This piece is going to be a bit like Maths exams in the old GCSE’s (Before Michael Gove turned the education clock back to the 1950’s): It’s more about the working out than the answer itself.

In all honesty I don’t expect to find an answer as such. But I know how my brain works. If I don’t work this through, and I don’t put it in writing, I’ll never get to sleep. It’s only 11pm now, so I’m hoping I’ve got the jump on this one.

Here’s the basic outline of my brain’s initial and demanding thought process:

  • If someone is violent towards you, you can defend yourself. Using reasonable force. You can defend others too.
  • We’re on the receiving end of an economic war. War is pretty violent, ergo we are victims of economic violence.
  • If we are victims of economic violence then there MUST be steps we can take to defend ourselves.
  • What can we do to protect ourselves? What can we do to protect others?

I half expect this line of reasoning to fall apart as I dig into it further. But I’m not going to get any peace until i do, and I’m hoping you, reader, will help me through the process.

I better state now, in terms as clear as I can, I am against violence of any form. One of my roles at work is training our staff in non-violent ways to support people with “challenging behaviour”, and the cornerstone of my course is promoting the well-being of everyone even in episodes of violence and aggression. My starting premise is this: If we are going to live in a world and a society that is defined by peace, a world that shares the spirit of 1945 that Ken Loach wants to rekindle – cooperation, equality, health and prosperity for all, we need to start out in a peaceful way.

Now don’t misunderstand me, sometimes an intervention needs to be firm, direct, and even temporarily overpowering. But if you are going to overpower another person, to protect them from themselves or others (including you) from them, you need to do that in a way that doesn’t harm, is the least restrictive, and for the shortest possible time. It’s a basic tenet of the work I do. Overstep these guidelines, use an intervention that is more restrictive, inflicts harm, or is disproportionate to the risk presented and you become the problem. You become a violent abuser. That destroys trust, relationships, and can lead to a spiral of violent conflict that has terrible repercussions for everyone. You also need to work longer-term on the causes of destructive behaviour for the benefit of everyone.

This work that I do is more of a vocation for me, and it defines everything I do. Well, maybe except those times I let off steam on a game. But you need to have an outlet for tension!

So let’s look at this. Is there a genuine legal basis for this idea of “self defence”? and what about defending others? Well, yes. It turns out there is. This Wikipedia page discusses Self-Defence In English Law. I have no legal training. I’m relying on the sources I can find and you, dear reader, to help me sift through this. So if you have anything to add, please do. From this wiki page, here are the points that jump out at me:

  • One can act in ways that otherwise would be illegal to prevent injury to oneself or others, or to prevent crime more generally“. This means “one has the same right to act to protect others as to protect oneself“.
  • Self-defence in English law is using reasonable force against an unjust threat.
  • A person may use such force as is [objectively] reasonable in the circumstances as he [subjectively] believes them to be.
  • “A man about to be attacked does not have to wait for his assailant to strike the first blow or fire the first shot; circumstances may justify a pre-emptive strike.”  BLIMEY!

Wow. Well, applied to physical attacks, it seems there is a pretty solid case for some very forceful action to defend yourself and others if you believe the threat to be serious. These defenses also stretch to property. Now, can personal wealth, nationally (communally) owned property and assets, or property taken illegally or unjustly be included in these provisions? If they can, then there might be a whole lot more we can do to protect our national assets, and maybe our own (and each other’s) wealth (I’m thinking about wages, savings, future earnings, rights to shared ownership of the organisations we are part of and work for. That kind of thing) and economic well-being. This is something I may need some pointers on.

What about this notion of economic violence? I remember a poster about it in the Quaker meeting house in Plymouth where my Mum would take my sister and I occasionally. We would play in the playroom while she did the whole silence thing with the other grown-ups. I think the poster was from Amnesty International. It showed a cake, with a tiny slice and loads of people standing on it, and a huge slice with hardly anyone standing on it. The message was pretty clear, and I was maybe 9 or 10. How well accepted is this notion? Hmmm, not very. Good old internet suggests economic violence is a subsection of Structural Violence and points me to the work of  Johan Galtung and James Gilligan. I’m not familiar with their ideas yet, well, not consciously, but I’ve got to say they seem to have somehow influenced my perceptions of the world. I’m just going to cut-and-paste from the wikipedia page on this and then head over to a bookshop (Sadly my library has been closed to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and to keep bankers in extravagant salaries and obscene bonuses despite their criminal frauds and phenomenal incompetence) to get myself an education.

