Fighting for fairness and social justice for the population at large may be a minority concern at Westminster, but it has considerable appeal beyond that bubble. The problem is how that legitimate, democratically supported pursuit might be achieved, without any un-British revolutionary disturbances. That is the recurrent problem for Parties seeking social justice for all. Traditionally, they only come to power following prolonged periods of social injustice. And the only Parties currently onside are the Greens and Corbyn-led Labour.
We’ve been here before. The 1929 Wall Street crash followed by Hoover’s austerity driven Great Depression. That ushered in Roosevelt’s presidency and the stimulus driven New Deal, the second wave of which he introduced as follows:
“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace – business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that government by organised money is just as dangerous as Government by organised mob.” Was that really 1936?
That quotation is borrowed from “What a Waste”, a study of the disastrous social effects of outsourcing of public services to private business interests reviewed in the previous posting on this site. It also includes a quote regarding the disposal of public assets from Joseph Chamberlain in 1885:
“Some of them have been sold; some of them have been given away by people who had no right to dispose of them; some of them have been lost through apathy and ignorance; some have been stolen by fraud; and some have been acquired by violence.”
Those lessons learned the hard way so long ago, have been conveniently forgotten by the New Labour faction who have long aligned themselves with ‘organised money’. Being ‘intensely relaxed’ about people getting ‘filthy rich’, as Mandelson once expressed it, is simply not smart. If people are getting filthy rich, it is important to know whether they are achieving that through genuine entrepreneurial innovation and effort, or from ‘business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism’ or ‘profiteering’. And to have policies which differentiate in their treatment of riches according to how they were gained. Some might aptly be rewarded with honours, while others might more appropriately be subject to criminal proceedings.
The star turns of New Labour, such as Blair and Mandelson, appeared long ago to have sold out to organised money. But they are clearly not alone. There is a self-perpetuating establishment which has tentacles in all the major sectors influencing the development of our economy.
The private business sector is no longer led by those concerned with the development of technologies, customers and employees, delivering value for the common good through their operations in competitive markets. The sector has been largely financialised, so that its focus is wholly on the extraction of value for the benefit of investors. This has resulted in many abuses, including not just the criminal excesses reported by the outsourcing conglomerates and other monopolists, but the hugely complex systems which have been established to facilitate the evasion and avoidance of tax payments.
The financial sector no longer comprises separate retail and merchant banks required to act with care and restraint; retail banks being required by the Bank of England to retain safe levels of deposits in return for its support as their lender of last resort; and merchant or investment banks having no such support, but mainly being operated as partnerships without limited liability therefore constrained to operate with due care. Banking has been deregulated so that retail and investment banks have combined, and partnerships have been granted limited liability. The result is they are able to act recklessly for short term gain in the knowledge that the tax payer will bail them out should they fail, The sector has been opened up to all manner of other dubious operators. Incredibly, it has paid hundreds of £billions for criminal fraud and abuse. Nevertheless so few individuals have been prosecuted that it appears such fines are merely regarded as the necessary cost of participation.
The media is another sector of the organised money establishment. It is having a profound influence on public opinion, persuading the general population that there is no alternative approach that has a realistic hope of success. The phone hacking criminally relaxed segment of the press and television, led by the monopolistically predatory Murdoch, is intent on extending its power and influence further by, amonst other things, reducing the BBC.
The academic sector has also succumbed to organised money. Initially, in reaction against the risks of totalitarian communism, Milton Friedman asserted that ‘corporate officials had no social responsibility other than to make as much money as possible for stockholders.’ That argument is fundamental to the dominant version of neoclassical economics still taught in business schools and university economics departments across the globe. When it was made it had neither legal nor theoretical support. Academia fabricated agency theory which was a wilfully false justification. Its illegality is confirmed by the millions of employment contracts corporate officials have with their employers, which are the business corporations not the stockholders. With very few exceptions, graduates are encouraged to believe in that economic theory of the organised money establishment. And those graduates became and still become the leaders of the business, financial, media, academic and political sectors.
The political sector itself is not just the Westminster bubble of Conservatives, Lib-Dems and New Labour who themselves demonstrated a propensity for corruption with their extensive expenses manipulation. It includes also the civil service, and the host of highly active tax evading and avoiding think-tanks and lobbyists whose sole purpose is to ensure that free-market capitalism remains the dominant belief system, and also includes preservation of the revolving door facility for migration between sectors.
That is the self-perpetuating organised money establishment. It is not only based on false economic premises, which lead among other things to a policy of austerity rather than stimulus. But in each of its sectors has been found guilty of criminal fraud. This is not just a ‘few bad apples’ but is a whole system corrupted by an economic belief founded on the idea that human beings are solely motivated to maximise their own self-interest which is measured only in money terms. Economists may demur, but on no other basis can their mathematical models work.
Human beings are better than that. The Greens strap line is “For the Common Good” – previously it was “Fighting for Faireness”. Both still hold true. A Corbyn-led Labour Party increases that challenge to those false organised money beliefs. The assertions that Corbyn is a hard left extremist are invariably made without solid evidence. Corbyn himself has so far been critical, but moderate and open-minded in his approach. Concerted attempts to extract extremist quotes from Corbyn have failed, and that failure has produced the desperate over-reactions and mass publicity given to any non-conformist behaviour, such as his national anthem performance.
The reality is that a Corbyn-led Labour government would not behave as other governments have, as ‘a mere appendage’ of the organised money establishment. If Corbyn’s own actual statements are taken as evidence, his government would recognise the difficulties involved, but would put its energies into achieving a reasonable progress towards social justice.
George Osborne’s current ‘mere appendage’, does not yet have to be too concerned about the prospect of a Corbyn-led government. The self perpetuating organised money establishment may believe that the New Labour faction will dispose of Corbyn ahead of 2020. New Labour is itself clearly concerned to achieve that disposal as soon as feasible. Hence articles like Mandelson’s (‘A Corbyn-led Labour will divide and fall into the abyss’, The Guardian, 1/1/16), which in their anxiety to be rid of this ‘principled’ man, misrepresent the truth in so many areas.
But Corbyn might not be so easily dispatched. His popular support suggests that Brits are not so cynical as to reduce all humanity to organised money’s economic man, motivated only by greed. They might be susceptible to the New Economic Foundation’s strap-line ‘Economics as if people and the planet mattered’. What an outrageous suggestion!
Corbynistas and Greens might be optimistic that a more humane approach, focused on achieving fairness and an acceptable level of social justice for all, including future generations, is really worth fighting for.