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28 October 2013
Britain’s extremist rightwing Prime Minister David Cameron does not mince his words. In a speech prepared for the final day (2 October 2o13) of his Conservative Party’s annual conference in Manchester, he set out the classic case for raw uncompassionate blue-blooded capitalism:
“We know that profit, wealth creation, tax cuts, enterprise – these are not dirty, elitist words. They’re not the problem, they really are the solution because it’s not the government that creates jobs. It’s businesses that get wages in people’s pockets, food on their tables, hope for their families and success for our country.”
It is certainly true that it is not Cameron’s government that is creating jobs. In fact, it is doing the contrary. It is flogging off major public enterprises – the country’s “family silver” – for example, the national postal service and the national health service – to its own supporters in the private sector.
The result of such privatisation is always the same: a falling-off in the quality of service provided, a slimming down of the workforce together with degraded pay and working conditions for the remaining employees – and fat profits for the asset-strippers.
As for the tax cuts championed by Cameron, these benefit private businesses but they have resulted in a radical cutback in social security payments and welfare services for millions of poor Britons, not excluding disabled people, whom this vicious government has taken a sadistic pleasure in singling out for impoverishment.
It’s not for nothing that the Conservative Party is popularly referred to as the “greedy pigs” party. Or, alternatively, as the “nasty” party.
What a contrast with the attitude towards profit held by the ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius (Mengzi).
According to tradition, Mencius lived from 372 to 289 BC. He was a peripatetic political philosopher who moved from state to state advocating ethical government during the chaotic and brutal Warring States period (403-221 BC) when seven states battled it out in China for supremacy. Liang, sometimes referred to as Chin, was one of the seven warring states.
The passage italicised below is taken from Book I, Part A, of the 2003 revised translation of Mencius by D.C Lau published in Penguin Classics in 2004.
Mencius went to see King Hui of Liang.
‘You, Sir,’ said the King, ‘have come all this distance, thinking nothing of a thousand li [a li is a little over 400 metres]. You must surely have some way of profiting my state?’
‘Your Majesty,’ answered Mencius. ‘What is the point of mentioning the world “profit”? All that matters is that there should be benevolence and rightness. If Your Majesty says, “How can I profit my state?” and the Counsellors say, “How can I profit my family?” and the Gentlemen and Commoners say, “How can I profit my person?” then those above and those below will be vying with each other for profit and the state will be imperilled.
[For further development of this theme, see our post Lessons from Mencius for Warring States ]
But we don’t need to go to East Asia or as far back as Mencius to find dissent from Cameron’s position.
No less a person than the last British Tory Prime Minister Sir John Major has just lashed out at the crude capitalist ideology being peddled by Cameron.
In a speech at a lunch for parliamentary journalists at Westminster on 22 October and reported in the London Guardian the next day, Major urged the Tory party to show compassion for the “millions of have-nots locked into lace-curtain poverty”.
“Governments should exist to protect people, not institutions,” he said. “We Conservatives shouldn’t be afraid to show that we have a heart and a social conscience. If we do, we might not only regain seats that are at present no-go areas for Conservatives, but, far more importantly, we might transform lives as a result.”
In particular, Major called for a one-off windfall tax to be placed on the rocketing profits of Big Heat – the oligopoly of six major energy companies that control Britain’s energy supplies – to fund government help for people struggling with rising energy bills.
According to the Guardian, Major was unequivocal that these companies were profiteering: “I do not see how it can be in any way acceptable that, with energy prices rising broadly 4 % in terms of costs, the price for the consumer should rise from 9 to 10 %.”
“We’ll probably have a very cold winter, and it is not acceptable to me, and ought not to be acceptable to anyone that many people are going to have to choose between keeping warm and eating.
“With interest rates at their present [rock-bottom] level, it’s not beyond the wit of man to do what companies have done since the dawn of time and borrow for their investment rather than funding a large proportion of their investment out of the revenue of families whose wages have not been going up at a time when other costs have been rising.
“The private sector is something the Conservative Party supports, but when the private sector goes wrong, or behaves badly, I think it’s entirely right to make changes and put it right.”
Ouch! This from Cameron’s own predecessor as Conservative Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997. An unprecedented onslaught – not by some unreconstructed Marxist-Leninist but from within their very own ranks – on the current social darwinist devil-take-the-hindmost law-of-the-jungle capitalism being foisted on Britain by toff Cameron and his have-a-lot snob-school-educated poshocrat cronies.
The reaction from Downing Street (Cameron’s office) to Major’s diatribe was not long in coming: “The government has no plans to impose a windfall tax”. There was no need at this stage, the government felt, to consider providing extra help for the poor to cope with their spiralling heating bills.
As my father used to say, “What can you expect from a pig but a grunt?”
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.