Capitalism, Socialism, Libertarianism, Democracy and other euphemisms.
Capitalism, Socialism, Libertarianism, Democracy! I am sure those who use the terms do so with a degree of fervour. I am certain few of those who do have any concept what the terms really mean or the consequences of applying any of them without restraint.
The Oxford English dictionary defines this as “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state”. I find this a rather inadequate definition. Capitalism is better defined, surely, as a system that enables production and delivery of goods and services through a process where the ownership of capital funds and enables such production. There does not have to be “profit” for the system to be capitalist.
What we have at present is not true capitalism. Providers of goods and services fund production by persuading their customers to lend them the money. This masquerades as “ownership” but those who “invest” in public limited companies have absolutely no control and therefore do not own those entities. The bulk of capital raised is from marking up the prices to the customer.
Most small to medium sized companies operate on borrowed money and that puts the banks in effective control. The banks have a bad record of misconduct. It was banking activity that led to the 1930s slump and to the more recent “International Economic Crisis”. The banks, however, are the custodians of capital and here we can see the fundamental flaw in the system. Capital is a mirage. Its value is entirely dependent on the value placed on others who might want it. What the banks store is promises. Every pound they hold is merely a promise to pay. Every pound they hold has been lent out twenty or thirty times already.
The dictionary defines this as “A political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole”. Again the definition is defective. Socialism is a principle suggesting that everyone should contribute to society to the best of their ability and that everyone, in return, should be entitled to what they need. Most people seem to forget the first half of that! (“From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”).
The rabid right misquote this and assume it means limiting everyone to the lowest common denominator. Mainstream politicians have used that misinterpretation to use the label to impoverish millions of people. The basic principle is, however, hard to disagree with. Surely a civilised society would never countenance encouraging poverty, starvation, disease and pestilence to flourish in its midst while some enjoy wealth they can never enjoy. Nevertheless, in the UK, over 20% of the population exist in a state of ABSOLUTE poverty. That means they cannot afford to feed, clothe and house themselves. The figure does not include people who are homeless!
My flesh begins to creep when I hear any politician use this term. By definition any civilisation is libertarian. Civilisation, surely, is about ensuring the maximum possible freedom for everyone while ensuring those freedoms do not impinge on the freedoms of others. What some mean, by the libertarianism, is “MY freedom” at the expense of others.
How can someone who cannot feed or clothe themselves, for example, enjoy the same liberties as someone with vast wealth? If libertarians mean we all enjoy similar liberties then surely that situation has to be corrected first. How can those people partake of the benefits of society when they have been raised without the income to enable them to join in the activities those better off take for granted?
Here I speak from firsthand experience. I was brought up in abject poverty. We were homeless until I was ten. My clothes were home made from cut down cast-offs while school trips, PE kit and other such luxuries were not available to me. I did not know what a barber was. My hair was cut by my mother. What I have I gained through very hard work. I worked nights while at school. I saved until I could afford a further education. I had to start again afterwards.
My libertarianism means striving to ensure everyone has an equal bite at the cherry.
This is the biggest laugh. There is, in reality, no such thing. What we have is a compromise that bears the name. The Oxford Dictionary provides more than one definition: “A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.” And “The practice or principles of social equality”. The origins are Greek: the people rule.
Do we rule? Clearly not. We have, in place, an oligarchy. It shifts its centre slightly from time to time but our involvement is limited to an occasional vote for a package which probably will never be delivered. Our individual influence is infinitesimal and perhaps this explains why a third of the electorate never bother to vote. UKIP policy is to have referendums where there is demonstrable demand for them. Whatever system is delivered will remain a compromise.
It is a shame history is no longer taught in schools. Without this it is impossible to learn from the past. I regard myself as fortunate to have experienced a Grammar School where I studied Social and Economic History up to 1914. My history teacher was the one teacher I really respected.
Those of more recent miseducation will have no inkling of how the mischievous “libertarian” policies of the Liberals brought ruin to the nation. How laissez-faire (free trade) resulted in the export of our industrial secrets and prosperity and jobs.
They need to know. The experience was repeated with our entry into the EEC and later EU. What was left of our world leading, world beating manufacturing was decimated, along with our fishing industry and merchant navy. Coinciding with the conspired demise of mining and the conversion of agriculture to a State dependent acolyte this brought this great nation to its knees. That is what BREXIT is designed to escape from.
