Thursday, 21 August 2014

David Cameron offers UK families his biggest insult yet

David Cameron is completely out of touch with reality - the reality of life for ordinary families in Britain. How could it be any other way? Cameron was brought up in a wealthy family. His father was a tax dodger. Cameron went to Eton - the college of the ruling class.

So when he talks about his government only pursuing family friendly policies he must be taking the piss, or is it that he is really unable to  understand how families live? In his statement he even talked about -  'all the amazing work families do on our behalf' - by 'our' of course he must have meant the capitalist class which he represents. Yes David, families do do amazing work reproducing and creating cheap labour to work for you and your corporate chums - work that they do for very little reward on ever decreasing incomes - thanks to your government. 

So here is my message to David Cameron:
 "if you want to be family friendly end austerity, restore child benefit, stop the privatisation of the NHS, introduce a universal basic income, implement rent controls, build more houses, introduce a Green New Deal .... and when you have done that - do the decent thing - apologise for all the harm you've caused and ... resign!"

Now that is putting UK families first.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The 'Free' market is damaging our economy and well-being

About 18 months ago I was listening to one of those capitalist puff piece programmes which have become so commonplace on BBC Radio 4. A presenter, probably Evan Davies, was busy sucking up to group of 'captains of industry', who were telling the listeners what a great bunch of wealth creators they were. Amidst the general congratulatory backslapping they were talking about India and one of them, clearly a fully paid up 'free' market fundamentalist, said that  the reason why there was so much poverty in India was due to the fact that there weren't enough entrepreneurs. Well obviously... not! I can remember thinking that the problem that lay behind massive poverty in India was in fact the capitalist 'free' market economy so enamored of the speaker.

In India there are millions of people who live a hand-to-mouth existence and survive only because they have created jobs for themselves.  If they could I'm sure most would take a decent paid job. They can't because there aren't any. They have to create their own jobs because the capitalist 'free' market economic system is a failure. It has failed them. Its a system which creates massive fortunes for a few, loots the natural resources of the country, exports vast wealth, and leaves poverty and deprivation for the many, and environmental degradation, behind in its wake.

We are used to the idea that capitalism creates jobs because it used to but it doesn't have to. In the 21st Century arguably the most important sector of the capitalist economy - the financial sector - makes billions in profits yet does nothing which is socially useful and creates relatively few jobs. It is by far the largest part of the global economy. Since the crash in 2008 - 80% of net new jobs created in the UK have been through self employment by people who have had to create jobs because capitalism has failed them also. As Larry Elliot says in the article:

"A feature of the labour market is the increasing role played by the self-employed, who account for more than 80% of the net rise in employment since 2008. A large number of the self-employed may be former full-time staff in well-paid jobs in, say, the public sector or construction, who are now scratching a living where they can"
Note the 'scratching a living'. Sound familiar? The UK is becoming more like India with fewer jobs and increasing poverty. Much of this is thanks to the Coalition government with its class-war austerity attack on the public sector, low-paid, poor and disabled. Real wages have fallen 8.4% in real terms since 2008. As more of the public sector is asset stripped - i.e. privatised - and the market insinuates itself further into our lives and our economy we can expect the trend to accelerate. 

In the week in which Robin Williams died there has been a lot of talk about people suffering from depression and the inadequacy of support and treatment in the UK has been highlighted. How much of this depression is due to the desperation and anxiety of poverty and the lack of a future in the UK's failing 'free' market economy? Capitalism doesn't just cause poverty it causes alienation and despair. The triumph of the 'free' market is that it is making the UK daily more like India, a society with massive inequality, mass poverty with a vast reservoir of low-paid workers available to churn out ever greater profits for foreign shareholders. A society run for the benefit of the few rather than the majority. There is only one solution, to turn away from the marketisation and commodification of our lives to the commons and the mutualisation of wealth creation.

Monday, 4 August 2014

So our 'meritocracy' is really just jobs for the boys .....and girls?

Really good episode of Thinking Allowed last week. Its a great programme, consistently thought provoking and always well worth listening to. What caught my attention was a discussion on 'networking' by the Middle Classes. I use a capital 'M' because I'm talking about proper middle class people, not just people who think they are middle class because they have a white collar job, and by 'proper' I mean professionals - doctors, lawyers etc. You can't just become middle class overnight by simply going to university and getting a half decent job, Middle class people tend to come from families that have been been Middle class for several generations and they usually have money, property and importantly for this discussion - connections.

In the programme Laurie Taylor discussed a paper called 'Staying Classy' with the author Jessica Abrahams based on research carried out on working class and Middle class students at university. What she found was that while Middle class graduating students were more than happy to use family connections to get on the job ladder, gain experience and further their careers, working class students were prevented by feeling of 'honour' i.e. they didn't feel it was the right thing to do. As you can imagine this put them at a disadvantage in a very difficult and competitive job market.

But its interesting to also think about how employers relate to all this. Given the choice between someone who had started out with a 'good' job - e.g. some sort of internship with a high powered company arranged through family connections - or someone who had acquired a less glamorous post through their own hard work and efforts - who would you choose?  Well I'm supposing many employers would choose the former rather than the latter candidate, and that's how the job market largely works.

I can imagine people thinking not to use connections is daft and if you don't bother you deserve what you get, but what about nepotism? Do we really want a society built on class privilege with the 'best jobs' being monopolised by the sons and daughters of the better off? What does this say about the kind of society we live in? So much for meritocracy. There's no merit in gaining advantage through who you know. 

Finally, its worth defining 'meritocracy' because most people misunderstand it. The word was coined by George Young in1958 to mean:
'merit is equated with intelligence-plus-effort, its possessors are identified at an early age and selected for appropriate intensive education, and there is an obsession with quantification, test-scoring, and qualifications.

Young was describing a meritocratic 'class' groomed for success. Meritocracy is now taken to mean something very different - success based on ability and talent. But perhaps it needs a new meaning in 21st century Coalition Britain - success based on who you know not what ability you have - or maybe we should just call it 'Nepotocracy'?