In the western world, we have a problem. What we love is destroying us and the planet. We no longer love each other we can only see each other as “opportunities” or “opportunity costs” essentially economic terms that have nothing to do with love and we see the same in everything else too.
This has happened because our real love is consumption of the world’s resources and to some extent consumption of each other. In the post-industrial West, we have to borrow to sustain our consumption. The incompetent activities of governments and banks since the 1970’s and governments in the UK specifically since the 1960’s have fuelled a regrettable debt binge to fuel consumption and maintain “jobs” and the domestic economic system.
Ignoring the complex world of gold standards and financial regulation, we will concentrate on the bigger picture for the benefit of the less economically inclined.
First some context. By the 1960/70’s it was clear that in “capitalist” countries the inherent “contradictions of capitalism”, (basically it over produces goods and undermines both the value of them and the ability to pay living wages to make them or buy them) were leading to poverty and crime. New “industries” like illegal drugs, porn and prostitution started to replace the traditional industries that were the envy of the world only twenty years earlier. This was the case on both sides of the Atlantic. Of course, governments could employ people; in the forces say but this was paid for out of tax from a declining tax base. The western world was getting poorer, it was a crisis and it was the Cold War… Cripes! There had to be a way to re-engineer the system so it could pay for itself again.
There was no way an economy built on taxing profit and increasing levels of income could adapt to this crisis….essentially it was existential. The only possible solution for governments back then was to introduce public ownership of industries, but the 1940’s British experiment was clearly a failure due to “industrial hierarchy” (more of this later) continuing to alienate workers even when in theory they “owned the means of production”.
In the US there was no appetite to go down the “socialist” UK model. Jobs were being exported (a process that sped up over the next two decades)and communities were thrown onto the dole or as we call it “the global labour market” but takers for their expensive labour there came none. The careful balancing of the state’s books became difficult as the tax base shrank and the welfare burden increased. Bruce Springsteen made a career out of singing about these “global unemployed” and Ronald Regan couldn’t balance a budget!
In the UK whether by accident or design Margaret Thatcher adopted “Thatcherism” a combination of free-market economics and fiscal conservatism. Just as no one could fathom out, back in the day, why Regan made such as a hash of his last budget no one could work out the success of Thatcherism. Factories, mines and shipyards closed but still, the economy carried on apparently “growing”. In the US after Regan, Bush then Clinton reaped the “rewards” of the same phenomenon.
Back in the UK selling Council homes in deprived areas opened up new avenues for “business” in the finance sector and coincidentally as the North Eastern mines, steel plants and shipyards closed so the Malls sprang up. They sold everything from lingerie to furniture now almost all made in China at very low unit cost but sold at prices comparable to British produced products. Profit margins were healthy for stores “commissioning” these products.
Foreign production costs, borrowing against inflating property prices, including discounted ex-council stock, stocks and shares, and the payment of state salaries and investment with “regeneration budgets” (building new housing and Malls) kept the whole economic show on the road and has done for decades. The whole thing was allowed to simmer rather than boil with Private Finance Initiatives and other means of embedding taxpayers money into the profit margins of corporations no longer able to cut it on the world stage without reliance on the state. To cut costs Governments acting as always in the interests of the “State” rather than the “Nation” swooned into the arms of the financial racketeers. John McDonnell promises the same solution again on an even grander scale to pay for renationalisation.
Thatcher, Major, Blair and Cameron were all symbols of this model which was presented by crony economists and bankers, the City or Wall Street as an anti boom and bust perpetual money machine. However, it could never be that. Only deluded politicians like Blair and Cameron in the UK or Clinton in the US thought this was their passport to immortality. Everyone else from 2003 onwards…us included, held our breath waiting for the collapse. Eventually, it came in 2007/2008.
The only solution was to bail out the banks. Other fanciful options could not have worked as the banking sector was central to the whole national ecosystem. If the banks failed in their death throws they would have consumed not only the economy but society as well. So like the six foot tall 20 stone teenage son they had to be indulged with bail out’s and a mass of Quantitative Easing. In an open world, this has done little to rebuild real economies but it has made bankers and asset owners very rich. An unintended consequence? Perhaps less “unintended” than we might think.
So working on this analysis having some passable link to the actualete’, western “capitalism” ended in the mid-1980’s when China provided the worlds proletarians to produce cheap goods for a greedy western free market. The west became a free market of racketeers and chancers buoyed up on its own arrogance and incapable of seeing that it’s so-called “wealth” was simply debt based or tax derived, of little or no actual “value”. But for those to whom it flowed it has made life very agreeable whilst making governments fearful of their electorate and the electorate smelling a rat somewhere hostile to their governments.
Now we referred to “industrial hierarchy” above when talking about Nationalisations in the past. Nothing better illustrates the problem of the “State” now, than the phrase “Industrial Hierarchy”. The State is not the Nation and some parts of the state work better than others, for example, the Constitutional Monarchy works well in the UK. The UK Parliament itself, however, is a shocking bourgeois throwback to the 18th Century which is no longer capable of delivering long-term prosperity for the Nation but being “in charge” is unlikely to concede to any reform.
Hierarchy is a means of running a complex system and when you have few “leaders” it works comparatively well albeit always biased in favour of the “leadership”. When Capitalism replaced the old feudal system it was simply replacing a “there by right” for a “thereby effort or luck”. It created opportunities for the able business person to get rich and the whole “feudal establishment” yielded to the new bourgeois power base.
The feudal establishment and institutions could yield because capitalism was a hierarchy. There was a “natural fit”.
So why is this a problem today? Well, today we don’t have a capitalist West we have a bankrupt free market. In the west we still have people schooled and socialised to believe they have a natural right to a high public office or large amounts of wealth, however, acquired.
Our free market is based on mass consumption, not mass production and this consumption is paid for as we have said by tax, asset inflation and debt. Basically, we are no longer being “exploited” in the Marxist sense but to keep our hierarchical legal, political and every other public body in existence (Housing, Health, Education, military etc) with their 100K plus Barrons at the top (we call them the pubicsectocracy) we the people are being alienated into borrowing and allowing our governments to borrow trillions of Pounds or Dollars.
The western economic system is the most immoral in history and it is destroying the planet and itself.
The problem for the West is two-fold. By saving the banks and not having a long-term contingency to avoid the same problem again we are back on the banker’s money go round and we await the next and probably final cataclysmic failure. What will that usher in? Well, the end of democracy for a start.
Secondly our binary Parliamentary and two-party system and 5-year cycle democracy (4 in the US) make real democracy and sustainable economic stability impossible. This is why all political parties turn to the short-termism of financial engineering. It is impossible to save ourselves with this model which can only ever favour the banks and commercial interests and not the Nation as a whole.
Banks are vital to the health of the nation but today it is only ever the banks to the rescue of the state (even for the Labour party) and that’s bad for the Nation.
The solution is a Blue Revolution. Ordinary people shaping policy with more democracy not less. Long-term (30 years) planning by ending binary Parliamentary politics and the Party System, not by force but by voting for unaligned candidates. There needs to be a complete overhaul of what the state can and should do and a review of how it does it moving rapidly from an industrial model of service delivery to a “social model” where individual practitioners are interdependent and self-regulating, not top-down managed! and how much the state should pay “its” state people in wages and terms and conditions is also important in a post hierarchy age. This is because state workers are paid out of what are essentially the debts or taxes of the nation …….errrrr that it!