Categories
All in the Mind Computing Power Dynamics

The Brave New World Test

Fertility Clinc

Human history has had plenty of upheavals, but I believe we have never experienced such a rapid rate of technological and cultural change with worldwide reach. In 1931 Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World not so much as a reliable prognosis of human development over the coming six centuries (as the story is set in the year 2540 AD), but as a warning of how our socially progressive trajectory could lead us to a dystopia of complete submission to a technocratic elite. Huxley failed to foresee the likely implications of artificial intelligence and nano-robotics. He had mistakenly assumed the underclasses, represented by deltas and epsilons, would have a role to play in the production process. Yet as I write Chinese industries are busy automating their manufacturing facilities despite the widespread availability of cheap labour. In Huxley's day geneticists had yet to discover DNA or understand the mechanics of bio-engineering and cloning, yet he had in my view correctly identified a direction of travel, that would only be temporarily set back by the rise of national autocracies, another world war and an uneasy transition from Western colonialism to national independence in the developing world. Indeed one may argue that some rivals to Western neo-liberalism as it emerged in Western Europe and North America such as fascism, Naziism or Soviet-style socialism were mere failed experiments, whose people management techniques could serve a future ruling class once we had the technology to placate the masses through endless entertainment and effective mind control without relying on their brainpower to keep the economy going. This has always been our rulers' main dilemma: How can they prevent the masses from shaping the future of our society and gaining greater personal independence?

We can set six simple tests to track our progress towards this Huxleyan dystopia:

1) Pervasive Surveillance

We can still retreat to our private spaces and shield ourselves from electronic surveillance by logging off or taking basic precautions to protect our privacy. However, slowly but surely as cybernetics invade our domestic life and natural language processing evolves, more and more of our informal communication is monitored. People have already been arrested, fined and jailed for politically incorrect comments on social media. Facebook now analyses messages via NLP to filter posts and add links to fact-checking sites to correct suppositions that threaten certain vested interests. Meanwhile governments are keen to prevent citizens from using any indecipherable form of encryption. For the time being it appears the technically savvy can easily outwit any restrictions imposed by technically illiterate politicians, but the tech giants are already colluding with big government to police cyberspace. Just imagine how such techniques could evolve once we routinely have bio-chip implants capable of monitoring our thoughts.

2) Mind Control Through Entertainment and Stupefaction

The leisure and entertainment sectors have grown in leaps and bounds over the last six decades. Once upon a time commoners would make do with rudimentary means to amuse each other at communal festivities. Today entertainment is a multibillion dollar industry that pervades every aspect of our lives, whether recreational, educational or professional. However, we still have a wealth of choice and may filter out forms of commercialised distraction that do not suit our tastes or high standards. In many modern settings we have to little choice but to consume genres of music and cinematography that clearly have psychological impacts. Some of us have been desensitised to such audiovisual ferocity that we hardly notice it. We could treat stupefaction as a separate facet, but it is just another means of mind control and people management. Human beings have long experimented with psychotropic substances to regulate mood and foster harmony and connectedness. We could argue that caffeine, cannabis, opiates and khat have long helped make our lives bearable in different ways. However, such crude substances have undesirable side effects that may harm one's physical or mental health, trigger social unrest and weaken our current rulers' grip on power. Psychoactive substances are thus regulated, i.e. suppressed where their adverse effects may unduly harm public health or social stability and encouraged where their mood-altering properties can suppress undesirable moods or behaviours. While smoking rates have declined swiftly in much of the West over the last 3 decades, the prescription of antidepressants, stimulants and antipsychotics has grown as more and more people are diagnosed with a growing array of conditions that psychiatrists believe require such treatment. Psychopharmacologists recognise that people not only react to drugs in different ways, but psychoactive medications inevitably interact with food, drink and numerous artificial additives as well as naturally with recreational drugs. We do not yet have a universal Soma-style drug that can reliably pacify citizens by suppressing negative thoughts and erasing unpleasant memories, but we're getting very close. Arguably other means of pacification are more effective, such as action-packed movies, fast-beat music and online gaming that entertain our senses and distract our minds from real world events. Recent moves to legalise, commercialise and regulate marijuana in a number of countries, states and provinces may harbinger a near future where most people are no longer required to undertake any intellectually or physically demanding tasks, but merely stay happy, inspire their friends and relatives and act as consumer guinea pigs.

3) Artificial Reproduction and Managed Life Termination

While the first two criteria are common to other dystopian visions, artificial reproduction defines the Brave New World scenario. Despite our evolved intelligence, natural procreation remains the primary driver of human behaviour and organisation. However, it relies on clearly defined biological genders and competition for the most desirable partners. So far we have only made tentative baby steps towards state-controlled procreation. IVF normalised the concept of using fertility clinics to produce your offspring. Originally billed as a way to help heterosexual couples who failed to conceive naturally, the technique is now available for single parents and gay couples. As the proportion of children born to single parents grows, the authorities have phased out heteronormative terms such as mother and father and even replaced the term parent with caregiver. Meanwhile, social workers play a greater role in monitoring vulnerable parents and may take children away from problematic parents and assign them to new substitute carers. We already have the technology to bypass natural mothers and fathers altogether. In 2015 the British government authorised three parent babies produced by inserting one's mother's artificially fertilised egg nucleus in a donor oocyte (egg shell), a technique known as Mitochondrial replacement therapy. Moreover, artificial wombs are no longer science fiction. Some Swedish women have already borne babies in transplanted wombs, a technology which could also help men and male-to-female transgender people experience pregnancy. The next logical step is to enable embryos to grow in artificial wombs. It would only be a matter of time before extracorporeal gestation became the norm for healthy women too as a means to avoid all potential medical complications for baby and progenitors alike. The first successful human cloning may soon reach the public domain, but merely copying imperfect human blueprints will not satisfy our elite's lust to enhance their intellectual superiority. The real breakthrough to look out for will be the perfection of gene-editing in embryos, paving the way for designer babies, who combined with machine-augmented intelligence may form a kind of super-race.

Phasing out Senility

Senility presents a massive people management challenge as modern medicine has extended our live expectancy. The elderly with mild to medium forms of dementia are not only staid in their ways, but can impair the effectiveness of socialisation techniques aimed at the younger generation. Currently euthanasia has only been legalised tentatively in a few jurisdictions, but in the Netherlands some people with severe mental illnesses have been allowed to opt to terminate their lives. More disturbing is the rapid shift in public policy and attitudes over the last 15 years. The Netherlands has seen a rise of state-sanctioned mercy killings from 1815 in 2003, 3136 in 2010 and to 6091 last year (2016), which is around 1 in 30 of all deaths. Lawmakers are now considering euthanasia for healthy people over the age of 75 through legislation ominously known in English as the Completed Life Bill.

4) Sex for recreational purposes only

In human beings sex has always played a role in intimate bonding, often as a reward for loyalty to one's partner and conscientious behaviour within a relationship. It's also the ultimate expression of positive discrimination either for high-status partners or superlative physiques. All societies have sexual taboos, for while eroticism may reap many rewards, it can also cause psychological and physical harm as well as yield unwanted babies. However, once all procreation is achieved through artificial means, i.e. without either copulation or gestation, mutually pleasurable stimulation of the erogenous zones can take on a different role. In just 50 years attitudes to non-heteronormative expressions of sexuality have shifted dramatically in much of the world. Yet our private actions are increasingly subject to scrutiny in a deluge of confusing and conflicting mixed messages as surveillance encroaches on our private lives. In keeping with the contemporary mood Huxley foresaw recreational sex as lighthearted consequence-free fun between men and women and failed to speculate on the normalisation of acts that most traditional societies have deemed either perverse or only permissible in special circumstances. Of course, we could not only use genetic engineering to let us enjoy carefree sex, but also to suppress potentially harmful or unhealthy sexual urges or unleash our erotic desires on life-like sex dolls as envisaged in the 2015 movie Ex Machina. In George Orwell's 1984 the all-powerful state frowned upon sexual liaisons between lovers as such acts may form lasting personal bonds that weaken the Party's grip on power. Orwell, I suspect, remained a techno-pessimist as he contemplated the aftermath of a barbaric world war and the spectre of a nuclear Armageddon. Our attitudes to sexuality are likely to adapt rapidly to technological and cultural changes. However, our ruling classes will seek to exploit our natural desires both to pacify us and as another pretext to spy on us.

