where the president Park Geun-hye has been impeached on bribery charges. The head of Samsung has also been questioned (for 22 hrs) about donations totalling around $25.5 million. The authorities are now trying to secure an arrest warrant for the head of Samsung. President Park’s future will be decided by their constitutional court.

China has only recently set up a new agency to investigate the agency they initially established to counter the growth in corruption. It makes me think it’s a lot like a dog trying to catch its own tail.

A more recent example comes from a report in the Daily Mail January 11 2017. The story outlined that a businessman flew $500,000 in a private jet to Liberia, Africa to bribe two officials in order to have the law changed to suit his mining company.

One more case to hit the headlines is that of Rolls Royce the engine manufacturer. Several areas of the media have given it some prominence with its fine of £641m or around $810m for bribing foreign officials to secure contracts. Daily Mail 2017/01/17

The Guardian claims that along with the BBC they exposed the scandal in October 2016. However, the investigation had been on-going since 2012 with the cooperation of the company. The good thing is that it was exposed. Let’s have a monthly column on corruption in all media.

These are but a few examples and as already alluded to there are few clean bums in the political world. On a serious note we should listen to J. Stiglitz (p165)  “Corruption undermines faith in our democracy.”  The Price of Inequality

What should we do next? It seems like an impossible task to rid the system of the pirates. It’s especially difficult in that we need the existing politicians to implement a programme of corruption busting. Progress is being made based on the evidence above. Fighting corruption is a big job which requires a considerable amount of mental strength and the belief that ending corruption is essential work.

I’ve illustrated with the examples of India and South Korea that it is possible and that there are good guys out there. I’m also of the opinion that there is considerable mileage for politicians to pick up the cudgel against corruption.

Can democracy be saved?? Will the Fantastic Four come to its rescue? The Guardians of the Universe! James Bond, even? Unfortunately, we can’t rely on the fantasy world to help us.

Though I’m reminded of an old movie I watched on TV; it was Michael Douglas playing the role of the American President, Andrew Shepard. He’s addressing the assembled press and uses a one liner which struck me as apt: “Democracy isn’t easy” and goes on to attack his republican opponent Bob somebody.

And that’s the reality, democracy isn’t easy. I wish I had a blueprint, all the answers but I come up against the pure logic of Karl Popper The Open Society. He argues, correctly, that there can’t be a blueprint that we cannot lay down a set path that people will follow because we want them to. If we can agree on something, then let’s have a go, see if it works, if not change it. It’s a slow process but eventually we get to where we hope is a good society. That should be our common cause.

I’m encouraged by the electoral votes of 2016 and hope that the movement continues into 2017 in both France and Germany. I just hope that the political elite can hear the alarm go off.

I was struck by the speech that British Prime Minister Theresa May gave at the UN in September 2016 when she reminded the assembled that:

“We must never forget that we stand here, at this United Nations, as servants of the men and women that we represent back home.”

Colour me surprised but intrigued by her reference to representation, which was positive. But the bit that got my real attention was the use of the word ‘servants’. Was this purposeful as a means to curry favour back home, an ideological slip or a clear understanding of what democracy should look like. Of course, as a believer I hope it was the latter and like me she is a true disciple. Arrrh! My cynical personality is coming out!!!!

Nonetheless, we know in which direction we need to go, for our sakes, for our children and our grandchildren. Let’s keep our common cause in mind every time we vote or want to voice an opinion. Our motto: we know where we’re going. If politicians or businessmen don’t want to come along – stuff them. A good society is too important to be side tracked by the merchants of greed.

We must also be aware that we can’t get everything we want. Let’s walk and talk and see where it leads us.

 

 

 

The Rape of the Poor

 

Try not to live as a pretender,

But so try to manage your affairs

That you are loved by wide expanses,

And hear the call of future years.

Boris Pasternak – It is not Seemly to be Famous – stanza 3

It is now well documented that while the super rich have grown richer the poor have travelled in the opposite direction. According to several economic writers the blame lies squarely with the neo-liberal economic model*, and, that its demise signals the last rites for capitalism. It’s a stretch to suggest that because one economic model has failed that we must prepare for a new world order.

