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Amorality and Criminality of Neoliberal Elite

News Corporatism Recommended books Recommended Links Casino Capitalism Corporatist Corruption: Systemic Fraud under Clinton-Bush-Obama Regime Ayn Rand and Objectivism Cult
Financial Crisis of 2008 as the Crisis of Neoliberalism Globalization of Financial Flows Gangster Capitalism The Great Transformation Two Party System as polyarchy Psychological Warfare and the New World Order Globalization of Corporatism
Elite Theory Compradors Fifth column Color revolutions Anti-globalization movement Right to protect  If Corporations Are People, They Are Psychopaths
Super Capitalism as Imperialism Neocolonialism as Financial Imperialism America’s Financial Oligarchy Inverted Totalitarism Disaster capitalism Neoliberalism as a Cause of Structural Unemployment in the USA Neoliberalism and inequality
Corporatist Corruption: Systemic Fraud under Clinton-Bush-Obama Regime Harvard Mafia Friedman --founder of Chicago school of deification of market Republican Economic Policy Monetarism fiasco Small government smoke screen The Decline of the Middle Class
Libertarian Philosophy Media domination strategy Neoliberalism Bookshelf John Kenneth Galbraith Jeremy Grantham On The Fall Of Civilizations Humor Etc

 

Across Europe, political leaders have lost the trust of their people

 Will Hutton

I have been impressed with how fast "left-leaning" economists who went to work in industry and finance became pro-business, anti-labor, and politically right wing. I think that what got to them was not only the impact of association with businesspeople, but the fact that business profitability became central to their own worldview and enumeration. From the point of view of  corporate shill wage increases would seem bad — as encroaching on profitability as well as threatening inflation and business growth (and by extension stock prices).

Tough environmental rules would also hamper profitability; their relaxation by law or friendly (non-)enforcement would enhance it. So they pretty quickly slide to waht is called  “bottom-feeders morality,” with positions on key issues dictated by bottom line effects, but of course rationalized with an ideology that made this despicable behavior looks benevolent, which these bottom-feeders into Good Samaritans as they collected their fat salaries and bonuses while the vast majority waited for trickle-down.  That mean that phony "free market ideology" of neoliberalism has a lot of eager customers. On the fraudulence of this ideology, see David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, and Ha-Joon Chang, Bad Samaritans.)

With the steady increase in business’s economic and political power over the past 30 years and the parallel decline of organized labor, neoliberal (market-can-do-it-all) ideology has become even more firmly entrenched in establishment thought and practice. The novelist Ayn Rand, most famously the author of Atlas Shrugged, was an extreme proponent of so called positivism -- an far right individualist, "free enterprise", anti-government ideology, and it is no coincidence that one of her cult admirers and associates, Alan Greenspan, became a leading member of the policy-making elite in the 1980s and into 2006.

The morality of this elite became essentially a slight variation of mob morality. And in most case the difference is fairly superficial (Mob movie lessons American Gangster):

Plot: American Gangster tells the true story of Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington), the bad-ass gangster who hijacked the New York drug trade in the 1960s and 1970s. He inherits Harlem territory from his mentor Bumpy Johnson, the man he used to chauffeur.

Once in power, he ingeniously cuts out the middlemen and flies to the Golden Triangle of southeast Asia to personally form contacts with opium growers there. He then devises a brilliant, if somewhat brash, system of transporting the illegal cargo back to the U.S. in the coffins of dead American soldiers. He amasses a fortune in the process, but the authorities — both crooked and straight —are out to get him, as are rival drug dealers, once they figure out who he is. He eventually goes down, but not before cutting a deal to expose over three quarters of the NYPD’s drug squad as corrupt. 

Mob lessons learned:

Let them underestimate you

When Frank takes over for Bumpy, nobody knows who the guy is, which is fine for Frank because he’s more interested in making huge amounts of money than in making a name for himself. Foolish pride never factors into Frank’s way of doing things, so he flies under the radar of the authorities for years. When it finally emerges that a new player has taken over the entire New York heroin trade, everyone thinks it must be the wiseguys behind it. They think there’s no way anyone other than the mob who could pull off such a feat. By the time they realize that it’s Lucas who’s responsible — a black man from Harlem, of all people — he’s already turned the trade on its head and created an empire.

Stay off the radar

“The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room,” Frank informs his younger brother Huey, who shows up to his party dressed like a pimp. He offers this advice very earnestly, since it’s a code by which he himself lives. When Frank goes out, he goes to his own club and surrounds himself with his own people. No gold medallions or spinning hubcaps on display, and absolutely no unwanted attention.

Cut out the middleman

Many of the lessons we learn from Frank can be applied directly to basic capitalist business practices. Before Bumpy dies, he hints at the state of affairs in the American world of commerce. He speaks of the lack of customer service and “pride of ownership.” Franks knows what he has to do, and brazenly takes the necessary steps to set up his very own cartel, even if it means taking on the Mafia.

Brand your product

In another scene (which could be taken straight from a Harvard Business School class), Frank speaks of the importance of creating a recognized product or a “brand.” A conversation takes place with rival gangster Nicky Barnes in which Frank warns the strung-out dealer not to tamper with his product, which he refers to as the “Pepsi of smack” or “blue magic.” It soon becomes so widely coveted that he’s making $1 million per day on drug sales alone.

More mob movies lessons from American Gangster...
 

The nest result is that both in Europe and the USA , political leaders have lost the trust of their people. I´d go further and say that the people despise their politicians, who are lying, greedy, self-serving morons doing the bidding of their masters, the bankers, rather than the people they pretend to serve.

grumpyoldman

We are mired in cheating and lying, and massive hypocrisy on the part of the rich and the technocrats who serve them, because that is the only way in which neo-liberal ideology can maintain its hegemony.

Fortunately for the self-serving and self perpetuating aristocracy of money, there exists an overwhelmingly servile media pumping out Chicago School propaganda 24/7.

Welcome to the world of financial fascism.


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NEWS CONTENTS

Old News ;-)

[Oct 11, 2017] Donald Trump is exposing the contradictions of the elite by David Callahan

That's neoliberal elite after all. Why the author expects them to be ashamed is unclear
Notable quotes:
"... Business practices aimed at boosting shareholder value – like outsourcing, offshoring, automation, union-busting, predatory lending, and a range of anti-competitive abuses – have undermined the security of large swaths of the country. In turn, a flood of business dollars for campaign donations and lobbying over decades has helped thwart effective government responses to rising pain on Main Street. ..."
"... History tells us that societies with extractive and self-serving upper classes tend to fall into decline – whereas societies with inclusive elites are more likely to thrive. With the rise of Trump, we're seeing what an unraveling of the social fabric looks like after decades in which nearly all the nation's income gains have flowed upwards to a tiny sliver of households. ..."
Oct 11, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

Since January, though, we've also seen a new level of rapaciousness by corporate interests in Washington DC that seem intent on extracting as much wealth as they can from wherever they can: consumers, investors, public lands, student borrowers, the tax code and even the war in Afghanistan.

Longtime watchers of the .01% won't be surprised by this bifurcated picture. For over two decades, an ever more educated wealthy elite has trumpeted its belief in tolerance, diversity, and meritocracy – even as it's also helped usher in record levels of inequality that have left many Americans feeling economically excluded and increasingly angry.

Trump's retrograde presidency has revealed the profound contradictions at the top of the US income ladder.

... ... ...

Corporate leaders have already been supportive of Trump's sweeping push to gut regulations in ways that would tilt the rules governing the economy more in favor of business and the wealthy. Social inclusion may be a growing public mantra of the far upper class. But economic extraction remains among its core operating principles.

... ... ...

Social inclusion is a public mantra of the upper class. But economic extraction remains a core operating principle

The answer is that many corporate and financial leaders were, and still are, a big part of the problem. These leaders have fostered the economic conditions that have thrown the values of tolerance and diversity on the defensive in America.

Business practices aimed at boosting shareholder value – like outsourcing, offshoring, automation, union-busting, predatory lending, and a range of anti-competitive abuses – have undermined the security of large swaths of the country. In turn, a flood of business dollars for campaign donations and lobbying over decades has helped thwart effective government responses to rising pain on Main Street.

... ... ...

History tells us that societies with extractive and self-serving upper classes tend to fall into decline – whereas societies with inclusive elites are more likely to thrive. With the rise of Trump, we're seeing what an unraveling of the social fabric looks like after decades in which nearly all the nation's income gains have flowed upwards to a tiny sliver of households.

Rarely has the American experiment – the notion of a country united by ideas rather than shared heritage – felt more fragile than it does right now. It's an ugly picture of division and resentment, but a predictable one given the economic trauma inflicted on millions of people over recent decades.

... ... ...

David Callahan is the author of The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age. He is the founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy

[Oct 11, 2017] Among the crises effecting the United States, the one effecting us most profoundly is the absence of any accountability for the crimes committed by our oligarchic class

Notable quotes:
"... his thinking that corporations, the mainstream media, and the academy can and do successfully "game" dissent by suppression, divide and conquer, co-optation, and so on, is spot on. ..."
Oct 11, 2017 | www.unz.com

JackOH > , October 9, 2017 at 11:08 am GMT

I'm a moderate admirer of Chris Hedges, but he is really cooking in this interview. Too much to praise here, but his thinking that corporations, the mainstream media, and the academy can and do successfully "game" dissent by suppression, divide and conquer, co-optation, and so on, is spot on.

alexander > , October 9, 2017 at 4:30 pm GMT

I think this was an excellent discussion, and I would like to thank you both for having it, and sharing it.

Among the crises effecting the United States, the one effecting us most profoundly is the absence of any accountability for the crimes committed by our oligarchic class.

Addressing this issue is ground zero for any meaningful change.

If there is no accountability for their crimes , there will be no change.

Certainly the greatest among these crimes was(is) defrauding the nation into " a war of aggression". which, being the supreme international crime, should be met with harsh prison sentences for all who promoted it.

It is important for everyone to recognize just how much damage these policies have done to the country, not just in terms of our collective morale or our constitutional mandates,not just in terms of our international standing on universal principles of legality and justice, but our long term economic solvency as a nation.

The "exceptionalism" of our "war of aggression" elites has completely devastated our nation's balance sheet.

Since 9-11, our national debt has grown by a mind numbing "fourteen and a half trillion dollars".. nearly quadrupling since 1999.

This unconscionable level of "overspending" is unprecedented in human history.

Not one lawmaker, not one primetime pundit, nor one editorialist (of any major newspaper), has a CLUE how to deal with it.

Aside from the root atrocity in visiting mass murder on millions of innocents who never attacked us (and never intended to) which is a horrible crime in and of itself,

There is the profound crisis , in situ , of potentially demanding that 320 million Americans PAY FOR THE WARS OUR ELITES LIED US INTO .

This is where the rubber meets the road for our "war of aggression-ists ", gentlemen.

This is the "unanimous space" of our entire country's population on the issue of "no taxation without representation".

WHOSE assets should be made forfeit to pay for these wars .The DECEIVERS or the DECEIVED ?

Ask "The People" ..and you will find your answer .very fast.

No wonder our "elites" are terrified to discuss this .

Absolutely terrified.

Anonymous > , Disclaimer October 10, 2017 at 4:10 am GMT

@alexander

No wonder our "elites" are terrified to discuss this .

They're not terrified–they know full well that they don't have to discuss it. Control of the flow of information eliminates any such necessity.

We're right now in the consolidation phase, during which the last few remaining pockets of dissent are thoroughly vilified, rooted out, made illegal and worse: unthinkable.

The idiotic grievance warriors whom–to his credit–Mr Hedges identifies as such, are the verbal equivalent of the violent criminal shock troops with which the elites afflict us. The 'identity politics' they champion are an extremely useful cudgel in the endless divide-and-conquer strategy.

jacques sheete > , October 11, 2017 at 11:20 am GMT

It is the result of the transformation of the country into an oligarchy.

That's cringe-worthy.

Transformation into an oligarchy? Transformation ??? I like Hedges' work, but such fundamental errors really taint what he sez.

The country was never transformed into an oligarchy; it began as one.

In fact, it was organized and functioned as a pluto-oligarchy right out of the box. In case anyone has the dimness to argue with me about it, all that shows is that you don't know JS about how the cornstitution was foisted on the rest of us by the plutoligarchs.

"An elective despotism was not the government we fought for "

-Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XIII, 1782 . ME 2:163

The Elites "Have No Credibility Left"

Guess what, boys and girls Why did they have any to begin with?

Where do people get their faith? WakeTF up, already!! (Yes, I'm losing it. Because even a duumbshit goy like myself can see it. Where are all you bright bulb know-it-alls with all the flippin answers???)

jacques sheete > , October 11, 2017 at 11:35 am GMT

Newspapers are trapped in an old system of information they call "objectivity" and "balance," formulae designed to cater to the powerful and the wealthy and obscure the truth.

It's amazing that here we are, self-anointed geniuses and dumbos alike, puttering around in the 21st century, and someone feels the necessity to point that out. And he's right; it needs to be pointed out. Drummed into our skulls in fact.

Arrrgggghhhh!!! Jefferson again.:

Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day.

Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 14 June 1807

http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_speechs29.html

More deja vu all over again and again. Note the date.:

"This is a story of a powerful and wealthy newspaper having enormous influence And never a day out of more than ten thousand days that this newspaper has not subtly and cunningly distort the news of the world in the interest of special privilege. "

Upton Sinclair, "The crimes of the "Times" : a test of newspaper decency," pamphlet, 1921

https://archive.org/stream/crimesofthetimes00sincrich/crimesofthetimes00sincrich

jacques sheete > , October 11, 2017 at 12:08 pm GMT

I find it most fascinating that none of what Hedges says is news, but even UR readers probably think it is. Here's an antidote to that idea.

The following quote is from Eugene Kelly who's excoriating government press releases but the criticism applies as well to the resulting press reports. I found the whole article striking.:

Any boob can deduce, a priori, what type of "news" is contained in this rubbish.

-Eugene A. Kelly, Distorting the News, The American Mercury, March 1935 , pp. 307-318

http://www.unz.org/Pub/AmMercury/

I'd like good evidence that the situation has improved since then. Good luck.

jacques sheete > , October 11, 2017 at 2:35 pm GMT

The Elites "Have No Credibility Left"

Who thinks they had any to begin with? The quote, below, is almost 2000 years old

Apollo, too, who pretends to be so clever, with his bow and his lyre and his medicine and his prophecies; those oracle-shops that he has opened at Delphi, and Clarus, and Dindyma, are a cheat; he takes good care to be on the safe side by giving ambiguous answers that no one can understand, and makes money out of it, for there are plenty of fools who like being imposed upon,–but sensible people know well enough that most of it is clap-trap

Leto. Oh, of course; my children are butchers and impostors. I know how you hate the sight of them.

-Lucian of Samosata, DIALOGUES OF THE GODS, XVI, ~150AD

http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/luc/wl1/wl124.htm

[Oct 05, 2017] How Billionaires become Billionaires - The Unz Review

Notable quotes:
"... Billionaires in the commercial conglomerates, like Walmart, exploit workers by paying poverty wages and providing few, if any, benefits. Walmart earns $16 billion dollar a year in profits by paying its workers between $10 and $13 an hour and relying on state and federal assistance to provide services to the families of its impoverished workers through Medicaid and food stamps. ..."
"... Inequality is not a result of 'technology' and 'education'- contemporary euphemisms for the ruling class cult of superiority – as liberals and conservative economists and journalists like to claim. Inequalities are a result of low wages, based on big profits, financial swindles, multi-trillion dollar public handouts and multi-billion-dollar tax evasion. ..."
"... Workers pay disproportional taxes for education, health, social and public services and subsidies for billionaires ..."
"... First and foremost, billionaires and their political, legal and corporate associates dominate the political parties. They designate the leaders and key appointees, thus ensuring that budgets and policies will increase their profits, erode social benefits for the masses and weaken the political power of popular organizations ..."
"... As a result, wage and salary workers are less organized and less influential; they work longer and for less pay, suffer greater workplace insecurity and injuries – physical and mental – fall into decline and disability, drop out of the system, die earlier and poorer, and, in the process, provide unimaginable profits for the billionaire class ..."
"... The bulk of repatriated profits are directed to buy back stock to increase dividends for investors; they are not invested in the productive economy. Lower taxes and greater profits for conglomerates means more buy-outs and greater outflows to low wage countries. In real terms taxes are already less than half the headline rate and are a major factor heightening the concentration of income and power – both cause and effect. ..."
"... In other words, the capitalist class as a whole, globalist and domestic alike, pursues the same regressive policies, promoting inequalities while struggling over shares of the profits. One hundred and fifty million wage and salaried taxpayers are excluded from the political and social decisions that directly affect their income, employment, rates of taxation, and political representation. ..."
"... However, worker hostility and despair is directed against 'immigrants' and against the 'liberals' who have backed the import of cheap skilled and semi-skilled labor under the guise of 'freedom'. This 'politically correct' image of imported labor covers up a policy, which has served to lower wages, benefits and living standards for American workers, whether they are in technology, construction or production. ..."
"... The pro and anti-immigrant issue avoids the root cause for the economic exploitation and social degradation of the working class – the billionaire owners operating in alliance with the political elite. ..."
Oct 05, 2017 | www.unz.com

Billionaires in the commercial conglomerates, like Walmart, exploit workers by paying poverty wages and providing few, if any, benefits. Walmart earns $16 billion dollar a year in profits by paying its workers between $10 and $13 an hour and relying on state and federal assistance to provide services to the families of its impoverished workers through Medicaid and food stamps. Amazon plutocrat Jeff Bezos exploits workers by paying $12.50 an hour while he has accumulated over $80 billion dollars in profits. UPS CEO David Albany takes $11 million a year by exploiting workers at $11 an hour. Federal Express CEO, Fred Smith gets $16 million and pays workers $11 an hour.

Inequality is not a result of 'technology' and 'education'- contemporary euphemisms for the ruling class cult of superiority – as liberals and conservative economists and journalists like to claim. Inequalities are a result of low wages, based on big profits, financial swindles, multi-trillion dollar public handouts and multi-billion-dollar tax evasion. The ruling class has mastered the 'technology' of exploiting the state, through its pillage of the treasury, and the working class. Capitalist exploitation of low paid production workers provides additional billions for the 'philanthropic' billionaire family foundations to polish their public image – using another tax avoidance gimmick – self-glorifying 'donations'.

Workers pay disproportional taxes for education, health, social and public services and subsidies for billionaires.

Billionaires in the arms industry and security/mercenary conglomerates receive over $700 billion dollars from the federal budget, while over 100 million US workers lack adequate health care and their children are warehoused in deteriorating schools.

Workers and Bosses: Mortality Rates

Billionaires and multi-millionaires and their families enjoy longer and healthier lives than their workers. They have no need for health insurance policies or public hospitals. CEO's live on average ten years longer than a worker and enjoy twenty years more of healthy and pain-free lives.

Private, exclusive clinics and top medical care include the most advanced treatment and safe and proven medication which allow billionaires and their family members to live longer and healthier lives. The quality of their medical care and the qualifications of their medical providers present a stark contrast to the health care apartheid that characterizes the rest of the United States.

Workers are treated and mistreated by the health system: They have inadequate and often incompetent medical treatment, cursory examinations by inexperienced medical assistants and end up victims of the widespread over-prescription of highly addictive narcotics and other medications. Over-prescription of narcotics by incompetent 'providers' has significantly contributed to the rise in premature deaths among workers, spiraling cases of opiate overdose, disability due to addiction and descent into poverty and homelessness. These irresponsible practices have made additional billions of dollars in profits for the insurance corporate elite, who can cut their pensions and health care liabilities as injured, disabled and addicted workers drop out of the system or die.

The shortened life expectancy for workers and their family members is celebrated on Wall Street and in the financial press. Over 560,000 workers were killed by opioids between 1999-2015 contributing to the decline in life expectancy for working age wage and salary earners and reduced pension liabilities for Wall Street and the Social Security Administration.

Inequalities are cumulative, inter-generational and multi-sectorial.

Billionaire families, their children and grandchildren, inherit and invest billions. They have privileged access to the most prestigious schools and medical facilities, and conveniently fall in love to equally privileged, well-connected mates to join their fortunes and form even greater financial empires. Their wealth buys favorable, even fawning, mass media coverage and the services of the most influential lawyers and accountants to cover their swindles and tax evasion.

Billionaires hire innovators and sweat shop MBA managers to devise more ways to slash wages, increase productivity and ensure that inequalities widen even further. Billionaires do not have to be the brightest or most innovative people: Such individuals can simply be bought or imported on the 'free market' and discarded at will.

Billionaires have bought out or formed joint ventures with each other, creating interlocking directorates. Banks, IT, factories, warehouses, food and appliance, pharmaceuticals and hospitals are linked directly to political elites who slither through doors of rotating appointments within the IMF, the World Bank, Treasury, Wall Street banks and prestigious law firms.

Consequences of Inequalities

First and foremost, billionaires and their political, legal and corporate associates dominate the political parties. They designate the leaders and key appointees, thus ensuring that budgets and policies will increase their profits, erode social benefits for the masses and weaken the political power of popular organizations .

Secondly, the burden of the economic crisis is shifted on to the workers who are fired and later re-hired as part-time, contingent labor. Public bailouts, provided by the taxpayer, are channeled to the billionaires under the doctrine that Wall Street banks are too big to fail and workers are too weak to defend their wages, jobs and living standards.

Billionaires buy political elites, who appoint the World Bank and IMF officials tasked with instituting policies to freeze or reduce wages, slash corporate and public health care obligations and increase profits by privatizing public enterprises and facilitating corporate relocation to low wage, low tax countries.

As a result, wage and salary workers are less organized and less influential; they work longer and for less pay, suffer greater workplace insecurity and injuries – physical and mental – fall into decline and disability, drop out of the system, die earlier and poorer, and, in the process, provide unimaginable profits for the billionaire class . Even their addiction and deaths provide opportunities for huge profit – as the Sackler Family, manufacturers of Oxycontin, can attest.