5) Division of humanity into bio-social castes with differing neurological profiles

Eugenics remained a common theme within the Western intelligentsia before the second world war. Anthropologists did not shy from ascribing different intelligence profiles to different subgroups of humanity. Among the keenest advocates of eugenics, i.e. state intervention to discourage the intellectually impaired from breeding, was the former Fabian society president and renowned novelist George Bernard Shaw. The Fabian society has long been at the heart of orthodox British progressivism, believing that the state exists to guide both the economy and the people to a better more prosperous tomorrow through benevolent social engineering. The main distinction between Fabian gradualists and revolutionary Bolsheviks was that the former believed they could bring about a more egalitarian society by subverting the current system, while the latter believed we need first to overthrow capitalism before a vanguard party could guide the workers to new communist utopia. Fabians recognised that only free enterprise could create the kind of sophisticated technology they will need to transition to a form of collectivism that satisfies all our existential and emotional needs .

The defeat of National Socialism with its concept of Aryan racial superiority and the emergence of Anglo-American social liberalism thwarted the plans of eugenicists. To counter the appeal of Soviet-style socialism, the dynamic mixed economies of the West had to champion equality of opportunities for all. By the 1960s mainstream academia and social policy makers had consigned racial eugenics to the dustbin of imperial history as the last vestige of white European supremacy. It is admittedly hard to win public support in a nominally democratic system if you deem a large portion of your electorate intellectually inferior.

Yet elitism, or the belief that intellectually superior upper class should guide social progress, has never really gone away and neither have our enlightened rulers abandoned eugenics altogether. Instead they peddle the mantra of equality and diversity, emphasising how people may be both equal, but have different neurological profiles that presumably have genetic roots. In our everyday lives we meet people who use their intelligence in radically different ways. Simon Baron Cohen, head of developmental psychopathology of the University of Cambridge, popularised a spectrum from extreme systematisers to extreme empathisers in his best-selling book, The Essential Difference: Men, Women and the Extreme Male Brain. One may interpret his theory as confirming sexual dimorphism applies to neurology as well as to anatomy, but also redefining autism no longer as a rare developmental disorder but as spectrum that stretches into mainstream humanity in the form of Asperger's Syndrome or high functioning autism. The theory appears to imply there is some sort of trade-off between cold-blooded systematic analysis and the kind of advanced soft people skills that have become so important in our networked society. However, others disagree. We may use the same intellectual skills to negotiate personal interactions as we apply to scientific analysis. Human relationships are subject to many unwritten rules and often require contextual adaptations as we try to guess another person's intentions and feelings. Psychologists often refer to traits such as agreeableness or conscientiousness alongside openness to experience, extraversion and neuroticism. The growing focus on mental health with the psychiatrisation of every conceivable personality flaw such as depression, anxiety, shyness, hyperactivity or compulsivity have led researchers and medical professionals to explore the distribution of these traits ad infinitum. Market researchers and policy makers take a special interest in neurological diversity. They are no longer content to segment markets only by age group, gender, ethnic background or educational attainment. They want to build complex character profiles to ascertain your susceptibility to different marketing approaches, e.g. are you a conformist who merely follows fashion or do you try to swim against the tide and seek counter-cultures ? More ominously techniques pioneered for market research can help identify groups of people with problematic mindsets who may hold opinions at odds with our ruler's social engineering strategy.

The missing piece in this human jigsaw puzzle is of course IQ. While being more or less gregarious or more or less conformist does not necessarily make you more or less valid as a human being, a biologically determined and thus immutable IQ is the one factor that can justify privilege and greater power. In the US SATs (Scholastic Aptitude Tests) serve as approximate IQ tests. In the UK standardised national literacy and numeracy tests serve more to measure a pupil's receptivity to teaching methods than their culturally neutral analytical intelligence. However, mental health screening, which may soon become mandatory, reintroduces true IQ tests through the backdoor. Rest assured similar initiatives are afoot in other countries too, all under the pretext of helping vulnerable young people overcome mental health issues. Meanwhile we've seen a marked rise in the proportion of youngsters with severe learning disabilities, i.e. boys and girls who are not merely a bit weird, geekish or boisterous but who have not mastered some of the most basic life skills and will in all likelihood require constant assistance as adults. Learning disabilities now cover a very wide range of perceived intellectual impairments. In some cases it may be hard to ascertain if they are caused by psychosocial rather than mainly biological factors. Since the 1990s special needs education has mushroomed. In England and Wales alone there were 471,000 assistants by 2014 employed to help pupils with special learning challenges. While teaching aides may sometimes just help pupils whose home language is not English get up to speed in the default language of instruction (around 1/4 of English school pupils have foreign parents), extra language help would usually only be a temporary requirement especially as young children tend to absorb the dominant language from peers, television and online media. In some mainstream schools special needs pupils may only be a small percentage, but in others, especially in deprived areas, this proportion can rise significantly once we include pupils with ADHD who are routinely medicated with the stimulant methylphenidate, commonly known as Ritalin. In some primary schools as many as 1 in 4 pupils are on such psychoactive drugs. Dyslexia is another phenomenon, often ascribed to whole-word teaching of English spelling, that may fall under the broad umbrella of learning disabilities.

Educationalists prefer to explain our growing awareness of learning disabilities in terms of a more inclusive and caring society that wants to help people who in previous generations would have fallen by the wayside, ended up austere institutions or suffered early deaths through neglect. As a result health visitors and paediatricians are much more likely to refer children for diagnosis. However, other factors may have contributed to this rise, most notably the much higher survival rate of premature babies, greater use of IVF for conception, higher preponderance of multiple births (in the US this has risen from 1 in 53 in 1980 to 1 in 33 in 2014 ) and medical advances that enable severely disabled children to survive into adulthood. Whether you like it or not, in traditional societies before the advent of modern medicine any child with a severe neurological handicap unable to undertake basic life tasks would have been left to die. While many view our greater generosity towards weaker members of our community as a sign of social progress, it does bring with it a dilemma. We now have to acknowledge that some people may have a significantly lower intellectual capacity and thus be less able to fully participate in the organisation of a complex society. When the neurologically handicapped made up less than 1% of people, we could easily accommodate them as a vulnerable category exempt from the normal responsibilities of life. It seemed common sense, at least based on our traditional emphasis on greater self-reliance, that we should prevent such people from procreating as they would be unable to look after their offspring. However, now both consensual sexual activity and parenthood are viewed as rights rather than privileges or responsibilities. Few have pondered the implications of allowing the proliferation of intellectually impaired underclasses. Indeed even to mention the subject invites instant derision as a latter-day eugenicist. Yet the normalisation of dysfunctional personality profiles and dysgenics through the higher survival rate of the neurologically impaired may well lead to the emergence of submissive human subcategories akin to Aldous Huxley's epsilons and deltas. In a near future where smart robotics has relieved most of humanity of the need to work, happiness, social integration and compliance (extreme agreeableness in psychology) may be more highly valued than analytical intelligence.

6) Suppression of Free Will and Independent Thought, except as personal preferences and behaviours subject to psychoanalysis

Many high profile intellectuals believe free will is a mere illusion. However, our whole conception of individual liberty, self-determination, human rights and common law is founded on the premise that we all have independent minds capable of critical thinking. Psychiatry reduces human ideation and emotions to biochemical reactions or a complex combination of biological and environmental stimuli. By this logic homicide is not so much a crime as a behavioural malfunction that leads to an unfortunate death. I guess that's how we would explain the erratic behaviour of a robot that destroyed another robot.

Free will lies at the heart of what it means to be human, but we usually only ascribe full responsibility to adults of sound mind, i.e. only a mature mind has gained enough experience to make independent decisions. In most legal systems parents or other responsible adults are held accountable for the actions of minors and are thus entrusted with their discipline. However, the current trend to explain aberrant behaviours in psychiatric terms effectively infantilises the whole of humanity, except an elusive cabal of experts and higher authorities.