However, there is one truth and that is that the poor have been raped. They have been raped of income, of opportunity, of prospects, of their self-esteem and of their very dignity. Let’s draw our picture with a few succinct and powerful quotes from notable writers.

The USA, under neoliberalism, boosted profits by impoverishing its own citizens.” Paul Mason (p19)1

“…income inequality has reached extreme levels not seen since the 1920s, and before that, the 1890s.” James Rickards (p236)2

The general thrust of these quotes are supported by other economists that I have previously quoted in earlier posts: Stiglitz, Chang, Rodrik, and Krugman. There can be no doubt that the poor have not kept pace with the distribution of wealth that has been generated. The push to globalization and its fellow rider free trade have cost the poor of the western nations much.

*www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism    

 Multinationals have simply used their capital to invest elsewhere, mostly in Asia and China in particular, to utilise the cheap and at times slave labour. A prime example, quoted in several books is that of Apple. This company pays to have its phones etc. manufactured in China by cheap labour but when the finished product comes back to USA and Europe, Apple charge a price that would equate to the phones being manufactured in America or Europe. The company makes huge profits from such an arrangement. Huge!

We are all now aware why the big boys have been promoting globalization and free trade; it’s of great benefit to their profit margin. The rest of the populace can go take a hike!

Banksy

But wait! The hoi polloi have not sauntered off with their cap between their legs. No, they’ve used their democratic right to vote against the elite. They have done what our politicians have been afraid to do.

Stunned, the elite stare in amazement at the audacity of the low-life. Some have voiced their anger at this popular wave of sentiment: the Brexit vote in UK, the Trump victory and the referendum outcome in Italy. Shit! they cry. The bastards are ganging up on us! However, the real reason is that the elite have been blinkered by “decades of denial” Rickards (p230) Paul Mason (p258)

Nonetheless, the elite have sent out their Stormtroopers to defend their rights. Politicians of various hues have marched to the given tune. Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission has made it clear that events should not be dictated by populism. John Major, ex-Prime Minister of Britain bemoaned the “tyranny of the majority” (John Stuart Mill 1859). Meanwhile, Labour MP Chuka Umunna, speaking on the BBC News channel spoke of the “elective dictatorship”.

·         These little men are so full of their own self-importance.

Let’s try and explain to these political hacks why populism is so in vogue:

“Once the election is over, voters are ignored and winning elites carry out preconceived plans”. Rickards (p238) Ring a bell? Been here before?

This leads nicely to philosopher Michael Sandel, (p13) 3

“Disillusion with politics has deepened as citizens grow frustrated with a political system unable to act for the public good, or address the questions that matter most”.

I would make one quibble with Sandel with his use of the word ‘unable’; I would have used the adjective ‘unwilling’.

Michael Sandel’s book was published in 2012 and was probably written therefore in 2011, if not before. Five years later and the elite still had not grasped the significance of what was happening right under their noses! The logical explanation is that they couldn’t give a shit. And now the shit has hit the fan!

One can only learn if willing to. It seems our political masters are unwilling. Their attack on democracy, for that’s what it amounts to, is a clear attempt to diminish the power of the majority. We cannot as a society, have a democracy that does not adhere to the majority vote, whether we agree with the vote or not. Let those who talk of the “tyranny of the majority” stand up and demand a dictatorship.

I appreciate that Karl Popper in his work the Open Society had a dilemma accepting a majority vote in favour of a fascist party. My response to his concern is that society should never get so low down that it is faced with such a prospect. A democratic society has failed if it reaches that stage.

In the midst of a crisis people hanker for a solution, a solution with the least trouble. The question is should people push forward in a direction of which they are unsure, full of doubt but advised to dare. Or will people be more cautious and look for something vaguely familiar or perhaps rely on the political party that appears to know what it wants and how to get everyone there. The road to fascism!

Democracy: The Only Road Forward

In the general election of 2015 in the UK, the Conservative Party polled 36.9% of the public vote and secured power as the next government. The Labour Party won 30.4% of the popular vote and is now trying to override a majority decision of 52% that voted to leave the EU.

