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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Inequalities of wealth and power

Yesterday's Guardian had some excellent Comment pieces on the extent to which wealth and influence are unequally distributed as a result of the way political and market forces operate in the UK.

Polly Toynbee took on the Government's unthinking and unevidenced mantra that privatisation is always right and always best:

"There is no evidence about how well contracting and privatising work: the best experts can find is 1980s assessments of early contracts for simple local services. At the very least, there should always be a state comparator. NHS contracting is galloping ahead, with no centrally gathered monitoring for comparison. Other privatisations rush on – probation and the court fines collection service – while companies built by cashing in from the state, such as G4S, A4E and Serco, are in disgrace. While Serco is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office after overcharging on tagging, it emerges that its finance director sold £2.7m shares two months before the share price tanked on a profits warning.

This is the world David Cameron assumes always does better than public service, as a matter of unproven conviction. Laying out his Open Public Services policy, he said everything was up for sale, with "a new presumption" that "public services should be open to a range of providers competing to offer a better service". When he said: "The old narrow, closed state monopoly is dead," he forgot to say that services sold or contracted would become private monopolies making handsome profits at our expense. The dogma driving these privatisations wilfully ignores past experience."

George Monbiot calls Britain the new land of impunity because no matter what the criticisms made or damage done, fat cats and politicians seem able to cling on to the rewards of power and wealth:

"There has seldom, in the democratic era, been a better time to thrive by appeasing wealth and power, or to fail by sticking to your principles. Politicians who twist and turn on behalf of business are immune to attack. Those who resist are excoriated."

These specific and evidenced UK-related accusations are set against the background of debate regarding Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century with its powerful argument about wealth, democracy and why capitalism will always create inequality:

"When the maelstrom surrounding Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century dies down, as all such publicity storms do in the end, its lasting achievement may be to give economics back its sense of proportion. Diligently and unnoticed outside his field, Mr Piketty – together with Emmanuel Saez and Tony Atkinson – spent years mining international tax records to demonstrate how, in Britain and the US, the portion of the national output gobbled up by the richest had first fallen by two-thirds or more in the 60 years after the first world war, but had then, from the 1970s on, more than doubled again. Having settled one century-long story, in the new book the professor moves on from top incomes to (even larger) top wealth and traces this through more than 200 years of data, while discussing how population growth and the march of technology have shaped capital's place in society since antiquity. This long view discourages worry about passing matters such as individual elections, or for that matter recessions."

In one of it's leaders from yesterday, the Guardian suggests:

"Where mainstream culture had precious little to say about inequality during the long years in which the economic gap opened up, post-bust and post-bailout, a different mood has taken hold, and rage against the rich is now part of the zeitgeist. So fashion is playing its part here. But if the fashion is for finally facing up to a maldistribution of resources previously unnoticed, then that is all to the good."


The Clash - Working For The Clampdown.

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