Psychoanalysts can even explain beliefs and political opinions as predictable reactions to environmental conditioning and neurological profiles that affect the way we process information. It is certainly easy to see how social conditioning can affect our opinions but some of us can and do think out of the box and challenge orthodox thinking. By dismissing unwelcome viewpoints as reactionary, populist or childish, the intellectual elite imply that we may not participate in the decision-making process unless we accept their presumed expertise. Thus in a referendum on a contentious issue such as nuclear power we decide which set of experts to believe. Yet the elite still needs to give us the illusion of democratic accountability just we like to take ownership of our ideas, which are seldom original and inevitably rely on prior art. In a dictatorship the appointed government and business classes exercise power on behalf of the people, who have to be conditioned to accept their authority. By contrast in a nominal democracy, the ruling classes manufacture consent for a range of acceptable policy options. Nonetheless we have witnessed rapid cultural change despite the conservative instincts of Western electorates. Most of the baby steps we have taken so far towards the Brave New World scenario have not been openly discussed until they are presented as ineluctable aspects of modern life. The point is while earlier technological advances have certainly transformed our societies, the next stages in the ongoing bio-engineering and artificial intelligence revolutions may transform what it means to be human.

Categories
All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Your services are no longer required

Universal Basic Income for all (Terms and conditions apply)

On behalf of trendsetting businesses around the world, we'd like to thank all semi-skilled workers for your tireless devotion to the complex industrial system on which we all depend. We are truly grateful to all our past and present colleagues and business partners including production line operatives, meat packers, welders, textile workers, millers, steelworkers, coal miners, mechanics, electricians, plumbers, builders, carpenters, farm labourers, fruit pickers, truckers, bus drivers, cleaners, shop assistants, cooks, waiters, typists, accountants and the thousands of other specialised roles that have served us well over the last 250 years.

Over the decades we have endeavoured to improve working conditions, raise salaries and address emotional issues such as stress, anxiety and interpersonal relations that may arise in the modern workplace. However, we have always had to strike a fine balance between the wellbeing of our staff and our commercial viability.

To this end, our team of robotics engineers and artificial intelligence programmers have now successfully developed a range of smart automatons who will relieve you of your daily drudgery and let you spend more time with your friends and family, unleashing a new world of playful creativity and exploration. As a sign of our lasting appreciation we have lobbied your governments to provide a global basic income, which you may spend online or at any of our authorised retail outlets or leisure centres. In keeping with our commitment to universal human rights and inter-community tolerance, we will extend our universal basic income to all world citizens, irrespective of gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religious affiliation, ethnic origin or mental health challenges, provided you agree to our terms and conditions* and cooperate fully with our friendly social harmony supervisors.

  • Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook source
  • Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX source
  • Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
  • Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet Inc
  • George Soros, primary supporter of the Open Society Foundation

The above announcement is of course fictitious, but based on current social trends. A populace fully controlled by a technocratic elite and totally subservient to an army of humanoid robots, social workers and psychiatric nurses is no longer science fiction, it's an emerging reality. The main questions relate to its implications for personal freedom and our sense of purpose in life as well as the likelihood of societal breakdown if things do not work out as planned.

Categories
Power Dynamics War Crimes

Do the Elites understand protest votes?

I wish I could rally behind one of the major or minor parties in Theresa May's Snap General Election. To be honest, I have only ever voted as a protest, to show that the citizenry is somehow politically aware, but unhappy with our rulers' mischievous actions and plans. The alternative is to spoil your ballot paper or simply abstain altogether. In reality it doesn't seem to matter which party or coalition wins a majority of seats. We get more of the same. All elected politicians can do is negotiate with the real power brokers in banking cartels, corporate boardrooms and transnational organisations and promise their voters a bigger slice of the global pie. However, thanks to automation, globalisation of trade and extreme labour mobility, large multinationals can hold national governments to ransom.

So who if anyone will I vote for in this election? To vote Conservative, as sensible as some of their rhetoric may superficially sound, would only empower their corporate backers, who are currently devising strategies to leave the European Union, but to keep us in an amorphous World Union, because they've probably realised the EU is failing as a regional brand of global convergence. The Conservative Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, is more interested in pursuing US and Israeli foreign policy in the Middle East and spreading disinformation about Syria, Russia and Iran than he is in defending British jobs except for a few thousand employed in manufacturing fighter jets for the Saudi Air Force. I had briefly and very naively hoped that Boris would steer the UK away from its irresponsible support for mendacious military adventurism, alas his oratory skills have thus far only served the interests of the same neocon cabal that welcomed the USA's escalation of military confrontation with its foes. The Tories can only play the national unity card because the main opposition parties show little or no allegiance to the cultural identity and long-term economic interests of the settled population. The Brexit means Brexit mantra has become a charade and merely an excuse to prepare Britain for a new global role in wake of the EU's inevitable collapse as it fails to deal with record youth unemployment, a migrant crisis, mass migration from North Africa and Middle East and culture clashes between native peoples and growing Islamic communities.

Rhetoric and Special Interests

Never before have the interests of the professional elites differed so much from those of the huddled masses. Until recently the affluent professional and business classes actually needed the working classes as we called the bulk of the population reliant on hard graft and mediocre wages. The 1950s, 60s and 70s saw a rapid improvement in the living standards and technical expertise of ordinary working people. The 80s and 90s saw many former blue collar workers transition to the new information economy, but then the seemingly unstoppable pace of technological and social transformation led to the outsourcing or automation of new jobs. The working class had become expendable. Meanwhile the professional classes fell in love with globalisation. It meant not just more affordable travel and holiday villas, but inexpensive nannies and plumbers as well as more attractive bar staff. Just as some upper-middle class Britons did well in the country's colonies before the 1950s, taking advantage of their perceived academic superiority and their ability to exploit the gullibility of locals, today's professional classes love cosmopolitan diversity as long as they can afford to protect themselves from its worst excesses and need not compete at the bottom end of wage scale. To succeed in today's dynamic job market you need some distinctive talents that set you apart from your competitors. Otherwise for all your efforts and perseverance your job can easily be outsourced or automated. Would you rather buy coffee from an impersonal vending machine that gets the job done or from a grumpy old man with little charisma? Just as low-end jobs have become more insecure than ever, our establishment politicians want to deregulate the labour market even more. Have they learned nothing from the EU Referendum? 52% of voters did not support leaving the EU superstate because we hate the French, dislike Italian food or mean any harm to the good people of Poland, Bulgaria or Portugal. No, we voted leave mainly to protect jobs for our people rather than letting big business turn the country into a rich man's playground interspersed with ghettoes of new migrant workers and workless native underclasses. However, it is important to understand that the belittling and deskilling of the working classes is not just a European phenomenon. Just as Welsh steelworkers can lose out to cheap Chinese imports, Chinese steelworkers will sooner or later yield to robotisation. Simply leaving the EU will not rebalance the labour market especially as successive governments have failed to invest in training key professional categories such as medical staff.

How does this unfolding global reality stack up with the rhetoric of the most prominent political parties here in the UK? Oddly Theresa May's support for tougher immigration controls, leaving the EU (a prerequisite for the former pledge), selective state education and common sense economics resonate with much of the English middle classes. Corbyn may score a few points on military adventurism (if given airtime in the mainstream media) and the NHS, but few would trust Labour on economic competence. Without a strong economy, the government would have to cut public services even more as millions of Greeks, Italians and Spaniards have learned in recent years.

Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons

Modern sociologists no longer split people into working, middle and upper classes. Instead they prefer A, B, C1, C2, D and E. A-grade individuals form an elite of high-earning top professionals probably less than 4% of the population. They're the kind of people who can easily afford to buy a property of an exclusive area of London and may have a holiday home abroad. E-graders are effectively the workless underclasses trapped in a vicious cycle of welfare dependency, low attainment and emotional insecurity. They form around 8% of British citizens. D-graders are unskilled or semiskilled workers, i.e. the kind of people most affected by outsourcing and migrant labour, but who also depend on in-work benefits. This larger group, currently around 15% of adults, could easily join E-graders if they fail to learn the more intellectually demanding skills of the information age. C1 and C2-graders may think of themselves as middle class, but are usually struggling to make ends meet. They may be better educated and better paid than D-graders, but often only a few pay cheques from bankruptcy and homelessness. Together this grouping accounts for half the population. That leaves only group B, approx. 20–25% of the population, a motley crew of intermediate managers, administrators and mediocre professionals, the kind of people who are doing alright and more likely to welcome recent socio-economic changes.

