So, only in the last week we’ve seen the mis-selling of interest rate swap derivatives hit the headlines after the FSA had said they were investigating the issue further [ congratulations Telegraph], at the very least, one major bank, Barclays, fined £290 million by the FSA and US CFTC for manipulating the Libor rate over the last five years, [Barclays settled another 19 banks are named as defendents, so watch this one], and we learnt that South London Healthcare Trust is going into administration after being financially crippled by a usurious PFI [watch this one too as over £56 billion of capital has been invested through PFI into the public sector, schools and more hospitals could be at risk].
During the week I posted an article directed at those people who spend their time surfing the internet looking for pictures of cute cats, my tongue was in my cheek a little, but the point I was trying to make was a serious one. Nevertheless, after rereading that short piece again I realised it all looked a little fanatical, perhaps even conspiracy-ish, especially the line; “You are being exploited by a powerful elite who will lie while stealing everything you own.”, and I realised that I should try and get down something a little more comprehensive rather than shorthand that could look like conspiracy theory mantra which can easily be dismissed as somewhat unhinged.
So, here it is; Very broadly speaking our society can normally be divided into three groups, the top 5%, the bottom 5%, and everyone in between. The top 5% are not only the most wealthy, but also the most powerful and the most influential. They include politicians, bankers, businessmen, and those involved in the media, including journalists. They are senior civil servants, senior police officers, senior military officers, and the judiciary. These are the people who run our country and who influence how you think far more than you could ever imagine.
But there is no conspiracy, this 5%, or 1%, or even a representative group of the 1%, do not meet somewhere and agree between themselves how to exploit the majority. There is no conspiracy because there just doesn’t need to be one. Each individual has a job to do, or role to play, and their own personal interests, and they instinctively recognise the power and influence of the others within that top 5% group and they understand that it is in their interests to work within that group and not to try and undermine it. This is by necessity a generalisation, I have no doubt that there very many honourable individuals within this group.
And so instead of a giant conspiracy we end up with a web of influence. Some areas within the group like the judiciary have great power but, because of the necessarily independent nature of their role, less contact. Police ‘need’ to talk with journalists, the industrial/military complex ‘need’ to talk with the military, politicians ‘need’ to talk with bankers, and so on. They meet through their work and they network in their social life. In theory there should be nothing wrong with this but the problems arise when the ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ arrangements are not in the public interest as a whole but just to consolodate the wealth and position of that 5%.
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary. – Adam Smith
Swap ‘same trade’ for ‘establishment’ in the above and it is just as applicable today as ever it was.
Once again I must generalise, the second group are the bottom 5%, the poor and the voiceless, and often, but not always, poorly educated. Fast food and X factor are the modern equivalents of ‘Bread and Circuses’, if things get too bad some will turn to crime.
The big problem for the status quo is the 90% between these two extremes, they can not be easily generalised. They range from the aspirational knocking on the door of the top 5% to those who are worried about joining the bottom 5% in poverty. Fewer and fewer are getting the opportunity of climbing the ladder, more and more are concerned about their futures. The young, who are increasingly university educated but increasingly without a job, pensioners who are watching their savings swallowed by inflation and low interest rates, head of families who have lost their jobs and risk losing their homes, repossessed by the same banks which precipitated the problems they are now facing.
They are becoming discontent and what do they see ? They finally see, that for atleast 15 years, probably far longer, a small group of people have been enriching themselves at their expense. They have always prided themselves on paying their taxes and abiding by the law but now they realised that they’ve been taken for mugs. Those laws constrain them but not the top 5%, those taxes are paid by them but not those who can afford a creative accountant.
All those in the top 5% are desperate to mend the broken system but many others are now asking themselves whether it is a system they really want to repair. The top 5% want to draw a line under everything that has happened, in this way retaining their position atop of society but others are questioning whether it is right that those who have enriched themselves for over a decade, while exploiting the law abiding and taxpaying majority, should be left with the wealth which will ensure their continued power.
The top 5% will do everything they can to keep this corrupt system afloat and they are. But all of their policies only reward the top 5% while further impoverishing the majority, increasing week by week the numbers of discontent. If they continue to inflate the economy and prop up the banks, while refusing to take serious measures on growth which would reduce unemployment, and if they stand idly by while family homes are repossessed by the banks themselves, then even in this placid country discontent could turn into civil unrest. There is always a tipping point.
And then there is the big lie, that this is the only way a democracy can work, that there is nothing that can be done. This lie is streamed through our television screens, our radios, newspapers, and computers. The politicians, bankers, journalists and business leaders all retell the big lie, reinforcing the message at every opportunity, exploiting our ignorance and lack of confidence. But stop to think whether this mass of ‘independent commentators’ have any vested interest in amplifying this big lie through the media, whether the status quo empowers them, and you should then have enough doubt to atleast question the ethicacy of their repeated remonstrations.
So just to be absolutely clear, there is no conspiracy, just a malignant web of influence.