The billionaires and their political acolytes argue that deeper regressive taxation would increase investments and jobs. The data speaks otherwise. The bulk of repatriated profits are directed to buy back stock to increase dividends for investors; they are not invested in the productive economy. Lower taxes and greater profits for conglomerates means more buy-outs and greater outflows to low wage countries. In real terms taxes are already less than half the headline rate and are a major factor heightening the concentration of income and power – both cause and effect.

Corporate elites, the billionaires in the Silicon Valley-Wall Street global complex are relatively satisfied that their cherished inequalities are guaranteed and expanding under the Demo-Republican Presidents- as the 'good times' roll on.

Away from the 'billionaire elite', the 'outsiders' – domestic capitalists – clamor for greater public investment in infrastructure to expand the domestic economy, lower taxes to increase profits, and state subsidies to increase the training of the labor force while reducing funds for health care and public education. They are oblivious to the contradiction.

In other words, the capitalist class as a whole, globalist and domestic alike, pursues the same regressive policies, promoting inequalities while struggling over shares of the profits. One hundred and fifty million wage and salaried taxpayers are excluded from the political and social decisions that directly affect their income, employment, rates of taxation, and political representation. They understand, or at least experience, how the class system works. Most workers know about the injustice of the fake 'free trade' agreements and regressive tax regime, which weighs heavy on the majority of wage and salary earners.

However, worker hostility and despair is directed against 'immigrants' and against the 'liberals' who have backed the import of cheap skilled and semi-skilled labor under the guise of 'freedom'. This 'politically correct' image of imported labor covers up a policy, which has served to lower wages, benefits and living standards for American workers, whether they are in technology, construction or production. Rich conservatives, on the other hand, oppose immigration under the guise of 'law and order' and to lower social expenditures – despite that fact that they all use imported nannies, tutors, nurses, doctors and gardeners to service their families. Their servants can always be deported when convenient.

The pro and anti-immigrant issue avoids the root cause for the economic exploitation and social degradation of the working class – the billionaire owners operating in alliance with the political elite.

In order to reverse the regressive tax practices and tax evasion, the low wage cycle and the spiraling death rates resulting from narcotics and other preventable causes, which profit insurance companies and pharmaceutical billionaires, class alliances need to be forged linking workers, consumers, pensioners, students, the disabled, the foreclosed homeowners, evicted tenants, debtors, the under-employed and immigrants as a unified political force.

Sooner said than done, but never tried! Everything and everyone is at stake: life, health and happiness.

conatus > , October 5, 2017 at 9:02 am GMT

Ronald Reagan can be blamed for the excess of billionaires we now have. His lauding of the entrepreneurial spirit and how we are all brave individual risk takers makes it seem you are an envious chickensh$t if you advocate against unlimited assets.

But even Warren Buffet has come out for the estate tax saying something like now the Forbes 400 now possesses total assets of 2.5 trillion in a 20 trillion economy when 40 years ago they totaled in the millions. The legal rule against perpetuities generally used to limit trusts to a lifetime of 100 years, now some states offer 1000 year trusts which will only concretize an outlandishly high Gini coefficient(a measure of income inequality).
The rationale for lowering taxes and the untouchable rich is usually the trickle down theory but, as one of these billionaires said, "How many pairs of pants can I buy?" It takes 274 years spending 10,000 a day to spend a billion dollars.
Better Henry Ford's virtuous circle than Ronald Reagan's entrepreneur.
Ban all billionaires. Bring back the union label. Otherwise .. what do we have to lose?

http://nobillionairescom.dotster.com/

jacques sheete > , October 5, 2017 at 2:29 pm GMT

@Wally "According to the US Internal Revenue Service, billionaire tax evasion amounts to $458 billion dollars in lost public revenues every year – almost a trillion dollars every two years by this conservative estimate."

No, it's $458 billion that the government has not managed to steal.

https://www.ronpaul.com/taxes/


An income tax is the most degrading and totalitarian of all possible taxes. Its implementation wrongly suggests that the government owns the lives and labor of the citizens it is supposed to represent.

Tellingly, "a heavy progressive or graduated income tax" is Plank #2 of the Communist Manifesto, which was written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and first published in 1848.
To provide funding for the federal government, Ron Paul supports excise taxes, non-protectionist tariffs, massive cuts in spending

"We could eliminate the income tax, replace it with nothing, and still fund the same level of big government we had in the late 1990s. We don't need to "replace" the income tax at all. I see a consumption tax as being a little better than the personal income tax, and I would vote for the Fair-Tax if it came up in the House of Representatives, but it is not my goal. We can do better."

https://youtu.be/qI5lC4Z_T80

No, it's $458 billion that the government has not managed to steal.

There was a time that I would have agreed with that, and technically still get the point, but what it really means is that the government merely allows the corporations which they favor, subsidize, and bail out to keep the chump change they've stolen from the workers, besides that which the government steals from the workers and hands to the corporations.

Corporations and government work hand in hand to fleece the herd and most of the herd apparently think it's just fine.

Never forget that thanks to government, corporations socialize risk while privatizing profit. They are partners in gangsterism.

advancedatheist > , October 5, 2017 at 2:53 pm GMT

Private, exclusive clinics and top medical care include the most advanced treatment and safe and proven medication which allow billionaires and their family members to live longer and healthier lives.

Sorry, I don't buy the notion that billionaires have access to some super-healthcare that the rest of us don't know about. In the real world rich people notoriously waste a lot of money on quackery, like the current fad of receiving plasma transfusions from young people as a phony "anti-aging" treatment.

More likely the kinds of men who become billionaires just enjoy better health and longevity for genetic reasons. They tend to have higher IQ's, for example, and some scientists think that IQ correlates with "system integrity" in their bodies which just make higher IQ people more resilient. Look up the growing body of research on cognitive epidemiology.

anonymous > , Disclaimer October 5, 2017 at 3:05 pm GMT

I'm disappointed there was no mention of the "Billionaires" use of social media. They've always controlled the press of course: startin' wars, hatin' on those guys, gettin' the blood up, jailin' the 'bad guys', preaching an empty delusion of social justice propaganda, payin' Ken Burns to propagandize and put a new coat of paint on the industrial scale killing of Vietnam. Probably just in time for more violence.

Let's face it, many of the workin' stiff will blow a hedge fund manager and kneel before the so-called free market corpse of Sam Walton but most importantly they'll grab their guns outa' patriotic fervor and social media will be right there with 'em. "I love Elon Musk!"

It's a great thing we're watched and datamined for our own good – information is how billionaires became billionaires along with a lot of help from the Government they usually encourage you to dislike. Keep posting!

MarkinLA > , October 5, 2017 at 3:29 pm GMT

Rich conservatives, on the other hand, oppose immigration under the guise of 'law and order' and to lower social expenditures – despite that fact that they all use imported nannies, tutors, nurses, doctors and gardeners to service their families. Their servants can always be deported when convenient.

BZZZZ – wrong. Rich conservative support massive immigration so they can get cheap labor while simutaneously virtue signaling. I thought you just got done sayiong they don't pay for the costs of the working poor? The middle class is who is against immigratioin. They bear the burden and pay the taxes that support it.

[Oct 04, 2017] The Trump-Goldman Sachs Tax Cut for the Rich by Jack Rasmus

Notable quotes:
"... The Trump Plan is actually the product of the former Goldman-Sachs investment bankers who have been in charge of Trump's economic policy since he came into office. Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, and Gary Cohn, director of Trump's economic council, are the two authors of the Trump tax cuts. They put it together. They are also both former top executives of the global shadow bank called Goldman Sachs. ..."
"... Given that economic policy under Trump is being driven by bankers, it's not surprising that the CEO of the biggest US banks, Morgan Stanley, admitted just a few months ago that a reduction of the corporate nominal income tax rate from the current 35% nominal rate to a new nominal rate of 20% will provide the bank an immediate windfall gain of 15%-20% in earnings. ..."
"... Big multinational companies like Apple, i.e. virtually all the big tech companies, big Pharma corporations, banks and oil companies, pay no more than 12-13% effective tax rates today -- not the 35% nominal rate. ..."
"... Tech, big Pharma, banks and oil companies are the big violators of offshore cash hoarding/tax avoidance schemes. Microsoft's effective global tax rate last year was only 12%. IBM's even less, at 10%. The giant drug company, Pfizer paid 18% and the oil company, Chevron 14%. One of the largest US companies in the world, General Electric, paid only 1%. When their nominal rate is reduced to 20% under the Trump plan, they'll pay even less, likely in the single digits, if that. ..."
"... Tax cutting for business classes and the 1% has always been a fundamental element of Neoliberal economic policy ever since the Reagan years (and actually late Jimmy Carter period). Major tax cut legislation occurred in 1981, 1986, and 1997-98 under Clinton. George W. Bush then cut taxes by $3.4 trillion in 2001-04, 80% of which went to the wealthiest households and businesses. He cut taxes another $180 billion in 2008. Obama cut another $300 billion in his 2009 so-called recovery program. When that faltered, it was another $800 billion at year end 2010. He then extended the Bush tax cuts that were scheduled to expire in 2011 two more years. That costs $450 billion each year. And in 2013, cutting a deal with Republicans called the 'fiscal cliff' settlement, he extended the Bush tax cuts of the prior decade for another ten years. That cost a further $5 trillion. Now Trump wants even more. He promised $5 trillion in tax cuts during his election campaign. So the current proposal is only half of what he has in mind perhaps. ..."
"... Neoliberal tax cutting in the US has also been characterized by the 'tax cut shell game'. The shell game is played several ways. ..."
"... To cover the shell game, an overlay of ideology covers up what's going on. There's the false argument that 'tax cuts create jobs', for which there's no empirical evidence. There's the claim US multinational corporations pay a double tax compared to their competitors, when in fact they effectively pay less. There's the lie that if corporate taxes are cut they will automatically invest the savings, when in fact what they do is invest offshore, divert the savings to stock and bond and other financial markets, boost their dividend and stock buybacks, or stuff the savings in their offshore subsidiaries to avoid paying taxes. ..."
"... All these neoliberal false claims, arguments, and outright lies continue today to justify the Trump-Goldman Sachs tax plan -- which is just the latest iteration of neoliberal tax policy and tax offensive in the US. The consequences of the Trump plan, if it is passed, will be the same as the previous tax giveaways to the 1% and their companies: it will redistribute income massively from the middle and working classes to the rich. Income inequality will continue to worsen dramatically. ..."
"... Nothing will change so long as the Corporate Party of America is allowed to continue its neoliberal tax giveaways, its tax cutting 'shell games', and is allowed to continue to foment its ideological cover up. ..."
Oct 04, 2017 | www.counterpunch.org

Contradicting Trump, the independent Tax Policy Center has estimated in just the first year half of the $2 trillion plus Trump cuts will go to the wealthiest 1% households that annually earn more than $730,000. That's an immediate income windfall to the wealthiest 1% households of 8.5%, according to the Tax Policy Center. But that's only in the first of ten years the cuts will be in effect. It gets worse over time.

According to the Tax Policy Center, "Taxpayers in the top one percent (incomes above $730,000), would receive about 50 percent of the total tax benefit [in 2018]". However, "By 2027, the top one percent would get 80 percent of the plan's tax cuts while the share for middle-income households would drop to about five percent." By the last year of the cuts, 2027, on average the wealthiest 1% household would realize $207,000, and the even wealthier 0.1% would realize an income gain of $1,022,000.

When confronted with these facts on national TV this past Sunday, Trump's Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, quickly backtracked and admitted he could not guarantee every middle class family would see a tax cut. Right. That's because 15-17 million (12%) of US taxpaying households in the US will face a tax hike in the first year of the cuts. In the tenth and last year, "one in four middle class families would end up with higher taxes".

The US Economic 'Troika'

The Trump Plan is actually the product of the former Goldman-Sachs investment bankers who have been in charge of Trump's economic policy since he came into office. Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, and Gary Cohn, director of Trump's economic council, are the two authors of the Trump tax cuts. They put it together. They are also both former top executives of the global shadow bank called Goldman Sachs. Together with the other key office determining US economic policy, the US central bank, held by yet another ex-Goldman Sachs senior exec, Bill Dudley, president of the New York Federal Reserve bank, the Goldman-Sachs trio of Mnuchin-Cohn-Dudley constitute what might be called the 'US Troika' for domestic economic policy.
The Trump tax proposal is therefore really a big bankers tax plan -- authored by bankers, in the interest of bankers and financial investors (like Trump himself), and overwhelmingly favoring the wealthiest 1%.

Given that economic policy under Trump is being driven by bankers, it's not surprising that the CEO of the biggest US banks, Morgan Stanley, admitted just a few months ago that a reduction of the corporate nominal income tax rate from the current 35% nominal rate to a new nominal rate of 20% will provide the bank an immediate windfall gain of 15%-20% in earnings. And that's just the nominal corporate rate cut proposed by Trump. With loopholes, it's no doubt more.

The Trump-Troika's Triple Tax-Cut Trifecta for the 1%

The Trump Troika has indicated it hopes to package up and deliver the trillions of $ to their 1% friends by Christmas 2017. Their gift will consist of three major tax cuts for the rich and their businesses. A Trump-Troika Tax Cut 'Trifecta' of $ trillions.

1.The Corporate Tax Cuts

The first of the three main elements is a big cut in the corporate income tax nominal rate, from current 35% to 20%. In addition, there's the elimination of what is called the 'territorial tax' system, which is just a fancy phrase for ending the fiction of the foreign profits tax. Currently, US multinational corporations hoard a minimum of $2.6 trillion of profits offshore and refuse to pay US taxes on those profits. In other words, Congress and presidents for decades have refused to enforce the foreign profits tax. Now that fiction will be ended by officially eliminating taxes on their profits. They'll only pay taxes on US profits, which will create an even greater incentive for them to shift operations and profits to their offshore subsidiaries. But there's more for the big corporations.

The Trump plan also simultaneously proposes what it calls a 'repatriation tax cut'. If the big tech, pharma, banks, and energy companies bring back some of their reported $2.6 trillion (an official number which is actually more than that), Congress will require they pay only a 10% tax rate -- not the current 35% rate or even Trump's proposed 20%–on that repatriated profits. No doubt the repatriation will be tied to some kind of agreement to invest the money in the US economy. That's how they'll sell it to the American public. But that shell game was played before, in 2004-05, under George W. Bush. The same 'repatriation' deal was then legislated, to return the $700 billion then stuffed away in corporate offshore subsidiaries. About half the $700 billion was brought back, but US corporations did not invest it in jobs in the US as they were supposed to. They used the repatriated profits to buy up their competitors (mergers and acquisitions), to pay out dividends to stockholders, and to buy back their stock to drive equity prices and the stock market to new heights in 2005-07. The current Trump 'territorial tax repeal/repatriation' boondoggle will turn out just the same as it did in 2005.

2. Non-Incorporate Business Tax Cuts

The second big business class tax windfall in the Trump-Goldman Sachs tax giveaway for the rich is the proposal to reduce the top nominal tax rate for non-corporate businesses, like proprietorships and partnerships, whose business income (aka profits) is treated like personal income. This is called the 'pass through business income' provision.

That's a Trump tax cut for unincorporated businesses -- like doctors, law firms, real estate investment partnerships, etc. 40% of non-corporate income is currently taxed at 39.6% (the top personal income tax rate). Trump proposes to reduce that nominal rate to 25%. So non-incorporate businesses too will get an immediately 14.6% cut, nearly matching the 15% rate cut for corporate businesses.

In the case of both corporate and non-corporate companies we're talking about 'nominal' tax rate cuts of 14.6% and 15%. The 'effective' tax rate is what they actually pay in taxes -- i.e. after loopholes, after their high paid tax lawyers take a whack at their tax bill, after they cleverly divert their income to their offshore subsidiaries and refuse to pay the foreign profits tax, and after they stuff away whatever they can in offshore tax havens in the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, and a dozen other island nations worldwide.

For example, Apple Corporation alone is hoarding $260 billion in cash at present -- 95% of which it keeps offshore to avoid paying Uncle Sam taxes. Big multinational companies like Apple, i.e. virtually all the big tech companies, big Pharma corporations, banks and oil companies, pay no more than 12-13% effective tax rates today -- not the 35% nominal rate.

Tech, big Pharma, banks and oil companies are the big violators of offshore cash hoarding/tax avoidance schemes. Microsoft's effective global tax rate last year was only 12%. IBM's even less, at 10%. The giant drug company, Pfizer paid 18% and the oil company, Chevron 14%. One of the largest US companies in the world, General Electric, paid only 1%. When their nominal rate is reduced to 20% under the Trump plan, they'll pay even less, likely in the single digits, if that.

Corporations and non-corporate businesses are the institutional conduit for passing income to their capitalist owners and managers. The Trump corporate and business taxes means companies immediately get to keep at least 15% more of their income for themselves -- and more in 'effective' rate terms. That means they get to distribute to their executives and big stockholders and partners even more than they have in recent years. And in recent years that has been no small sum. For example, just corporate dividend payouts and stock buybacks have totaled more than $1 trillion on average for six years since 2010! A total of more than $6 trillion.

But all that's only the business tax cut side of the Trump plan. There's a third major tax cut component of the Trump plan -- i.e. major cuts in the Personal Income Tax that accrue overwhelmingly to the richest 1% households.

3. Personal Income Tax Cuts for the 1%

There are multiple measures in the Trump-Troika proposal that benefits the 1% in the form of personal income tax reductions. Corporations and businesses get to keep more income from the business tax cuts, to pass on to their shareholders, investors, and senior managers. The latter then get to keep more of what's passed through and distributed to them as a result of the personal income tax cuts.

The first personal tax cut boondoggle for the 1% wealthiest households is the Trump proposal to reduce the 'tax income brackets' from seven to three. The new brackets would be 35%, 25%, and 12%.

Whenever brackets are reduced, the wealthiest always benefit. The current top bracket, affecting households with a minimum of $418,000 annual income, would be reduced from the current 39.6% to 35%. In the next bracket, those with incomes of 191,000 to 418,000 would see their tax rate (nominal again) cut from 28% to 25%. However, the 25% third bracket would apply to annual incomes as low as $38,000. That's the middle and working class. So households with $38,000 annual incomes would pay the same rate as those with more than $400,000. Tax cuts for the middle class, did Trump say? Only tax rate reductions beginning with those with $191,000 incomes and the real cuts for those over $418,000!

But the cuts in the nominal tax rate for the top 1% to 5% households are only part of the personal income tax windfall for the rich under the Trump plan. The really big tax cuts for the 1% come in the form of the repeal of the Inheritance Tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax, as well as Trump's allowing the 'carried interest' tax loophole for financial speculators like hedge fund managers and private equity CEOs to continue.

The current Inheritance Tax applies only to those with estates of $11 million or more, about 0.2 of all the taxpaying households. So its repeal is clearly a windfall for the super rich. The Alternative Minimum Tax is designed to ensure the super rich pay something, after they manipulate the tax loopholes, shelter their income offshore in tax havens, or simply engage in tax fraud by various other means. Now that's gone as well under the Trump plan. 'Carried interest', a loophole, allows big finance speculators, like hedge fund managers, to avoid paying the corporate tax rate altogether, and pay a maximum of 20% on their hundreds of millions and sometimes billions of dollars of income every year.
Who Pays?

As previously noted, folks with $91,000 a year annual income get no tax rate cuts. They still will pay the 25%. And since that is what's called 'earned' (wage and salary) income, they don't get the loopholes to manipulate, like those with 'capital incomes' (dividends, capital gains, rents, interest, etc.). What they get is called deductions. But under the Trump plan, the deductions for state and local taxes, for state sales taxes, and apparently for excess medical costs will all disappear. The cost of that to middle and working class households is estimated at $1 trillion over the decade.

Trump claims the standard deduction will be doubled, and that will benefit the middle class. But estimates reveal that a middle class family with two kids will see their standard deduction reduced from $28,900 to $24,000. But I guess that's just 'Trump math'.

The general US taxpayer will also pay for the trillions of dollars that will be redistributed to the 1% and their companies. It's estimated the federal government deficit will increase by $2.4 trillion over the decade as a result of the Trump plan. Republicans in Congress have railed over the deficits and federal debt, now at $20 trillion, for years. But they are conspicuously quiet now about adding $2.4 trillion more -- so long as it the result of tax giveaways to themselves, their 1% friends, and their rich corporate election campaign contributors.

And both wings of the Corporate Party of America -- aka Republicans and Democrats -- never mention the economic fact that since 2001, 60% of US federal government deficits, and therefore the US debt of $20 trillion, are attributable to tax cuts by George W. Bush and Barack Obama: more than $3.5 trillion under Bush and more than $7 trillion under Obama. (The remaining $10 trillion of the US debt due to war and defense spending, price gouging by the medical industry and big pharma driving up government costs for Medicare, Medicaid, and other government insurance, bailouts of the big banks in 2008-09, and interest payments on the debt).

The 35-Year Neoliberal Tax Offensive

Tax cutting for business classes and the 1% has always been a fundamental element of Neoliberal economic policy ever since the Reagan years (and actually late Jimmy Carter period). Major tax cut legislation occurred in 1981, 1986, and 1997-98 under Clinton. George W. Bush then cut taxes by $3.4 trillion in 2001-04, 80% of which went to the wealthiest households and businesses. He cut taxes another $180 billion in 2008. Obama cut another $300 billion in his 2009 so-called recovery program. When that faltered, it was another $800 billion at year end 2010. He then extended the Bush tax cuts that were scheduled to expire in 2011 two more years. That costs $450 billion each year. And in 2013, cutting a deal with Republicans called the 'fiscal cliff' settlement, he extended the Bush tax cuts of the prior decade for another ten years. That cost a further $5 trillion. Now Trump wants even more. He promised $5 trillion in tax cuts during his election campaign. So the current proposal is only half of what he has in mind perhaps.