Traditionally Labour did very well groups E, D and C2 and well enough in C1 to win elections, while the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats did best in the top three grades. Whatever your tribal loyalties may be or whatever you may think of Britain's foreign policies, the basic question most of ask is "to what extent will a party's likely policies benefit my family and my community?" Labour advocates higher spending on social welfare, but looser immigration controls and hence greater labour market competition. Thus if you're stuck in group E, Labour may still seem the most attractive option. You will be the first to lose out from planned and future cuts of welfare provision and may not like the prospect of low-paid non-jobs. However, this group is also statistically the least likely to vote at all and the most likely to switch to anti-establishment candidates, especially those who can appeal to identity politics. Unfortunately, as Labour is seen as weak on extreme labour mobility, Labour have lost most traditional working class voters in groups D, C2 and C1, except those ideologically committed to socialism (very few these days) or whose ethnographic-cultural identity leads them to favour continued high levels of net migration. Under Tony Blair and later Gordon Brown and to a lesser extent under Ed Miliband, Labour could still rely on a large chunk of the wishful thinking middle classes, the kind of people who want a fairer society built on strong economic foundations. However, the Blairite roadshow has now migrated to Liberal Democrats (who once opposed a Blairite war) and pro-EU faction of the Tory Party. After a disastrous performance in the 2015 General Election, I suspect the Liberal Democrats will be the main beneficiaries of remoaner opposition to Brexit among the affluent classes disaffected with Corbyn's Labour and with an apparently Little Britain Tory Party. Indeed arch remoaners (fervent supporters of the European Union and globalisation in general) see both rightwing Tories and leftwing Labour as anachronisms from the 1980s, yet have little to offer ordinary working people except the opportunity to compete in a global labour market that an elite of robotics engineers are busy automating.

Last but not least we have the idiot fringe, best represented by the Green Party. This group seriously believes all our social and environmental problems are caused by greedy tax-evading multinationals and climate-change-denying xenophobes and non-Muslim homophobes. All we need to do is adopt immature green technologies, litter our countryside with wind turbines and solar panels, build more cycle ways and replace social welfare with the basic income. In short let's turn the whole country into a giant university campus open to all and sundry. Greens tend to think everyone else is just like them, pseudo-intellectual virtue-signalling do-gooders reliant on corporate or state largesse. It all sounds very nice until you dwell on the logistics of powering a modern hospital or importing all the resources we need for our homes, household appliances and transport system. With a fraction of our current population, we might adapt to greater self-sufficiency, but with the Greens' opposition to any meaningful border controls, their policies are bound to end in economic collapse and social unrest. At heart I support green policies, as in favouring great self-sufficiency of regions, lower consumption and stable sustainable population levels. But the Greens clearly support greater dependence on global organisation and less personal and community autonomy.

The Scottish Dimension

Before 2007 for decades Scotland had been a Labour-controlled fiefdom. Not only was corruption rife, but the party let lobby groups use Scotland as a social engineering playground, encountering opposition mainly from entrenched conservative forces within the Churches. Labour policies oversaw a continued brain drain of Scotland's best and brightest to better-paid jobs down south and turned this one proud country into a subsidy junkie, while North Oil profits flowed to multinationals and Central Government. For all their waffle about devolution, Labour and the Conservatives before them made Scotland even more dependent on the United Kingdom. The two biggest employers here in Fife are the council (20% of the workforce) and the Ministry of Defence as well as Rosyth Dockyards (now run by Babcock International) and Raytheon, both reliant on contracts either from the UK's armed forces or its military partners, principally the United States. It should come as little surprise that the SNP could capitalise on decades of arrogant subjugation and hand power back to the people of Scotland. Alas once in office the SNP behaved just like New Labour with a few grandiose infrastructure projects such as the new Queensferry Road Bridge, but even more social engineering. Their biggest failure has been in education, the one area of government intervention that can help bright children from deprived backgrounds aspire to more intellectually demanding and thus usually higher-paid jobs. Scotland's poor have faired worse than their English and Welsh cousins. They continued the previous administration's plans to merge high schools into mega-comprehensives with larger catchment areas, while surreptitiously introducing the Orwellian Named Person Act, treating all parents as potential child abusers.

Current and Future Dangers

The real divide is no longer between left and right or capitalist versus socialist, but simply between elitists vs populists. While populists may often appeal to nostalgia and offer simplistic solutions to complex problems (e.g. leave the EU, stop all Islamic migration or arrest all bankers), they do at least respond to grassroots feelings, however misplaced. Populists are unlikely to advocate lower wages or cuts in essential public services. They are also keen to support the lifestyle aspirations of their core voters, so populists tend to be sceptical of many green policies which may involve lifestyle changes such as cycling to work rather than driving. Elitists, on the other hand, believe they know what's best not just for themselves but for ordinary working and non-working people. Hence elitists will tend to support the often counter-intuitive conclusions of academic studies and reports commissioned by NGOs with a vested interest in promoting rapid cultural and economic change. Populist concerns tend to rely on the lived experiences of ordinary people. If you've just spent 3 hours waiting in a local accident and emergency department with chronic pain surrounded by patients and medical staff from other ethnic backgrounds, you might conclude that mass migration is putting the health service under strain. By contrast an elitist would blame any delays on underfunding or an ageing population, while noting the dedication of migrant medical staff. If a populist then suggests that more local lads and lasses should be trained as doctors and nurses, a typical elitist will merely shrug his shoulders and claim local youngsters simply don't want these jobs and are too busy playing on their game consoles. Elitists are basically alphas and betas, who prefer foreign gammas over native deltas and epsilons because they know the jobs deltas and epsilons used to do will soon be fully automated. Angry natives, especially from lower classes, are a massive people management issue. I suspect the real ruling classes, a small subset of alphas, are divided on this issue. They either plan to turn most of us into little more than docile consumers rewarded for our subservience while only a quarter of working age adults have paid employment, or they have more sinister plans. Either way the hallmark of elitists is their intellectual dishonesty. By pretending to help designated victim groups, whether single parents or refugees, they merely empower their own class of people denying everyone else of any economic or personal autonomy. Their policies inevitably lead to greater surveillance and monitoring of all, but a lucky few who can buy exclusivity and privacy.

It may come as a surprise to those who have read some of my other recent blog posts, but the party global elitists fear most is probably Corbyn's Labour, not because its policies are viable, which they are not, but because its leader challenges the lies and deception of the American and British foreign policy elites. Once Corbyn is swept away in the aftermath of a near certain slump in Labour's parliamentary presence (with just 25% of the popular vote Labour could lose 50 or more seats), we could witness a realignment of the elitists that brought both Blair and Cameron to office. If they see Labour as a lost cause, expect a few globalist Tories to jump ship and join a new alliance centred around Liberal Democrats, who may gain as many as 30–40 seats. In much of the Scottish Central Belt, Labour are the only party that can deny the SNP of another landslide leading to another fake Independence Referendum, but this time with the full support of the globalist establishment. In an uncertain world, the main losers of a post-UK British Isles would be ordinary working people, the gammas, deltas and epsilons the elitists no longer need. However, if Labour can hold on to a respectable presence by mitigating its losses in England and possibly regaining a few seats in Scotland owing to growing disaffection with the SNP), we may scupper the elitist gamble to silence all viable opposition to its plans.

Categories
All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Infantile Leftwing Globalism

Save the bees! Save the Trees! Save the refugess!

You might naively imagine the main focus of the Green Party is to promote environmental sustainability, while the Labour Party seeks to defend the rights of ordinary working people in their country. Yet increasingly both serve the interests of global corporations, just as much as their nominally centre-right counterparts in misnamed conservative, liberal or separatist parties.

