Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Greed's Still Good
This article of mine appears in the Morning Star. It also appears on the website of the Campaign for Public Ownership.
It was written before the MPs expenses scandal broke- it seems that a large proportion of ‘Honourable Members’- regardless of party affiliation- are also fans of the Gospel according to Gordon Gekko.
With Conservative Party riding high in the opinion polls, the fanatically neoliberal "there is no such thing as society" brigade are becoming less reticent about voicing their obnoxious opinions in public.
Take Fraser Nelson, writing in the Spectator magazine.
Nelson argues that, while the 1980s mantra "greed is good" has become unfashionable, it is still true. We have, it seems, forgotten that wealth generates revenue, while high taxes - Nelson, like fellow neoliberals is incensed by the new 50 per cent top rate of tax for high earners - "crush prosperity and pauperise nations."
Instead of being regarded as a villain, Gordon Gekko, the ultra-selfish trader played by Michael Douglas in the 1987 film Wall Street, should be regarded as a wealth-creating hero.
What utter claptrap.
Nothing has done more to destroy British society and its economy than the naked greed and cult of selfishness unleashed by the Thatcherites in the '80s. To argue that the solution to our current ills is even more greed is like a politician in the devastated and defeated Germany of 1945 calling for more nazism.
As for the claim that high taxes crush prosperity and pauperise nations, Nelson has clearly never visited Norway.
The northern European country did exactly the opposite to what Thatcherites like Nelson were advocating in the 1980s.
Instead of privatising its oil industry, it nationalised it and set up a State Petroleum Fund. And it used high taxes in order to redistribute wealth and extend a welfare state where all citizens are cared for from the cradle to the grave. The result of these socialist policies is that Norway is now the third richest country in the world.
Aren't we lucky in Britain that we were rescued from going down the same path by Margaret Thatcher.
One cut they won't make
THE next Conservative government will, according to David Cameron, be a "government of thrift."
I've no doubt that spending on the NHS, state education and welfare provision will be slashed if the strong neoliberal faction within the party gets its way. But there's one cost-saving measure I'm fairly sure Dave and his chums won't introduce.
Renationalising British transport would save the country a fortune. Britain's railways companies receive over four times more in taxpayers subsidy than the much-maligned British Rail did in the last years of its existence. It's a similar story of government extravagance when it comes to subsiding private bus companies, which received £2.5bn from the public purse last year.
So, when a Tory or, indeed, a Labour or Lib Dem canvasser next comes to your door asking for your support, ask them why, if the public finances really are in such a bad shape, their parties refuse to advocate such a sensible, cost-saving measure.
A ticket to profits
THE year 1969. A man landed on the moon, Swindon stunned Arsenal in the League Cup final and Charles de Gaulle stepped down as president of France. It was also the year that Harold Wilson's Labour government set up the National Bus Company.
Established by the Transport Act a year earlier, the National Bus Company brought together all the state's bus interests in one company.
The way the system worked was simple. Buses were run locally by subsidiaries such as Midland Red or Southern Vectis while intercity coaches operated under the National Express banner.
There was even a national holiday company offering cheap coach holidays to different parts of the country.
This co-ordinated and efficient system was destroyed when the National Bus Company was broken up and privatised by the Thatcher government in the 1980s. We were told that privatising and deregulating bus transport would lead to greater competition and lower prices.
Instead, we have a situation where cash-strapped local authorities are effectively blackmailed by private operators into handing over ever more money in order to maintain services.
The Morning Star has already reported on the obscene case of fat-cat Go Ahead group chief executive Keith Ludeman, whose salary last year topped £910,000 and whose company has received millions of pounds in public subsidies, expressing his displeasure that Britain's pensioners, after a lifetime of work, have the benefit of free travel on buses. "Pensioners cannot be given a blank cheque," Ludeman complained.
But if anyone has been given a blank cheque these past 20 years it has been the profiteering private bus operators, which have made a fortune from the British taxpayer since Thatcher's destruction of the National Bus Company.