Neoliberal tax cutting in the US has also been characterized by the 'tax cut shell game'. The shell game is played several ways.

In the course of major tax cut legislation, the elites and their lobbyists alternate their focus on cutting rates and on correcting tax loopholes. They raise rates but expand loopholes. When the public becomes aware of the outrageous loopholes, they then eliminate some loopholes but simultaneously reduce the tax rates on the rich. When the public complains of too low tax rates for the rich, they raise the rates but quietly expand the loopholes. They play this shell game so the outcome is always a net gain for corporations and the rich.

Since Reagan and the advent of neoliberal tax policy, the corporate income tax share of total US government revenues has fallen from more than 20% to single digits well below 10%. Conversely, the payroll tax has doubled from 22% to more than 40%. A similar shift within the personal income tax, steadily around 40% of government revenues, has also occurred. The wealthy pay less a share of the total and the middle class pays more. Along the way, token concessions to the very low end of working poor are introduced, to give the appearance of fairness. But the middle class, the $38 to $91,000 nearly 100 million taxpaying households foot the bill for both the 1% and the bottom. This pattern was set in motion under Reagan. His proposed $752 billion in tax cuts in 1981-82 were adjusted in 1986, but the net outcome was more for the rich and their corporations. That pattern has continued under Clinton, Bush, Obama and now proposed under Trump.

To cover the shell game, an overlay of ideology covers up what's going on. There's the false argument that 'tax cuts create jobs', for which there's no empirical evidence. There's the claim US multinational corporations pay a double tax compared to their competitors, when in fact they effectively pay less. There's the lie that if corporate taxes are cut they will automatically invest the savings, when in fact what they do is invest offshore, divert the savings to stock and bond and other financial markets, boost their dividend and stock buybacks, or stuff the savings in their offshore subsidiaries to avoid paying taxes.

All these neoliberal false claims, arguments, and outright lies continue today to justify the Trump-Goldman Sachs tax plan -- which is just the latest iteration of neoliberal tax policy and tax offensive in the US. The consequences of the Trump plan, if it is passed, will be the same as the previous tax giveaways to the 1% and their companies: it will redistribute income massively from the middle and working classes to the rich. Income inequality will continue to worsen dramatically. US multinational corporations will begin again to divert profits, and investment, offshore; profits brought back untaxed will result in mergers and acquisitions, dividend payouts, and financial markets investment. No real jobs will be created in the US. The wealthy will continue to pump their savings into financial asset markets, causing further bubbles in stocks, exchange traded funds, bonds, derivatives and the like. The US economy will continue to slow and become more unstable financially. And there will be another financial crash and great recession -- or worse. Only this time, the vast majority of US households -- i.e. the middle and working classes -- will be even worse off and more unable to weather the next economic storm.

Nothing will change so long as the Corporate Party of America is allowed to continue its neoliberal tax giveaways, its tax cutting 'shell games', and is allowed to continue to foment its ideological cover up. More articles by: Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus is the author of ' Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy ', Clarity Press, 2015. He blogs at jackrasmus.com . His website is www.kyklosproductions.com and twitter handle, @drjackrasmus.

[Jul 21, 2017] How The Elites Betrayed Working-Class America by Bill Bonner

Jul 21, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com
Authored via InternationalMan.com,

... ... ...

The typical American day laborer has gained little.

And job competition from overseas made him feel like a loser. Now he wants walls – to keep out foreigners and foreign-made products. He wants win-lose deals that guarantee to make him a winner again.

He has no idea that he was set up by his own elite.

Former Fed chiefs Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan got their pictures on the cover of Time magazine. Most people think they are heroes, not rascals. Most people think they saved the economy from another Great Depression by dropping interest rates and injecting it with trillions of dollars in quantitative easing (QE) money.

Most people – even the POTUS – believe we need more fake money to "prime the pump" and get the economy rolling again.

Almost no one realizes it, but it was these stimulating, pump-priming, new credit-based dollars that fueled the trends that ruined America's working-class wage earner.

Overseas, his competitors used cheap credit to gain market share and take away his job. At home, the elite imposed their crony boondoggles their regulations and their win-lose deals – all financed with fake money.

The average American's medical care now costs him more than seven times more than it did in 1980. His household debt rose nearly 12 times since 1980.

... ... ...

Recently we've been wondering if it's possible that America could be on the brink of a second civil war. We did some digging and while the stuff we found may offend and shock you We recommend you take a look anyway by clicking here.

TeamDepends , Jul 21, 2017 6:32 PM

Everything "the elite" does betrays the working class.

Captain Chlamydia -> TeamDepends , Jul 21, 2017 6:34 PM

https://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html

Sonny Brakes , Jul 21, 2017 6:37 PM

And the working class played along knowing full well that they were being duped. Got to support the team.

silverer , Jul 21, 2017 6:42 PM

Money creation without productivity is a truly inspiring phenomenon.

GRDguy , Jul 21, 2017 6:42 PM

They're not "elite," they're sociopaths. They lie and steal without empathy nor conscience.

People running independent businesses are not usually sociopaths. But top executives of major corporations usually are.

[Jul 02, 2017] Does the global neoliberal elite represents a parasitic entity ? If we are talking about financial oligarchy then the answer is yes

The fact that considerable part of financial elite is Jewish changed nothing
www.moonofalabama.org

pantaraxia | Jul 2, 2017 9:08:27 AM | 64

@45 smuks

Careful about that 'parasites' thing.

The conflict is systemic, deeply rooted in the current (dominant) socio-economic order. Reducing it to a narrative of 'parasitic global elites' risks encouraging simplistic 'answers', i.e. laying the blame on certain groups of people.

Last time it was the Jews...who's turn now?

...Your obvious apprehension over the demonization of 'parasitic global elites' is addressed here:

New Rule: Save the Rich Fcks | Real Time with Bill Maher
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahpp27WAT2M

PS: Its interesting to note that in the context of discussing 'parasitic global elites' you bring up the subject of Jews, contextually implying some sort of association. There are numerous Jewish organizations that would accuse you of practicing 'dog whistle politics' here.

[Apr 12, 2017] April 12, 2017 at 07:30 AM

Notable quotes:
"... First. Robert Rubin was a main architect of the high dollar policy that led to the explosion of the trade deficit in the last decade. This led to the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs and decimating communities across the Midwest. Second, Rubin was a major advocate of financial deregulation during his years in the Clinton administration. Finally, Rubin was a direct beneficiary of deregulation, since he left the administration to take a top job at Citigroup. He made over $100 million in this position before he resigned in the financial crisis when bad loans had essentially put Citigroup into bankruptcy. (It was saved by government bailouts.) ..."
"... It is important to recognize that the Fed is currently dominated by people with close ties to the financial industry. The Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC) which determines interest rate policy has 19 members. While 7 are governors appointed by the president and approved by Congress (only 4 of the governor seats are currently filled), 12 are presidents of the district banks. These bank presidents are appointed through a process dominated by the banks in the district. (Only 5 of the 12 presidents have a vote at any one time, but all 12 participate in discussions.) ..."
Apr 12, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/robert-rubin-who-made-a-fortune-on-the-housing-bubble-argues-for-preserving-wall-street-s-power-over-the-fed

April 12, 2017

Robert Rubin, Who Made a Fortune on the Housing Bubble, Argues for Preserving Wall Street's Power Over the Fed

The Federal Reserve Board has more direct control over the economy than any other institution in the country. When it decides to raise interest rates to slow the economy, it can ensure that millions of workers don't get jobs and prevent tens of millions more from getting the bargaining power they need to gain wage increases. For this reason, it is very important who is making the calls on interest rates and who they are listening to.

Robert Rubin, who served as Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, weighed in * today in the New York Times to argue for the status quo. There are a few important background points on Rubin that are worth mentioning before getting into the substance.

First. Robert Rubin was a main architect of the high dollar policy that led to the explosion of the trade deficit in the last decade. This led to the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs and decimating communities across the Midwest. Second, Rubin was a major advocate of financial deregulation during his years in the Clinton administration. Finally, Rubin was a direct beneficiary of deregulation, since he left the administration to take a top job at Citigroup. He made over $100 million in this position before he resigned in the financial crisis when bad loans had essentially put Citigroup into bankruptcy. (It was saved by government bailouts.)

Rubin touts the current apolitical nature of the Fed. He warns about:

"Efforts to denigrate the integrity of the Fed's work, and to inject groundless opinion, politics and ideology, must be rejected by the board - and that means governors and other members of the Federal Open Market Committee must be willing to withstand aggressive attacks."

It is important to recognize that the Fed is currently dominated by people with close ties to the financial industry. The Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC) which determines interest rate policy has 19 members. While 7 are governors appointed by the president and approved by Congress (only 4 of the governor seats are currently filled), 12 are presidents of the district banks. These bank presidents are appointed through a process dominated by the banks in the district. (Only 5 of the 12 presidents have a vote at any one time, but all 12 participate in discussions.)

It seems bizarre to describe this process as apolitical or imply there is great integrity here. Rubin's claim is particularly ironic in light of the fact that one of the bank presidents was just forced to resign ** after admitting to leaking confidential information on interest rate policy to a financial analyst.

There is good reason for the public to be unhappy about the Fed's excessive concern over inflation *** over the last four decades and inadequate attention to unemployment. This arguably reflects the interests of the financial industry, which often stands to lose from higher inflation and have little interest in the level of employment. It is understandable that someone who has made his fortune in the financial industry would want to protect the status quo with the Fed, but there is little reason for the rest of us to take him seriously.

* https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/12/opinion/dont-politicize-the-federal-reserve.html

** https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/04/business/lacker-leak-fed.html

*** http://cepr.net/documents/Getting-Back-to-Full-Employment_20131118.pdf

-- Dean Baker

[Feb 01, 2017] If enacted, the the Destination-Based Cash Flow Tax would likely lead to lengthy litigation at the World Trade Organization

Feb 01, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne : January 22, 2017 at 08:09 PM , 2017 at 08:09 PM
http://econospeak.blogspot.com/2017/01/auerbachs-tax-and-clone-wars.html

January 22, 2017

Auerbach's Tax and the Clone Wars

Menzie Chinn * introduces a new asset to economist blogging. Joel Trachtman ** provides an excellent discussion of whether the Destination-Based Cash Flow Tax violates WTO rules concluding that it does. He adds:

"If enacted, the plan would likely lead to lengthy litigation at the World Trade Organization. A (likely) ruling that the tax is an income tax, and is applied in a discriminatory manner, would mean that exempting exports would be considered an illegal subsidy and taxes on imports an illegal tariff. This could lead to trade sanctions against the U.S. and open the door to counter sanctions and the start of a trade war."

President Trump strikes me as someone who could care less about WTO rules. And starting a trade war fits his grand design of governance. As Yoda noted:

"Begun the clone war has"

President Trump is Lord Palpatine.

* http://econbrowser.com/archives/2017/01/econofact-bringing-facts-and-data-to-policy-debates

** http://econofact.org/house-gop-tax-plan-aims-to-boost-competitiveness-might-also-violate-trade-law

-- PGL

[Feb 01, 2017] WTO is very clear that income taxes cannot discriminate to favour exports

Notable quotes:
"... While the WTO process would grind on, protectionist acts by other nations would be licensed immediately. ..."
Feb 01, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Peter K. -> Peter K.... February 01, 2017 at 11:33 AM , 2017 at 11:33 AM

Larry Summers:

"Third, the tax change will harm the global economy in ways that reverberate back to America. It will be seen by other countries and the World Trade Organisation as a protectionist act that violates US treaty obligations.

Proponents may argue that it should be legal because it is like a value added tax, but the WTO is very clear that income taxes cannot discriminate to favour exports.

While the WTO process would grind on, protectionist acts by other nations would be licensed immediately."

http://larrysummers.com/2017/01/08/us-tax-reform-is-vital-but-trumps-plan-is-flawed/

[Oct 06, 2016] Policies that raise the costs of reallocating profits maybe be effective suppressing the use of tax havens

Notable quotes:
"... Multinational firms may invest in tax havens to avoid taxation in non-haven countries, but other motives, such as business opportunities in these countries, may also drive such investment. ..."
"... Policies that raise the costs of reallocating profits maybe be effective in attenuating firms' use of tax havens ..."
Oct 06, 2016 | economistsview.typepad.com

pgl : Thursday, October 06, 2016 at 01:34 AM

"Multinational firms may invest in tax havens to avoid taxation in non-haven countries, but other motives, such as business opportunities in these countries, may also drive such investment. This column uses data on German firms to investigate the motives for tax haven investment. Tax avoidance does appear to be a motive, particularly for manufacturing firms.

Policies that raise the costs of reallocating profits maybe be effective in attenuating firms' use of tax havens."

VoxEU also notes that not every multinational uses tax havens to massively evade taxes. Rudy G. would have their shareholders sue over this. Of course Rudy G. is an idiot. Of course multinationals source production in regions with low costs as in "always low wages".

But I have a question - how many factories are located in the Cayman Islands?

[Aug 29, 2015] Joe Biden's Son Blames Russian Agents For Ashley Madison Profile

See also "Amorality and criminality of neoliberal elite"
Aug 29, 2015 | Zero Hedge
Last night we heard the best 'excuse' yet if you are caught with an Ashley Madison account, from Dan Loeb - "due diligence." Today, not to be outdone by a married hedge fund manager, Vice-President Joe Biden's son "Hunter" has unleashed his own set of excuses for member ship of the extramarital affairs website, as Breitbart reports - Biden thinks international agents, possibly Russian, who objected to his board membership with a Ukrainian gas company set up a fake account to discredit him. However, IP mapping suggests otherwise...

As Breitbart reports,

Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden's account on the extramarital dating website Ashley Madison was used and likely created on the Georgetown University campus while Biden was teaching there.

Business executive Robert "Hunter" Biden, reportedly an adviser to his father's political career, told Breitbart News Monday that he suspected his enemies of creating a fake Ashley Madison account for him in order to discredit him. The email address provided for "Robert Biden's" account matched a personal email address once used by Biden, the vice president's son confirmed.

Biden thinks international agents, possibly Russian, who objected to his board membership with a Ukrainian gas company set up a fake account to discredit him. A source close to Biden told People Magazine after the first Breitbart story ran that the IP address for the account traces to Jacksonville, Florida.

But account information shows that the profile, which was confirmed by a credit card purchase in 2014, was used at the latitude/longitude point of 38.912682, -77.071704.

That latitude-longitude point just happens to exist on the Georgetown University campus, at an administrative building on Reservoir Road. And Hunter Biden just happened to be teaching there around the time the account was set up.

* * *
Faced with the new information, representatives for Biden said that the vice president's son would not comment on the story beyond his original statements to Breitbart News denying that the account was his.

hedgeless_horseman

Biden's son discharged from Navy after testing positive for cocaine

He could be head of the ethics committee for the House of Lords.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/11763582/Lord-Sewel-filmed-snor...


knukles

At least his character flaws are in no way reflective of his father.
You know, apples never fall too far from the trees, stuff.

Hunter says: Hey, quit pickin' on me. Everybody has to try to get a head somehow!

jcaz

ROFLMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can't wait until they find Joe's profile....

Manthong

"The truth about the conflict with Russia"

Aw c'mon..

Chevron, Shell, Monsanto, Cargill and others all had deals worth hundreds of billions with Ukraine prior to the Nuland putsch.

When Yanukovych swung toward Russia's Trade Union instead of the EU, Nuland used the $5 billion of NGO and western sympathizers she bought over the years, spent a little more and engineered the violent coup and subsequent civil warfare.

The US sought to marginalize Russia and kick them out of Sevastopol but surprise, surprise the locals would have none of that. Neither would Russia and the next thing you know Crimea voted to be absorbed once again by Russia and Nuland is left with crap on her face. Since the Donbass would have none of that either, 6,000 people are now dead and the Ukraine is a basket case that the west will have to pay for.

There may be some ethnic animosities in play too, but the real motivations are geo-political and economical.

ThanksChump

The most-credible bits of information I've found support your summary.

It's sad.

I doubt the West will pay for the cleanup in Ukraine without some form of ROI. That expense will fall on their non-Russian neighbors who will be directly affected by starving neighbors this winter, with Poland carrying the bulk.

I doubt the ethnic problems will play a significant role, aside from pro-Russia Ukrainians feeling less charitable than otherwise.

ThanksChump

The most-credible bits of information I've found support your summary.

It's sad.

I doubt the West will pay for the cleanup in Ukraine without some form of ROI. That expense will fall on their non-Russian neighbors who will be directly affected by starving neighbors this winter, with Poland carrying the bulk.

I doubt the ethnic problems will play a significant role, aside from pro-Russia Ukrainians feeling less charitable than otherwise.

JustObserving

Demented mass-murderer Putin is also a hacker and a blackmailer?

Since the beginning of the week, the three most influential mass circulation newsmagazines of the United States, Britain, and Germany-Time, The Economist, and Der Spiegel-have published cover stories that combine wild accusations against Vladimir Putin with demands for a showdown with Russia.

The most striking and obvious characteristic of these cover stories is that they are virtually identical. The CIA has scripted them all. The stories employ the same insults and the same fabrications. They denounce Putin's "web of lies." The Russian president is portrayed as a "depraved" mass murderer.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/07/30/pers-j30.html

[Aug 29, 2015] Neoliberalism and Individualism Ego Leads to Interpersonal Violence by Candace Smith

December 4, 2012 | Sociology Lens

There appears to be a link between neoliberalism, individualism, and violence. In reference to the association between neoliberalism and individualism, consider neoliberalism's insistence that we do not need society since we are all solely responsible for our personal well-being (Peters 2001; Brown 2003). From a criminological standpoint, it is not hard to understand how this focus on the individual can lead to violence. According to Hirschi's (1969) social control theory, for instance, broken or weak social bonds free a person to engage in deviancy. Since, according to this theory, individuals are naturally self-interested, they can use the opportunity of individualization to overcome the restraining powers of society. Bearing in mind neoliberalism's tendency to value the individual over society, it could be argued that this ideology is hazardous as it acts to tear apart important social bonds and to thereby contribute to the occurrence of ego-driven crimes, including violent interpersonal crimes. Such a thought suggests that as neoliberalism becomes more prominent in a country, it can be expected that individualism and, as a result, interpersonal violence within that country will increase.

When it comes to individualization, this idea is one of the fundamental aspects of neoliberalism. In fact, Bauman (2000:34) argues that in neoliberal states "individualization is a fate, not a choice." As Amable (2011) explains, neoliberals have realized that in order for their ideology to be successful, a state's populace must internalize the belief that individuals are only to be rewarded based on their personal effort. With such an ego-driven focus, Scharff (2011) explains that the process of individualization engenders a climate where structural inequalities are converted into individual problems. That is, neoliberalism surmises that anyone can overcome obstacles if only they work hard enough. Similarly, Brown (2003) describes how neoliberal policies place a moral component on success. By insisting that only the immoral fail to achieve success, this concept permits and even encourages a society to blame the poor for their suffering (Passas 2000). And, because people are responsible for their own fate as individuals, neoliberalism further entails that a state should not interfere with this process since doing so would be counterintuitive to the basic premise that only merit should determine success (Amable 2011). As Thatcher once said about the role of the state, "There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families…there's no such thing as entitlement" (Keay 1987:8-10).

As a result of this focus on the individual and the dismissal of society, neoliberalism runs the risk of increasing criminality. By discharging society and by highlighting the relationship between individual success and morality, neoliberal states are in danger of losing the beneficial aspects of social control (Horsley 2010). Without proper amounts of social control, Hirschi (1969) has argued, individuals are more likely to act on their self-interest and to behave in a criminal manner. Considering that neoliberalism insists on individualization and self-interest, it makes since that those living under neoliberal regimes may have fewer reasons not to act criminally. As Engels wrote during the early days of capitalism, this market-based philosophy threatens to create people who care for nothing but self-interest and advancement (Lea 1996). This mindset, he continued, would result in many people settling interpersonal differences with violence. In this sense, then, neoliberalism can be seen as indirectly contributing to interpersonal violence by acting through the neoliberal process of individualization.

In an attempt to more clearly examine the interconnections between neoliberalism, individualism, and interpersonal violence, consider the case of France. Although this country has been more hesitant about adopting neoliberalism than other Western states, the policies of this ideology have been creeping in since the mid-1980s. Bourdieu (1992) claims that ever since the arrival of neoliberalism, France has become less concerned with the social welfare of its citizens and it has become more concerned with economic matters. It is likely that this slow shift away from the welfare state has had an impact on the French people. Hofstede (2001) found, for instance, that France scores relatively high on the individualistic index compared to other nations. This means that the French are generally more concerned with themselves and with their direct families than they are with belonging to a collective group. And, since the enactment of neoliberal policies, the violent crime rate in France has amplified. Fougère, Kramarz, and Pouget (2009) note, for example, that violent crime increased dramatically in that country from 1990-2000. Considering Hirschi's focus on the importance of social control on deterring crime, it seems quite possible that the introduction of pro-individualistic neoliberal policies may have contributed to France's growing violent crime problem.

As is evidenced by the French example, there may very well be a link between neoliberalism, individualism, and interpersonal violence. By focusing so strongly on the individual and by disregarding the importance of community (Peters 2001; Brown 2003), neoliberalism increases the importance of individuality while decreasing the importance of society (Amable 2011). This obsession with the individual, research indicates, can result in a loss of social control and, as a result, a potential for violence (Hirschi 1969). In support of this contention, Horsley (2010:20) writes that "neo-liberalism may not directly cause criminality and violence…but its consequences certainly create the circumstances in which crime rates are more likely to rise." Undoubtedly, in addition to individualism, one of the primary consequences of neoliberalism is inequality. The interaction between inequality and individualization suggests that the non-elite may feel aggressive and frustrated with their social position and may experience too little social control to contain these feelings. With many of the social bonds that had previously discouraged violence gone, alienated individuals may be more apt to respond to stress with violence.