Today no mainstream political force, and that includes the Greens, can implement the wishes of their activists. They may make a few eloquent speeches on subjects that can inspire strategic audiences and give us a semblance of democratic debate, but the only campaigns that ever succeed are those that win the backing of key corporate players via their myriad NGOs and lobby groups. The conservatives pretended to champion family values and curb unsustainable net migration. In reality they were unable to stem migratory flows, while failing to help stay-at-home mums (yes incredibly many intelligent women choose to take time off work to look after their children). Likewise New Labour had 13 years to tackle falling standards in state schools and a burgeoning housing crisis.

Radical environmentalism seeks to build an alternative model of development focused on a long-term sustainability rather than short-term profits or whimsical consumer desires. Likewise the Labour Movement was founded to empower workers, favouring long-term social wellbeing over short-term commercial gains. I sympathise with both green and red politics. I certainly do not want either a grotesquely unequal society or an environmental collapse.

Yet if history can teach us anything it is to be very careful what you wish for. As the green movement gained momentum in the 1980s, eco-sceptics claimed ecologists wanted a return to a pre-industrial era of horse-drawn carts, peat fires and peasants toiling 12 hours a day just to grow enough to feed their community. Some would argue that the Greens have never opposed technology, only bad technology. The trouble is without evil polluting technologies such as coal-fired steam engines or monstrous chemical processing plants our modern world could never have evolved. The industrial revolution initially saw a huge rise in infant mortality as young boys were sent down coal mines. It later produced the material wealth needed to invest in more efficient and human-friendly technology. By the mid 19th century child labour and slavery had become anachronisms in the eyes of capitalists, superseded by technological developments that capitalist competition had spawned. Capitalism was both a financial oppressor and a technological liberator, that the later Soviet Union could only mimic by enforcing an authoritarian form of state capitalism. Herein lies the first glaring dilemma for self-proclaimed anti-capitalists.

Back in the real world capitalism has long given way to corporatism, a marriage of major enterprises and state institutions. Left to its own devices laissez-faire capitalism would have died in the early 20th century. Indeed it would never have expanded as fast as it did without the help of state-funded armies, navies and airforces. Free trade, as we know it, has largely been won by gunboat diplomacy and later as its tentacles spread far and wide by financial coercion.

The greatest advances in workers' rights occurred in the first half of the 20th century, admittedly interrupted by world wars and national dictatorships. Capitalists had little choice because they needed highly skilled workers both to design, operate and manage their machinery and to buy their goods. In many ways the outcome of the second world war made the western world safe for a new era of mass consumerism. As mean living standards and productivity rose governments could offer more generous welfare and provide an illusion of democracy as conservative and social democratic managerial teams vied to win the favour of a docile public.

Endless Growth

However, corporate capitalism relies on continuous economic growth. The physical possibility of infinite growth on a finite planet depends on our definition of growth. It may simply mean greater circulation of capital, as happens during periods of high inflation, but most of us understand it to mean higher material living standards and thus higher aggregate consumption. We are currently on a trajectory to have a peak population of ten billion human beings. The problem is they will likely expect a Western European standard of living meaning the number of motor vehicles is set to grow from 1 to 5 billion over the next 50 years. They may well be electric cars, but they will still require billions of tons of steel, aluminium, potassium and plastics to manufacture as well as thousands of square of miles of asphalt and an exponential rise in energy demands. While many talk of a transition to public transport, walking and bicycling in urban areas, for the time being at least alternatives to cars only appeal in congested cities. When left to market forces, people will choose convenience and prestige over environmental friendliness or fitness. Our obsession with appearance and body image means many prefer to drive several miles to a gym than make a fool of themselves cycling or jogging along busy roads earning the ire of impatient motorists. Many wishful thinking Western eco-activist's are rather surprised when new immigrants to their country choose to drive short distances when they could easily walk, cycle or catch a bus. That's because they did not move to a richer country to promote environmental sustainability, but rather to enjoy a higher material living standard, or as we once said, live the American dream. Herein lies the second great dilemma of today's bien-pensant green left. Mass migration is driven, indeed actively encouraged, primarily by the same corporate system that ecologists claim to oppose or do they?

Impotence

In the UK Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish National Party and Natalie Bennett's Green Party are powerless to challenge the hegemony of the multinational corporations that shape every aspect of our professional and consumer lives, for they all agree to transfer any scrutiny of our true masters to a supranational entity, the European Union. The SNP may well run the Scottish Parliament, but dare not limit the power of the corporations that run Scotland's consumer economy. In 2016 the likes of Tesco, Walmart, SkyTV, Raytheon, BP, Shell or GSK hold greater sway over public policy than the Westminster talking shop. Indeed the SNP are so keen on ensuring that big business pay their taxes that they promised lower corporation tax to boost inward investment. As a nominally autonomous country within the European Union, they would be powerless to pursue independent economic policies. They could merely liaise as a minor player with the European Union, itself beholden to the other organisations such as WTO, IMF and the upcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. How could any party that enjoys the editorial support of Murdoch-owned newspaper, the Scottish Sun, be anti-establishment anyway. The SNP only oppose the old guard of British aristocracy.

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party seems to have greater anti-establishment credentials. Indeed the corporate media has been quick to denounce Labour's new leadership as dangerous extremists, naive pacifists or apologists for terrorists and Nazi-sympathising Israel bashers. The whole polemic about Ken Livingstone's Hitler comments is a case in point. You'd seriously think he had denied the Nazi holocaust or advocated the annihilation of Israel. In actual fact he had merely alluded to the 1933 Haavara Agreement between Zionists and the newly elected National Socialist regime, which incidentally still had important commercial ties the United State and Britain. We had the spectre of a Labour MP patronisingly shouting “Have you read Mein Kampf†at a former colleague.. This manufactured controversy over alleged antisemitism had two effects: to discredit the main opposition party and to restrict intellectual freedom. The other details were lost on a general public accustomed to a simplified Hollywoodesque portrayal of recent European history.

In 1981 before Argentinian General Gualtieri intervened to boost Margaret Thatcher's popularity, a much more radical Labour Party under Michael Foot won 41% of the vote in local elections compared to just 38% for the ruling Tories. In similar elections Jeremy Corbyn's party could barely muster 31% within England. Short of a miracle, Labour are extremely unlikely to win the next general election. If they oust Corbyn, then many Labour members would leave probably to join the Greens. With Corbyn, they can only hope to appeal to the core Labour vote in areas of high welfare dependency and/or Muslim populations as well as trendy professional elites. The party has lost much of its traditional working class vote. First in power it did little to protect British workers against unfair global competition and encouraged the migration of a new generation of immigrants from Eastern Europe to fill short-term vacancies in the country's volatile, but booming, labour market dominated by agency staff. Left-leaning opinion leaders and even government ministers would dismiss low-skill British workers as lazy and unmotivated, while failing abysmally to reform the welfare system to make work pay. Indeed Gordon Brown's flagship working family tax credits merely subsidised the kind of low-paid jobs to which new immigrants were attracted. Of course, nothing has changed under David Cameron's tenure either. Net migration has continued to hover around the 300,000 a year mark and more and more young people are employed under zero-hour contracts. While inflation-adjusted spending on the NHS has actually risen, a growing population is clearly putting it under enormous strain. Yet Labour and Conservative spokespeople always like to remind the descendants of the great British working class that we could not run the NHS without immigrants, a sly way of telling native Brits that they either too stupid or too well paid.

Ironically many in the Labour movement would agree with my critique of trendy champagne socialists, infantile eco-warriors and no-borders activists, the kind of people who think can they simultaneously cut industrial pollution, fight climate change, save endangered species, protect natural woodland and greenbelt, build more houses and allow million more economic migrants to enjoy a 1980s British standard of living. Many middle-of-the-road Labour activists from the 1970s and 80s just wanted Britain to be a peace-loving country that protected the interests of its own people without expropriating the resources of other countries or interfering in their affairs, except to deal with environmental catastrophes or to avert genocide. A humble country that would lead only by example. However, our economy has become so unbalanced and dependent on imports of goods and export of services as to make any government captive to the diktat of major multinationals.

In purely ecological terms the UK is a global parasite. It extracts much more from the rest of the world than it gives back. It has effectively become a large shopping mall complete with airports, a motorway network, millions of offices and matchbox houses. If you are worried about the destruction of the Amazonian rain forest, endangered species in Borneo, peace in the Middle East or carbon emissions globally, then buying imported goods at Tesco or taking a cheap Ryanair flight to sunny Spain will not help. Indeed our consumer habits outsource environmental destruction to the rest of the world.

