A newspaper article from a few days ago is being passed around by some friends, one of whom commented that they would wait for my more eloquent answer. I don't just write an entire blog post in response to every post Hoz puts out, I have a life outside of writing. Wait, who am I kidding.
The thing is when I read stuff like this I then have thoughts and views and considerations buzzing around in my head, to get them out I write them down, many never get to the point of being posted as an article.
But at least it gets the thoughts out of my head for a while.
So the question is do we live in a country that has very different social structures based on where you are on the rich / poor divide. How about I start with the dictionary definitions of both forms of socio economic states.
Define Socialism:A political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
Define Capitalism:An economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.
So we don’t live in either of those, not in their pure form. We have a National Health Service where medical support is, mostly, provided to those in need. But we also have private companies owning large chunks of that same health service and running them for profit. So in reality we live in a bastardised situation that is neither one nor the other. But in some ways is an combination of the worst of them both.
Yes I did say the worst.
In a capitalist world each person is responsible for their own support and care, each person survives thrives or dies based on their own ability to generate wealth and the proceeds of their efforts are mostly theirs. A capitalist nation does not have an NHS.
But in a socialist world where property, wealth and debts are collective the failures of one become the failures of all and the debts of one are paid by everyone else because one persons debts are really every ones debts. A socialist nation does not have private companies or banks making multi billion pound profits.
So what is the worst of each?
To live in a world where everyone is expected to sacrifice their income to support the state while at the same time everyone is denied the support of the state is the worst of both conditions. People going hungry or homeless because they cannot generate enough money to pay their bills is the worst of Capitalism, taking money from everyone to pay for the debts created by a handful of banks is the worst of Socialism.
A society what creates digital money in order to pay off the debts of people and companies rich enough to pay their own bills while forcing millions of people to suffer in poverty and go cap in hand to charities to put food on their tables because they cannot earn enough money.
Maggie said this years ago. The problem is that she was wrong, very wrong.
When you are a government or a bank you never run out of other peoples money even if you have to create it yourself. After all creating money is just a way of making your tax payers pay you in future for the money you are creating now.
Let’s look at some numbers. The bank bailout not so long ago is probably a very good example. The world found itself falling into an economic hole, a recession. There were many triggers for this and not all of them are the fault of the various world banks, but it was the banks that began to squeal loudly as things began to go badly for them.
Now exact figures as to the total worth of these banks is complex and time consuming work to find out and I have a sort of life so I’m going on general estimates. As of the banking crisis the worth of the Multinational banks that were standing there with their hands outstretched for handouts was roughly Six Trillion Pounds. That’s £6,000,000,000,000. That is a large number,an extraordinarily huge number. Assets, stocks and holdings, cash in hand. An utterly inconceivable number.
And yet rather than doing what you or I would be forced to do and selling off some of the silver to pay the bills they walked that well worn path to the government which purely by chance happened to be packed with friends, relatives and old school chums and asked to be bailed out.
Why bother with spending money yourself when you have a handy government to spend taxpayer’s money for you.
When little Oliver went, bowl in hand, to ask for a little more food, something that a million or more people in this country now do, he was told to go away and suffer in silence, there was no money, it’s the recession, we must have austerity.
But the government of the time found some money down the back of the sofa to pay for the banks, to bail them out with taxpayers money rather than leave them to actually use their own assets to pay the bills.
Estimates vary as to the money that was spent to bail out the banks, depending on who you ask, there are a number of different ways of calculating it and the politicians tend to use the way that sounds the best for them.
So we have overall estimates of Eight Hundred and Fifty Billion, that’s £850,000,000,000.
The National Audit Office says:
At its peak, support for the banks totalled more than £1 trillion.
The Office of national statistics says:
The public sector net debt including the temporary effects of the financial interventions, at the end of March 2013 was £2,206.6 billion (140.3% of GDP), this compares to a public sector net debt excluding the temporary effects of financial interventions of £1,185.5 billion (75.4% of GDP).
That is a lot of money, incomprehensibility large sums of money. The sort of money that makes estimates of a few tens of Millions in Benefit fraud look like a drop in the ocean.
This represents a truly massive safety net for companies rich enough to pay their own debts, a stark contrast with the social safety net that no longer seems to exist for those who are too poor to pay their debts.
But we hear far more about Benefit fraud and the government’s attempts to stop it that we hear about the vastly more expensive bailouts and handouts for the banks. The poorest and most vulnerable are subject to the harshest and most restrictive of rules. Eight hundred and fifty thousand have had benefits sanctioned at a time when we are told there were two and a half million on Job seekers. Did one third of all the people on unemployment benefits really do something to have those benefits suspended or cancelled, a third of them. Really?
Compared to the utter failure of attempts to impose restrictions of banker pay.
When we have a minimum wage which is different to (and less than) what is considered to be a ‘Living’ wage then you begin to see just what the problem is. Capitalism has no concerns for little details like minimum wages, you earn or you starve. It is socialism that has a living wage. We fall between the two, a minimum wage as token to socialism and that minimum being below the living wage as a gift to capitalism. Not to mention such delightful ways of avoiding the minimum wage as zero hours contracts and the like.
So is the UK Capitalist?
Is the UK socialist?
Does the UK Provide Socialist Support for the Rich and Capitalist Indifference for the Poor?
The evidence certainly seems to suggest that it does, but not because of any socialist or capitalist ideology. Instead what we have is that most old fashioned of reasons why the rich look after each other, why friends, families and old school chums and their companies are bailed out while the poor are left to go hungry.
If we help you what can you do for us?
If you are rich enough to be of use to the rich then they will help you as long as you help them in return.
Politicians agree to huge bailouts then retire to well paid directorships or consultancy roles with those same banks and companies.
Organisations rich enough to pay their own debts are helped because in return those organisations have enough money floating around to do the same in return to the government and its ministers.
In truth I don't think the situation exists because of Capitalism or Socialism or any other form of ism. It exists because of simple, old fashioned greed, corruption and self interest.
In the UK in the 21st century if you want help you need to be rich enough to not need it. Those too poor to help themselves are too poor to help the politicians and so are simply abandoned.