The Deregulation Ethic and the Conscience of Capitalism How the Neoliberal 'Free Market' Model Undermines Rationality and Moral Conduct

Over the last few decades there have been a multitude of critical works focusing on the ethical and moral implications of the (re)turn to 'free markets' associated with neoliberalism. Many focus on the way in which the culture of the latter, with its lionisation of self-interest, promotes selfishness and greed and, thus, represents a corrosive influence on social mores. This piece, while fully accepting such arguments, further asserts that the push for increasing deregulation of the economic sphere, the concomitant move to divert the latter of wider social responsibilities, as well as rising inequalities of wealth, power and influence, taken together exert a further significant, but hitherto under acknowledged influence, exacerbating the asserted 'irrationality' and amorality of the neoliberal credo. Drawing on a range of sources, including new understandings of the individual emerging from the fledgling area of neurosociology, it is argued that all of the aforementioned aspects of neoliberalism coalesce to undermine the rationality, propriety and empathy of its adherents. In some senses, as is argued, this represents an antithesis to the Weberian vision of rational capitalism as imagined in the 'Protestant Ethic'.

Embodying the Sexual Limits of Neoliberalism by Sealing Cheng

Gender, Justice, and Neoliberal Transformations

I begin this article by reflecting on one of the biggest professional mistakes I have ever made. I became a part of corporate humanitarianism in 2006, when IOM Korea invited me to be part of a research project on trafficking of Korean women overseas, sponsored by the Bom-bit Foundation, an NGO set up by the wife of the CEO of the biggest insurance company in South Korea. She had been concerned about the barrage of news reports that were circulating both in and out of Korea about the trafficking of Korean women into forced prostitution overseas. She wanted a global research project, "Korean women victims of sex trafficking in five global sites": South Korea, Japan, Australia, and the East and West Coasts of the United States. The ultimate goal was to find solutions to end such outflow and to save these women. The principal researcher, a male Korean academic, drafted a survey questionnaire laden with assumptions about coercion, violence, and sexual abuse. Even though the final reports from different sites came back with little evidence of trafficking, they did not prevent the principal investigator from producing a final report about the "serious problem of sex trafficking of Korean women into the global sex trade."

The first woman who I interviewed for this project was working in a massage parlor in Queens, New York. She came to the United States after the Korean police cracked down on her in her home, after they had obtained her address from her employer in Seoul in an antiprostitution raid. She explained her work in the United States:

Jin: Some people only come in for table showers, massage, and chats.
Interviewer: Are they the good clients?
Jin: No, they are not.
Interviewer: So who are the good clients?
Jin: Those people who finish quickly, they are the good ones. Those who have shower and then have sex and go. They are the best.

This response exploded the entire premise of the research and its assumptions about the inherently victimizing nature of sexual labor for women. Those who demand sex rather than conversations are the good clients-if they finish quickly, get themselves cleaned before having sex, and leave immediately after sex. Jin situated sex squarely within a repertoire of labor performance, along with other physical and emotional work, and identified sex as more efficient ("quick") in providing return to her labor. She made between $11,000 and $22,000 per month. On that note, let me move on to some important points in the discussion about gender and neoliberalism within the context of South Korea.

Neoliberalism is useful as a term only to the extent of understanding macro-historical shifts and setting a framework for investigation. But its history, manifestation, and effects can be so diverse in each location that it cannot be a useful analytical category without empirical analysis. For example, contrary to the trend of de-democratization[1] observed in the United States, in South Korea, neoliberal reforms coincided with the democratization of civil society and the state in late 1990s, following four decades of military and authoritarian rule. In 1997, just when the first civilian democratic leader Kim Dae-jung became president, South Korea went through a major financial crisis and received the largest IMF bailout. The president supported a new wave of civic/human-rights organizations, set up the first National Human Rights Commission, and founded the Ministry of Gender Equality. During the same period, structural readjustment also ensured the flexibilization of labor and the weakening of trade unions, rendering many lives of more precarious as they became underemployed or unemployed.

In my work, I am grappling with how individuals like Jin live and make sense of their lives within a number of paradoxes/contradictions in neoliberalism:

1) The apparent amorality of neoliberalism and its facilitation of conservative moral agenda. The deployment of market principles to reconfigure the relationship between sovereignty and citizenship not only remakes economic, political, and cultural life, but also remakes citizen-subjects as entrepreneurs and consumers. While market competitiveness is idealized as the engine to advancement for all, labor competition is circumscribed for particular groups (e.g., through a household registration system that prevent migrants from accessing certain jobs, rights, and benefits in China) and in specific ways (e.g., only certain sectors of the labor market are considered legitimate-not sex work or surrogacy, for example). The discourse of national competitiveness and collective welfare pushes forward a conservative moral agenda in the face of these changes.

2) The depoliticization of social risks and the hyperpoliticization of national security. The emergence of an ethics of self-management and risk-taking justifies some form of retrenchment of the state in the social sphere. Yet this by no means suggests a weakening of the state. What we witness in neoliberal transformations is the assertion of the state through more hard-lined enforcement of criminal justice and border control. The consequence is an uneven emphasis on and legitimation of the self-enterprising individual, invoking national crisis, social danger, and self-harm to justify state intervention or exclusion. These measures have significant gendered repercussions-reshaping discourses on domesticity, sexuality, and mobility.

3) The concomitant and continuous ravaging of vulnerable populations and celebration of humanitarianism/human rights responses from state and civil society. Neoliberal developments create vulnerable populations by polarizing resources and wealth, and concomitantly generate a set of humanitarian/human rights responses from the state and civil society. Rather than being a set of problems that are being held back or eliminated by a set of solutions, they seem to grow symbiotically together. In effect, many humanitarian/human-rights interventions turn out to reiterate dominant interests, reproducing conservative gender, racial, class, and national hierarchies and divides.

How are these contradictions lived? Maybe Jin has some answers for us-not just from her personal trajectory, but also in what she said:

I am working hard and making money for myself. I am saving money to start my own business back home/to further study. I am not dependent on the government or my family. I am not harming anyone, even though this is not a job to boast about. I don't understand these women's human rights. These activists don't understand us. They are people from good background. I am not saying the antiprostitution laws are wrong. But do they have to go so far?

My research since 1997 on sex work and migrant women in South Korea and the United States is located right at the intersection of these paradoxes. As women who strategize their immigration and labor strategies for self-advancement as sex workers, they embody the sexual limits of neoliberalism. While they may personify the values of self-reliance, self-governance, and free markets in a manner akin to homo economicus, they violate the neoliberal ideals of relational sexuality and middle-class femininity.[2] As many critics have attested to, even though the antitrafficking movement hails women's human rights, gender justice, and state protection, its operation predominantly through the crime frame reinforces gender, class, and racial inequalities. As such, antitrafficking initiatives, as they have taken shape in the twenty-first century, are part of neoliberal governance, and underlying the claims of equality and liberty are racial, gender, and sex panics with nationalist overtones that justify the repression of those who step outside these limits.

I think antitrafficking initiatives need to be situated within a broader set of political and social transformations in order to analyze the undercurrents of gender and sexuality across different sites. In South Korea, there was a strong gender and sexual ideology pervading the expansion of social policies in the post-1997 era. While the government could claim credit for addressing the needs of certain vulnerable populations (the unemployed, the homeless, migrant wives, women leaving prostitution, etc.), public anxieties about the breakdown of the family (runaway teenagers, old-age divorce, the fight for women's equality) that started during the 1997 crisis have continued into the new millennium (same-sex families, "multicultural families," single women). As national boundaries seem to have weakened with the incorporation of "multicultural families," the heteronormative nuclear family became more reified, and the domestic sphere as the proper place for women was reinscribed in a range of social policies. These include protection for "prostituted women," since 2004, and support provided to migrant wives-both policies designed to harness these women's reproductive powers for the future of the Korean nation, and to reproduce their class location.

It is also important to be wary of claims to promote "women's human rights" and how these claims are circumscribed within certain spheres-only in sex work, and not in the gendered layoffs during an economic crisis, or in relation to the homeless women who have been excluded as legitimate recipients of government support. "Women's human rights" have been hurled around to legitimize activism and policies that turned out to make lives more difficult for some women, rendering them either as targets or instruments of criminal law.

We also need to ask why the law is resorted to so consistently for women activists to make claims on the state. And why does the general public have so much faith in the law to enforce morality?

I would like to see cultural struggles become a more important site to extend into, building on a solid economic and political critique. As we witnessed i the Occupy movement, as well as with the sex worker festivals in different global locations, creativity, humor, and conviviality have a lot of power to draw attention, if not to incite solidarity. The new sex workers' organization in South Korea calls itself the Giant Girls ("GG" also means "support" in Korean), and organizes its own seminars, holds a sex work festival celebration, and produces its own podcasts, in which everyday conversation and serious discussion take place in a light-hearted manner, often with bursts of laughter. The fists-in-air protests are no longer the main part of the movement, marking a significant departure from the victimhood discourse. I am hopeful that this will appeal at least to a younger generation of potential coalition partners in the LGBT community, labor movements (for women and migrants), and cultural movements. This could be a refreshing-and possibly transformational-shift in feminist politics and critique in South Korea, and in other sites in Asia.

Footnotes
  1. Brown, Wendy (2006). "American Nightmare: Neoliberalism, Neoconservatism, and De-Democratization." Political Theory 34(6): 690-714. [Return to text]
  2. Bernstein, Elizabeth (2012). "Carceral Politics as Gender Justice? The 'Traffic in Women'

The Higher Immorality

Excerpts from the book The Power Elite by C.Wright Mills Oxford Press, 1956

The higher immorality can neither be narrowed to the political sphere nor understood as primarily a matter of corrupt men in fundamentally sound institutions. Political corruption is one aspect of a more general immorality; the level of moral sensibility that now prevails is not merely a matter of corrupt men. The higher immorality is a systematic feature of the American elite; its general acceptance is an essential feature of the mass society.

Of course, there may be corrupt men in sound institutions, but when institutions are corrupting, many of the men who live and work in them are necessarily corrupted. In the corporate era, economic relations become impersonal-and the executive feels less personal responsibility. Within the corporate worlds of business, war-making and politics, the private conscience is attenuated-and the higher immorality is institutionalized. It is not merely a question of a corrupt administration in corporation, army, or state; it is a feature of the corporate rich, as a capitalist stratum, deeply intertwined with the politics of the military state.

***

There is still one old American value that has not markedly declined: the value of money and of the things money can buy-these, even in inflated times, seem as solid and enduring as stainless steel. 'I've been rich and I've been poor,' Sophie Tucker has said, 'and believe me, rich is best.' As many other values are weakened, the question for Americans becomes not Is there anything that money, used with intelligence, will not buy?' but, 'How many of the things that money will not buy are valued and desired more than what money will buy?' Money is the one unambiguous criterion of success, and such success is still the sovereign American value.

Whenever the standards of the moneyed life prevail, the man with money, no matter how he got it, will eventually be respected. A million dollars, it is said, covers a multitude of sins. It is not only that men want money; it is that their very standards are pecuniary. In a society in which the money-maker has had no serious rival for repute and honor, the word 'practical' comes to mean useful for private gain, and 'common sense,' the sense to get ahead financially. The pursuit of the moneyed life is the commanding value, in relation to which the influence of other values has declined, so men easily become morally ruthless in the pursuit of easy money and fast estate-building.

A great deal of corruption is simply a part of the old effort to get rich and then to become richer. But today the context in which the old drive must operate has changed. When both economic and political institutions were small and scattered-as in the simpler models of classical economics and Jeffersonian democracy-no man had it in his power to bestow or to receive great favors. But when political institutions and economic opportunities are at once concentrated and linked, then public office can be used for private gain.

Governmental agencies contain no more of the higher immorality than do business corporations. Political men can grant financial favors only when there are economic men ready and willing to take them. And economic men can seek political favors only when there are political agents who can bestow such favors. The publicity spotlight, of course, shines brighter upon the transactions of the men in government, for which there is good reason. Expectations being higher, publics are more easily disappointed by public officials. Businessmen are supposed to be out for themselves, and if they successfully skate on legally thin ice, Americans generally honor them for having gotten away with it. But in a civilization so thoroughly business-penetrated as America, the rules of business are carried over into government-especially when so many businessmen have gone into government. How many executives would really fight for a law requiring a careful and public accounting of all executive contracts and 'expense accounts'? High income taxes have resulted in a network of collusion between big firm and higher employee. There are many ingenious ways to cheat the spirit of the tax laws, as we have seen, and the standards of consumption of many high-priced men are determined more by complicated expense accounts than by simple take-home pay. Like prohibition, the laws of income taxes and the regulations of wartime exist without the support of firm business convention. It is merely illegal to cheat them, but it is smart to get away with it. Laws without supporting moral conventions invite crime, but much more importantly, they spur the growth of an expedient, amoral attitude.

A society that is in its higher circles and on its middle levels widely believed to be a network of smart rackets does not produce men with an inner moral sense; a society that is merely expedient does not produce men of conscience. A society that narrows the meaning of 'success' to the big money and in its terms condemns failure as the chief vice, raising money to the plane of absolute value, will produce the sharp operator and the shady deal. Blessed are the cynical, for only they have what it takes to succeed.

***

It is the proud claim of the higher circles in America that their members are entirely self-made. That is their self-image and their well-publicized myth. Popular proof of this is based on anecdotes its scholarly proof is supposed to rest upon statistical rituals whereby it is shown that varying proportions of the men at the top are sons of men of lower rank. We have already seen the proportions of given elite circles composed of the men who have risen. But what is more important than the proportions of the sons of wage workers among these higher circles is the criteria of admission to them, and the question of who applies these criteria. We cannot from upward mobility infer higher merit. Even if the rough figures that now generally hold were reversed, and 90 per cent of the elite were sons of wage workers-but the criteria of co-optation by the elite remained what they now are-we could not from that mobility necessarily infer merit. Only if the criteria of the top positions were meritorious, and only if they were self-applied, as in a purely entrepreneurial manner, could we smuggle merit into such statistics-from any statistics-of mobility. The idea that the self-made man is somehow 'good' and that the family-made man is not good makes moral sense only when the career is independent, when one is on one's own as an entrepreneur. It would also make sense in a strict bureaucracy where examinations control advancement. It makes little sense in the system of corporate co-optation.

There is, in psychological fact, no such thing as a self-made man. No man makes himself, least of all the members of the American elite. In a world of corporate hierarchies, men are selected by those above them in the hierarchy in accordance with whatever criteria they use. In connection with the corporations of America, we have seen the current criteria. Men shape themselves to fit them, and are thus made by the criteria, the social premiums that prevail. If there is no such thing as a self-made man, there is such a thing as a self-used man, and there are many such men among the American elite.

Under such conditions of success, there is no virtue in starting out poor and becoming rich. Only where the ways of becoming rich are such as to require virtue or to lead to virtue does personal enrichment imply virtue. In a system of co-optation from above, whether you began rich or poor seems less relevant in revealing what kind of man you are when you have arrived than in revealing the principles of those in charge of selecting the ones who succeed.

All this is sensed by enough people below the higher circles to lead to cynical views of the lack of connection between merit and mobility, between virtue and success. It is a sense of the immorality of accomplishment, and it is revealed in the prevalence of such views as: 'it's all just another racket,' and 'it's not what you know but who you know.' Considerable numbers of people now accept the immorality of accomplishment as a going fact

***

Moral distrust of the American elite-as well as the fact of organized irresponsibility-rests upon the higher immorality, but also upon vague feelings about the higher ignorance. Once upon a time in the United States, men of affairs were also men of sensibility: to a considerable extent the elite of power and the elite of culture coincided, and where they did not coincide they often overlapped as circles. Within the compass of a knowledgeable and effective public, knowledge and power were in effective touch; and more than that, this public decided much that was decided.

'Nothing is more revealing,' James Reston has written, 'than to read the debate in the House of Representatives in the Eighteen Thirties on Greece's fight with Turkey for independence and the Greek-Turkish debate in the Congress in 1947. The first is dignified and eloquent, the argument marching from principle through illustration to conclusion; the second is a dreary garble of debating points, full of irrelevancies and bad history. George Washington in 1783 relaxed with Voltaire's 'letters' and Locke's 'On Human Understanding'; Eisenhower read cowboy tales and detective stories. For such men as now typically arrive in the higher political, economic and military circles, the briefing and the memorandum seem to have pretty well replaced not only the serious book, but the newspaper as well. Given the immorality of accomplishment, this is perhaps as it must be, but what is somewhat disconcerting about it is that they are below the level on which they might feel a little bit ashamed of the uncultivated style of their relaxation and of their mental fare, and that no self-cultivated public is in a position by its reactions to educate them to such uneasiness.

By the middle of the twentieth century, the American elite have become an entirely different breed of men from those who could on any reasonable grounds be considered a cultural elite, or even for that matter cultivated men of sensibility. Knowledge and power are not truly united inside the ruling circles; and when men of knowledge do come in contact with the circles of powerful men, they come not as peers but as hired men. The elite of power, wealth, and celebrity do not have even a passing acquaintance with the elite of culture, knowledge and sensibility; they are not in touch with them-although the ostentatious fringes of the two worlds sometimes overlap in the world of the celebrity.

Most men are encouraged to assume that, in general, the most powerful and the wealthiest are also the most knowledgeable or, as they might say, 'the smartest.' Such ideas are propped up by many little slogans about those who 'teach because they can't do,' and about 'if you're so smart, why aren't you rich?' But all that such wisecracks mean is that those who use them assume that power and wealth are sovereign values for all men and especially for men 'who are smart.' They assume also that knowledge always pays off in such ways, or surely ought to, and that the test of genuine knowledge is just such pay-offs. The powerful and the wealthy must be the men of most knowledge, otherwise how could they be where they are? But to say that those who succeed to power must be 'smart,' is to say that power is knowledge. To say that those who succeed to wealth must be smart, is to say that wealth is knowledge.

The prevalence of such assumptions does reveal something that is true: that ordinary men, even today, are prone to explain and to justify power and wealth in terms of knowledge or ability. Such assumptions also reveal something of what has happened to the kind of experience that knowledge has come to be. Knowledge is t no longer widely felt as an ideal; it is seen as an instrument. In a society of power and wealth, knowledge is valued as an instrument of power and wealth, and also, of course, as an ornament in conversation.

***

The American elite is not composed of representative men whose conduct and character constitute models for American imitation and aspiration. There is no set of men with whom members of the mass public can rightfully and gladly identify. In this fundamental sense, America is indeed without leaders. Yet such is the nature of the mass public's morally cynical and politically unspecified distrust that it is readily drained off without real political effect. That this is so, after the men and events of the last thirty years, is further proof of the extreme difficulty of finding and of using in America today the political means of sanity for morally sane objectives.

America - a conservative country without any conservative ideology-appears now before the world a naked and arbitrary power, as, in the name of realism, its men of decision enforce their often crackpot definitions upon world reality. The second-rate mind is in command of the ponderously spoken platitude. In the liberal rhetoric, vagueness, and in the conservative mood, irrationality, are raised to principle. Public relations and the official secret, the trivializing campaign and the terrible fact clumsily accomplished, are replacing the reasoned debate of political ideas in the privately incorporated economy, the military ascendancy, and the political vacuum of modern America.

The men of the higher circles are not representative men; their high position is not a result of moral virtue; their fabulous success is not firmly connected with meritorious ability. Those who sit in the seats of the high and the mighty are selected and formed by the means of power, the sources of wealth, the mechanics of celebrity, which prevail in their society. They are not men selected and formed by a civil service that is linked with the world of knowledge and sensibility. They are not men shaped by nationally responsible parties that debate openly and clearly the issues this nation now so unintelligently confronts. They are not men held in responsible check by a plurality of voluntary associations which connect debating publics with the pinnacles of decision. Commanders of power unequaled in human history, they have succeeded within the American system of organized irresponsibility.

Gangster Capitalism: The United States and the Globalization of Organized Crime (Paperback)

Important book:

Customer Reviews

A very timely book, November 16, 2008 Joseph Oppenheim (San Diego, CA USA) - See all my reviews

What makes "Gangster Capitalism" so worthwhile is that it helps in understanding what has led us to the 2007-8 financial meltdown. As the book shows, like during the 1920's, deregulation led the way for powerful companies to allow the very wealthy to get wealthier at the expense of average people by using poor working conditions, low wages, etc, plus at the same time supporting supposedly moral movements (against gambling, alcohol, drugs, etc) which mainly served the purpose of making these trades more profitable to crooks and therefore created rampant gangsterism there. The result was such a society wracked with gangsterism at all levels, but because most people felt they were prospering, few complained.

But, then it all collapsed with the 1929 crash and resulting Depression, which led the way for FDR and the New Deal programs which increased regulation of corporations, repeal of Prohibition, etc. Though the Depression lingered until WWII, the New Deal was successful in restructuring our laws and public infrastructure to create a better footing for the prosperity which would follow.

The book effectively traces how much of this regulation was reduced piece by piece, beginning in earnest with Nixon, using Cold War fears to tilt the nation toward more corporate power and away from reform, support of right-wing dictators around the world, re-energizing a 'moral crusade' especially by beginning the War on Drugs, thereby making the illegal drug trade super profitable, etc.

The nation had shifted Right and even Democratic presidents like Carter who was instrumental in deregulating industry and Clinton who signed into law the repeal of Glass--Steagle weren't able to stop the shift. Then, the 'Gangster Capitalism" went on steroids with G. W. Bush. By 2003, corporate taxes only amounted to 7% of revenues, while payroll taxes amounted to 40%.

Of note, the book makes clear it is opportunity which leads to much crime, so the approach of massive deregulation of corporations, plus focusing on arrests and imprisonment for victimless crimes ends up with the wrong results, more entrenched crime, even allowing corporations to capitalize on a prison industry.

The book is also good at highlighting how corporations and outright gangsters were able to corrupt legal drugs (price-fixing), tobacco, asbestos, body parts, autos (Pintos), etc. Some other things in the book, of note: Hamid Karzai included drug traffickers in his Afghan administration.