The Scottish nationalist with 4.7% of the national vote are busy screaming in alto from the upper circle; joined by the Liberals who saw their percentage of the vote fall by a staggering 16%. The refrain of this unlikely choir is, ‘All we are saying, is let’s stay in’. They’ll still be singing as the gravy train goes rolling down the track – out of sight.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2015/results

We have reached an impasse, will the political class respond positively and accept that the times are changing or must they be pushed to the wayside. Will it be the death knell of capitalism as espoused by Paul Mason and James Rickards? There is little doubt that neoliberal policies have proved a nightmare for the overwhelming majority. Those at the top end of the table had a feast out of neoliberalism. The question is are they now willing to share?

Perchance they will remain in denial as both Rickards and Mason state. If so what are the consequences? I doubt the elite can carry on much longer on their present course. The deep frustration with the elite will turn increasingly to anger which will beget activist groups taking up the cause of the people.

Such a scenario will not strengthen the elite as the use of force against these factions will break down quickly. It will not bring out the silent majority against the perpetrators. That old reliance was only solid when there was trust and most people felt good about their lifestyle. The rise of populism is a clear indication that many are genuinely feeling downtrodden.

Many of the elite may feel just as Mitt Romney does, “…inequality is the kind of thing that should be discussed quietly and privately.” J Stiglitz (p33)4  Those days I’m afraid are gone, if they ever existed outside the comfort of elite homes and country clubs.

Winter for all Seasons

According to Paul Mason (p262) quoting from a survey from the OECD that world development will be weak for the next 50 years and that inequality will rise by an estimated 40%. If these figures are anywhere near accurate then winter is going to be all year round for the poor. And if winter is all year round people are going to get mighty fed-up! Guy Fawkes might get reinvented for real.

Mason also states that the only way to keep globalization and free trade is by having the costs borne by the poor. Again if he is right – its winter! He gains support for his view from James Rickards (p227) who argues, “Yet free markets and free trade are flawed in theory, non-existent in practice.”

This assertion is proven when we look again at the practises of Apple and other conglomerates. Such businesses gain comparative advantage because their money buys more in China and the cheap labour make it a double whammy. China also gains comparative advantage by having the investment and the jobs. Who loses? The workers in America and other western nations!

Further examples are the manipulation of the Chinese currency the yuan or of their interest rates. Other nations have also made great use of the manipulation of both as well as the corporate tax which for example, is due to reduce from 28% in 2010 to 17% in the UK by 2020. Therefore there are no free markets or free trade; everything has a fix.

Nonetheless, the lack of truly free markets or trade does not spell the end of capitalism. The system has witnessed upheaval before, several times, and by hook or crook the system has mutated or morphed and we carry on. In living memory for some is the horror of the 1920s and 1930s – ‘Buddy can you spare me a dime’.

Another period of uncertainty was in 1968 when many of the young at the time believed they were on the brink of revolution particularly in France. In the USA there was the anti-Vietnam protests, civil rights, the rise of the Black Panther movement, and woman’s lib. The Prague Spring, trouble was brewing all over the world. “Many protests were a direct response to perceived injustices…”

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protests_of_1968

Most recently the 2008 financial crash has kicked many, right where it hurts. Ouch!

What is increasingly likely is turmoil in the EU. The euro () has never been stable and the single market is hurting many countries. These nations: Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland among their number have been on the receiving end of the slump that followed the 2008 crash. For eight (8) years they have held to the philosophy of the single market but, and it’s a big but, for how much longer.

Paul Mason (p261) argues that the EU is just one ‘political accident’ away from collapse. In this I would be in agreement with him. The self-interest of politicians from one of the nations mentioned above may be the trigger in a struggle to stay in power.  Moreover, the euro () was a political construct not a financial one and therefore weak from, GO. The bureaucracy is too big, and wields too much political power. A bureaucracy should never hold political influence; otherwise we enter the realm of Stalin.

However, any possible collapse can and should be managed. The EU needs to reinvent itself and those in power must surely be aware of the need for radical reform. The euro is but a starting point. It’s about the political class’s ability to face reality. If not – KA-POW!

Moreover, Mason and Rickards are not the first economic writers to predict the fall of capitalism. Joseph Schumpeter (1883 – 1950) had a whole school of economics named after him and prophesied the evolution of capitalism into socialism. It didn’t happen, as you are aware.

