Has the pendulum swung too far … in a global sense?


If you look at politics, either left or right, as an exercise of unbiased evaluation, it is not difficult to arrive at the conclusion that each political philosophy offers positive, constructive policies that clearly have a place in serving the needs of our society. Once upon a time the two dominant parties were polarised in their core beliefs and, for example, during the Heath and Callaghan governments the unions were seen as a destructive force. Thatcher resolved that issue and opened our markets to the world. However, at the same time the argument of left-wing thinkers was that “the free market” is actually a set-up, claiming that it was a euphemism for the rich, who would run a global system, letting them accumulate capital whilst paying the least possible cost for labour. Thus the freedom that results applies only to the wealthy as the poor are trapped in a cycle of mortgages, credit and low-paid work. The low-income majority simply have to work longer and harder to enrich the few, with an ever-growing insecurity in employment. Democracy is supposed to enable everyone – to the limits of their capabilities. What actually seems to be happening is that global businesses run by ever-powerful magnates. Murdoch is an example of this very process and the problem is that, whilst we sleepwalk to paying our mortgages, an oligarchical transformation shifts the power from the people to the powerful, in any real sense.

Before Thatcher this argument was of little value because it was evident that the unions were ‘in control’ and that it was workers’ demands that were seen as detrimental to democracy. Uneconomic employment was  protected, which meant that wealth was difficult to create. The unions business was, in the public perception, a negative force, with businesses threatened with closure, picketing and intimidation.  Murdoch used Thatcher’s new laws to challenge the print unions’ power, wresting the hold over production from them and replacing it with modern technology. Everything that was anything was changed. Council houses were sold, the majority at one-third of their value. National utilities were denationalised. The national transport structure was privatised and even Harold Macmillan, the former Conservative Prime Minister, succinctly described the Conservative’s privatisation programme as “selling off the family silver”. His lament made little or no difference. The Conservatives went on until they felt themselves as untouchable as the union representatives had done just two decades before. The scandal that ensued from the cash for questions debacle, “brown envelopes stuffed with cash” brought about an eventual change to Tony Blair and the New Labour era.

Just as Archer and Aitken were brought to their knees by the eventual uncovering of their criminal wrongdoings and imprisonment, so we must look at what has been happening lately through the same prism. After the ‘News of the World’ scandal, few could deny that it has exposed how it has bought or intimidated a manipulating influence over those running our main political parties. It has openly worked against stronger regulatory processes and even employed senior police and judicial officers who were previously responsible for criminal investigations about the company running the newspaper. [ reference: https://gobbledegooked.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/news-of-the-underworld/ ] The left-wing thinkers, it seems, were right that Rupert Murdoch and the control that he wielded through his media businesses had become a force working against democracy. All parties of whatever political persuasion since Thatcher left office have failed to deal with this, behaving like rabbits caught in the glare of the hunters light. Papers like the ‘News of the World’ have long since used their populist readership as an excuse for changes that suited Murdoch himself. It was only when that same readership realised the appalling morality of the newspaper management that the status quo abruptly altered and the paper’s fiercest critics were its own readers. What, after all, is the legacy of Murdoch’s Wapping victory that so many Labour Party members detested? Is it really that it should descend into moral anarchy because it believes itself so powerful?

The financial markets have behaved no better. The current credit crisis has been brought about by globalised banks taking ever-bigger risks in ever-less secure markets. The cost of bailing out the banks in the UK was, at the last tally, around £1.4 trillion. Doesn’t look much there does it? Until you express it as £1,400,000,000,000! Had that sum not been forthcoming our banking industry would have been wiped out virtually overnight and the effects in the UK would have been Armageddon-like.

The credit crunch has exposed a similar process of how emancipation can be hijacked. The greater freedom to borrow which began in the 1980s was good for most people. A society in which credit is very restricted is one in which new people cannot rise. How many small businesses could start or first homes be bought without a loan? But when loans become the means by which millions finance mere consumption, that is different. The crisis itself has brought about organisations that specifically highlight the tax avoidance schemes of the rich – like Sir Philip Green – who with his wife pays no dividend tax on the earnings from all of the stores he manages. Former UK companies such as Cadburys are now shifting their financial offices to Switzerland in order to avoid the tax they would otherwise have to pay. Is it any wonder, in such a global, financial climate, that the Greek economy is going down the drain. The market forces are simply too great with labour cheaper elsewhere and the credit crunch minimising the profit from impoverished holidaymakers.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has said there should be “clear” rules on how powerful media groups can be, in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal. He said that having dominant media moguls was “deeply unhelpful”, partly due to their political impact http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-14266696. It seems that Cable has not gone far enough. Charles Moore, a journalist who  has been Editor of the Spectator, the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph – no left-wing thinker there –  wrote recently “One thing that is different is that people in general have lost faith in the free-market, Western, democratic order. They have not yet, thank God, transferred their faith, as they did in the 1930s, to totalitarianism. They merely feel gloomy and suspicious. But they ask the simple question, ‘What’s in it for me?’, and they do not hear a good answer.”

We should listen to his words, before globalisation wrecks the democracies that we have spent so long nurturing.

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2 thoughts on “Has the pendulum swung too far … in a global sense?

  1. “How much can I get for that” rather than “how much can we do with this” seem to guide thinking. When part of the corporate state that created £250000 local authority Chief Executives and vast acreages of unaffordable new buildings, roads and civic amenities. For housing it became what maximum rent or mortgage payment could be extracted from owning this dwelling. As part of bank-think it charges ridiculous interest rates for investment in sound business plans. For industry it has created vast trans-global monopolies or oligopolies and driven consumer prices to barely affordable peaks.

    Convert banks into not for profit agencies, break up and democratise monopolies (like Sky/NI/News Corps!), instil fair and reasonable wages and truly affordable housing. The whole World faces so many real problems yet with everyone being forced into “How can I possibly survive” mode there is so little will to tackle these problems. If only we could now embark on a period of cooperation and collaboration not only could we achieve progress in tackling issues such as Climate Change, Environmental Degradation, Biodiversity Extinction, Food and Fresh Water Provision, Drought Reduction, Mass Migration and Starvation Alleviation but we could also provide useful, involving and rewarding gainful employment for masses of people on a Global basis.

    • I agree. It is time that the philosophy of ‘for-profit’ being applied to just about anything was well and truly left behind in the past. Take rail fares as an example, we now pay more for our rail journeys per mile than is found in mainland Europe – about 30% more to be precise. Rail fares here used to be noticeably cheaper when compared with those in Europe. Our rolling stock is nowhere near the standard found in Western Europe. The car parks are used to bleed extra profit from hard-pressed passengers who need to park and the prices of snacks, if you can find them, are often thrice the price simply because they are purchased on a station or a train. The way we are going, Asda will be running our local health service and Tesco will be running our trains! (nightmare)

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