“Structural violence is a term commonly ascribed to Johan Galtung, which he introduced in the article “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research” in 1969.[1] It refers to a form of violence where some social structure or social institution purportedly harms people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs. Institutionalized elitism, ethnocentrism, classism, racism, sexism, adultism, nationalism, heterosexism and ageism are some examples of structural violence as proposed by Galtung. According to Galtung, rather than conveying a physical image, structural violence is an “avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs”. As it is avoidable, structural violence is a high cause of premature death and unnecessary disability. Since structural violence affects people differently in various social structures, it is very closely linked to social injustice. [2] Structural violence and direct violence are said to be highly interdependent, including family violence, racial violence, hate crimes, terrorism, genocide, and war.[citation needed]

In his book Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic, James Gilligan defines structural violence as “the increased rates of death and disability suffered by those who occupy the bottom rungs of society, as contrasted with the relatively lower death rates experienced by those who are above them.” Gilligan largely describes these “excess deaths” as “non-natural” and attributes them to the stress, shame, discrimination and denigration that results from lower status. He draws on Sennett and Cobb, who examine the “contest for dignity” in a context of dramatic inequality.”

They are giving some weight to what we know: a very few people have great wealth, that they continue to accumulate this wealth, and that the vast majority of others are locked into poverty, denied access to health care, education, sufficient food of a good enough quality to maintain health, sufficient water clean enough to sustain themselves, the legal and civil protections of their human rights and so on.

This can be seen at a regional level as well as a global one – indeed that marmite-like politician Nick Clegg highlighted the disparity in life expectancy in his constituency in Sheffield, which according to the NHS in Sheffield is 17.9 years. That is tacit acknowledgement that lives are needlessly lost due to economic inequality. That is economic violence, here in the UK, killing people on a measurable scale. Now consider the case globally… Think about the situation in India, China, Africa… The case for acting in defence of others is pretty pressing.

Now consider that inequality is rising rapidly, that the richest 0.1% are taking an ever-larger share of national income (last measured at 10% of the entire income of UK citizens), and the incomes of the lowest-earning 50% of the population are shrinking, that the richest 1% of the UK population hold more wealth than the other 99% ADDED TOGETHER, and that right now our Coalition government is giving tax breaks to millionaires and the biggest banks while simultaneously cutting public spending (despite historically low national debt) and welfare payments, and considering cutting or freezing the legal minimum wage. Nick Clegg (as part of the coalition) is actively enforcing policies that will INCREASE the deaths due to economic violence in his own country, in his own constituency. So are all the other Coalition MPs. But they don’t have any mandate for these appalling policies. Few were in their manifestos, many aren’t even part of the Coalition Agreement (and that was never even given to the public for a referendum). The case for self-defence is surely overwhelming.

But what can we do? English Law suggests that even interventions that harm others, that result in the death of our attacker may be justified. But I can’t accept that very easily. If we start trying to appropriate others’ wealth by force we become the aggressor. If we kill, where does that end? Everything life has taught me so far suggests this only brings further violence and avoidable harm.

What about more peaceful and longer lasting measures, similar to the way I work with potentially aggressive adults (it’s very effective, and demonstrably safe)? what about reforming our economic system? What about reforming our democracy? What about peaceful occupation, employee take-overs of failing businesses? India managed a revolution without violent resistance. One of the strengths of the Occupy movement was its non-violent nature. Many of the evictions have been ruled unlawful, and the state clearly didn’t know how to respond when demonstrations are persistent but peaceful.

I think I need to explore this another time. It’s 1 am now, I think I’ve satisfied my brain.

I hope I’ve stimulated yours.

Whatever you do, do it to promote the well-being of everyone, even those who are causing harm. In the long run our world will be a better place for it.

 

Wow.

