‘Business as usual’ is the Tory aim, but they never define what they mean by business. It comprises a multitude of formats from start-ups, small and medium sized innovative enterprises, co-operatives, charities, plus a small number of large scale organisations focused on providing for the public good. That is real business.
Then there are the financialised leviathans which already dominate most mature industries. They seek ever more monopolistic or cartelised power, in order to fix market prices of minimised cost products and services, so as to maximise payments to their shareholders. They do so at the expense of not just their customers and employees, but all humanity, as well as the sustainability of the planet. That is financialised business.
The ideology that has dominated all governments since 1979, fails to distinguish between real and financialised business. So ‘business friendliness’, which could be justified to support the development of real business for the benefit of all, is applied for the gain of the financialised monsters which are the main political paymasters. As Mrs May might put it: ‘business is business’!
The ideological notion of ‘free markets’, may be a seductive sound bite, but it disguises the fact that markets, which are no longer regulated for the common good, are in fact far from free, but controlled by financialised businesses.
The financial sector came into existence to enable industrialisation by supporting the development of real business. It continues to do that by organising capital markets and providing banking facilities and insurance. But the sector also destroys real business through its promotion of opportunistic merger and acquisition activity, its speculative hedge betting to create bubbles and bursts from both of which it makes huge gains, and through straightforward criminality.
The twelve leading global banks were reported as having paid well over £100 billion in fines for all sorts of fraudulent activity in the five years after the 2008 crash (Tett, G, ‘Penalise the banks but use the money well’, Financial Times, 14.11.15) . Despite those ‘eye popping’ payments, no individuals were held personally responsible. Such payments seemed to be regarded as just one of the necessary costs of global banking.
The dominant ideology completely fails to distinguish between the finance which is supportive of real business and that which is predatory on it. When the financial system (led by US and Western Europe) was said to be threatened with Armageddon, the ideology came up with the ‘too big to fail’ sound bites and the bland euphemism of quantitative easing, to justify pumping $trillions into protecting failed finance, rather than investing in the real economy. The ideology protects predatory finance by excluding any distinction between financial activities: finance is finance! In UK, government was persuaded to the pretence of an ‘electrified ring fence’ between retail and investment banking.
So who, or what, is it that prescribes that dominant ideology with its simplistic arguments? Asking ‘who benefits?’ leads to a series of questions, the answers to which reveal the age-old self-perpetuating establishment which, in 1936, President Roosevelt referred to as ‘government by organised money’, pointing out it was more dangerous than ‘government by organised mob’.
That establishment is dominated by the leaders of financialised business and predatory finance. They pay the £billions for the political lobbyists and think-tanks, as well as some academic institutions and ‘research’ plus some individual academic appointments working on the ivory tower ‘theories’ which may defy reality, but nevertheless underpin the ideology. Organised money also provides the mass media that promotes the ideology to the public, and dominates the orthodox political leaders who enact the whole structure. That establishment is then lubricated by the revolving doors enabling individuals to move between all those sectors and government.
That is the current position.
The alternative future would require ditching the dominant ideology and its destructive obsession with austerity. It would need to focus less on the quantity of money, and more on the velocity of its circulation. Thus liberated, the economy could be stimulated to provide real employment in real business. That would include a long list of exciting projects, such as investment in new sustainable technologies, paid for at least in part by penalising polluters. It might then be possible to achieve human security which, to quote Dr Hamourtziadou, ‘means freedom from impoverishment, pollution, hunger, homelessness, ill health and illiteracy’ … ‘using processes that build on people’s strengths and aspirations’ (Hamourtziadou, L, ‘Labour is best placed to give us real security’, The Guardian, 4.6.170).
When the 2017 election was announced, the organised money establishment seemed certain of a land-slide victory. But now, the day before polling day, the possibility of real change seems to hang tantalisingly in the air.