And, our support of Suharto (Indonesia), Mobuto (the Congo), and Marcos (the Philippines) allowed 'looting' of these countries.

A corrupt financial infrastructure included the BCCI bank and offshore banking to evade taxes also developed. Plus, laundering money from illegal arms sales, drugs, and so many other illegal activities passed through our financial system.

The book is definitely tilted toward a liberal way of looking at things, therefore it doesn't go into the good things about capitalism, but there are disturbing patterns which are important to understand, and this book does that very well.

Wasted opportunity, September 6, 2006

By James R. Maclean (Seattle, WA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
Despite the fact that I was predisposed to agree with many of the author's views, this book was a huge disappointment. First, the basic premises:
  1. American business enterprise is singularly corrupt;
  2. Most of the crime that Americans suffer from is corporate crime;
  3. American methods of fighting crime focus on lurid fantasies of underworld conspiracy;
  4. The USA exports criminality through its foreign & trade policies.

Each of these premises could have been, and in other venues have been, well-argued. The first three suffer from a lack of generally accepted, objective measures, but experts on criminology have overcome worse obstacles. What we get instead is an unfocused, rambling listing of claims (plausible, but very poorly documented) about the criminal underworld, anecdotes about corporate crime, and extreme statements. No doubt "legitimate" business enterprise does rip off more money from customers each year than do gangsters or mafiosi; but the latter also account for a tiny fraction of the total US labor force. And comparing deaths from industrial accidents to mob hits is just over the top.

Woodiwiss says that the book "had its inception during a seminar series on transnational organized crime run by Adam Edwards and Peter Gill... Adam and Peter put together several of the best academic researchers from Europe and North America...." Yet the book is exasperatingly badly substantiated. I noticed almost no original research. Woodiwiss's footnotes, which--like cops--are never around when you need them (viz., when he is actually saying something that requires documentation), are almost exclusively from articles in the *Guardian* or from other sensational exposes. Radical literature has its place, of course, but saying, "US capitalism is just like organized crime... see, it says so in 'The New Left Review'" is just a harangue, not evidence.

The back cover declaims: "..[T]he position of large multinational corporations...actually provide the most enticing opportunities for illegal profit...Gangster Capitalism shows how respectable businessmen and revered statesmen have seized these opportunities in an orgy of fraud and illegal violence that would leave the most hardened mafiosi speechless."

In fact, it's a disappointing pile of clippings. With the exception of his claims--again, plausible but unsubstantiated--you are not going to find any surprises here.

As I mentioned, he attacks conventional wisdom regarding the mafia and J. Edgar Hoover (who comes off surprisingly well); unfortunately, Woodiwiss offers almost no support for those contentions that are likely to be controversial. For example, on p.78 he mentions President [Nixon]'s Advisory Council on Executive Organization, "Organized Crime Strike Force Report" [1969], which included a vaguely worded remark that the reliance on legal sanctions to fight drug abuse was actually causing organized crime to flourish." This is footnoted. Then he says that Nixon was so horrified by this that he ruthlessly suppressed the report. This is not footnoted. The next pargagraph (p.49) includes a quote from a law enforcement officer claiming that gambling arrests were made just to pad the arrest numbers; this is footnoted. The next paragraph declares that gampling is no more corrupt than the rest of the economy. A surprising observation, it is predictibly not footnoted.


The result: lots of footnotes documenting that water is a bit on the damp side, but nothing to support the controversial stuff. Only a small part is devoted to crime; the rest is a paste-up job from two dozen radical critiques of the USA. Anything from the 1971 ditching of the gold exchange standard to the various covert activities of the CIA are brought up, with no more compelling a connection to Woodiwiss' original point than being bad things that Americans did.

The conclusions are so insipid (it calls for "fair trade" with no further specification of how that would be any different... capital punishment for corporations--evidently Mr. Woodiwiss has never heard of 'money laundering,' in which a vehicle corporation commits suicide), that it is pointless to spend any time on them. Woodiwiss needs to actually learn something about economics; ironically enough, for someone who claims business is closely tied to crime, he knows almost nothing about it. He needs to know, and say what he knows, about law enforcement and business practices abroad, so he can make a comparison. And finally, he needs to actually learn how to write.


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Old News ;-)

'Markets Erode Moral Values' by Mark Thoma

May 10, 2013
Trying to figure out what to make of this:
Markets erode moral values, EurekAlert: Researchers from the Universities of Bamberg and Bonn present causal evidence on how markets affect moral values
Many people express objections against child labor, exploitation of the workforce or meat production involving cruelty against animals. At the same time, however, people ignore their own moral standards when acting as market participants, searching for the cheapest electronics, fashion or food. Thus, markets reduce moral concerns. This is the main result of an experiment conducted by economists from the Universities of Bonn and Bamberg. The results are presented in the latest issue of the renowned journal "Science".
Prof. Dr. Armin Falk from the University of Bonn and Prof. Dr. Nora Szech from the University of Bamberg, both economists, have shown in an experiment that markets erode moral concerns. In comparison to non-market decisions, moral standards are significantly lower if people participate in markets. ...

Details here.

Peter K. said...

"The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural superiors", and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment". It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom - Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation."

"The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind."

legion said...

Well, it's not an unreasonable hypothesis to start from. I fell pretty sure nobody would (or at the very least, nobody would _admit_ that they would) directly abuse children for 20% off on a pair of shoes. But put those shoes on the sale rack at Macy's, and people will absolutely not ask questions. The market interaction - buying the product of abuse rather than performing the abuse directly - allows people to place a psychological buffer between their morals and their actions.

Rob said...

This is obviously true. I own many stocks of companies that employ business practices that I'm adamantly opposed to. I buy products made by underpaid people working in deplorable conditions because hey, what can I do to change things? These giant companies have millions of customers. If I pay 2 or 3 or 4 times as much for the same thing made by companies who support my values, maybe I'll feel a little better about myself, but those bad companies are still selling to millions of others, and the net result is that my choice means next-to-nothing to them or to those hurt by their bad practices, but paying so much more for the items that I buy has a significant effect on me personally.

In addition, it doesn't hurt that the "bad" companies I'm talking about aren't local to me. I don't know the people they exploit, I'll never meet them, and so there is no palpable shame to be felt.

We don't live in villages anymore. And unions are all but extinct. And most organized public action seems to be about "me me me!"

EC said...

Duh. And the more large-scale the market, the more this is true. The critics of globalization have this on their side, at least. The counter is that the efficiency markets allow and encourage creates enough upside to offset this downside.

Of course, other forms of social organization have their problems as well, and market pressure tends to mitigate also against bad forms of moral judgment--like racism, etc.

Sandwichman said...

But, but... the invisible hand!

Min said in reply to Sandwichman...

Now we know what the invisible hand is doing.

Carter said...

No surprise here. We would like to think there are laws prohibiting the worst abuses so that we can go along and buy and invest knowing that companies must meet some minimum standard. But that is not the case. If the price is low, chances are that someone in that supply chain did something bad.

We deplore human rights or other kinds of abuses, but tell ourselves we just can't afford anything more expensive.

A major hurdle to investing and buying ethically is the question of how to find out if this or that item was made ethically. It would consume all of our time to research every purchase.

cm said in reply to Carter...

Price is not a reliable signal. While in most cases not cutting corners puts a floor under how much one can compete on price, prices seem to be quite a bit a matter of positioning and marketing than just an expression of the bare cost of making the product.

Many companies are selling differently-branded versions of essentially the same product at different prices, or they buy out makers in the same categories and maintain the old brand names to maintain the illusion of previous consumer choices. This is basic price discrimination to capture more profit. Perhaps the higher priced versions are a bit better finished or come with fancier packaging or extra accessories thrown in to make the higher price more palatable, but the inputs and likely the core product come from the same source. OTOH, as production is more and more automated and manufacturing logistics become more geographically fungible, it becomes ever more difficult to figure out where products and certainly ingredients are made as even the same brand/model can be made on similar production lines but in different places.

Second Best said...

Markets stopped eroding morals every since both were made separate but equal under the model of perfect competition.

Min said...

Few humans are Kantian to the degree that they feel great responsibility towards people they have no direct contact with. I was struck in college by the example of a pilot in Viet Nam dropping napalm bombs on villagers below, who said, "They look like ants." Markets are impersonal mechanisms. As such, they reduce the sense of responsibility.

The Kantian resists the argument, "If I don't somebody else will." Kantians reply, "If nobody should, I shouldn't either." There are also those who take the Old Testament view that a certain evil may be inevitable, but woe to him who commits that evil.

Homo economicus takes the view that the evil that others do is their concern. If I can profit from their evil, so much the better.

Then there are those who take the view that every deed has good and evil aspects. As does every inaction. Make your choices.

anne said in reply to Min...

Few humans are Kantian to the degree that they feel great responsibility towards people they have no direct contact with. I was struck in college by the example of a pilot in Viet Nam dropping napalm bombs on villagers below, who said, "They look like ants." Markets are impersonal mechanisms. As such, they reduce the sense of responsibility.

The Kantian resists the argument, "If I don't somebody else will." Kantians reply, "If nobody should, I shouldn't either."

[ Nice. ]

anne said in reply to Min...

Western economic theorists from my perspective are afraid to think in Kantian terms, feeling comfortable with Bentham and "utility." Who knows where Kant might lead as a foundation to economics?

john c. halasz said in reply to anne...

Umm...Kant was a deontologist in ethics, but a utilitarian in politics. "Treat no man as just a means to an end, but *also* as an end in himself."

anne said in reply to john c. halasz...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deontological_ethics

Deontological ethics or deontology (from Greek deon, "obligation, duty"; and -logia) is the normative ethical position that judges the morality of an action based on the action's adherence to a rule or rules.

Matt Young said...

Specialization trumps fake moralism.

squidward said...

So would this mean that a cap and trade carbon market (being a market) would partial negate a moral imperative to thwart carbon emissions that could cause suffering?

anne said in reply to squidward...

So would this mean that a cap and trade carbon market (being a market) would partial negate a moral imperative to thwart carbon emissions that could cause suffering?

[ Interestingly, James Hansen has argued just this point, and the cap and trade carbon market in Europe appears to be failing:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/opinion/07hansen.html

December 7, 2009

Cap and Fade
By JAMES HANSEN ]

anne said in reply to squidward...

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/07/opinion/europes-carbon-trading-system.html

May 6, 2013

A Carbon Trading System Worth Saving

The European Union became a pioneer in tackling climate change by starting the first major cap-and-trade system designed to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by putting a price on them. But analysts are increasingly worried that technical mistakes, Europe's prolonged recession and the failure of policy makers to strengthen the system is undermining its effectiveness.... *

* http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/22/business/energy-environment/europes-carbon-market-is-sputtering-as-prices-dive.html

Addicted said in reply to squidward...

OTOH, the moral argument hasn't gotten us anywhere so far. I guess the point is to use the market (despite it destroying the moral imperative) to still reduce our carbon output.

BC said...

Competitive markets for profits, capital and resource accumulation, and status, as in war and romantic coupling and reproduction, are determined by an "amoral" code of conduct; therefore, standard "right" and "wrong" do not apply.

Elevate "amoral" ethics and outcomes to the level of ideal type and top-down social normative conditioning and rationalization for outcomes, and you have a winner-take-all system in which the third- and fourth-order Pareto distribution effects reward the top 0.1-1% "winners" with 40-50% of all gains at the expense of the bottom 90% "losers", with the middle 9% rewarded by the top 0.1-1% to keep the system of hierachical flows and power relations just they way it is.

Empires and civilizations eventually collapse as a result of such unsustainable distribution of resources and concentration of wealth, income, and political power.

Seen another way, in the US, it requires half of income and 85% of financial wealth going to the top 10% of households to keep the system going as it is. And some describe the bottom 50%, who receive no more than one-third of US income and have next to no financial wealth, as "takers".

bakho said...

One more reason why we need regulations.

Otherwise we get the race to the bottom.

hix said...

Geez. What a dumb experiment. Who does not eat meat? There are far to many experimintal labs in Germany, about time to take away those toys from economists and psychologists.

hix said in reply to anne...

Fair enough. Still a rather unethical experiment that produces no usefull results and in particular not the result the headline suggests. Emotional inhibitions are no moral values.

anne said in reply to hix...

"Emotional inhibitions are no moral values."

An important comment.

Alex Blaze said in reply to hix...

How do you arrive at the conclusion that it's an unethical experiment? The mice were going to all be killed if there was no experiment. So fewer were killed.

Unless you think the people running the experiment should have tried to save all the mice. Or that they should stop the process that puts these mice on death row.

Or that the market in which medical research operates produces unethical research.

Doesn't seem that useless to me, this research.

hapa said...

so it sounds like people would kill the mice more often, for the same amount of money, when it involved trading, than when it involved a flat payment?

hapa said in reply to hapa...

literally, mouse futures.

the next one to find out is whether a multilateral market with a mouse advocate participating bolstered the moral fiber.

hapa said in reply to hapa...

http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/05/of-mice-and-markets/

"Rather than creating a market that set a price on a mouse's life, however, the mice were largely treated as externalities. Externalities are consequences of economic activity that don't directly affect either the buyer or seller, and aren't priced in to any transactions-examples might include the health consequences of sweatshop working conditions or burning coal to produce electricity. In this case, the mice themselves became an externality. If the participants could broker a deal involving cash, a mouse would be killed. If the deal didn't go through, the mouse was kept until it died a natural death.

"So, participants were given a picture of a typical research mouse then had a video of the approved euthanasia procedure shown to them. Next, they were set loose to negotiate a deal.

"To establish a baseline for how much people valued lab mice, the authors offered a simple choice: would you accept €10 (roughly $13) if it meant that the mouse would die? About 45 percent of the participants were willing to go ahead with that deal. If participants were asked to find a price at which they'd be willing to allow the mouse to be killed, about 43 percent accepted a price that was €10 or under. So, this gave the researchers some sense of how much people value saving a mouse's life.

"That is, until they started trading. In a simple market, a buyer was given €20 ($26), and asked to negotiate an acceptable exchange with a seller. If the two couldn't agree on a fair split, neither of them got any money, but the mouse got to live. In a multilateral market, the researchers put seven buyers together with nine sellers. The researchers gave them all constant updates of the average current price being negotiated and when deals went through.

"Suddenly, the mice weren't worth as much. In the paired buyer/seller situation, 73 percent of the pairs reached a deal worth less than €10 for the seller. And, in the multilateral setup, 76 percent of the mice ended up dead for a price less than €10. To reach an equivalent percent of people willing to see a mouse die in the "choose your price" control, it would have taken a value of about €50 ($65). In contrast, the average price of a deal in the multilateral situation as only about €5 ($6.50).

"In the multilateral market, the price of a deal actually went down over the course of negotiations, as sellers became more and more interested in coming away with any money. Bizarrely, in a control experiment involving a gift certificate, the price stayed constant throughout the negotiations."

hapa said in reply to hapa...

i'm turning this next paragraph into an ordered list:

"How can a marketplace have such a profound effect on people's decisions? The authors note that there are a number of factors likely at play.

"1) To begin with, it takes two people to agree to a deal that ends up with a dead mouse, and that may be viewed as distributing the responsibility to an extent.

"2) The mere existence of a market structure also helps normalize the decision in people's minds, suggesting that the situation is socially acceptable.

"3) Finally, the structure of a market displaces people's reasoning, shifting it from the life or death of a mouse to a competition over the particulars of a deal and awareness of the deals that others are cutting."

hapa said in reply to hapa...

the spam filter apparently does not want me to talk about how different the spread of 'fair' results is from a regular rich-world ultimatum game, and how i think the buyer's moral compass gets wrecked by starting from a position of relative overpayment for his/her 'crime.'

with giant implications for VENDORS in industrial economies, i wonder if 'buyers' in this game refuse to trade fairly with sellers on the grounds that trading down to the minimum price for themselves makes them feel like cheap murdering bastards.

hapa said in reply to hapa...

in all seriousness,

is there a spiral where stakeholders in a toxic industry will only do the work for a higher price, and then refuse to ~leave~ the industry because working elsewhere would be pay cut?

Memory said...


Hirschman: "Rival Views of Market Society." Supplement with "The Passions and the Interests."

This will give you a basic intellectual history of this concept, pitched slow for economists.

GeorgeK said...

I've been involved in Organics since the 80's, selling a premium product to consumers who range from poor to the 1%. Organic baby food & milk are two of the products people on SNAP chose to buy.

People buy organics for three primary reasons; health, taste and environmental concerns. The industry was growing at 20+% until the financial crisis now we're at 10% which is still makes organics the fastest growing segment of the food industry. Which is counter intuitive when you have an economic situation where most people are still making daily decisions on how to spend fewer dollars.

Our customers chose not to kill the mouse for the reward of healing the planet and improving their health & well being.

Alex Blaze said in reply to GeorgeK...

How is that counterintuitive? You pointed to two reasons why people would choose organics that have nothing to do with morality: health and taste.

That some people pay more for better tasting food is hardly counterintuitive. If people were paying more for *worse* tasting food, then we'd have something to look into.

A friend of mine, for example, who doesn't give a hoot about the environment, surprised me a few months ago when he told me he only buys organic meat for his barbecues. Of course, his only motivation was taste. His choice, but it's hardly altruistic.

GeorgeK said in reply to Alex Blaze...

The study was based on saving money for the sake of saving money; like so many other have pointed out it was a BS research.

Noah Campbell said...

Yeah, when it comes to making or saving money the old moral standards tend to drop like a rock.

Trance said...

"Everybody wants cheap stuff. I'm afraid in the end this leads to a downward spiral that we're just beginning to see the effects of. This mentality that everything has to be cheap is plain wrong. There are material and energy inputs (including human labor) into everything. They are hard to quantify, even for people in the chain of supply. Cheap means that somebody along the way is shortchanged. And they cannot be shortchanged forever, otherwise the market stops functioning."

I've been called "economic illiterate" for saying this somewhere else. But I still hold to it. And I would edit it to add "somebody or something along the way", and by "something" I mostly mean the environment. Right, air is free to breath, until the whole Amazonian forest is cut (Moais and Ahus, anyone?).

Alex Blaze said...

When people were told to pay to save a mouse, they came up with a set of preferences to compare two goods. In market conditions, the same set was not used even though the two bundles were effectively the same (the press release doesn't say explicitly, but I assume money amounts didn't change). When people change the way their preferences are expressed economically but haven't actually changed their preferences, then there's reason to believe that the assumption of completeness is not being met.

Rationality - the classical version - gets written off as tautological, but there are goods that cannot be compared, like abstract moral outcomes against consumption goods. I'm not going to pull out Reny and Jehle, but I doubt you can get through any of the proofs of optimality of market outcomes without completeness. So, unlike certain neoliberal bloggers at Slate, arguing that the market outcome doesn't maximize preferences doesn't run afoul of economic theory.

This result is intuitive, of course, and it's the reason we have/want government regulation, regulation that often goes beyond the interests of those who vote. The glib thinking some libertarians and, unfortunately, economists engage in - that if people *really* didn't want their cheap clothes to result in the deaths of 700 people in Bangladesh then they'd pay more for companies that treat workers well - assumes that markets are a one to one, monotonic mapping of people's preferences.

So it's good that empirical work is testing the applicability of this assumption, because people effectively assume it applies everywhere (or nowhere, like authoritarians do).

dave said...

Yeah, I have invested in Coca-Cola. I would never, ever drink a Coca-Cola. I happen to live in Asia and when I walk into the local mini-mart I see Coca-Cola. I see my students drinking it. So I invested. They're going to drink it anyway.

There's another type of moral issue: here in Korea some universities want to hire teachers who are Christians (there's no fair labor law thing here). So, if you needed a good job, would you lie and pretend to be a religion you don't believe in? The cost of this lie is very small, and the upside is very big.

Darryl FKA Ron said...

http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/economics/keynes/general-theory/ch12.htm

But there is one feature in particular which deserves our attention. It might have been supposed that competition between expert professionals, possessing judgment and knowledge beyond that of the average private investor, would correct the vagaries of the ignorant individual left to himself. It happens, however, that the energies and skill of the professional investor and speculator are mainly occupied otherwise. For most of these persons are, in fact, largely concerned, not with making superior long-term forecasts of the probable yield of an investment over its whole life, but with foreseeing changes in the conventional basis of valuation a short time ahead of the general public. They are concerned, not with what an investment is really worth to a man who buys it "for keeps", but with what the market will value it at, under the influence of mass psychology, three months or a year hence. Moreover, this behaviour is not the outcome of a wrong-headed propensity. It is an inevitable result of an investment market organised along the lines described. For it is not sensible to pay 25 for an investment of which you believe the prospective yield to justify a value of 30, if you also believe that the market will value it at 20 three months hence.

Thus the professional investor is forced to concern himself with the anticipation of impending changes, in the news or in the atmosphere, of the kind by which experience shows that the mass psychology of the market is most influenced. This is the inevitable result of investment markets organised with a view to so-called "liquidity". Of the maxims of orthodox finance none, surely, is more anti-social than the fetish of liquidity, the doctrine that it is a positive virtue on the part of investment institutions to concentrate their resources upon the holding of "liquid" securities. It forgets that there is no such thing as liquidity of investment for the community as a whole. The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelop our future. The actual, private object of the most skilled investment to-day is "to beat the gun", as the Americans so well express it, to outwit the crowd, and to pass the bad, or depreciating, half-crown to the other fellow.

This battle of wits to anticipate the basis of conventional valuation a few months hence, rather than the prospective yield of an investment over a long term of years, does not even require gulls amongst the public to feed the maws of the professional; - it can be played by professionals amongst themselves. Nor is it necessary that anyone should keep his simple faith in the conventional basis of valuation having any genuine long-term validity. For it is, so to speak, a game of Snap, of Old Maid, of Musical Chairs - a pastime in which he is victor who says Snap neither too soon nor too late, who passes the Old Maid to his neighbour before the game is over, who secures a chair for himself when the music stops. These games can be played with zest and enjoyment, though all the players know that it is the Old Maid which is circulating, or that when the music stops some of the players will find themselves unseated.