It’s 2 hours since my partner and I went to see Ken Loach’s “The Spirit of ’45” at our local indy/arty/groovy picture house, The Tyneside Cinema. It’s Late. I’ve tried to sleep. I’ve got three 12-hour shifts over the next three days. I need to sleep. But I can’t. I’m too stirred up. I’m too moved, too uplifted, too angry, too heartbroken, too depressed, too motivated.

Firstly: Go and see this film. I implore you. Even if you aren’t interested in politics, or you think history is boring and stuffy, or you can’t stand the cinema. This film shows up how hollow, empty, damaging most “entertainment” is. It shows how utterly essential politics is to each of us, and how without recalling our history we are so terribly vulnerable to the invidious weapons of the economic soft war being waged against us. Have a look through some of the earlier posts if you want to see what I mean by a soft war, and what some of those weapons are. Go here: [http://www.thespiritof45.com/About-The-Film/A-Brief-Synopsis] to find out more about the film. What I want to write now is a (probably jumbled) quick reflection on what I made of it, and what I took from it. Partly as a record so I can come back to it and find out about all the issues it raised, partly as my contribution to the discussion this country needs about our futures, but mostly as a (fingers crossed) cathartic release in the desperate hope I can get some sleep once my brain has offloaded it’s over-capacity ramblings.

There’s tonnes to say about this film. I’m going to try and organise this as I go, and attempt some on-the-fly editing to avoid the danger of gigantic tangentialism.

Thought no.1: Oh my word. What an incredible political climate there was in ’45. What the hell has happened to us? The website I linked above has an amazing archive of the political manifestos from 1945 onward  How have we gone from a Labour party that stated it was “… a Socialist Party, and proud of it. Its ultimate purpose at home is the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain – free, democratic, efficient, progressive, public-spirited, its material resources organised in the service of the British people.”, and clearly states it’s intention to nationalise utilities, industries and transportation (Labour manifesto 1945) to one that accelerated the destruction of the great work of it’s predecessors through the incremental privatisation of the NHS, Universities, social services, social housing provision, policing, criminal justice system, prisons, and aided the deregulation, boom and consequent bust of the financial sector that has brought industrialised nations to their knees? How can we have sleep-walked into a political climate where a party bearing the same name as that which created the NHS and the welfare state has actively undermined, dismantled and sold-off these essential pillars of society, often whilst the individual MPs and Lords (or those that fund their private office or lobby them) have benefited financially through doing so?

Thought no.2: Everything pro-capitalists tell you is a lie. Only once in the last 100 years has there been a deliberate concerted effort to raise living standards for the masses. Only one government has over-seen a deliberate reduction in economic inequality. Only one government has actively followed measures to ensure full employment, equal access to housing, education and healthcare. That government was the government of Attlee and Bevan. It created the NHS, a welfare system that prevented the worst forms of poverty, built 200,000 – 300,000 homes a year, nationalised every essential utility and industry, raised wages, built the transport, water, communications infrastructure that industry needed. AND IT REDUCED THE COUNTRY’S DEBT BURDEN BY FOLLOWING KEYNSIAN PRINCIPLES.uk debt gdp ratioLook at this graph of UK debt as a ratio of GDP. After the war it’s around 200%. Immediately after Labour win the election and set about their grand plan what happens? it spikes up to 250%, then falls. And falls. And falls. Look at where it is in 2010 – barely 70% of GDP. Yet now we need austerity because our debt is too high? We need to sell off our schools, libraries, hospitals to give no-strings-attached handouts to failed and criminal Bankers so they can keep their bonuses? We callously cut or stop the welfare payments to our poorest and most vulnerable while the richest take home the largest share of our national wealth since  WW1?top earners income share

The government that has singularly managed both economic AND social success was overtly Socialist. Only after Thatcher came to power, and the Chicago School brand of destructive neo-liberalism was installed as the default economic model was this trend of lowering inequality and rising living standards reversed. That’s right: In the UK we have proved Socialism creates wealth for all, capitalism creates extreme wealth for a few, and impoverishes everyone else. Right now we are almost back in the economic situation we were between the two World Wars, a great depression for the vast majority of our population, with mass unemployment, appalling poverty and utter hopelessness about the future. The cause both times has been the same. This is from Labour’s 1945 election manifesto: “In the years that followed [the First World War], the “hard-faced men” and their political friends kept control of the Government. They controlled the banks, the mines, the big industries, largely the press and the cinema. They controlled the means by which the people got their living. They controlled the ways by which most of the people learned about the world outside. This happened in all the big industrialised countries.

