Saturday, 16 April 2016

Caring Can Be Deadly...

Dear Reader,

My apologies for no article last week: an insect took a severe dislike to my foot
and managed to put me out of action for a few days!

There so many matters of concern to address, but I'm initially focusing this week on the environment, a matter over which many people (at least 908) have been killed over the last decade, says this site. That website also says that 913 journalists have been killed over the same period - in many locations, world-wide.

The expression of free-thinking is being repressed in a big way, but evil will never win over truth. Of that I am confident.

If those figures are not alarming enough, the Guardian states "air pollution led to more than 5.5 million premature deaths in 2013". Not hundreds, but millions, of people.

All this is in the context of the world's governments permanently trying to push on for economic growth, ignoring the possibility of (a) that growth can be seen to be causing an undue amount of harm and distress, particularly to ordinary people and the environment, and (b) the world's resources, particularly of the fossil-fuel kind, are not inexhaustible. 

On the issue of fossil fuels I recently wrote to my MP (Labour) on the matter of fracking. He, after a little persuasion, replied to the effect that the Labour Party had reviewed their policy in February and decided that fracking is a no-no for them if any proposal fails to satisfy various highly stringent tests. Well, that's a better response than I, frankly, expected. At last, Labour appears to be gaining green credentials.

Meanwhile the Panama Report of this week has clearly shown that the richest persons and entities are striving even harder to hide away their profits from the glare of the masses and from tax collectors.

In my last article I referred to 'think tanks' and their effect on the policies of the western world this last 30 years or so. Well, here is a Guardian article that expands on my notion a lot more, and puts the problems of today squarely on 'Neoliberalism' as the ideology at the root of all our problems. The keynote of the article states:
Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning. 
It further includes the following observations:
Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.
We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.
Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.
Neoliberalism was not conceived as a self-serving racket, but it rapidly became one. Economic growth has been markedly slower in the neoliberal era (since 1980 in Britain and the US) than it was in the preceding decades; but not for the very rich. Inequality in the distribution of both income and wealth, after 60 years of decline, rose rapidly in this era, due to the smashing of trade unions, tax reductions, rising rents, privatisation and deregulation.
The privatisation or marketisation of public services such as energy, water, trains, health, education, roads and prisons has enabled corporations to set up tollbooths in front of essential assets and charge rent, either to citizens or to government, for their use. Rent is another term for unearned income. When you pay an inflated price for a train ticket, only part of the fare compensates the operators for the money they spend on fuel, wages, rolling stock and other outlays. The rest reflects the fact that they have you over a barrel.
Neoliberal policies are everywhere beset by market failures. Not only are the banks too big to fail, but so are the corporations now charged with delivering public services. As Tony Judt pointed out in Ill Fares the Land, Hayek forgot that vital national services cannot be allowed to collapse, which means that competition cannot run its course. Business takes the profits, the state keeps the risk.
The greater the failure, the more extreme the ideology becomes. Governments use neoliberal crises as both excuse and opportunity to cut taxes, privatise remaining public services, rip holes in the social safety net, deregulate corporations and re-regulate citizens. The self-hating state now sinks its teeth into every organ of the public sector.
Perhaps the most dangerous impact of neoliberalism is not the economic crises it has caused, but the political crisis. As the domain of the state is reduced, our ability to change the course of our lives through voting also contracts. Instead, neoliberal theory asserts, people can exercise choice through spending. But some have more to spend than others: in the great consumer or shareholder democracy, votes are not equally distributed. The result is a disempowerment of the poor and middle. As parties of the right and former left adopt similar neoliberal policies, disempowerment turns to disenfranchisement. Large numbers of people have been shed from politics.
A century ago, the nouveau riche were disparaged by those who had inherited their money. Entrepreneurs sought social acceptance by passing themselves off as rentiers. Today, the relationship has been reversed: the rentiers and inheritors style themselves entrepreneurs. They claim to have earned their unearned income.
That article rather sums up - in a much better way - my view on the current politico-ecomomic dilemma.

Thank you for reading this.

Love all; Serve all!