Hands Tied

If Corbyn and Bennett really wanted to overthrow capitalism, they would not call for more economic growth or advocate corporate welfarism. They would oppose unaccountable and wasteful corporations and transfer their business operations to cooperatives respondent to the needs of local communities rather than short-term profits or longer-term commercial expansion. We would bring our consumption in line with our essential needs (e.g. we could eat a lot less and still live healthier lives), rather than short-term consumer fetishes. Most important a genuine workers' party would ensure all families have a stake in our real economy, i.e. at least one member who contributes through meaningful and rewarding work. If we outsource manual labour or let next generation automation displace workers in all but the most intellectually demanding roles altogether, we will have a nation of expendable consumer slaves.

The Greens may well oppose fracking and building on greenbelt, yet their leadership fully support the causes of fracking and habitat destruction. Capitalists do not lobby governments to allow hydraulic fracturing because they want to contaminate drinking water or destroy our countryside, but because they believe for the time being fracking is the most cost-effective way to produce the extra energy we need to power our growing economy and satisfy the consumer demands of the country's growing population.

Many Greens I've debated with live in a parallel universe, in which highly skilled and ecologically aware immigrants help us address an acute labour shortage and compensate for a shrinking and ageing population. This may be true in a few remote Devon villages, but the UK's population has grown from 58 million in 1997 to well over 65 million now. While youngsters born and bred in the UK struggle to find permanent jobs, agencies import ready-trained nurses and careworkers to look after the disabled and elderly.

What's Wrong With Old People?

If there is one demographic group the infantile left loathes more than any other it's the native British elderly, the kind of people who distrust the European Union, disapprove of gay marriage and may, heaven forbid, not be too happy about the displacement of indigenous communities with transient communities of international commuters. Yet an ageing population is hardly sign of failure, but a cause for celebration and an immense opportunity for a younger generation unable to compete with robots, but perfectly able to care for their elderly relatives and neighbours rather than twiddle their thumbs in marketing agencies or sell spurious legal services. If the UK had had zero-net migration since 1997, i.e. a sustainable balance of immigration and emigration, our population would only have declined only slightly today and we'd have smaller class sizes, much less congestion and a much smaller housing crisis. Indeed the fertility rate has risen from a low of 1.6 in the mid 1980s to 2.0 today (partly due to higher birth rates among some recent immigrants). By contrast countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Germany and Poland have fertility rates between 1.3 to 1.5. Singaporean women have on average just 1 child. People in these countries have merely adapted to the reality that our survival does not depend on having an excess of children. Raising a child to become a successful adult with good career prospects now requires massive investment in time and money. That why millions of European and Japanese couples simply opt out of parenthood.

Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence will soon displace most most manual and many clerical jobs. Banks are busy closing branches, driverless vehicles are already a reality and manufacturing workers will be replaced by a handful of programmers and technicians. However, the elderly and disabled will still prefer human care-workers ideally with a similar cultural background. Would it really matter if over several generations the population halved through entirely peaceful and non-coercive means? Not at all, it would merely bring our numbers back to the population we had in the 1960s and it would certainly make it much easier to address the challenges of rising material expectations, resource depletion on a finite planet and the inevitability of greater automation. A true environmentalist would aspire to attain an equilibrium with a steady state economy and stable population, but we are not going to run out people any time soon.

Useful Idiots

If the Greens and Left Labour pose such a great threat to global corporations, why do they get so much airtime on TV and so great prominence in social media. People are not being arrested for expressing opposition to austerity cuts or staging refugees welcome demos, but rather for expressing socially conservative opinions critical of globalisation. This is because our real masters are not the old national aristocracies, but global corporations who positively loathe nation states. Both the European and North American elites are planing a new borderless playground for a new technocratic upper class. The main wheelers and dealers are not populist politicians eager to placate the concerns of a conservative electorate, but large banks, transnational enterprises and increasingly NGOs and charities. While the infantile left may rant and rave about our wonderful NHS and the evils of TTIP, trendy business consultancies are busy new ways to expand the market reach of their corporate healthcare clients and rebrand TTIP to placate European politicians. When professional services networks such as Price Waterhouse and Cooper, Ernst and Young, Deloitte or KPMG talk of global governance or localisation, what they really mean is the transfer of decision-making away from national institutions to large corporations. Increasingly national parliaments debate merely how and when to phase in policies decided elsewhere. Cultural convergence is seen as a historical inevitability that merely has to be managed. In this context the mass migration of people from the Middle East and North Africa may lead to a temporary culture clash. but the long term aim to displace all autochthonous cultures with a global superculture. Civil unrest, decreased social solidarity and the spectre of terrorism all provide excellent pretexts for more surveillance and greater centralisation of powers in supranational bodies. Not surprisingly, the Eurocrats always respond to economic, environmental and human crises with calls for more Europe, by which they mean greater powers for unaccountable institutions intent to undermining the will of ordinary Europeans.

Yet across the European continent the growing divide is no longer between the lifestyle left and the economic right, but between those of us who care about the identity and thus sustainability of our cultural heritage and those who wish to supplant all traditional cultures with a brave new world order, to which all but the enlightened elite have to conform. They are quite happy to use green activists and even trade unionists to push through policies that will both destroy our environment and undermine workers' rights. The real xenophobes are not those who defend their own cultural traditions, but those who cheerlead ethnic cleansing on an unprecedented scale.

The imbecile left will never thwart global corporatism, but will merely claim credit for policies emanating from corporate think tanks such as global taxation of corporations or their new favourite, the basic income, which will inevitably be a form a global social welfare subsidised by global corporations to the workless underclasses in exchange for their acquiescence.

It often helps to observe critically what is really happening rather than formulate a convenient worldview based on personal prejudices, peer pressure or official reports. Some will tell you the green lobby is harming ordinary working class motorists through their obsession with global warming and carbon emissions. Back in the real world green politicians support policies that increase carbon emissions by actively supporting the migration of people from poorer to richer countries and recycling propaganda about how a larger population boosts our wonderful retail economy. We thus witness a manufactured debate between small businesses, often keen on easier road transport and lower taxes, and globalist greens, usually keen on tigher regulation of private transport. Larger companies always find it easier to comply with new environmental regulations introduced to please green lobbies. All the while massive out-of-town superstores with huge carparks are sprouting up everywhere. They may have a few token cycle racks and sell fair-trade bananas, bu their bottom line depends on more eager consumers buying their imported merchandise. In power and in opposition, the greens have been disaster for our environment.