Great economic blizzards swept the world in those years. The great inter-war slumps were not acts of God or of blind forces. They were the sure and certain result of the concentration of too much economic power in the hands of too few men. These men had only learned how to act in the interest of their own bureaucratically-run private monopolies which may be likened to totalitarian oligarchies within our democratic State. They had and they felt no responsibility to the nation.”

So clearly, this economic soft-war, fought by “hard-faced men” is not a new occurrence. Its results are being repeated, and WE are paying the costs of it. Right now the richest Americans have around $21tn stashed in off-shore tax havens, while only $3tn is needed to eradicate poverty across the globe (according to the World Bank). At worst a one-off tax of less than 15% on this wealth would release enough cash to end global poverty. Not doing that is a deliberate choice to impoverish the majority of the world’s population, and to hoard wealth and power earned through the work of the same population being impoverished.

Thought no.3 Yes, EVERYTHING the pro-capitalists tell you is a lie even that convincing bit about efficiency in the private sector and waste in the public sector. I’ve written a brief piece about the lies they tell us about inefficiency before: [click here] but this film highlights two other examples: before the railways were nationalised the various companies ran “clearing houses” employing hundreds of people constantly shifting invoices and receipts between each other for each use of their rails, signals, workmen, rolling stock, or whatever else. This was abolished when nationalised, and those people put to work in much more useful ways. Before Thatcher installed her internal markets in the NHS, and started contracting out aspects of hospital functions administration costs were around 6% of NHS budgets. Today they are heading toward US-level costs of 18-25%. Capitalism is more wasteful, more expensive, less efficient. Fact. And it’s pretty flippin obvious that any system with competition, duplication, litigation, and most of all vampiric shareholders sucking the money out of the organisation is going to be less effective. Capitalism might have given us iPhones, but only using the infrastructure and education largely provided or subsidised through taxation and state spending, and only to benefit the owners and shareholders. Imagine if the wealth generated by such an enterprise was collectively owned by all. And imagine how much cheaper it would be if the costs were bourne by all, but didn’t include the costs associated with competition, advertising and shareholder dividends. There is nothing stopping innovation in a collectively-owned institution. Our NHS has lead the world in creating new treatments, interventions, diagnostics, health policies.

Thought no.4 They only get away with it because we have stopped fighting for our rights. Two things made this clear to me in Loach’s film. At the beginning were memories and discussion of the mood and motivation of the nation after winning the war, summed up by Beveridge’s report identifying five “Giant Evils” and describing how they could have been defeated before WW2 as in his words ” want, as defined in the social surveys, could have been abolished in Britain before the present war. As is shown in para. 445, the income available to the British people was ample for such a purpose.“, and what measures would need to be taken. They won a landslide victory on the basis of this report and the shaping of the manifesto around it. Labour would have the same victory in 2015 if they had the same policies, as the same five giant evils afflict us once more, caused by the same few “hard-faced men” accumulating too much wealth and too much power.

Later in the film miners and dockers told of their experiences of the strikes they took part in, the police brutality and changes to Union laws that broke the power of the workers, and the loss of jobs, wages and rights that resulted (and also a huge rise in the CEO’s pay relative to his workers, and a gigantic rise in profits taken by owners and shareholders). One man called for unified general strike action, even if it breaks Union laws, to reclaim some of the rights and wage levels that have been lost. Another described how important the NHS was, and how everyone should fight in any way possible against any attempts to destroy it. Well, that’s already happening. So maybe we should heed his words.

Conclusion: We need to wise up to this economic war, we need to wise up to its history, and we need to remember how we won the battle of ’45 and take great heart from it, because in that victory lies the blueprint to winning the war once and for all.

Also, we need enough sleep if we are going to acheive this. So I’d better get to bed.