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to Darryl FKA Ron...

[Wanted to include the bulk of the framing, but this is the markets erode moral values money ball:]

Of the maxims of orthodox finance none, surely, is more anti-social than the fetish of liquidity, the doctrine that it is a positive virtue on the part of investment institutions to concentrate their resources upon the holding of "liquid" securities.

beezer said in reply to Darryl FKA Ron...

I know it gets old at times, but Keynes said it best when he compared this type of 'investing' to judging a beauty pageant where rather than selecting the beauty you favored, you had to guess correctly what beauty the public would favor. He nailed it.

beezer said in reply to beezer...

Keynes also on the overall effect of uncontrolled markets on societal good. I think I picked this quote up somewhere over at Brad DeLong's blog.

"Let us clear… the ground…. It is not true that individuals possess a prescriptive 'natural liberty' in their economic activities. There is no 'compact' conferring perpetual rights on those who Have or on those who Acquire. The world is not so governed from above that private and social interest always coincide. It is not so managed here below that in practice they coincide. It is not a correct deduction from the principles of economics that enlightened self-interest always operates in the public interest. Nor is it true that self-interest generally is enlightened… individuals… promot[ing] their own ends are too ignorant or too weak to attain even these. Experience does not show that… social unit[s] are always less clear-sighted than [individuals] act[ing] separately. We [must] therefore settle… on its merits… "determin[ing] what the State ought to take upon itself to direct by the public wisdom, and what it ought to leave, with as little interference as possible, to individual exertion".

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to beezer...

Yeah, I always like that Keynes quote as well. It holds up over time, especially times like these.

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to beezer...

Yeah, I have yet to read anything by Keynes that I found irreconcilable differences with or even any differences with at all once I really understood his context. I cannot say that about any living economist and not with any surety about dead ones other than Keynes. This came as a surprise to me given that the impression that I had drawn of Keynes from both his acolytes and his criticts had been less than ideal.

Keynes understood economics, but he also really understood how people conduct themselves in the real world.

John said...

I'm trying to figure out what you're trying to figure out...

It's just yet more empirical confirmation of what the Apostle Paul wrote more than 2 millenia ago:

"For _capitalism_ is a root of all kinds of evil." (1 Timothy 6:10)

In context, there's a subtlety to the effects of concern to Paul, and yes, he was writing about capitalism. The word that was translated into English (about 400 years ago) as "the love of money" in the original Koine Greek is _philarguria_ (philos = preference, affection, argyra = silver, wealth, capital) which likely meant preference for capital, or in modern English, capitalism. It's not _patharguria_, which would be obsession with wealth/capital, i.e., greed or avarice.

These subtle effects are like the nose on one's face - obvious, but strangely not directly visible. And even easier to dismiss when one reads Paul to mean greed/avarice, which is not what he was writing about.

Jesus used stronger language than did Paul. In Matthew 6, "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man ..."; and "One can't serve both God and Money."

And still, now, we imagine the U.S. is a predominantly Christian society that at the same time sees capitalism among its greatest virtues.

That, I don't get...

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to John...

That, I don't get...

[There are several names described this neurotic state: dementia praecox, schizophrenia, or just plain ol' garden variety cognitive dissonance if the patient is non-delusional and not hearing voices telling him/her to front-run retiree 401K's with short sales or layoff senior employees to cut expenses.]

sgc said...

I always thought this was what Marx meant when he talked about the "alienation of labor."

anne said in reply to sgc...

I always thought this was what Marx meant when he talked about the "alienation of labor."

[ I know, but in polite company there are things we choose not to mention. ]

cm said in reply to sgc...

Alienation of labor works both ways - the labor(ers) making a product or rendering a service becoming an anonymous commodity, and from the laborers' perspective, the purpose/output of their labor becoming disassociated from the activity itself, in a progression from serving a specific function in a comprehensible social context to performing a generic activity in exchange for pay with low visibility into the bigger picture.

cm said in reply to cm...

OTOH, I find it difficult to imagine that the laborers of pre-capitalist times were not already largely alienated from the product of their work. For example construction or mining labor was probably already a commodity thousands of years ago. The emergence of capitalism probably only changed the scale of it, as more local farming and rural labor transitioned to industrial mass production modes (factories, cottage industries).

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to sgc...

what Marx meant when he talked about the "alien nation of labor."

[Nah, that was either China or Mexico :<) ]

Across Europe, political leaders have lost the trust of their people by Will Hutton

April 6, 2013 | The Guardian

The retreat of virtue has become a plague of our times. Greed is legitimate

Jump to comments (177)

There was a time when to live a life virtuously was well understood. It embraced personal integrity, commitment to a purpose that was higher than personal gain, a degree of selflessness and even modesty. Those at the top may have got there through ruthlessness and ambition, but they understood that to lead was to set an example and that involved demonstrating better qualities than simply looking after yourself.

No more. Perhaps the greatest calamity of the conservative counter-revolution has been the energy it invested in arguing that virtue, whatever its private importance, has no public value. The paradox, the new conservatives claim, is only through the pursuit of self-interest can the economy and society work best. Responsibilities to the commonweal are to be avoided.

The retreat of virtue has become the plague of our times. Greed is legitimate; to have riches however obtained, including outrageous bonuses or avoiding tax, is the only game in town. But across the west the consequences are becoming more obvious. Politics, business and finance have become blighted to the point that they are dysfunctional, with a now huge gap in trust between the elite and the people.

The drama playing itself out in France is a classic example. François Hollande was elected president of France less than 12 months ago, promising an "exemplary" administration after the sleaze of the Sarkozy years. Then came Jérôme Cahuzac. Until four weeks ago, he was the French socialist budget minister, leading the crusade against tax avoidance. It now transpires that he himself had hidden ¤600,000 in a secret Swiss account. He has resigned, but it has triggered not just a crisis for the French president, but for the entire French political class and political system.

Already two former presidents – Chirac and Sarkozy – have been mired in charges of embezzlement and illicit campaign financing respectively. But the Cahuzac affair goes further – with illegality intertwined with hypocrisy. Already beaten into third place by the National Front in a recent byelection, Hollande's socialists now face the charge not just of incompetence and lack of political direction but of cheating and lying. Who understands the need for public virtue?

With the mainstream political right in disarray and no less compromised, the danger is that the major beneficiary will be France's National Front, riding the disillusion not just with politicians but with the entire elite. There is one rule for them, it seems, and another for ordinary people who confront austerity, declining living standards and unemployment at a 16-year high.

The extreme right's pitch is clear – France can no longer trust its leaders. It must assert its republican virtues against its own elite, foreigners, immigrants, Muslims and even the interference of Brussels. Vote National Front.

Meanwhile in Spain, the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, was recently alleged to have hidden €250,000 from the tax authorities. Now King Carlos's daughter, Cristina, faces trial over her role in her husband's allegedly nefarious business affairs. In Italy, Beppe Grillo's anti-elite Five Star Movement won nearly 30% of the vote as a protest against a political class that is corrupt from top to bottom. Grillo at least is not a quasi-fascist. Less comforting is the prospect that if he fails to get the constitutional changes he calls for, the unstable forces he has unleashed could easily manifest themselves in a much uglier form.

In these countries, what is needed are credible, clean politicians with a credible programme to take on the super-rich, restore virtue to public life and relaunch their stagnating economies. But popular opinion knows the new rules of the world of tax havens, bankers' bonuses and corporate self-interest along with the ideology that justifies them.

Today, the state is seen as ineffective and repressive. The rich have no compunction in hiding their wealth and avoiding tax because selfishness is legitimate, even indeed a moral obligation. Electorates doubt not just their politicians, but their capacity to do anything even if they were minded.

Britain is also captive to these trends. The MPs' expenses scandal may not have exhibited hypocrisy and corruption on the Cahuzac or Italian scale, but it has similar roots. Lawyer Anthony Salz (a member of the Scott Trust that owns the Observer and Guardian), in his report into the culture at Barclays, inveighed against the ethical "vacuum" of the seriously overpaid 70 top bankers over the last decade. The promotion of their own interests trumped those of the bank or even basic ethics. Centrica, custodian of the near-monopoly British Gas, felt justified in creating a bonus pool of £15m for five executives running essentially a risk-free business. Senior police officers are jailed for accepting bribes from tabloid newspapers. Disproportionately of reward, preoccupation with one's own interests and diminishing public virtue disfigure Britain, too, and into the trust gap marches populist Ukip.

We know the precepts of a fair society – a proportional relationship between reward and effort, helping each other when bad luck strikes and sharing the benefits of good luck. But this sort of society needs to be led by people who live by those virtues. Up until 50 years ago, belief in God underpinned our public morality: even if the elite behaved badly at least it knew it behaved badly. Today, we are living through the revolt of the elites as historian Christopher Lasch warned nearly 20 years ago. The moral code undergirded by Christianity and which supported fairness has been enfeebled by secularisation and the precepts of free market economics. Nor are there powerful labour movements, informed by a belief in the feasibility of socialism, to keep the elites honest.

Lasch's view was that there was only one way forward – the reaffirmation of democracy. What we need is not the democracy of the one-off referendum. We need the deep democracy of transparency and accountability, along with constitutional mechanisms and processes that hold our private and public leaders to account day by day.

In this respect, Grillo in Italy may foretell a better future – the insistence that Italian politics is completely opened up has to be right. We are also learning more about who is doing what, thus Cahuzac's fall. But this is only the first foundation of what is necessary to bridge the trust gap. We need even more openness, with the same principles extended to our businesses and banks. There needs to be a new understanding of the legitimacy of the public domain and public intervention. The time has come to hold our leaders - in the public and private sector alike - to account for their actions.

Selected Comments
nemossister

Well, whaddya expect when dim-witted PR professionals get to be Prime Minister? The puppet-masters behind the scenes are un-named and unaccountable. Of course

the state is seen as ineffective and repressive

it's desperately trying to make sure that there are no loop-holes by which the 'public' can actually have a say in how they are governed.

TruffleWednesday

@nemossister -

The problem with our democracy is that politicians have discovered that it is easier to garner votes by creating a plausible narrative than it is through governing well. PR skills therefore count for more than competence.

The Guardian, through its support for New Labour, with its "eye catching initiatives", entirely endorsed this approach.

In this game Will Hutton is a player, not a spectator, which is why he has no qualms about using projection to discredit his political opponents.

It is not the right but the left that has led the campaign to remove judgemental ism from our cultural make-up. If you are to set store in "virtue" then you have to accept that some are less virtuous than others. If is is important to distinguish between the virtuous rich and those lacking in virtue then the same must be applicable to the poor.

If someone were to assert "you have no right to judge me" would that be an indication that they were of the right or the left?

By all means reintroduce a high barrier for integrity in public life, but would the Guardian, with its campaign against tax avoidance and its use of offshore financial vehicles, be able to meet that challenge?

andrewsamuk

@TruffleWednesday - England is the most class-ridden country under the sun. It is a land of snobbery and privilege, ruled largely by the old and silly

alephghost

@TruffleWednesday - interesting post. You make some challenging points.

The current system of flagrant tax-havenry should be considered an affront by people on both the left and right of the political spectrum. It's a danger to a sensible and workable system of capitalism that would allow small and medium sized enterprises to flourish and permit a far greater degree of much-needed innovation. It's also an assault on general living standards that has created a wealth-gap the size of The Grand Canyon.

There are no doubt problems with having removed a willingness to judge from our culture (if this has indeed happened). There may be even bigger ones with bringing it back. Who is qualified to judge?

The spiteful and those who've never been close to poverty will be quick to judge the 'undeserving' poor (which isn't to say that anyone who's poor is automatically deserving, only to question who is fit to decide).

Unless the exercise is purely rhetorical, judging that someone is an undeserving poor person may ultimately involve introducing sanctions that effectively throw that person out on the street; deciding that someone is an undeserving rich person may mean no more than insisting that he or she is compelled to swallow a bigger tax bill.

You write that "If is is important to distinguish between the virtuous rich and those lacking in virtue then the same must be applicable to the poor." Well, it depends on what actions you think should be consequent on making these important distinctions. If you judge both some poor and some rich people to be unvirtuous, what penalties should follow the judgement? And how should these penalties be felt with equal force by both the delinquent poor people and the reprobate rich ones?

Itzfuctup

@TruffleWednesday - "It is not the right but the left that has led the campaign to remove judgemental ism from our cultural make-up."

I think you'll find that's pre-judging. The removal of prejudice was an ideal.
You flatter the left if you think they've removed it from society. If you think the poor are not already being judged (very harshly) then you don't know what your talking about. Do you honestly think the poor have it too easy, that they are not being judged as scroungers, spongers. Do you think they're living the life of riley. You must be bonkers. The poor are always being scrutinized. It's the rich and powerful who can afford to hide their indiscretions. Their accountants and Pr people give them a fig leaf the poor could never afford, or most others for that matter. Not to mention
the lack of representation in politics or the media of the poor. Giving
them few means to fight back against those few rich and powerful
people who have a disproportionate amount of influence over media
and politics. Probably because they own it.

JGrossman

@TruffleWednesday -

In this game Will Hutton is a player, not a spectator, which is why he has no qualms about using projection to discredit his political opponents.

I don't actually see any difference between "right" and "left" in all this.

But I agree Hutton trying to put all the blame on the "right" carries absurdity to new highs.

If is is important to distinguish between the virtuous rich and those lacking in virtue then the same must be applicable to the poor.

Agreed.

By all means reintroduce a high barrier for integrity in public life, but would the Guardian, with its campaign against tax avoidance and its use of offshore financial vehicles, be able to meet that challenge?

LOL. Am I right in assuming this is a rhetorical question?

Jake G

TheGreatRonRafferty

@nemossister - My father, like many of his generation, tended to ask of politicians "What did HE do in the war?"

In one sense, I can see where he was coming from .... did the particular politician actually do the same as the rest of "us" or was he sitting on his arse looking after himself?

Thankfully, there have been no wars on the scale of the one my father referred to, but that doesn't mean a similar kind of question cannot be asked.

What, for instance, did George Osborne do to contribute to his "hard-working family" that he constantly lectures us about? Does five days refolding towels get anywhere close to a definition of "hard-working family man?" Or when he believes young students should pay their own way by going into debt, how does that tally with his experiences in the Bullingdon Club?

You could go through the entire Cabinet posing such questions, and getting very similar answers.

In short, we are ruled viciously by a cabal who wouldn't know what hard work and relative poverty was like if it hit them squarely on the nose.

And this has been coming for the last 34 years. The experience gulf between ordinary folks, and those who rule them is now massive and unbridgeable. So maybe that question should be asked again "What did YOU do in the 'war? And if the answer is 'fuck all' then don't tell the rest of us to 'go over the top' you smug bastards."

ecoecon

@TruffleWednesday -

If you are to set store in "virtue" then you have to accept that some are less virtuous than others. If is is important to distinguish between the virtuous rich and those lacking in virtue then the same must be applicable to the poor

Is this a veiled attempt to justify Osborne's speech equating the Philpott family's way of life with the typical welfare recipient?

How can one compare feckless families who have more kids than they can bring up without help with bankers who obtian mind-boggling bonueses for ''fixing'' the Libor rates?

chappelle

@Itzfuctup -

the lack of representation in politics or the media of the poor. Giving
them few means to fight back against those few rich and powerful
people who have a disproportionate amount of influence over media
and politics. Probably because they own it.

Reminds me of a piece of graffiti I saw on a website recently -

"Rich people paying rich people to tell middle class people to hate poor people"

Because clearly the powerless are responsible for the state of the world. Hardly a narrative of the true left (i.e. not Labour).

Swan17

@TheGreatRonRafferty - Ron, I do so agree with your points. I would extend that to Labour s well - what has Ed Milliband done to justify being the leader of the Labour Party?

Will makes some good points but misses out on many. It is no surprise that we have no faith in politicians - they are not 'the people' anymore. The majority, from both sides, seem to come from the same small group (private school, PPE at Oxbridge, advisor then MP) and have the same basic beliefs (Balls was a Tory at one time we hear before deciding his best chance of being elected was to join Labour). Labour's choice for leader was really between 2 brothers - no other talent? Husband & Wife team in the shadow cabinet? They are not of the people, they represent their own 'political' class.

Then we get to how they behave. How many examples from both Labour and Tory of say one thing to get elected and do the other when in power? No reorganisation of the NHS? No student loans? Referendum on the EU Constitution? No, we cannot trust them.

Then we get to how well they actually perform. Given that all 3 main parties promised cuts at the last election we get Labour blaming the Tories for each and every cut - despite promising the same! The public are not stupid, they can see that all that the MP's are doing is playing their game - forget us, forget the country, look good for the party. Do any of them actually care?

Journalists can be as bad. Pretending that 'considering' a policy is a promise. Praising someone when they are really rubbish. Being tribal - a Tory policy is rubbish but, if proposed by Labour, it would be genius (and vice-versa).

My father, like yours, was one of those who 'went over the top'. He would judge people by what they did and not what they said. How should we judge any of our politicians and political journalists?

PS sorry for the rant. The way we are being treated by all of the political class really grates with me.

MattVauxhall

@nemossister -
Good article ...but with one glaring hole.

Referendums are a disaster...look at California...ungovernable

But I agree...a discussion of core values is vital....From welfare through to bankers....everything on the table

TheGreatRonRafferty

@Swan17 - Yes, I meant Labour as well, hence my "coming for 34 years."

It appears to be getting worse with each passing government (and indeed, each passing opposition, including the LibDems when they were in opposition!)

And they are all school in ignoring the posed question (half a sentence simply dismissing it at best) before launching into a party-political broadcast. Further schooled in ignorantly talking over any interviewer, or anyone else, such as a member of the audience in QT. Their attitude stinks. The whole, corrupt lot of them.

If we take Labour's possible "contributions based" idea that they are still working on. Half a thought would of course reject it. How can it be heavily contributions based for the young and the disabled? But that is the quality of political "thought" we're stuck with!

Swan17

@TheGreatRonRafferty - sorry for thinking you were not including Labour.

It also grates with me that not one of our politicians has the courage to make a speech or propose a policy without pre-announcing it. How many times do we have articles about what someone WILL say in a speech? Now Labour are considering the possibility of something.

These people are elected and paid by us. We expect them to work for us and have the courage of their convictions. I actually doubt any of them have convictions.

TheGreatRonRafferty

@Swan17 - That's true. No conviction politics. Have a "Think Tank" work out some policies based on the likelihood of them chiming well with the electorate .... "No top-down reorganisation of the NHS" ... then once that has served the purpose of winning (or not wining!) the election, do the exact opposite! (I'm only using the Tory example, because they are currently in power).

Swan17

@TheGreatRonRafferty - the last politician that I can remember with convictions was Maggie. Maybe that is why none of them today think that convictions are a good idea - say whatever is necessary to get elected and then say again whatever to get re-elected.

chappelle

The moral code undergirded by Christianity and which supported fairness has been enfeebled by secularisation and the precepts of free market economics.

I think the slave morality part seems to still be quite effective in keeping the 99% in their place - maybe if we all just work harder and cut back further we'll get to sit next to Jesus one day. Oh the humility...

herero

We have Gordon Gekko's children in No 10 and No 11. "Greed is good".

TroikaTime

Typical left wing socialist hypocrite. Can't even keep their own house in order while they expect others to. Did The Guardian find itself on the Cayman Islands list.

Pathetic.

TroikaTime

Jérôme Cahuzac, do as I say, not as I do.

1Hiker

@TroikaTime -

Vileness is not a virtue.

Themiddlegound

@TroikaTime -

Nick Cohen is talking about people like you in his piece..

Yet honest conservatives have been replaced by paranoid fantasists.

True, so true. Canne see the woods for the trees.

onthebus

@TroikaTime - Its not a competition on how useless each govt can be
The Tory's are in power and this is what is happening on their watch and in my life time, it has never been worse.

alephghost

@TroikaTime - "Typical left wing socialist hypocrite."

Flippant I know, but this begs the question of what other wing you'd expect to find a typical Socialist hyprocrite on.

Not altogether flippant, though: your choice of phrasing makes you sound a bit of a ranter.

Rougerat

@TroikaTime - Nothing socialist about him

alephghost

@alephghost - Correction: "Socialist hypocrite [not hypRocrite]". Typical centre-ground illiterates taught me how to spell.

camjongun

@alephghost - When the opposition can only pick out typing errors in their response, you know you've won the argument! lol

Mauvegrail

@TroikaTime

Cynic that I am, I expect duplicity from politicians in general, therefore I am not amazed when there exist "Typical left wing socialist hypocrite"-s.

However, tarring all socialists with the same brush does not negate the message. Which is: Enough is enough, We do not want to go back to the times of the robber barons. We expect people to have access to the necessities of life (which might include a spare bedroom if that is included in the only accomodation available). We expect people to pay the same proportion of their income as all others in funding of the public good. Likewise, since companies benefit from the infrastructure of the country - provision of energy, communications, water, security and education we also expect them to pay their fair share of public funding. We expect people to be paid for what they do, not what they think the company purse can stand (bonusses only in times of profit). We believe that bonusses, golden handshakes or welcomes should be paid to everyone - or none. We believe that no one should be ostracised because of low intelligence or lack of academic attainment. We believe in protecting those who cannot protect themselves.

Next time you decide to commit anything to writing please remember that shooting the messenger does no negate the message.

N.b.
(1). I have used the word 'we' because I believe that every socialist subscribes to the same ideas.
(2). Of course, the real problem is that those who seek power (politicians) are the last people who should be elected.

TroikaTime

In Italy, Beppe Grillo's anti-elite Five Star Movement won nearly 30% of the vote as a protest against a political class that is corrupt from top to bottom. Grillo at least is not a quasi-fascist. Less comforting is the prospect that if he fails to get the constitutional changes he calls for, the unstable forces he has unleashed could easily manifest themselves in a much uglier form.

