Eye of a needle?!


Welcome to the third (and final) in this brief series of posts I have called ‘Anarchy blogs’ – posts that present an alternative look at the present global economic recession.

Today’s post considers the nature of wealth and attempts to deal with the (erroneous) knee-jerk assumption that just because you oppose the present form of out-of-control greedy capitalism you must therefore automatically be a Communist, a revolutionary, someone who wishes to abolish money and all state systems, lazy, envious etc yada yada yada!

The fact of the matter is – money as a means of exchange (and motivation) is (rightly or wrongly) not going anywhere anytime soon; humanity simply isn’t civilised enough to do without it yet. So, it’s here to stay for several more lifetimes at least. Which means the question becomes one of fair distribution – allied to further questions regarding the way money is made and what it is used for. Patently, across the world today, money is unfairly distributed, made by increasingly corrupt means and used for a depressing array of dubious and damaging purposes.

However, do the problems caused by unregulated and corrupt casino capitalism mean that no-one should be wealthy and that individual wealth should be capped? Perhaps surprisingly (at least for those who think from my latest novel or previous blogs that I can be pigeon-holed under a label such as ‘radical anarchist’, ‘Commie’, ‘hippie’, ‘leftie’ and so on) my answer is NO.

Being a wage slave is not much fun – and yet that is how millions are required to spend their lives simply because the present system demands it. In addition, the much heralded ‘computer age’ that (back in the 70s) was supposed to deliver oodles of free leisure time and a more comfortable lifestyle has instead largely created a tyranny of bureaucracy and surveillance that has ironically resulted in the exact opposite of its pioneers’ utopian vision. Perhaps it is time to think outside the box.

Many moons ago when society was agricultural and most people were peasants there was no such thing as a ‘working week’ – instead people worked when crop yields required it. Later, the Industrial Revolution (that required factory fodder and massive scales of production) introduced the ‘working week’. Well, we’re a long way from the Industrial Revolution (here in the ‘technological age’) and yet we’re still applying that same system from days of yore! Not only that – we’re doing it just as badly (after a brief hope-filled period of championing fair play and civil/human/workplace rights in the late 1960s). What has largely been forgotten is that there is also a notion called ‘a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work’ – and it just isn’t happening…globally. That’s why four nurses clubbing together can barely afford the rent on a house in London (despite working all the hours God sends) – let alone ever hope to get on the ‘property ladder’. That’s why goods are manufactured in appalling sweatshops in the Far East. Meantime, undeserving others (bankers pocketing coerced taxpayer’s cash as ‘bonuses’, politicians filling in fraudulent expenses claims) are living the (unmerited) high life and…crucially…giving nothing back. (There is no real ‘trickle down’ from the financial sector – check the facts: wider society still gets more trickle down in the UK and US from manufacturing…and in the UK manufacturing has already shrunk to almost being a cottage industry! Plus, try getting the banks to lend you some of the millions in ‘quantitative easing’ that just fell in their laps!). But (to return to the main theme of this post) is being rich – in itself – a problem?

My view is I would rather have wealthy individuals who have made their money fairly deciding what they do with it – rather than a government with an appalling track record for corruption, waste and spending money on staggeringly expensive weaponry (rather than on healthcare and heating bills for the elderly) coining it all in to distribute among their mates, backers and various lackeys. Having said that, my hope would be that the (decent) wealthy folk use the opportunity and considerable leverage that comes with great wealth to do good and to benefit wider society and those in need. I’m no biblical scholar – but I think I’m right in recalling that it is not ‘money’ itself that was called ‘the root of all evil’ but ‘the LOVE OF money’? There are still some among us who have made their money fairly (eg by producing tangible goods ethically that have improved the lives of others or by entertaining and bringing pleasure to millions) and who use their wealth to help others. That seems to me to be the way to proceed.

Some examples of present-day wealthy philanthropists would include Bill and Melinda Gates – whose Foundation (although troubled by several controversies that would warrant a much longer blog) has backed vital medical research worldwide. Warren Buffett (once the world’s richest man – and another figure mired in past controversies that are too detailed for this blog) has gone on record to say that today’s capitalism has gone badly wrong and has duly pledged to give away 95% of his personal wealth to charitable causes. Less controversial (but no less significant) modern philanthropists include Oprah Winfrey (who has donated more of her own money to charitable causes than any other US entertainer – including $10m to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina) and actor George Clooney (who is involved in a multitude of notable campaigns and causes).

I’d rather the folk who produce things (eg brewers, wine makers, car makers) – provided they do so ethically (without damaging the environment and while paying a fair wage to their workers) – were able to garner a reward (and then hopefully give something back to wider society) than all wealth be abolished and we all live in penury (and misery). That, I believe, would be what is known as a Pyrrhic victory!

After all, wanting a fair society is not the same as wanting no society at all.

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