Next steps in learning about the war: what the hell happened in the 60’s & 70’s that culminated in strikes and Thatcher?

  • Incomes for the very richest are rising faster than ever before.
  • Incomes for the majority of us are falling.
  • Despite the obvious transfer of wealth and power to the very richest many blame the welfare state, immigrants or the Eurozone crisis for their economic hardship.

I want to look at how these aggressive super-rich are using our society, our culture to fight for the ever-increasing share of money and power they desire. The recent legal battle over “welfare-to-work” schemes in the UK has really thrown into reflief some of the methods I’ve seen being used against us, and hearteningly how the counter-insurgency is fighting back.

I’ve previously described the rapid increase in inequality in the UK and the western world as a “Soft War”. This isn’t a term used very widely. It is most often used to describe and analyse the conflict between Iran and the US.

This article [Click here], from “Intellibriefs” blog has a useful definition:
“A “soft war” can be defined as a set of deliberately hostile acts aimed at transforming the fundamental cultural values and identities of a society. This type of war can influence all social aspects of a political system, and can include such phenomena as “cultural invasions” and “psychological operations.” In other words, a soft war includes the following:

  • It is an intentional and planned activity
  • Its most important domains are cultural, political, and social”

Phil Taylor, a Leeds University academic gives this very thought-provoking observation: “A true softwar attack is one of covert perversion, best thought of in terms of a military adage–war is deception. People make decisions based on their cognitive environment, their infosphere; control of the data comprising such an environment allows a certain amount of control over those in it.

A “Soft War” is being fought to gain control over our minds, through influencing the information we receive, the political landscape we live in and the way that frames our culure and our society. It is frighteningly successful. We are living through the fastest and most audacious transfer of wealth and power, probably the greatest in human history, and despite being on the smelly end of this stick most of us are either oblivious to it or so passively apathetic that we are complicit in our own impoverishment. In fact, most of us in some way or another actually actively fight this soft war on behalf of the folks who are winning it at our own expense.

One of the reasons this soft war is so sucessful is the ways it is hidden from us. Firstly, this is through controlling the information. Before 2007/8 hardly any of us had any idea how much money was being earned by bankers, traders, CEO’s. We had no interest in the mechanisms behind the creation or supply of money, or any comprehension of the ways corporations and the super-rich avoided tax or how vast the sums in question were. We certainly had no idea how unequal our society was. Since the Occupy movement and campaigns by groups such as UK Uncut this has changed a little. Secondly, and more pertinent to this post, these things are hidden by distraction and diversion. This is where the welfare debate comes in.

The UK hasn’t always had a safety-net for the poorest and most vulnerable. It took the devastation of two world wars and the intervening depression to produce the political will and cultural climate that gave birth to it. This article from the Guardian is a brilliant intro to the events and the personalities that so dramatically changed our country [Click here]. I urge you to read it and compare it to the political landscape of today. Can you imagine a political party elected to power with a manifesto that contained the phrase “The Labour Party is a Socialist Party, and proud of it.”? And then one that commits to an incredible programme of nationalisation and the creation of the welfare state and the world’s only universal health service? I’m starting to wonder if the result of this devastating economic war might, just might, give rise to something similarly radical. Christ I hope so. The alternative is the destruction of these safety nets and the brutalisation of our society.

As you can see, the political landscape we inhabit today is very, very different. Our NHS is (according to politicians and the media) in a constant state of “crisis” and continually requires “reform“, which interestingly results in ever more for-profit involvement and cuts to frontline services. Our welfare system is now a shameful “trap” that prevents people working, a bloated burden that creates “scroungers” and “shirkers“, and a lead weight on our economy threatening to drown us in a torrent of “Chavs” and immigrants playing Xbox with their curtains drawn and buying potnoodles in their dressing gowns. This narrative is so pervasive and so vivid that it grips the minds of the majority of us, serving as such a popular and powerful scapegoat for our economic difficulties that the richest 0.1% can get away with the fastest increase in the share of income since the Victorian times with little more than a “tut” from the watching masses.