Please define 'uglier form'. What baseless accusations are being insinuated here.

Mark Taylor

@TroikaTime 07 April 2013 12:26am. Get cifFix for Firefox.

Well, how does one put this, Italy does have a bit of a history of extremist politics, does it not? More so, that little virus was never truly purged from the body politic. Despite all the horrendous damage it did.

Rougerat

@Mark Taylor - The current crop of fascists certainly did not and do not support Grillo

Mark Taylor

@Rougerat 07 April 2013 5:36am. Get cifFix for Firefox.

I'm not insinuating that at all. What I am saying is this, and this is something that I learned at an early age and have never forgotten, and it is this. When people are desperate, they will listen to those that claim to have all the answers.
Five, six, years ago, Grillo was just a comedian, he had no power. However, events have propelled him to the summit of Italian politics. As for the hows and the whys of things, I would argue it is quite simple. People have lost faith in the official order. They turn to him because he offers them something different. If he fails, then who? Who will then provide the sustained standard of living that they (the Italian people) have become accustomed to?
As Hutton says, something 'uglier'.

crydda

@Mark Taylor - I think you've hit the nail on the head; "they will listen to those who claim to have all the answers" and simplistic, "common sense" answers to boot.
But often, these simplistic, common sense solutions are are often answers to the wrong questions and solutions to false problems.
The (disgraceful and disgusting) claims made by politicians and journalists over the Philpott case, being a case in point.
Conflating welfare dependency and the benefits systems, with the psychological dysfunction and a particular set of circumstances within one family, seems at first glance to make sense, but more than a cursory appraisal, (as recognized by the judge in this case, but sadly, not widely reported) can only lead to the conclusion that the welfare system had absolutely no relevance to Philpott's behaviour and the tragic deaths of his children.
Unfortunately, simplistic solutions, claiming to offer easy answers to perceived problems, are happy hunting grounds for extremist power seekers, who in happier times would have no chance of achieving their aims. But in desperate times, the desperate will grasp at any ray of hope, even if the hope offered is based on lies, deceit and scapegoating.

mrwicket

@crydda - It is odd how the 'populist' tag has been attached to Grillo. He talks about changing the model, changing the way we view our lives. He talks about an alternative to perennial growth, to profit, to consumerism. He also talks about us perhaps being a bit poorer in the future.

Hardly 'simplistic' answers of a populist.

TorrFloody

@crydda

Will Hutton is making a baseless accusation that Grillo will be an extremist. And you claim he is after simple solutions.

To me Grillo sounded like he would be in favour of Swiss style direct democracy. Clearly not compatible with the EU, but other than that, who wouldn't want it?

The electorate getting a real say in what happens, alongside our elected representatives, or betters, who have shown themselves to be nothing of the sort.

theytookallmymoney

Lawyer Anthony Salz (a member of the Scott Trust that owns the Observer and Guardian)

Well he should know a little about tax avoidance then.

I suggest that the Guardian and many of its "self employed" journalists should get their own tax affairs in order before commenting on the tax affairs of others.

MattVauxhall

@theytookallmymoney -
there needs to be an open discussion about tax planning vs tax evasion
The ranting in the guardian aint helping and yes making it look silly.

If we genuinely as a nation think the limited company is a bad idea we are in trouble

storing cash in the caymans is different

democracyscience

Mr Hutton, someone on CIF complained you are in the pay of the nuclear industry. In the interests of transparency, is this (or was this) so?

People like yourself talk about democracy but practically never educate the public as to the effective representative elections of transferable voting for the most prefered individual candidates on national issues that transcend the ghettos of party dogmas.

Otherwise, I am just as stupid as the rest of you. (Alright, more.)
I am a dupe, a generation ago, spent three years on a sociology course, without ever realising that Pitirim Sorokin forecasted just the moral decline that you are talking about. He had some answers, too.

herero

The IDS petition has passed 450,000

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/iain-duncan-smith-iain-duncan-smith-to-live-on-53-a-week

amsams

@herero - 'The IDS petition has passed 450,000'

Excellent. I await, with anticipation, for the despicable IDS to live on £53 a week for a year. Graeme Harrison

@amsams - Assuming that IDS accepted the challenge of bien-pensant Guardian-reading types like you and succeeded, what then? You'd accept that £53 would be a appropriate level at which to fix state benefits would you? No, of course you wouldn't so what, other than giving yourself a hard-on at your own supposed moral and intellectual superiority is the point of the petition?

martyc73

Excellent article Will. But you could probably have written this at the start of the 20th century and you would still have the Tory shrills on here glorifying excessive greed and "entrepreneurship". Hopefully Nigel Farage does not turn out to be the Beppe Grillo for the UK. Clown though he is.

missing yet again

@martyc73 - The problem is like the article says, all politics is corrupt.

Left and right. I had high hopes for Hollande's government and there turning out like NuLabour, all bloody corrupt.

The EU is as corrupt as British or any other countries politics.

martyc73

@missing yet again - What "Left"? New Labour was not "Left". Neither is the current British Labour Party. Though I agree. The neo-liberal consensus parties are corrupt across the EU.

missing yet again

@martyc73 - That's my point. Even those who pretend to be of the left are as corrupt as all the others.

martyc73

@missing yet again - Haha - agreed then. And I think that is the point of this fine article. Democracy (or lack of it) is at the root of our problems.

chaswarner

@missing yet again - More sociopaths on the 'left', IMHO.

missing yet again

@chaswarner - The big boys are talking. You go back to playing with your toys.

Themiddlegound

Brilliant Will...

The time has come to hold our leaders - in the public and private sector alike - to account for their actions.

Which is why every Scot should vote for independence. Then and only then will we the Scottish people be able to do this.

The current voting system and the current devolution settlement won't allow us to do this.

Sanl

@Themiddlegound - Scots who believe in inderpendance should rightly for it - the trouble is Salmond & the SNP are not offering inderpendance but just a change of rulers

Themiddlegound

@Sanl -

That is the whole point, once we get our own country it does not matter who rules it. Us Scots will be able to hold them to account and make them responsible for their actions.

That is a huge step forward and whoever will be in charge knows it.

Sanl

@Themiddlegound - but since Salmond has based his whole career on a inderpendant Scotland joining the EU it doesn't matter what terms we offer him he will sign up - we have him over a barrel

You can be sure he'll have to sign up to the fiscal compact so a austerity obsessed EU will decide spending

Themiddlegound

@Sanl -

Maybe not the Swedes and the Danes have their own kroners.

Who knows what the agreement will be until it is decided.

Sanl

@Themiddlegound - what has their own currency got to do with it ? Sweden & Denmark have still signed up to the fiscal compact which means their annual budget & spending has first to be approved in Brussels before national parliaments

Salmond position is to accept any terms not the best why to start negotiations

WhiteWorkingClassMan

How many folk on here actually read history or even read the "real" news behind headlines?
I'm no political graduate nor have I studied economics or philosophy but I have worked out from history,my forefathers,common sense and personal experience that professional politicians are self interested bastards.
This is nothing new from the Roman senate,our Parliament or the EU these utter scumbags lie as easily as most "normal" humans breath.
To tell the truth puts anyone or any organisation in the same place as the child who pointed out "The Emperor has no clothes on!" in real dangers hence people "play the game" rather than walking off the pitch in disgust.
Hitler,Napoleon,Spain and the Catholic Church wanted a servile and unified Europe.Bastards,dictators and tyrants all of them!
Europe and it's leadership can f&^k it's self I am NOT European I'm a Yorkshire born Englishman who just happens to live in the UK!
Who needs more two faced bastards who we can't even understand the language they speak?

BruceMullinger

Democracy is now decried as populism by intellectual narcissists who presume their individual intellectual brilliance to be greater than the collective wisdom of a democratic majority. Hence the rise and rise of extreme capitalism which brings to you the intellectual and economic brilliance of privatisation, deregulation, excessive immigration (or imported tax payer subsidised consumers), free trade, foreign ownership and globalisation.
Hence the rise and rise of global debt and global discontent.

chaswarner

@BruceMullinger - Extreme capitalism? Don't you mean corporatism ie socialism for the rich? Just to remind you, the banksters were bsiled out under Labour, by Gormless McBruin. The Cyprus scalping is being carried out by socialists in the EUSSR. Any capitalist would have let the banks go bust.

Kevinharding

@chaswarner -
the idea that the former Goldman Sachs executives advising the EU currency strategies are socialists is just ridiculous

of course capitalists try to advance their sectors benefit over others of course they lobby for government contracts and favours of course they pursue monopoly privilege

the problem is why have governments given financial capatalist sector all they have asked for?

Davewhoever

But would you trust your family, your mother-in-law, the Liberal Counci-liar over the road who would not know mediation if she failed at it.

Who do you trust and it certainly is not the Police Federation, BMA or neighbour controlled religious, social, politically or activist controlled organisations.

And it isn't the Social Workers or the NHS.

questionforthekeeper

And yet it's public accountability that has led to the trust gap in the first place.

Public virtue was only ever an illusion, supported by lack of accountability. Constant scrutiny will only continue to reveal human fallacy, and prove that the ideal of an infallible leader, or system, is an impossible one.

What is needed is a complete reconceptualisation of what it means to be led in an era of openness and accountability.

annedemontmorency

The moral code undergirded by Christianity and which supported fairness has been enfeebled by secularisation and the precepts of free market economics.

I refer you to verse three of 'All things bright and beautiful'

″The rich man in his castle
The poor man at his gate
He (God) made them High and lowly
He ordered their estate″

In England the Church's solution for the poor was almshouses and workhouses. The poor, the disadvantaged, the ordinary citizen should know their place - and keep it.

It was the Labour Party which supported fairness through measures such as social housing and the NHS .

The Established Church strongly disapproved.

As we saw during the Blair/Brown regime for the Labour Party issues of fairness and equality have no meaning for them now either.

LouCipher

Maybe those right-wing parties are growing in popularity because they are telling people the truth about the important issues, something the lamestream has tried to stifle under political correctness for years?

Themiddlegound

@LouCipher -

Maybe those right-wing parties are growing in popularity because they are telling people the truth about the important issues

What, Where, When ?

Source please for this extraordinary statement.

LouCipher

@Themiddlegound - The source is a little thing they used to call 'common knowledge'.

LouCipher

@Themiddlegound - Thanks for recognising my comment as extraordinary though........

justso

@Themiddlegound - a CIFer wanting facts and sources, now that is extraordinary.

chaswarner

@Themiddlegound - Just wait until May 3rd.....

WiltshireIndy

@Themiddlegound - one example - any attempt to discuss immigration being shut down by cries of racism

chappelle

@LouCipher - The "moderate" right are growing in popularity because theirs is pretty much the only narrative that's getting heard. The more extreme right-wing parties tend to benefit from censorship by mainstream parties and media as it makes it sound like their "truth" is something the mainstream parties "don't want you to know".

Personally, I'd let the extreme right groups speak just to give them enough rope to hang themselves, shutting down the debate just gives them a validity they otherwise lack.

TorrFloody

@WiltshireIndy one example - any attempt to discuss immigration being shut down by cries of racism

Xenophobic little englander bigot.

ivyemaye

A very good article as usual from Mr Hutton.
My major concern is, as it is with many articles here, how do we move forward.
Mr Hutton outlines a plausible path, but I feel that everything has been corroded and the selfishness of those at the top is too entrenched. May be this was also so, just more so now...again what can anyone do?

SyzygySyzygysue

I don't think Will Hutton should be so sure about Beppe Grillo as a force for good. Looking at his statements, Grillo sounds like an anarcho-capitalist ... abolishing government, the welfare state, anti-union, anti-homosexual .. the whole caboosh wrapped up in seductive ideas of not being left or right wing. Grillo also wants global decision making - referendums via the internet. No doubt, he'd want the trains to run on time too!

TorrFloody

@SyzygySyzygysue 07 April 2013 3:45am. Get cifFix for Chrome.

I would welcome Swiss style direct democracy. A real say in policy making.

VikingHustings

Across Europe, political leaders have lost the trust of their people The retreat of virtue has become a plague of our times. Greed is legitimate

Pull up a deck-chair on The Titanic why don't you …

Reality has caught up with The Europhiles.

They have over extended themselves and their mantra via the indecent speed they wished to pursue their un-mandated agenda.

They pursued policies that did not work.

They indulged in finance which has been proven to unaffordable and unsustainable.

EuroPhiles have repeatedly tried to bounce democratic populations together to fuse and cobble together a political union.

The "virtuous" are the not ones who have blown hundreds of billions they did not have on grandiose societal and political engineering which no-one asked for.

The "greedy"are not the ones who have called time on robbing European States of sovereignty and political control to shore up a failing false political union (so far removed from the origins of the workable EEC).

The ones in need of a moral-compass are the supposed Leaders of Europe ... to find their way back to legitimacy in the eyes of the electorates of Europe.

Mr Hutton .... WAKE UP … and smell the organic fair trade herbal tea …

VikingHustings

NickHartGBH

'The reasons why people seek power are what make them unfit to exercise it.' One aspect of virtue is humility, the acceptance that your world view a) might be wrong, and b) even if right, should be promulgated by persuasion, not force.

Himerius

@NickHartGBH - I've come to the conclusion that people who wear headphones while they walk, are much happier, more confident, and more beautiful individuals than someone making the solitary drudge to work without acknowledging their own interests and power.

onthebus

Its a bit like pre-world war 1. All on tenderhooks going nowhere. Ideas but not the courage to push them through. Hopefully this is not going to be the case but there is a sense of trepidation in the air. The bubble fit to burst with the waters of change just waiting to rush and sweep the slate clean.

Mark Taylor

The problem is, as Hutton says, twofold. The restraints that tempered the behaviour of our elites for the past 150 years have been removed. On the one hand, there were the ideological and moral arguments. I.e. those that emanated internally.
It would have been fair to say that every single one of our Lords and masters grew up reading Cicero, Plato, and Marcus Aurelius. The notions of 'good government' and 'noble obligation' drilled into them at a young age. Being born into the ruling elite meant that you had a duty, a responsibility to act in a certain way.
Plus, there was the religious aspect as well. 'Forward Christian Soldiers' and all that. A life of virtue and restraint that the way to please the Lord. Of course, you can very easily harp on about the rank hypocrisy of it all, yet for a good long while, it did have a real effect. Now to ask to what extent did they live up to their pieties remains a moot point.
As for the other forces that kept some semblance of civility amongst our elites, 1789 - 1989 seems incredibly neat. The fall of The Bastille to the fall of The Berlin Wall. 200 years of threats and/or implied threats to do very nasty things to the powers that be.
Nothing really concentrated the mind like the fear of imminent death. Or worse, loss of status. Not one person to this day has adequately answered me these two questions:-
1) Why was it that in May 1832, King William IV created enough Whig peers so that the Great Reform Act (which had up until then, been struck down three times in the Tory dominated Lords) could be allowed to pass? What was going through his head when he made that decision?
2) Why did Winston Churchill's Conservative government of 1951-55 never abolish the then nascent NHS? Along with, for that matter, the rest of Clement Attlee's reforms? You can't claim to say that Churchill had gone Socialist in his dotage? So what steadied his hand? What prevented him from doing what he so obviously would have wanted to do?
Now, there is nothing to restrain them. Peter Oborne was quite right when he talked about feral elites. Until one country decides enough is enough and starts decorating its lamp posts with the corpses of these individuals, nothing will change. What worries me severely, is that the country in question might be Britain.
Our land has avoided extremism very well these past centuries, but then that was only due to events.

ecoecon

@Mark Taylor -

Why did Winston Churchill's Conservative government of 1951-55 never abolish the then nascent NHS?

It is I think absolute nonsense; Churchill was a Liberal for much of hids life, and even when later a Tory, he was always of the old paternalistic sort who wanted to keep the working class happy.

I can find no evidence that Churchill would have liked to abolish the NHS, tho' he may have disliked Aneurin Bevan and spoken in debates attacking his NHS proposals.

Mark Taylor

@ecoecon 07 April 2013 10:01am. Get cifFix for Firefox.

Why was it that he remarked that Labour would have needed some kind of 'Gestapo' in order to make their reforms work? Besides, Right, Centre-Right? What ever he was, he certainly was no Socialist.

kisunssi

@Mark Taylor -

What ever he was, [Winston Churchill] certainly was no Socialist.

Thankfully:)

farafield

Mr Hutton is as much part of this shambles as Blair , Brown , Mandelson and co he thought they were the bees knees but all they amount to is second rate self serving bastards who dont have a problem with the filthy rich who they have looked out for and served in order to get scraps from their tables .
What will happen is that extreme parties and not so extreme ones which will be viewed as clean will come to or influence those in power and whose fault will it be ? the likes of Mr Hutton and those above that will be their real legacy .

Rougerat

@farafield - So long as it's the far left which increases its influence, I've no problem with that

SouthManchester

@Rougerat - how far left ?

Berchmans

@SouthManchester -

## how far left ? ##

Binocular far -- :) I can forgive murder I have had to ...but politicians stealing is something that brings out the Romanov solution in me.

B

PS I jest ..no to any violence ...even for some corrupt politican there will be a suitable cell somewhere ...a lockable cupboard maybe.

furminator

The Scott Trust Limited is itself interesting, it was originally founded as The Scott Trust in 1936 by John Scott the owner of the Manchester Guardian (which became the modern Guardian) and the Manchester Evening News. The Scott Trust was a tax avoidance vehicle that was deployed by John Scott to avoid paying death taxes on the titles owned by his father and subsequently his brother, who died in quick succession. The Trust was dissolved in 1948 and reformed, because it's original deeds meant it was still liable to tax. The Guardian has been part and parcel to contrived and deliberate tax avoidance since 1936, that's 76 years of entirely legal, but by the Guardian's own standards – immoral tax avoidance.

In 2008 the Guardian Media Group made £300 million selling 50% of their stake in Autotrader, to Apax partners. Shortly before the sale the Guardian Media Group changed it's status from a charitable trust to being a limited company, this allowed them to avoid being liable for capital gains tax via the substantial shareholdings exemption rules. The Guardian Media Group, thus avoided paying at least £60 million in capital gains tax to the revenue, totally legal, but by the Guardian's own definition deeply immoral.

Not content with using this vehicle to avoid tax the Guardian then utilised an offshore property investment company in Germany to reduce their tax liability on buying their building. The Cayman Island based trust is managed from offices in Germany, about as offshore as you can get. Given that the Guardian recently ran a campaign against offshore ownership of property for tax avoidance purposes this is hypocrisy of the most staggering kind.

Until the Guardian's owners voluntarily pay pack the hundreds of millions in tax that they've, legally, avoided paying over the decades this newspaper and it's writers seriously need to STFU on this issue. Hypocrite much?

alephghost

@furminator - If the piece you've quoted is correct, then The Guardian leaves itself open to frequent repetitions of the charge of hypocrisy you've made. This is a great pity, because we need as much media coverage as possible of the rampant tax avoidance that has been going on across the world for decades now.

What is the source of your quotation?

Would the Editor of The Guardian care to state whether or not the details cited above by furminator are accurate?

SouthManchester

@alephghost - its true & its common (ish) knowledge-will the editor of the g comment-no chance.

ecoecon

@furminator -

If Amazon and other rich multinationals use tricks to avoid paying any significant tax, is this morally equivalent to the Scott Trust having put its offices in to an overseas trust?

Before answering this, consider how many serious newspapers can survive in today's internet age without selling off assets they do not need, or by cross-subsidizing with other interests, e.g. cable TV in the case of Murdoch.

Even the Torygraph is sacking journalists tho' owned by the multimillionaire Barclay Bros, who own one of the Channel Islands.

Rougerat

But wouldn't it be
Simpler if the Government
Simply dissolved the People
And elected another?

Brecht

SouthManchester

How many Guardian journos benefit from being 'self employed' rather than PAYE ?

VikingHustings

@SouthManchester -

How many Guardian journos benefit from being 'self employed' rather than PAYE ? - 07 April 2013 6:46am - SouthManchester

Either way, some are doing very well.

They have managed to salt away a few crumbs to purchase a second hovel ..... surely they must be depriving someone somewhere an affordable home?

.... some have even managed to obtain villas in the Med.

Will they be able to afford the use and maintenance of such exotic properties ... given recent changes:

1) EU penchant for robbing peoples savings in Med banks.

2) Airlines weighing you in/out as you fly back and forth to your Med hideaway.

... the b*st*rds .... fiscal penalty for holiday indulgences:

Pindi

Across Europe, political leaders have lost the trust of their people

I´d go further Mr. Hutton. I´d say that the people despise their politicians, who are lying, greedy, self-serving morons doing the bidding of their masters, the bankers, rather than the people they pretend to serve.

lajide4

07 April 2013 7:04am

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This here, is yet another handwring and painfully depressing article. George Monbiot wrote one last week. Both articles have reinforced a feeling of serious unease and powerlessness about the wellbeing of life in this country and elsewhere. The electorates have over the years allowed themselves to be played like a violin all the time and there is currently a symphony being composed by this govt over the welfare changes.
To be clear, the country is being squeezed to death already by everything we are tapped into for our wellbeing and not one politician is articulating the pain being felt by people or what to do about it.
I fear our abject docile nature means our goose is already cooked. The bankers it seems will not pay for burning the economy. So, prepare for ever increasing Gas/ Electric/ Transport/ Childcare bills. Wages are going to remain repressed except for those who pay themselves and full time jobs are hard to find.
PLEASE WAKE UP BRITAIN!!! THERE NEEDS TO BE 2 MILLION OF US CAMPED OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT SQUARE FOR 6 MONTHS.

mrwicket

07 April 2013 3:01pm

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0

@lajide4 - Get involved, get organised, you can make a difference.

Snapshackle

07 April 2013 7:37am

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4

Disproportionately of reward, preoccupation with one's own interests and diminishing public virtue disfigure Britain, too, and into the trust gap marches populist Ukip.

