The revolving door between government & big business
Yesterday’s headlines review of ONS report: 2008-2019, richest 10% enjoy biggest gains in household wealth
As Steve Beauchampé writes in the Birmingham Press and Political Concern, generations of an elite have ruled this nation (with a few intermissions) for as long as anyone can remember, due to a rigged electoral system.
Their dual achievements:
- comfortable tax arrangements for the few, a political/corporate nexus which ensures highly paid and nominal duties for all in the inner circle
- vast military expenditure bestowed on the arms industry, as rising numbers of the population survive in relative poverty, wait in hospital corridors, receive a sub-standard education and depend on handouts to eke out their existence.
Direction of travel
Beauchampé: “(The) economy is increasingly kept afloat by the economic support of China . . . The modern high-rise residential blocks that have sprung up throughout the capital may give the impression of a modern, flourishing economy, but look closely and you will see that many are all but empty, whilst homelessness and a reliance on subsistence level housing grows . . . “He notes that surveillance is at an historic high with spy cameras, and even microphones installed in many public places -describing the state’s ability to track the population and follow their activities and conversations as ‘frightening’. . .
The elite stranglehold could be broken
OB’s editor agrees with many that electoral reform is a priority for beneficial change – but even under the rigged ‘first past the post’ system, if the weary mass of people (Brenda of Bristol) saw the true situation they would vote for the candidate with a credible track record who would be most likely to work for the common good.
For the common good: economists advocate a moral vision to rescue our manipulated, extractive and highly unequal economy
Mark Mazower, a British professor of history based at Columbia University, writes in the FT that the moral reasoning that lay behind the Greek election result began from a simple insight: that the economic trauma of the severity Greece has suffered is destroying society:
“With youth unemployment above 50%, an entire generation is being consigned to the scrap heap. At the same time, the notion of the common good is being sacrificed through forced sell-offs of state-owned lands as well as businesses, with the prospect of ecological destruction as a result.
“What is the moral vision the creditor nations propose?
“Frugality is not a policy. And if finance is to serve Europe rather than run it, a notion of the common good needs to be restored. The alternative is an increasingly fractious continent”.
Urban Britain also has a disturbing level of youth unemployment and has sold its state-run utilities for a pittance to foreign companies
To replace our “desiccated, manipulated, disloyal, extractive and highly unequal economy that has been allowed, and – by some administrations – encouraged”, Birmingham-based economist Emeritus Professor Michael Wilkes advocates a new discipline, socionomics,
A citizenry of good intent
He acknowledges that the social and moral education needed to produce a citizenry of good intent that will make the socioeconomic system work properly and sustain it for future generations, and that winding back globalisation will take longer and will involve more people and organisations and other countries.
Wilkes advocates certain steps that could be taken immediately:
- the restoration of equitable and redistributive taxation,
- the introduction of living wages,
- the plugging of many loopholes for tax avoidance,
- the undertaking of thorough corporate reform
- and the recreation of an active, interventionist and self confident public sector.
He concludes: “These measures would represent leadership in its finest form. This, and the promotion of the concept of stewardship in place of the present self serving forms of ‘leadership’ ”.
We now turn from the three described in the last post by Max Hastings, as being without ‘a scintilla of decency’ to another working, like Professor Bailey, for the common good.
A brief summary of James Bruges‘ thinking on monetary reform
You may find it hard to believe but that’s how money is created – out of thin air – not for the needs of the country, but for the benefit of banks.
It’s so cynical, when I first heard it I could scarcely believe my ears. However, the governor of the Bank of England has confirmed it.
Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator of the Financial Times, put it like this in 2010. “The essence of the modern banking system is the creation of money, out of nothing, by private banks’ often foolish lending.”
OK, it’s a bad system, but it’s what we have and to change it would be difficult. Or would it?
The campaign for monetary reform has set out in detail how the change would take place.
A Money Creation Committee would increase or reduce the money supply on a monthly basis to keep inflation at 2%, making sterling the most stable currency in the world.
How would it affect you and me?
- Household debt – yours and mine – stands at a staggering £1,500 billion, equivalent to ten-years’ worth of income tax revenue. It is the nation’s money, which the banks have been allowed to create out of nothing, so it belongs to the nation.
- Premiums would return to the government, which would use this revenue for welfare, schools and hospitals.
- Half of it would be distributed as a citizen’s dividend with the requirement that you must first eliminate your remaining debts.
- Household debt would drop dramatically, austerity measures would no longer be necessary and your mortgage would diminish.
Banks would, once again, provide us with a useful service and my fury would evaporate.
*The New Economics Foundation has published “Where Does Money Come From?” which is now a university textbook. James Robertson has written “Future Money”. Positive Money has an engaging website with videos and has published “Modernising Money”. The full, updated text may now be seen here: http://neweranetwork.info/reports/why-austerity-james-bruges-21-3-2013/
Professors David Bailey and Nigel Berkeley (Coventry’s Applied Research Centre for Sustainable Regeneration) agree that, as new markets often need some state support to get moving, government is right to encourage the take-up of low carbon vehicles. They find, however, that its attempts have failed to have any significant real impact – to date.
They regret that the Plug-in Car Grant for private car buyers and fleets, worth up to £5,000 and available for the purchase of at least nine electric cars, failed to have any significant impact due to poor advertising and promotion, in marked contrast with the scrappage scheme of 2009-10.
Promotion of the findings of the Technology Strategy Board funded low carbon vehicle projects, with regard to the performance, practicality and suitability of EVs is recommended, to enable car buyers to make informed choices.
The latest data from the plug-in grant scheme is cited, showing that just over 3,000 electric vehicles have been registered to date and – according to the DfT website – around 3,000 charging points installed, currently many more points than electric cars.
Instead of the proposed award of £37 million of funding for the installation of thousands more electric vehicle charging points across the UK, government is advised by Bailey and Berkeley to look beyond private mass market purchases:
- It could give subsidies to encourage the use of EVs in clubs/schemes that operate on a car share, pay-as-you-drive hire basis, such as Car2go. Currently operating in London, drivers can hire vehicles by the minute with fuel, insurance, road tax, and maintenance included in the price. They are exempt from the congestion charge and have free parking.
- Subsidies could also promote the replacement of public and private sector fleets with EVs. Two micro-level initiatives from Coventry and Warwickshire are worth highlighting. Electric buses are now running on park-and-ride routes in Coventry.
Just Auto reports that in Warwickshire doctors from two local health centres will trial Peugeot iOn EVs for local home visits, prescription delivery and on-call services.
The EVs have been fitted with tracking devices to enable their journeys to be recorded throughout the project with data being analysed by Coventry University to see if electric vehicles are suited to the needs of UK GPs, health centres and similar rural businesses.
Read their blog about charging-up the market and sparking interest in electric cars here: http://blogs.birminghampost.net/business/2013/03/electric-cars-sparking-an-inte.html
Professor David Bailey and Professor Nigel Berkeley both work at the Applied Research Centre for Sustainable Regeneration at Coventry University Business School.