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The Death of Capitalism? (Part Two)

Thanks for the comments everyone on yesterday’s post and rather than answer them further I’ll include my replies in this post this morning. I chose the car industry as an illustration between the two economic systems and Jack came back with a comment specific to that. However I could have chosen oil production, aviation, or indeed any aspect of manufacturing. Indeed I could have included the sytem of justice and in almost every case the west’s various versions (however imperfect) would be superior and the workers better rewarded.

The Marxist friend I referred to in the first article is a thoroughly good and well read person. However I remember being struck by the irony as he would complain about life here whilst going on holiday to the USSR, Romania, East Germany and even on one occasion Albania . He would focus in on minute details where he felt their system was superior whilst ignoring the basic facts about these places.

Russell makes the point about socialism in Denmark. I remember my mother visiting Denmark in the 1970’s and reporting similar tales of their quality of life, no litter and graffiti and a far superior education system. She had gone on an educational exchange so as with Russell’s trip on football coaching business was probably more aware of such issues than had it been a pleasure trip.

However at that time (the 70’s) we in the UK had a socialist government too. Many people chart Britain’s decline from Thatcher onwards (Fern Cake?). However they perhaps conveniently forget the social contract, 30% inflation, 5% wage capping, the winter of discontent and a 90% wage claim for the miners. Perhaps time has lent enchantment to the fact that having riled the international capitalists Denis Healy ( a monetarist way before Nigel Lawson), the chancellor was later forced to go cap in hand to them (twice) for loans (the biggest ever given by the IMF) to bail the country out and do the IMF’s bidding. Had he lain down and allowed them to shag him the humiliation could not have been greater. It was a simple case of a government making promises to the unions which they had no hope at all of delivering. One of these promises, to the extreme left wing of the party and the unions, was to hold a referendum on Common Market membership with the clear intention of getting Britain out. By the time the referendum was held the Labour government. were urging a yes vote which of course carried the day.

Most, though not all, of the intelligent people I know are what one would describe as ‘left leaning’. As a kid I was taken along to a Harold Wilson election rally (my first visit to the Glasgow Apollo as I remember) and various election meetings. My father was a union rep. I would say that this gave me a grounding in good values and a sense of fairness. However more than 25 years of self employment and as an employer myself (as I said before at the coal face) has perhaps taken the shine off my enthusiasm for socialism somewhat (it’s a long story for another time).

Does that mean I am a committed capitalist? I don’t think so! in fact I have a very strong sense of social justice and would say that a mixed economy with things like the NHS being reserved for public ownership are self evident. I recognise that that very NHS and many of the rights and privileges we take for granted would not have come about without the reforming Labour socialist government in the post war period.

I also look with incredulity at the current crisis in finance and banking. The very institutions which seemed fireproofed against any eventuality and campaigned against regulation of any sort are now going cap in hand to governments to bail them out. The thing is that with so many peoples’ pensions and mortgages at stake the governments have little choice.

Over the coming weeks and months there will be more casualties and the current situation at HBOS must be causing anxiety in certain quarters.

So is this the death of Capitalism?  No but it has been in a very bad car accident – a multiple pile up with many casualties. Somehow I don’t think the ambulance will be a Lada.

One Response

  1. […] Continues. Ben Lonomd asks “The death of capitalism?” […]

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