Of course, as with any sucessful Soft War this is a “covert perversion” of reality. Let’s look at reality. Our UK government spent £694.89bn in 2011-12. Jobseekers allowance took £4.91bn of this. Debt interest cost us £48.20bn. That’s nearly ten times the ammount we gave to jobseekers. This is where I got these figures: [Click Here] On 31 March 2011 we had £456.33bn tied up in failed banks we had bailed out [Click Here]. That’s NINETY-THREE times the ammount we gave in jobseeker’s allowance. As an interesting juxtaposition, the banking and finance sector paid out £13bn in bonuses for the financial year 2011/12 [Click Here]. That’s right, we gave £456.33bn of support, they paid themselves £13bn in bonuses. So where are the tabloid stories decrying the economy-sapping bailout-fueled debt interest repayments or the bonuses-for-failure leaches in the finance sector? Yeah, makes you think, doesn’t it? One of the characteristics of a Soft War: It is an intentional and planned activity. You are reading and watching the results of editorial decisions.

Ok, the media presents a picture of welfare spending that is massively exaggerated. Does it matter? Does it affect how we think? Yes, to a stunning degree. Read this for the general picture: [Click here]. This is an extraordinary demonstration of how effective this media war effort has been: [Click Here] Look at how these people, the direct targets of government policy that is exacerbating the increasing levels of inequality, are actively supporting the policy because it will affect other people on benefits. The people costing a fraction of the burden on the the taxpayers purse compared to the cost of supporting the (in many cases) criminal bankers who bankrupted our world are fighting to impoverish themselves and enrich the already rich. As Fern Brady puts it, this is a work of “Genius”. Working people are being forced to use food banks to feed their families, while In 2012 the income (just that year’s earnings) of the richest 100 people was enough to end extreme poverty across the globe 4 times over, and we direct our anger and blame at the most vulnerable in our society who are costing us the least.

Anyone know a good shaman or psychic? We need to contact the spirits of Keynes, Attlee, Bevan and Beveridge or the battleground of our minds is going to be lost.

Maybe I’m getting too pessimistic, there is some hope. The welfare-to-work schemes which undermine wages and job security, and actually prevent jobseekers from finding work according to DWP’s own figures, were ruled unlawful on 12th feb 2013. They were quashed by judges in an appeal court on technical grounds. But the case against them was fought on breaches of Human Rights laws protecting people against forced labour. The judges actually dismissed this argument, but almost every media commentator reported the ruling as “forced labour schemes outlawed” for a day or so. That could be a powerful meme if it takes hold. The anti-tax-avoidance campaigns of UK Uncut have also been a real perception-changer, influencing even our tax-dodging Chancellor and PM’s language and actions.

There’s so much more to say about this, and so many related topics. But I gotta sleep.

Don’t believe what they tell you, always ask “what are they hiding from me?”

So I’ve wondered if the money-and-power-grab we are witnessing by the richest 0.1% is part of a bigger plan, or if it is an end in itself. Like I’ve said before I’m not sure if that really matters, right now there’s millions dying unnecessarily, billions having their potential crushed so a tiny minority can have it all. If we stop that we’d stop any further plan if it existed.

Americans are unique in the way they depict their own government and corporations in their popular culture. Almost always its with suspicion and fear. Just look at films such as The Manchurian Candidate.

The youtube clip I’ve linked to is a concept trailer for a film, “Gray State”, which gives a visceral hardening to the soft war people are waking up to. Whenever you delve into topics like the economic inequalities of our society, you always bump up against “conspiracy theorists”. It always makes me wonder if I’m making links between events, people, policies and consequences that aren’t actually there. I don’t think I am. The data speaks for itself. The corruption is barely hidden. The suffering is everywhere I look.

I doubt very much that the current financial crisis is a stage toward a fascist one-nation world government. I might be wrong about that. But doing whatever I can (and to be fair it ain’t gonna be much more than blogging, reading, discussing and joining demos) to slow the rise in inequality isn’t wasted either way

Is this a carefully constructed “PsyOps” strategy used in the Economic War? Or simple human delusion/dishonesty by individuals creating great suffering and trying to justify their actions? Maybe its a simple clash of Myers-Briggs personality types. Whatever it is, I’m staggered and disturbed by the fact that there exists a group who argue that inequality benefits everyone. It seems they want as much of your money as they can get, and they actually want you to love them for it.