Schumpeter recognised that capitalism adapted and adopted but felt that the very nature of the system and the changes it goes through would cause its mutation.  Schumpeter  termed it ‘creative destruction’ thus the process of regular change and the growth of multinationals and management teams would stymie the entrepreneur, as a result  the system  would lose its dynamism and, the bureaucracy and the State would play a greater part in the new socialist world.

Of course others preceded Schumpeter. We can look back to Marx and Engels, to the world of Lenin and Trotsky, to Mao and the likes of Ho Chi Minh. With the exclusion of Marx and Engels, the other attempts at the promised land directed by the state from the centre came crashing down. The failure in all these enterprises was the insistence on ‘democratic centralism’ – basically the central committee told everyone what to do. It was the vision of the Politburo or nothing.

The other side of the coin of failure was trying to control development and trade in a predominately capitalist world. In essence they could not compete which forced their leaders to become increasingly totalitarian. And as usual the workers paid the price!

Market Economy?

Nonetheless, the state has a role in the capitalist system. Neoliberalism may want a minimalist state but we’ve never heard the big boys moan when regularly bailed out. In every economic downturn or crash as in 1929 and 2008 the state stepped in with tax payers’ money to prevent the catastrophe that would have followed in consequence.

Ha-Joon Chang (p456)5 is adamant that the state has a crucial role and may even be critical in maintaining a society for the public good. “The economy is much bigger than the market. We will not be able to build a good economy-or a good society-unless we look at the vast expanse beyond the market.” He cites Herbert Simon of the Behaviourist School, that 80% of economic activity happens inside organizations not in the market. (p159)

So what can the state do to help rebuild our broken economy? Many jobs can be created by investment especially by improving infrastructure: build more and better roads etc. Even Donald Trump threatens to help America get going again by infrastructure programmes.   

Retreat is another way to help our economy, retreat to the Bretton Woods agreement of July 1944 and claw back the free rein given to the banking sector through deregulation by Reagan, Bush and Clinton. Perhaps there’s a need for another clever intervention as with the New Deal 1933-1938 which held back the growing tide of anger at the depth and extent of poverty at the time. Of course the economy really took off with the Second World War but I’m not advocating a third.

The Bretton Woods agreement was an attempt to bring lasting stability to the world economy, and it worked until dismantled. The team which drafted the programme described the world of finance as “…a casino instead of a driver of economic well-being.” Rodrik (p97)6 Rodrik (p111) after examining a lot of evidence, stated, “The inevitable conclusion is that financial globalization has failed us.”  

Trade globalization can also be restricted and more power shifted to domestic governments. Let’s leave it to economist Ha-Joon Chang (p446) to lay down the case for a rethink:

“In the last three decades of hyper-globalization, economic growth has slowed down, inequality has increased, and financial crises have become far more frequent in most countries.”

Michael Sandel (p64) adds, “Economists often assume that markets do not touch or taint the goods they regulate. But this is untrue. Markets leave their mark on social norms. Often, market incentives erode or crowd out nonmarket incentives.”

Sandel argues that to put a price on everything diminishes the human interaction. He gives several examples such as the selling of kidneys and blood. Such enterprises hurt the lower class the most; it is therefore unfair, as here survival often necessitates the action. His philosophy demolishes the logic of neoliberal economists that we are all motivated by self-interest.

The trafficking of women and children for sex is a clear example. The kidnappers / sellers are self –interested as are the men who pay to use these unfortunates. But can it ever be justified? Would we or should we ever permit it as a legitimized trade transaction?

The human factor cannot be discounted from any understanding of how the world works. Money is but one example of a motivator. However, it’s also regarded as the ‘root of all evil’. Somebody knew something. Economists don’t like nouns like ‘altruism’ because they can’t quantify it and therefore can’t add it to their constructed model.

Let’s refer once again to the philosopher Michael Sandel (p130)

“Altruism, generosity, solidarity, and civic spirit are not like commodities that are depleted by use. They are more like muscles that develop and grow stronger with exercise. One of the defects of a market-driven society is that it lets these virtues languish.”