Oh the irony!

abugaafar

07 April 2013 7:44am

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2

We are also learning more about who is doing what

It's odd that WH says this without a mention of the recent revelations by ICIJ, which seem to have vanished from the British press. Is there a whiff of superinjunctions about?

chappelle

07 April 2013 9:54am

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@abugaafar - I assume you're referring to this - seems they're holding on to the data at present for a thorough analysis. Hopefully the story will out in time.

Swan17

07 April 2013 10:40am

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@chappelle - not sure about the withholding bit.

I can understand a country wanting to get access to that data - if any of their citizens have evaded tax in some way they would want that money. Did ICIJ have to pay for the data (in which case they are wanting to get the money back from the articles) or what? I would have thought that they had a responsibility to ensure that the law is obeyed.

chappelle

07 April 2013 11:11am

0

@Swan17 - I think much of that depends on how much the missing amounts are and who are holding them - it's quite possible that there's some level of "commercial sensitivity" that industry and governments might want hushed up.

Swan17

07 April 2013 11:21am

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@chappelle - yes but giving governments copies of the data would not stop it being published. The refusal to let governments actually have the data is, to me, worrying. If someone has committed a crime then they need to be identified, tried and punished. We run the risk of ICIJ publishing an article about people with large amounts of money in one of these tax haven that is quite legitimate - full tax paid etc. They would be smeared whilst doing no wrong.

Many tax loopholes are there for a good reason and we should not criticise people who use those. Instead identify those loopholes being used improperly and remove them. I can criticise anyone who uses one of them in ways that were not intended but still legally - they may have acted legally but against the spirit or intent of the legislation. That is different to those who have acted illegally.

chappelle

07 April 2013 11:37am

0

@Swan17 - Fair points. One example that might be difficult to reconcile though is if wealthy individuals, via lobbyists, had pushed for these loopholes, thereby ensuring legitimacy yet providing a clear link between big business and political corruption. This wouldn't seem that unlikely given some of the examples released to date.

If it could be evidenced that politicians are passing laws that help influential friends avoid paying taxes, I'd say that might be considered controversial to say the least. It's possible that releasing the data to the governments involved might allow time for PR manoeuvres to essentially bury or discredit the investigation so from the ICIJ perspective it might be best not to give them that opportunity.

RClayton

07 April 2013 7:58am

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Will Hutton tars the public and private sector with the same brush. He does not, to me, convincingly demonstrate that in the UK at least there has been a moral failing of the sort we see in France.

The MPs expenses scandal if anything showed that the public already holds politicians to a standard for behaviour which elsewhere would be considered small change.

And our senior politicians on the whole I suggest are doing their best for rewards which during their careers are a lot less than they might earn elsewhere

roseleenlee

07 April 2013 8:35am

4

@RClayton - Who do you mean? IDS a failed double glazing salesman? Jeremy Hunt a failed exporter of marmalade to Japan? William Hague? Osborne? Cameron? What careers did these people give up to enter politics? You would appear not to have noticed what these people do to line their pockets and to avoid paying tax, Hunt and Osborne have been involved in dubious house deals to rip off the tax payer and to avoid the tax man only recently. It is hard to understand after the expenses scandal why Osborne, Hunt, Miller and Hoban can be so foolish.

nikel99

07 April 2013 7:59am

4

Well!
This needs saying again and again.
Well done Will. Maybe we can make democracy really happen. Open, transparent, accountable. All in some kind of Peoples Assembly.
As explained by Owen Smith, Dan Hind, Michael Rosen, among others.
Let's TRY TO MAKE IT HAPPEN

wetherby

07 April 2013 8:07am

No mention of Blair, his 7 houses and millions upon millions all diverted through an opaque tax set up.

Anyway he says he has paid his tax so that's ok then.

Milliband made a cool £1m in 15 months.

Then all the usual turds after their entitlement - McShane a regular in the Guardian columns being right up there

Jack3 , 07 April 2013 8:07am

Why don't you call a spade a spade? The people in question are not "elite". They are simply sociopaths.

Stop calling them elite because it's only boosting their overblown ego even more.

physiocrat , 07 April 2013 8:11am

Interesting. I was at a talk by an Oxford economist a couple of years ago. A member of the audience asked what moral content did economics have and where did morality fit into the subject.

The response from this academic was that it didn't - economics does not make moral judgements.

The subject needs to be re-worked. It needs, for a start, to distinguish between free exchange and theft.

JST1171YTF , 07 April 2013 8:33am

@physiocrat - no. Leave economics as it is, but put the advice in its proper context. Ie apply moral judgements to economicadvice.

physiocrat , 07 April 2013 8:49am

@JST1171YTF - not really because how does one distinguish between economic activity and crime?

chappelle , 07 April 2013 11:01am

@physiocrat -

Economic activity - Wonga payday loans
Crime - Loan sharking

Tricky isn't it. Something to do with advertising perhaps

Alphysicist , 07 April 2013 8:20am

Perhaps the greatest calamity of the conservative counter-revolution has been the energy it invested in arguing that virtue, whatever its private importance, has no public value.

Actually, I think the problem is more with the modern left. The center left parties of 60s 70s Europe were social democratic parties, which represented the interests of the working class, and that of people with middle to lower income. They campaigned for high quality public services, education, healthcare, etc.

In the last two decades the left has abandoned all of this, and, as a result, they lost their moral legitimacy. Nowadays Europe`s so called social democratic parties are at least as much for the 1%, or sometimes more, than the center right. Since they have no moral legitimacy, they try to create one by yelling words like "fascist", "racist", etc., usually out of context, with the intent to give an impression of being morally highly principled.

ivan2034 , 07 April 2013 8:32am

Perhaps the most revealing aspect of the way things are going in the West is the now openly strident claim of the rich and powerful that they have a "right" to pay less tax. If this is part and parcel of "democracy" then I'm afraid that I've been under a huge misapprehension all my life. Perhaps "democracy" isn't all that it is cracked up to be after all.

I have a horrible feeling that this is all going to end in tears. None of the political parties have any idea of how to maintain a "status quo" that is unsustainable in the first place. Someone mentioned 1789; perhaps it is going to take a huge upheaval like that to reset matters. This time it won't just be royalty that will be targeted, but the 1% at large.

MichaelBulley, 07 April 2013 8:37am

Part of the problem may be that the very concept of virtue is not well understood nowadays. It is not a word that crops up often in its moral sense. You would be more likely to meet it in its sense of "good qualities", as in "the virtues of this proposal". I remember using it with a group of 18 year-old students about 30 years ago and having difficulties in getting them to grasp the idea.

schwitters , 07 April 2013 8:51am

Despite the hysteria whipped up about the evils of the Welfare State it is there because it was underpinned by the democratic process. One person's vote is priceless in a democracy, the greatest medium of exchange that we have is through the ballot box, the ultimate leveller.

The corruption of politics and the placement of power in the hands of the profoundly undemocratic corporate world is leading to an inevitable conclusion and the rise of extreme right wing politics at the heart of society.

The corruption of politics is the single most danger to freedom of all. The Welfare State is there because we voted for it and the consensus was established over decades.

The challenge of resisting the attack on the Welfare State, for instance, is that this attack is a symptom of a much broader malaise in politics, as hinted at in this article. It's the democratic process that is under duress and it is that which needs addressing. Justice will prevail under proper circumstances but it is hard to see where the leadership is going to come from to set about correcting the democratic deficit.

The stakes are that high.

MauditFrancais1979, 07 April 2013 8:56am

The paradox, the new conservatives claim, is only through the pursuit of self-interest can the economy and society work best. Responsibilities to the commonweal are to be avoided.

Well, I'm sorry, but this is not a paradox, just the plain old truth. This is the way things actually work in the real world. Denying this is on a par with asserting that the earth is flat; it is some kind of economic creationism. The facts have proven that Marx was wrong, just as they have proven that Darwin was right and creationism wrong. That is what the left cannot stomach: all their claims have consistently been proven wrong by reality. The upshot is that there is no excuse for being "left-wing" in 2013: the "left" worldview ought to be thoroughly and definitively discarded as morally wrong and scientifically untrue.

Kevinharding, 07 April 2013 10:44am

@MauditFrancais1979 -
but if we compare the economic performance across the
western world of the eras between 1945 and 1975
and the subsequent period the return of supply side economics
we see much poorer economic performance
across the devolved world for three decades we had full employment
the UK had to advertise for workers from commonwealth countries
to fill all the jobs that a fairer society created
tax for the rich was higher
massively higher in the USA
the living standards of the poorer were constantly improving
even a Tory pm remarked we have never had it so good
the facts are embracing the ideology that economically pursuing
individual advantage improves collective advantage has failed
and ended in the longest recession ever recorded
the longest time taken to recover GDP levels of the previous peak
it has failed for an obvious reason
one persons income becomes firms income when it is spent
and the source of other people's income
the evolutionary advantage of the human species
has come through its capacity to communicate and cooperate
free market economics is an illusion
it's pursuit undermines evolutionary advantage

ivan2034 , 07 April 2013 9:06am

"Despite the hysteria whipped up about the evils of the Welfare State it is there because it was underpinned by the democratic process. One person's vote is priceless in a democracy, the greatest medium of exchange that we have is through the ballot box, the ultimate leveller."

If only. Which system, FPTP or PR, do you think is the fairer? Yet the people voted for the status quo.

In America, the outcome of presidential elections often hinges on a few, sometimes less important, swing states.

ScouseMercMan , 07 April 2013 9:23am

@ivan2034 - If only. Which system, FPTP or PR, do you think is the fairer? Yet the people voted for the status quo.

The people weren't given the option of proportional representation. The choice was between the Alternative Vote, which offers the worst aspects of FPTP and PR, and the current system. Because of its drawbacks, AV was not an attractive so few people voted for it.

ivan2034 , 07 April 2013 9:48am

@ScouseMercMan - I stand corrected . My point was that individual votes are not the ultimate leveller. The system is rigged; what bunch of politicians would allow an open vote on a subject that is likely to disadvantage them. It suits the Tories not to have a vote on PR.

In America each state has two senators; therefore Rhode Island or Hawaii = California or New York. What a joke.

patinahat , 07 April 2013 10:01am

Yes, I live in a polarised constituency where my vote counts for absolutely nothing. There is no real democracy in the uk.

kisunssi , 07 April 2013 10:17am

@patinahat - Typical. The whole point of democracy is that everybody has a choice to vote, if they exercise that choice then the candidate with the most votes wins and represents their constituents. You back the losing candidate so you whinge.

Grow up.

patinahat , 07 April 2013 10:34am

@kisunssi - Are you saying that I should suspend my own beliefs so I can fit in with what the majority in my constituency want? My point is that in a different voting system my vote would actually count for something. There are plenty of people in my position of all political persuasions - which may well go some way to explaining the pathetically low turn-outs we so often see.

Swan17, 07 April 2013 10:46am

@patinahat - we had the chance for a different voting system - in the referendum the majority of votes were to keep FPTP. You may not like it but that is how democracy works.

Another part of democracy is in the election of your MP. The people in each constituency vote for who is to represent them - the one getting the most votes is then the MP. Democracy.

I do understand how you feel as I have lived in safe constituencies too. That is life. Unless we end up with some form of national list and each party just gets the number of MP's that there national vote gives them there will always be some areas that are safe for a particular party.

TorrFloody , 07 April 2013 12:08pm

@Kevinharding if people didn't vote for av
I cannot see them voting for pr

I agree at this time. Of course the vote was not helped by only the Lib Dems actually desperate for change. The tories had a stupid fear of never seeing a right sided government again and Labour party was hardly going to put its muscle into removing a system that benefits them massively.

TorrFloody, 07 April 2013 12:12pm

@Swan17 07 April 2013 10:46am. Get cifFix for Chrome.

Sadly FPTP disenfranchises smaller parties, and actually leads to the plutocracy we have at the moment in the UK and more so USA. You have no real choice in either country.

It would be entirely possible in the next election for UKIP to pick up 15% of the vote and get no seats while Labour get 40% of the vote and 350.

ivan2034 , 07 April 2013 12:48pm

@Swan17 - Isn't that what we have been discussing? PR - proportional representation?

In South Africa, where I live, the ANC garners 66% of the vote and the opposition parties the rest. If FPTP (first past the post) was in force, the ANC would almost certainly win 90% of the seats in parliament. As it is the opposition parties have 34% of the seats and this serves as a brake of sorts on the governing party. In such a system every vote counts. More desirable, I would contend.

ivan2034 , 07 April 2013 12:58pm

@ivan2034 - By the way, the British government (circa 1980) imposed a FPTP (Westminster-style) system of government on the then Rhodesia which has resulted to this day in Mugabe governing Zimbabwe. We all know the result of that folly. We in SA have a refugee population of 2-3 million Zimbabweans, who contribute in no small way to the crime situation in this country, which posters here on CIF continually remind us of.

Amadeus37 , 07 April 2013 9:19am

People are actually critised because they do not claim all the benefits they could. How much lower can we sink?
They are trying to call State Pension and use of the National Health Service "BENEFITS" when they have actually been paid for in advance by GBH of the wallet/paypacket.
Collect all that is owed by everyone who makes money in this country (this goes for all countries everywhere) with no exceptions. Pay a wage, or make an employer pay, sufficient that people can live on without needing to go cap in hand "Please sir, can I have more, Sir?" - How they love to be called Sir!
Tax it all off at the top. Stop being nasty about public servants rather than realising that private employers have fallen so far behind what they should be paying, that all our countries are going to war within themselves as well as each other.
Only when you get things right and create work can you take away from those can work but will not.
Just how much lower can a country sink than when a soldier returning from the battlefield, minus an arm and a leg, has his benefit stopped as soon as his prosthetic limbs are fitted, when all he wants is help to put them on so that he can go to the job he has secured for himself?

Hull , 07 April 2013 9:29am

It is not only politicians who have lost "virtue". The same can be said for all authority figures who used to have the trust of the people: bankers, journalists, members of the medical profession, heads of the utility companies, members of the clergy.

The list can be extended at will. It is no surprise that there is a growing national cynicism as we don't know to whom to look to for honesty and fitness of purpose.

Swan17 , 07 April 2013 9:54am

@Hull - agreed.

As a possible counterpoint I heard a phone-in on Radio 2 the other day. A representative from one of the energy companies (not sure which) was explaining why they were putting up their prices. A caller was allowed to rant and rave against the rep and kept referring to pensioners dying of the cold as a result. The rep stayed polite and then said he would raise that point that afternoon with the pensioners he was helping when he was helping-out at his local old folks home.

What went through my mind was just what part of that was a setup? How far did the BBC go in ensuring that 'the message' got across? Just how cynical was I getting that I automatically thought that the rep could not really help others? Just how political was the BBC nowadays?

Hull, 07 April 2013 10:05am

@Swan17 - Yes, true. I should have added the BBC to the list. It is no longer possible to look at the corporation without feeling jaundiced - senior appointments are still being made with a nod and a wink.

grumpyoldman

We are mired in cheating and lying, and massive hypocrisy on the part of the rich and the technocrats who serve them, because that is the only way in which neo-liberal ideology can maintain its hegemony.

Fortunately for the self-serving and self perpetuating aristocracy of money, there exists an overwhelmingly servile media pumping out Chicago School propaganda 24/7.

Welcome to the world of financial fascism.

hawkchurch

Try listening to this by Ian Hunter; whatever happened to integrity?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bMA823HmNQ

Blew

The problem of modern governance is that no one - bankers, politicians, CEOs, are held to account for the bad decsions they have made; indeed most of them seem to emerge richer than they went in, irrespective of the catastrophes they have caused.

I fear that this will not be put right until we invest in a small guillotine. It would not need to handle many. I calculate that maybe 6 bankers and maybe 12 politicians. After that things will turn to normal. But at the moment no one cares and it will take time.

cornhil

@Blew - put right until we invest in a small guillotine

A single small guillotine won't be enough. We need at least one in every town centre - in the hope that after the first few times we won't have to use them, the warning implicit in their presence being sufficient. However, I doubt our masters would yield power and obscene rewards for failure so easily, so get your wool in so that we can observe tradition and knit whilst watching.

mrwicket

@cornhil - Grillo talks of a revolution without guillotines which I think, on the whole, is preferable.

He wants the politicians to pay back what they have stolen though and plans on making sure they do.

Swan17

@mrwicket - nice thought. How many of their second (third or even fourth) homes will be taken away?

In the Daily Mail today, article about John Cruddas and his property portfolio. I thought he was supposed to be one of the 'good' ones?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2305035/Labours-Comrade-Cruddas-beautifully-remote-THIRD-home-Irish-Coast-writing-Milibands-manifesto.html

cornhil

@mrwicket - Given the huge imbalance of power, given the willingness of the police etc. to come down hard on any peaceable demonstration, given the unwillingness of the media to properly report such demonstrations or, for instance, to investigate why workers are striking.......................I fear that guilotines or something very similar may be the only road to real change for the better.

I do not welcome this, I still deplore violence, but I seriously do not see a viable road forward. Remember, the elites did not wake up one morning and think that we should have a democratic institution or two, that universal franchise would be a nice idea, that workers should not be treated like indentured slaves etc. etc - the people fought for each and every step forward. The powerful classes do not cede power voluntarily.

mrwicket

@cornhil - We are certainly still the underdogs since the parties, the mafias, the media and big business are all against us. After the elections, every single newspaper (except one) and all the TV channels have taken part in a vicious smear campaign against M5S. We will see how successful it has been.

That said, despite never appearing on TV, the movement would have been the most voted party in the country if it hadn't been for a few thousand votes from Italians living abroad. If PD and PdL join forces now, I expect us to win the next elections with a landslide.

M5S began as a protest movement and was perhaps a little unprepared for the situation it found itself in after the elections. We now need to regroup, formulate a more complete manifesto and get the competent, radical free-thinkers in our ranks to the fore.

Although the levels of corruption in the UK and Italy are different, I believe that the movement has shown the way for other decent, honest, European citizens that have had enough of their self-serving, corrupt political classes.

Get involved, get organised, you can make a difference.

mrwicket

Fine article Will.

In this respect, Grillo in Italy may foretell a better future – the insistence that Italian politics is completely opened up has to be right. We are also learning more about who is doing what, thus Cahuzac's fall. But this is only the first foundation of what is necessary to bridge the trust gap. We need even more openness, with the same principles extended to our businesses and banks. There needs to be a new understanding of the legitimacy of the public domain and public intervention. The time has come to hold our leaders - in the public and private sector alike - to account for their actions.

The gap between the ruling elite and citizens is now so big that there is the risk of a violent reaction. The movement has, for the time being, filled some of this gap and allayed these fears. However, there is now talk of PD and PdL forming a coalition and this could result in either a huge swing to M5S or violence in the streets.
The mafia recently sent death threats to a Sicilian prosecutor investigating the links between state and mafia. They also said they didn't want 'comedians and queers' in power, a reference to Beppe Grillo and the governor of Sicily. These are dangerous times in Italy and we are the underdogs. They, the parties, big business, the press and the mafias, are prepared to do anything to hold on to their power. It is in our interest to get them out. We need to get organised now and take this peaceful revolution to the next phase. By doing so, we could finally eradicate the corrupt, ruling class and give other countries a template to do the same.

checkreakity

The problem, at least in the UK, is an electorate unwilling or unable to face the truth. Although it is self-evident that both French and Italian electorates have the same failing.

The MPs' expenses issue arises from the 1960s when Bob Melish, Harold Wilson's chief whip, reported how Labour MPs were disgruntled over MPs' salaries. Labour MPs, unlike Tory ones, tended to rely on their salary.

Wilson reasoned (quite correctly) that the ever whingeing UK electorate would not stomach MPs having a pay rise so the expenses system became a back door way of rewarding MPs.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/worldtonight/2008/02/a_question_of_cash.html

As the electorate became more and more demanding of their MP being solely occupied with Parliamentary business, the vast majority of which is simply irrelevant due to the impotence of government in a globalised world, rather than it being a side-line, so the issue of remuneration became more intense. Hence more and more increasingly bizarre expense claims.
Like so much else, the UK electorate weren't prepared to pay for what they wanted - full time politicians.

As an aside, you can see the wisdom of the UKIP business model - get elected to somewhere that pays very well and is not scrutinised by the UK tabloids by offering the whingeing Poms an electoral product in elections where very vote counts, being by PR. If ever a party had a vested interest in continued membership of the EU it is UKIP. Just goes to show how dim electorates generally are.

In order to get elected parties enter a bidding war with taxpayers' cash. When I was a child in the 1950s my mother had no child benefit. I am an only child.
My wife and I have one child and 40 years later she received child benefit.

The NHS is evidently a dreadfully managed Soviet-style system. Arguments over private or public sector provision are irrelevant, there is no effective regulation, As there has been no effective regulation in financial services.

In short, politicians are rotten managers. This is exemplifued by the latest crazy idea of stuffing GPs mouths wih yet more gold as NHS commissioning agents.

Most GPs struggle to be clerks let alone managers.

The consequence is that anyone with several grey cells to rub together would not let elected officials get anywhere near their money.

James Madison, one of America's founding fathers, considered ballot box democracy would lead to "a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property and for any other improper or wicked projects".

Well, we've certainly a rush of paper money and the abolition of debt via inflation. And you'ld be hard pressed to demonstrate HS2 or another unway at Heathrow was anything but an improper and wicked project.

So it is no wonder business in particular seeks to retain its cash. It can make far better use of it than politicians in a bidding war.

mrwicket

Grillo at least is not a quasi-fascist. Less comforting is the prospect that if he fails to get the constitutional changes he calls for, the unstable forces he has unleashed could easily manifest themselves in a much uglier form.

I remember a chat I had with a prosecutor a few years ago. He told me that he was very concerned about the complete lack of reaction to the sleaze, corruption and mafia mentality which had become endemic in the Italian state, since the longer it went on, the more likely there would be a violent response.

The movement is the reaction. It is a peaceful, democratic revolution and I believe it represents Italy's onl



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