The most ardent of these seems to be Edward Conrad. He’s a retired Bain Capital partner, and he’s not apologising for the astonishing wealth-and-power-grab he and his pals have aggressively pursued since the 80’s. You might have heard of this company before – Mitt Romney, the failed presidential candidate in last years US election was founder of Bain Capital. They made billions buying ailing US companies, “fixing them” (by sacking the US staff, outsourcing operations abroad and employing aggressive tax avoidance measures – see here for a wikipedia entry on them, here for Washington Posts critique of Bain “offshoring” jobs from US to China, India and other countries, here for a blogger’s investigation into the scale of “offshoring” jobs in the US and here for the perspective of soon-to-be sacked workers for Bain), then profiting from the share dividends and selling them on. Proper Capitalist dream stuff.

Now, It’s Mr Conrad I really want to concentrate on. Not his personal life, not his Character, but the economic argument he’s putting forward. It seems like “Soft War” stuff to me. He states in an interview given before the release of his book “Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong” that he wants to change the perceptions of economists, politicians, thought-leaders. He wants MORE inequality.

His argument: That “investors” only spend a small portion of their capital on their own lifestyles. The vast majority is used to fund further development of businesses that will go on to employ people and improve the quality of life of everyone. Using the examples of computing and software innovators, the likes of IBM, Microsoft, Google etc, he estimates that for every $1 an “Investor” takes, the general populace experience $20 of “value”. He says the public don’t understand this because they are “consumers” and have no insight into the economy or the role of “Investors”. He sees the job of the “Investor” as facilitator of innovation and growth, and that the more cash they have at their disposal, the more growth there will be and the more everyone will benefit. Here’s the interview: [Click here]

This is clearly at odds with the vast majority of economists, as the interviewer points out. It’s also at odds with reality.

The IMF in 2011 released a study that showed income inequality was the most important factor in deciding how long a period of economic growth will last (under our current “capitalist” economic structure (I note that many argue what we have is anything but a free capitalist system, but it’s a convenient term for the time being)), with lower inequality providing longer periods of growth. They estimate a 10% drop in inequality produces 50% longer periods of growth. They highlight the “dangers” of extreme income inequality: Political and social instability, which discourage investment and business activities, weakening of a state’s ability to respond to external shocks, increasing debt burden on the part of the poorer members of the society as they attempt to keep pace with the cost of living while their wages stagnate. Sounds a bit like our world right now doesn’t it? Here’s the info I’m using: [Click here]

Let’s just see again what the trends are regarding income equality:Image

This is for the UK. Yeah, bad isn’t it? Well, if you’re not part of the richest 0.1% that is.

A very recent report suggests the richest 0.1% in the UK have increased their share of the UK’s wealth to 10%. Wow. That’s actually at a faster rate than the chart above, produced in 2009 by the High Pay Commission, predicted. The bottom 50% of the UK population have 18% of the wealth. That’s a smaller proportion of than before. So, Mr Conrad is getting his wish. The super rich are now even superer richer, and getting more so every day. The rest of us are measurably poorer. Middle-class included. Are we experiencing the benefits he espouses? Is there now even greater investment in business, are new start-ups exploding into being? Are we all experiencing 20 times more value in our lives than the super-rich are hoarding? No. Clearly not. The economy is stagnating, even shrinking. Businesses are constantly crying over the lack of funding streams available. Ordinary people, working families are having to rely on foodbanks to survive.

A 2005 Ohio State University study of the 50 US states found that actually the inverse of Mr C’s ideas was the case. Quelle suprise. A “more vibrant middle-class” meant long-term stable growth i.e if the super-rich don’t hoard all the money the economy grows. Here’s where I sourced this info: [Click here].