Categories
Power Dynamics

Italians and Greeks don’t pay taxes

The title is ironic and may be partly true of course as many oft-repeated statements are. The most obvious riposte in defence of small-time Italian and Greek entrepreneurs is neither do large multinationals and awareness-raising charities, pay very much tax, more on that later. The accusation serves a simple purpose, to justify the huge cutbacks in public expenditure enforced by the newly appointed governments of Italy, Greece and, to a lesser extent, Spain, while the UK continues to bankroll one of the world's most generous, intrusive and life-altering welfare bureaucracies. If we believe the neoliberal intelligentsia, Greece, Spain and Italy need to urgently balance their books while their citizens should embrace the opportunities created by deregulated labour markets and start paying taxes. By contrast the same economists support the injection of huge sums of virtual cash into the economies of countries like the UK and US and urge the government to refrain from reducing social welfare for fear of triggering a much maligned recession (would that be a bad thing in country notorious for frivolous consumerism) in an economy almost entirely reliant providing services to international trade.One of the most obvious differences between Southern and Northern Europe, until recently, has been the strength of small independent businesses relative to that of large conglomerates. On paper countries like the UK have plenty of small businesses, but most are contractors, often sole traders who merely set up a limited company to pay less tax, but in reality work exclusively for, and very often on the premises of, large multinationals or smaller firms, who in turn provide services to large multinationals. Very few British small business are active in the primary or secondary sectors, and those that either occupy a niche enabling to sell their merchandise at a premium or resell their produce to larger companies. Smallholders in Wales, Northern England and Scotland have one of the highest suicide rates in the UK. Most successful small businesses provide services or sell repackaged or assembled products. As a result most UK residents work either directly or indirectly for large corporations and their taxes are managed either by their employer or accountants. Even a small café owner relies on corporate largesse with the autonomy of a modern shoeshine boy. Yet much of the wealth entering the UK is generated from the exploitation of foreign resources, whether human, edible or inanimate. Multinationals can shift production from one region to another or just subcontract to suppliers, to take advantage of the most competitive labour forces and lower rates of corporate tax. They merely need to pay tax of revenue generated directly in the UK, a small percentage of their global operations. International gangsters like Abramavich pay zero tax as Non Doms, while trillions of untaxed pounds are traded on the London Stock Exchange. So when the BBC claims Southern Europeans don't pay taxes, they mean they cannot have submitted themselves to the control of large multinationals. To illustrate my point, Amazon.co.uk, Britain's biggest online retailer, generated sales of more than £3.3bn in the country last year but paid no corporation tax on any of the profits from that income. They can afford the very best corporate tax lawyers, yet small business cannot.  Another classic way of dodging taxes is to set up a not-for-profit foundation, e.g. in the tax year 2010-2011 former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, paid just over £350,000 tax on £12 million earnings. Even your average modern school student can work out that's just 3%. Many charities are little more than lobbies for various socio-political agendas, whose main beneficiaries are power-hungry multinationals. This is particularly evident in health, as pharmaceutical and healthcare organisations seek to expand markets for their products and services by raising awareness of perceived conditions. A charity for attention deficit with hyperactivity disorder may sound innocent enough purporting to represent parents concerned their children's behaviour, but my medicalising their condition, they promote pharmaceutical solutions or generate demand for other interventions. As such organisations occupy plush buildings in city centres and spend millions on marketing, one wonders if they derive their funds from street fundraisers or sponsored activities. The records of many such charities reveal huge contributions from spurious trust funds, apparently independent, supported by parastate entities, i.e. big business. Yet they enjoy almost complete tax exemption. As Italian, Greek and Spanish small businesspeople go bankrupt and resort to drastic measures like suicide, multinationals evade billions.
Categories
Power Dynamics War Crimes

Let’s Disown Tony

Has anyone actually read Tony Blair's much publicised memoirs. Well within 3 months of the book's release and despite all the media, half-price copies were on display on Waterstones. Don't get too angry with this guy, for he has only ever been a politician in the sense of a polite public relations guy. He liberated Kosovo from Serb nationalists only to put in place a bunch of Kosovar Albanian gangsters, still supervised by NATO troops. Then in the wake of 9/11 he supported the liberation of Afghani women and the hunting down of Osama Bin Laden. Nearly ten years later Osama Bin Laden is still at large, Afghani women are still subject to Sharia law and Afghanistan is still plagued by civil war. But our multinationals gained privileged access to the world's largest supply of lithium. Tony went on to campaign for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein evil regime. Over one million deaths and $3 trillion later, Iraq is still quagmire, but our multinationals gained easy access to the world's cheapest oil supply. Libya has oil too ( see Libya, All About Oil), but only a small malleable population and a leadership willing to do business with the West. So in 2008 Tony flew out to cut a deal with Muamar Gaddafi. Three years later his successor, David Cameron, decides to support military action to overthrow Tony's friend and let in another bunch of gangsters willing to do business with BP Amoco.

I just couldn't resist reproducing this gem from Ken Silverstein:

Is there any way this country can officially disown Anthony Blair? Those of us who were never fooled by him now have to watch as he cashes in on his time as Prime Minister in ways which are actually shaming. His dishonesty, his lack of embarrassment and his greed are all so great that it is now possible to imagine him ending up munching gonads on I’m A Celebrity, perhaps trying to restore his fortunes after yet another failed property speculation…

I had to watch the ludicrous transformation of this man, who to my personal knowledge did not know in 1997 that they spoke Portuguese in Brazil, into a supposed World Statesman, the victor of Kosovo and the scourge of Saddam. These two wars, one dubious, the other indefensible, were conducted on the basis that Mr Blair is a dedicated foe of tyranny. Quite a lot of people still believe this piffle. But how can they now, after Mr Blair’s trip to Azerbaijan, there to open a formaldehyde factory?

Categories
Power Dynamics

Corporate Mercenaries

The LM Gang are back, this time advocating, in a new C4 documentary Britain's Trillion pound Horror Story, the privatisation of healthcare and education and downsizing of the rest of the public sector to reduce taxes, the national debt and stimulate economic growth.

Back in 1998 a post-modern intellectual associated with the former Revolutionary Communist Party, which later became Living Marxism and then just the LM Group and more recently Spiked Online, produced a documentary for Britain's Channel 4, Against Nature, railing against misanthropic greens. They have taken some radical and provocatory stances aimed mainly at the thinking left, those of us who are not completely brainwashed by corporate conditioning and actually want to see a more caring, sharing and, dare I say, sustainable society. Since the fall of the former Soviet Union, they have argued that the socialist cause they once espoused is dead and instead they began a campaign against what they considered reactionary forces opposed to progress. To them progress was redefined as the globalisation of labour and consumer markets, rapid evolution of technology to enable constant material growth and the replacement of previous social structures such as families and close-knit communities with a shared cultural heritage with new structures based around life-style choices and special interests. The clique around Frank Füredi, a professor of sociology at the University of Kent and author of Reviews of Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?, have morphed from extreme proponents of a worldwide Bolshevik revolution in the dying days of the modern era, to extreme advocates of postmodern neoliberal globalisation. Back in the 1970s and 80s, most on the left opposed immigration controls and welcomed multiculturalism because of a basic sense of humanitarian solidarity with the downtrodden, the perceived victims of imperialism and irrational ethnic prejudice. That was my gut instinct until the early years of the new millennium.

Yet as I try to explain in another post, modern globalisation owes its roots in 18th and 19th century European colonisation and the expansion of the United States as a world power. The left also championed women's rights, another very noble cause, which has arguably been perverted to disempower families, as wel as gay rights, which while removing stigma against natural feelings of erotic attraction towards the members of the same gender, served similar purposes in weakening traditional family units and empowering big business and the state. Thus for many years the disciples of Frank Furedi could pose on the left. When other sections of the left opposed nuclear power and later genetically modified food, the descendants of the British RCP, championed these technologies as a means of feeding the poor.

As noted elsewhere, former RCPers have become very media-savvy, but we'd be very naive if we thought they had somehow successfully inflitrated corporate media organisations in order to promote a revolution that would see the overthrow of the today's ruling elites. Rather they serve as fifth-columnists embedded in media and organisations appealing to the wishful-thinking left on behalf of a corporate elite who owe no allegiance to the ordinary people of any country.

Smart propagandists like to build on concerns about a very real problem and then differentiate themselves from other more mainstream opinion leaders to appeal to a disgruntled section of the gullible electorate. If we sum the government debt accumulated thus far and the total commitments for debt repayments, planned public expenditure, the UK public debt is forecast to reach a staggering 4.8 trillion pounds, which as the documentary pointed out could not be repaid if every house in the country were sold at current market rates. This is obviously unsustainable, indeed so obvious that even advocates of unlimited growth admit it. The documentary rightly sheds light on the huge bureaucracy within the UK's public services. Of 9 million public sector workers, only 2 million are engaged in frontline jobs as teachers, doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers etc... Instead most sit in offices administering and monitoring others. Many dependent services become self-serving as they only exist to service the administration of the public sector. For instance, an equal opportunities commission does not provide the underprivileged with new opportunities, but merely liaises with other employers and service providers to ensure their client groups are well represented. However, as they're in the communication business, they inevitably require IT, multimedia, printing, catering and transport services and their infrastructure relies on hardware technicians, builders, plumbers, joiners, mechanics and electricians. However, this huge waste of resources is not confined to te public sector. We not only have a huge rise in the third sector of NGOs, charities and not-for-profit foundations promoting this or that agenda, but large corporations, even those with an industrial base, have morphed into miniature states. For all the talk of lean manufacturing and streamlined organisation, most large private sector companies are chock-a-block with non-productive penpushers and people-managers. hile the public sector is undoubtedly inefficient, it is at least in theory accountable to taxpayers. The documentary completely missed the point, why would the government and its corporate masters subsidise non-productive people management on such a large scale? The previous NewLabour government, which ran up the largest deficit in the UK's history, can hardly be accused of not acquiescing to the needs of large transnational corporations. More important before the government began its huge spending splurge following its 2001 re-election, banks had begun lending irresponsibly to millions without stable employment or even on benefits. The UK doesn't just have a public debt, but also a huge private debt to the tune of £1.4 trillion. Most owners of typical 3 or 4 bedroom houses do not really own their homes outright, their bank or building society does. They are in most cases 6 months to a year away from eviction should they fail to honour monthly mortgage repayments. Worst still as property prices skyrocketed in the South East of England, hundreds of thousands took out interest-only mortgages, i.e. for an initial period, usually 1 to 2 years, they pay only interest on their mortgage, but after this period of grace, their monthly repayments go through the roof. Many believed in a era of unprecedented finnacial growth that 2 years later they woud double or triple their earnings and once they were on the property ladder living the middle class dream, life would be sweet. In the end the government had to bail out the bankers, so a good deal of the huge £4.8 trillion debt is actually inherited from the private sector. I would suggest that both the state and corporate sectors wanted to stimulate consumer growth. Miraculously, as NewLabour launched Private Finance Initiatives and continued to transfer public services to private contractors, quangos continued to grow.

