Continuing the theme of Posts with Star Trek episode titles, my attention was brought by blog progenitor Hal Berstram to an article by George Monbiot in the Guardian this week. Normally based on 'the Great Moonbat' (as he is known in Climate Change Sceptic circles) and his previous outpourings I would have readily dismissed it as the usual half-baked Socialist waffle, most likely being funded from one of two South East Asian countries. However, proving the old adage 'even a blind squirrel stumbles across the odd acorn' true, it's an impressive argument, one of the best I've ever seen from a Guardian journalist.
The central point, and it's pretty hard to argue, is that what the financial sector, especially has become bears only the most passing resemblance to 'Free market capitalism'. Taking aim in his first few paragraphs at one of the easiest targets amongst the so-called '1 percent', Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, Monbiot lays bare the level of subsidy given to Formula One, both globally and in the UK. Avid readers of this blog may have seen mention of my passion for Formula one racing, but whilst admiring the spectacle of such advanced technology and the drivers' skill, Formula One has been a political football since really the Early 1970's, and the scandalous decision by Blair to campaign for an exemption for Formula One from an EU ban on tobacco sponsorship, laid bare the links between Ecclestone and senior politicians of both Parties. For anyone thinking the Conservatives were any better, the funding of the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire was the subject of some very murky 'offshore tax planning' which it used to effectively run at a loss and gain sole proprietorship of the British Grand Prix amid rising safety concerns which eliminated rival Brands Hatch from the picture from 1987 onwards.
Monbiot then hits out at another sitting duck, James Purnell's Private Finance Initiative or 'PFI', a device whereby Private Sector companies would invest in much-needed infrastructure projects. First touted at the fag end of the Thatcher administration (I think the idea was a Keith Joseph brainchild in the 1970's but it took until 1992 for its first implementation), the idea was that the 'more efficient' Private Sector would be able to deliver services and infrastructure more efficiently than if they remained in the Public Sector. Despite opposing it under Smith, Labour under Blair became an enthusiastic user of PFI in the next thirteen years, most pointedly because PFI liabilities could be disguised 'off balance sheet'. I admit that my source for much of the PFI information is satricial magazine Private Eye, whose continued exposure of this scandal remains one of the greatest journalistic public services of our age. Suffice it to say, to be 'enticed' into these deals, all the risk had to be transferred from the Private Sector provider to ultimately, in the last resort, the taxpayer. Current PFI liabilities, according to Government figures released in November LAST YEAR stand at £267 billion with that figure likely to rise.
Continuing his them of shooting fish in a barrel, Monbiot then exposes Free market advocate Matt Ridley, a former Telegraph journalist whose admirable 'Acid Test' columns sit proudly in my cuttings file. One in particular 'Dihydrogen monoxide - there's a real killer' exposed how just by changing a substances name, single issue campaigners can create a storm in a teacup. Turns out he's less then keen on the rigours of the Free market when they apply to him, as Northern Rock, of which he was the nominal chairman had to be baled out by the taxpayer, his risky strategy of going after NINJA homeowners provoking the first run on a UK bank in over 120 years. I have often maintained this was a political decision by Brown (to shore up Labour support in the North East) and that had the bank been called 'Southern Rock' and based in say, Guildford, it would have been thrown to the wolves. Nevertheless, the fact that such rank hypocrisy has been exposed by Monbiot is wholly admirable.
Arguably not such much a sitting duck, as a tranquilised flock of geese, the EU's CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) is a scandal of such long standing it often escapes attention. Suffice it to say, I don't know anyone, of any political persuasion, who supports its continuance in its current form. The level of fraud is so great as to almost defy calculation, and the truth is the last estimate were that its cost to the taxpayer equated to around £2400 per head per year. Furthermore, a looming deadline of 2013 for Poland's full admission to the CAP on the same terms as the French, which due to the Polish agricultural sector's surprising resilience is estimated to increase that figure by nearly £1700, will also lead the EU to face imminent bankruptcy. (assuming the Euro crisis doesn't finish it off)
It's a truly searing critique. What we have is nothing I, or any advocate of a free market capitalism would recognise as a capitalist democracy. Call it what you like, kleptocracy(government for the benefit of the ruling class), plutocracy (government of the wealthy) or Oligarchy (government by a ruling class) - one thing it for sure as hell isn't is a democracy. The problem with his diagnosis, is what is the overarching issue for the British Left, because the one group omitted from the analysis is highly paid Council Officials, European Commission servants (for example) and other bureaucrats who also need to be exposed as basically a parasitic 'rentier' class above and beyond the ordinary people of the UK. Perhaps, what's needed is a coming together of the dispossessed from both sides of the political spectrum to unite and smash the cosy alliance of both Private Sector plutocrats and their Union Baron and Senior bureaucrat counterparts from the Left. I look forward to it....