So, we can safely say the numbers don’t agree with the pro-inequality lobbyists. It’s interesting to note who makes the pro-inequality arguments: The super-rich. The people who directly benefit from the inequality they want to increase. Is it self-delusion, borne out of cognitive dissonance when the super-rich see the chaos and poverty they are producing? Is it because I’m an idealistic INFP from the Myers-Briggs way of looking at people, and these “Investors” are ISTJ? just a misunderstanding? Or is it that they fully know what they are doing, but they like it, and you know what? they’ll have more if they can persuade you to give it to them. As Nye Bevan said: “How can wealth persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep wealth in power? Here lies the whole art of Conservative politics in the twentieth century.” Seems to me it’s even more the case in the 21st Century, and they’re trying a multi-pronged soft war to do it. Advancing an absurd argument that making poor people poorer will “add value” to their lives, or stimulate growth by reducing demand and supply simultaneously (sacking workers, shutting firms and paying less for those left in work) is probably part of such an economic war effort. Orwellian doublethink is clearly a useful weapon in the soft-war arsenal.

Remember: just last year the richest 100 earned FOUR TIMES what would be required to eradicate extreme poverty ACROSS THE WHOLE GLOBE PERMANENTLY. Mass poverty is a deliberate policy of the very richest to increase the money and power they have, at everyone else’s cost.

There’s a couple of points I want to explore another time:

1 Is “class” really the issue? Mr C talks about a single distinction between people: “Investors” and “Consumers”. Is the “Class War” a distraction from the real economic war?
2 How these sneaky “Investors” have the majority of us fighting their battle for them without even noticing.

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From The Young Turks on Facebook. How bad does it have to get before Mainstream Media start to give airtime?

The media is such a valuable tool in a soft war. In the UK there are two dominant narratives constantly being used to justify policies clearly designed to transfer wealth and power (in the form of rights, legal protection and influence over policy) from the majority of not-very-well-off to the extremely wealthy few:

  1. The national debt is caused by out-of-control public spending, therefore the remedy is to cut back on public spending. I’ll come back to this another time. It’s demonstrably untrue and if we had a decent Mainstream Media this would be challenged and debunked in an instant.
  2. We face a crisis of inefficiency and uncompetitiveness, and this is why our economy isn’t growing. The solution is to “make employing people easier” and “remove barriers to business”. This translates into “Remove employment rights to make sacking people easier, and workplaces less safe”, and “Remove the regulation and safeguards that stop business trampling over the rights of consumers and the wider society in the pursuit of profit and power”.

It’s this second point that’s intriguing me. This is less obviously untrue. It’s such a pervasive idea many people accept it. But how many question it? Lets have a look at some of the facts, then think again about this point.

Are we inefficient? Here’s a graph of the changes in “productivity” per head of population between 1993-2011:Image

This shows that against even lauded economies such as Germany, we are becoming more productive faster. Compared to these countries we are actually increasing our productivity fastest. Hmmm. well that doesn’t fit the narrative does it?

Wait – that’s because of the “Euro crisis” etc right? It’s not Eurozone we’re scared of is it? it’s China. Big bad human-rights trampling, currency fixing, single-party communist dictatorship China. They’re the next big superpower. All our manufacturing is going over there isn’t it? Well let’s look at their efficiency: Here’s a link to a wikipedia page showing various international organisations’ rankings of countries by productivity per head of population. [Click this] Startling eh? UK is around 18th-24th, China somewhere between 80th-90th depending which you use. Well that’s not very efficient is it?

So if it’s not efficiency, or productivity, what is it? It’s all about how much of the profit can be taken by the richest.

Look at this graph, it’s the wages earned as a percentage of GDP in the UK:Image

I got it from this report: [Click here]

Here’s the situation in the US (Its worse): Image (click here for the original blog I took this from).

So who’s getting the benefits of all this increased productivity? Not the workers. It’s those at top. Here’s a table showing the increase in the average FTSE 100 CEO’s pay versus the average pay of workers in his or her company (probably his, sexism is rife in the boardroom): Image

And here’s the High Pay Comission’s visual depiction of the rapid increase in income share being taken by the very richest 0.1% of UK earners:

Image
Click here for the original report “Cheques With Balances”

So when you hear about a new policy to improve “Efficiency” and “Competitiveness”, ask yourself – is this really about improving already very good efficiency, or is this about redistributing my wages to the already very rich?