This is an area that I don’t think Mason has fully taken on board; emotion is a most powerful part of our makeup and can lead us in many directions. I’m thinking of religion and its hold over people and their decision making. Any move to socialism may be blocked, unless we let God in, because religion can be very intractable.

Obviously, the market is not all that the neoliberal /classical economists would have us believe. But is the capitalist system doomed as Mason and Rickards suggest. I have an alternative view of what is taking place. I believe it’s a war of the elites.

Clash of the Titans

Wealth creation has a direct relation with power and consequently the Middle East has become one of the richest areas on the planet. Therefore, presumably, it could become the prime powerhouse of the globe and its elite the most powerful group. Add to that scenario the emergence of China and its record breaking productivity which casts it into a power player. Then of course, we have the West, led by America.

On the outskirts of this game lies Russia, rejected by the elite of the West because Putin won’t play ball by the set rules. Putin cannot be trusted to conform to the big picture. So, Russia gets up to as much mischief as it can in an attempt to be heard and still retain some credibility as a big player.

So here we have it, three main players at the table and an outcast screeching on a bench nearby. The Middle East has vast wealth and can turn on a tap to get as much as it wants. China has been accumulating significant wealth over the last few decades and can screw its people for more if needed – bang goes their saving plans.

The West has a fair back up but needed a whole lot more, hence the rape of the poor. It needed to replenish the coffers to make the banker feel good. But the West had an ace up its sleeve; it could cause big trouble in little China and particularly in the Middle East.

War! The Iraq war was only partially about oil and more about destabilizing the region. The Arab world was then encouraged to turn against each other. In Libya, under the guise of introducing democracy the West invaded – the nation is still torn apart. A similar ploy was utilized in Syria. For generations the different brothers of Islam, Shiite and Sunni lived in calm cohesion, now there is nothing but killing of their brothers.

 China has built a powerful industrial base but this has been on the back of Western capital. The multinationals can at any time transfer their allegiance back to their home nation leaving China with a major industrial wasteland.

It may seem that the West have the resource to come out on top. Perhaps, but the rise of populism has taken the gloss off their cosy abode, unless they come up with something new damp and rot will set in and they could lose any advantage.

Therefore the contention is that the world is in trouble because the elites are at war. Once this battle is resolved it will be back to business. Thus capitalism is not falling apart; it is being used by the elites to fight their respective corner.

There is so much more to this theory: industrial espionage, the deliberate interference on manufacturing of products. In this war some industrial giants are being forced to recall damaged goods which have been sabotaged, costing them $ millions. It’s nasty out there!

Notwithstanding, neoliberalism has proven a disaster movie: the steadfast, independent and strong individual (read – elites) have fought off the greedy bandits’ (read –poor) and secured world domination. Not quite! Ordinary Joe is back with a new army armed with the knowledge that:

·         Financial globalization has failed

·         Trade globalization has failed

·         That inequality has greatly increased.

The people want a better managed, more fair, more decent society than the ‘grab what you can mentality’ of the present system. Citizens want a ‘civic spirit’; they want to flex those ‘muscles’ to strengthen the positive values to take us forward. The people want a fair share of the goods they help produce.

So we are getting close to the crossroads, there will be change but I don’t think it will be revolutionary, it will be a while yet before the end to the capitalist system. Capitalism will not meld or morph into socialism; we are simply not ready intellectually for that stage of development. How damned unfortunate!

Instead governments will spend as Keynes advised. They will also introduce a degree of protectionism while continuing to promote free trade. Currency, corporate tax and interest rates will be manipulated. The financial world will be regulated as before. This will be a period of stabilizing the economy. Government investment will become a crucial element in future development.

Much may be determined by the political class. Whether they have the nous to change, the strength of will, the character, and a sense of civic duty. Or will they besmirch the aspirations of the people and cry foul as have British politicians over the Brexit vote.

We move on, perhaps a tad slower than before but hopefully happier.

1.       Paul Mason        POSTCAPITALISM A Guide to our Future.

2.       James Rickards The Road to Ruin

3.       Michael Sandel                 What Money Can’t Buy

4.       J.E.Stiglitz            The Price of Inequality

5.       Ha-Joon Chang Economics: The User’s Guide

6.       Dani Rodrik         The Globalization Paradox