Expropriation

Most transfers of ownership from private to public and the from public back to private hands disempower locals and empower transnational corporations. In its early stages in a favourable resource-rich environment , a market economy can theoretically reward hard work and let entrepreneurs build communities around the provision of useful products and services. This certainly appeared to be the case in 19th century North America and even in prosperous enclaves of Western Europe. However, such a system relied on a working class willing to let their bosses profit from their labour in exchange for job security. As small companies grew larger to take advantage of economies of scale and drive industrial development, the proletariat became a distinct class whose interests clashed with those of their bosses. Before the emergence of capitalism, most workers were mere peasants tilling a small plot of land and handing a large proportion of their produce to their landlord as rent. Much of the British economy came under government ownership in the aftermath of the Second World War as much of the country's industrial infrastructure such the still important railways, coal mining, steelworks, health system could not operate effectively at a profit. The State left the profitable sections of the economy to the private sector. Indeed much had controlled by huge state interventions, not least through massive armaments contracts. Nonetheless after the austere 1940s, the 50s and 60s saw the longest period of economic and social betterment, as measured by rapidly decreasing infant mortality, the reduced incidence of poverty-related diseases (such as rickets) and full employment. Although the tertiary sector continued to grow, Britain still had a manufacturing base. Most cars, lorries and trains were still made in the UK as was most industrial machinery, coal and steel. While more and more women chose to pursue careers, most mothers of young children were happy to work as housewives. In many ways the 50s and 60s were the hey day of the modern nuclear family with its typical 2.3 children. Social services still played a relatively marginal role and Health and Safety inspectors were few and far between, hence despite apparent technological limitations before the advent of microprocessor-enabled information technology, public sector bureaucracy was a lot smaller.
Proponents of nationalisation or privatisation often use the democracy argument. Thus nationalisation makes an organisation democratically accountable, while privatisation frees an enterprise of the constraints and inefficiencies of state control and places it in the hands of private shareholders. In reality nationalisation merely transfers ownership to the state, which in turn serves the interests of its corporate backers and usually rewards former owners handsomely, while privatisation leads to a temporary injection of capital into the public coffers, but has always transferred ownership to monopolistic capitalists, thus failing to provide any real competition. We could even argue that nationalising loss-making industries did an enormous favour to venture capitalists as they could invest their compensation oversees, allowing other entrepreneurs to acquire the more profitable remnants when the government privatises again.
The post-war boom would simply not have happened without an advanced welfare state, a healthy and largely contented work force and the survival of strategic energy, transportation and manufacturing industries. Hence even capitalists, claiming to favour a free market, supported nationalisation in the mid 20th century. The Thatcherite revolution practically outsourced most major manufacturing and refocussed on non-productive media and banking, a trend that continued unabated under New Labour. The only segments of Britain's industrial base that remained almost unscathed were the multi-billion pound government-subsidised armaments industry (so-called defence), the pharmaceutical and biotech industries with some niche luxury and entertainment gadget producers. Manufacturing saw a brief comeback in the late 1980s and early 1990s with an influx of American, Japanese and German inward investors. However, by the early twenty-noughties factories resumed closing, replaced only by supermarkets, call centres, entertainment complexes. In 2006 Tessa Jowell promoted regional casinos as a means of job creation and urban renewal in Britain's depressed former industrial heartlands.
In 1997 I suggested to an acquaintance who worked as an advisor for the Labour Party that he'd better save up for his daughter's university education. "Nonsense", he said, "New Labour would always ensure higher education remain accessible to all". A few months later, New Labour announced the introduction of tuition fees, initially just £1000 a year, soon rising to £3000 and now, under the Con-Dem government to £9000. As a result millions of young workers will either have to accept low-paid jobs to escape repaying their loans, thus defeating the purpose of higher education, or forever be in debt. However, the true cost of higher education actually exceeds £9000 a year, but that misses the point, the whole sector is slowly but surely being primed for privatisation, relying on wealthy foreign students and failing to train the country's future generation of engineers, doctors and scientific researchers, while the relative academic value of degrees has been significantly debased. In the 1970s only 15% of school leavers went to uni, by 2010 that number is nearly 50%. Despite the Blairite mantra of education, education, education!!, class sizes have grown and student behaviour worsened leading hundreds of thousands of middle class parents, including Labour cabinet ministers, to send their offspring to private schools. When they consider the costs of a UK university degree, they might as well use their academic loan to send their offspring abroad. I suspect Indian universities will soon start offering cut-price degrees to the same disgruntled moneyed middle classes who travelled to Eastern Europe for cosmetic surgery.
The previous government pumped billions into the national health service, insisting all new hospitals be built via PFI (Private Finance Initiatives). Despite the rhetoric the NHS bureaucracy has mushroomed with billions squandered on management consultants (not doctors) and centralised IT projects, as detailed brilliantly by David Craig in his 2008 book Squandered. More disturbingly, vast sums of public money have been spent not on essential frontline healthcare, but on promoting awareness of new mental illnesses and lifestyle-related ailments ( diabetes, obesity, angina, high blood pressure etc..) hugely boosting demand for pharmaceutical products. Amazingly, the new Con-Dem government, depsite a massive debt, has committed itself to maintaining the previous administration's spending plans. In real terms public health spending has doubled since 1997, yet the nation's health patently hasn't as any gains in prosperity have been offset by culture of hedonism and a growing rich-poor gap. Any recent gains in life expectancy have more to do with improvements that occurred 30-40 years ago (i.e. your life expectancy is largely determined by your health in your 30s and 40s) than multi-million pound anti-smoking campaigns. The US probably has the world's most wasteful healthcare system with 16% of GDP devoted to public and private healthcare. This compares with 10 to 11% in France, Canada and Germany and 8.9% in Italy, 8.7% in Australia, 8.4% in the UK and just 8.1% in Japan, while life expectancy is highest in Japan, France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Iceland, probably more down to diet and lifestyle than provision of drugs. The US Model is to boost public demand for healthcare services persuading more people that they need long-term medication and cosmetic surgery (not included in the above figures), creating a huge comsumer market. In my humble analysis the UK health system is being primed for privatisation in all but name. It has become such a monster as to be completely unsustainable and the corporate elite will rely on a knee-jerk reaction to reports of waste and inefficiencies to soften public opposition to the removal of universal provision of healtcare free at the point of delivery. Nadeem Waylayat of Market Oracle has detailed the almost inevitability of the failure of the NHS project ( see http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article23744.html ), however, he seems to welcome its downfall. I hasten to add, when the NHS collapses, millions will suffer the consequences.
Martin Durkin's documentary is just the latest salvo in a war against common sense, i.e. a rational world in which education and healthcare serve the needs of taxpayers rather than those of multinational corporations and are not allowed to become unsustainable. Apparently he has the government on his side as they have now allowed the cloning of animals for human consumption and given the green light to transgenic farming and quiely announced the privatisation of the Royal Mail.