The Present Compromise and the Promised Land.
First Past the Post was supported by UKIP until it became increasingly clear it was likely to prevent UKIP ever having any (never mind any fair) representation in the House of Commons. It was equally clear that the Establishment was determined not to balance that unfairness by granting seats in the other place.
FPP has some distinct advantages. It creates stability and it provides elected representatives who are directly answerable to specific communities. Unfortunately the present constituencies have been gerrymandered out of all recognition and most do not have any connection with a real community. They have become a tool of the Establishment ensuring the majority of seats are “safe” i.e. ROTTEN and they ensure third parties are kept out.
The Boundaries Commission is not independent. It is appointed by Government. It is paid by Government. It is only allowed to recommend. MPs decide the boundaries. This process is the cause of the corrosive corruption that has all but destroyed our democracy.
The list system of Proportional Representation is even worse. It means you do not have a representative directly answerable to you and those who are elected are chosen by the (often corrupt) hierarchy of a political party. You would never be able to shift the rotten apples.
Is there another way?
I believe there is. I have long advocated MPs should have voting rights, in the House of Commons, proportionate to the size of the overall votes cast in their constituency. Note this does not mean the number of votes they received. It would therefore be in their interests to encourage participation in elections because, (I had not yet mentioned) their salaries too would be related to the votes cast.
This does not go far enough though. Therefore I would suggest a second component should be elected by some proportional voting mechanism. However voters would have to be able to indicate the relative suitability of those in the list and prevent unsuitable candidates from being elected. If we were to elect 300 MPs directly and 300 by PR then we would have something far closer to fair. The phony County boundaries and Ward Boundaries should not be sacred when determining constituencies. The driving factors should be history and catchment areas.
Add to this the UKIP proposal for referendums and you have the beginning of a near democratic system. Make votes in the House of Commons “secret ballots” and you remove the power of the Executive and deliver it to the Commons. Naturally the voting record of MPs would have to be published to the electorate AT ELECTION TIME. This hands power back to the voter.
Once our democracy is sorted out we can then look at the various philosophies outlined above and begin to examine how none of them work in isolation. UKIP should be the party of the mixed economy. It should offer horses for courses.
We know the fire brigades and police failed under private enterprise and had to be delivered by the State and municipalities. We know that health care is guaranteed to fail at the point where it becomes most needed under private enterprise. We know there are strategic considerations in the delivery of energy and transport and postal services. The State has to be involved with those.
Multi-national companies are grandiose socialist remedies with no accountability. They are self-perpetuating entities that operate, largely, outside the law. There are no identifiable mechanisms for holding them to account and they undermine the working of the real capitalist components in our economy i.e. small to medium sized enterprises. The monoliths must be taken on by the State. My proposals in “The truth about Taxes” would ensure they cannot escape their tax responsibilities. If they tried it would hurt their profit margins. Their ability to shift money around the globe to interfere with the democratic will of the people has to be challenged.
How our Democracy was achieved
Those who studied a little history will be aware that the most significant component in the move towards universal suffrage was not the Chartists, the Fabians, The Liberals or any other overtly political movement. Democracy was born of the Building Societies. People grouped together to raise the money to build houses they themselves could own.
With property ownership came the vote. The Building Societies challenged the banks and undermined their monopoly and gradually more and more people, of modest means, gained the vote.
The most retrograde political move ever made was by the late Margaret Thatcher’s Government who set out to attack, undermine and destroy the Building Societies. Many believe Mrs. Thatcher was wonderful and I am sure the effect was not what she meant to happen. The Law of unintended consequences applied but many of us knew and said what those consequences would be.
She was, however, attacking a form of Capitalism but one that did not rely on “profit”. Sure the Societies made “surpluses” but every penny was ploughed back or paid out as interest on savings. How tragic it is that this uniquely British form of grass roots driven enterprise was almost entirely destroyed and look at how the banks misbehaved once that had been done.
The Building Societies, the Coop, the Trades Unions and Mutual Insurance companies are all forms of capitalism. None of these has any connection with socialism but most of them aspire selectively to deliver some of its ethics.
A mixed economy is capitalism moderated by the ethics of socialism. If you believe in an unfettered capitalist society then you would not be involved in politics.
© PJW Holland MMXVII