Saturday, November 5, 2011

Occupy & Overthrow Capitalism

Here is a bit from a post by Tim Harford that takes advantage of the Occupy Wall Street protests to point out shortcomings in the current version of capitalism and identifies 5 things that need to be done:
“... It sounds like an attempt to distract from the fact that the rich aren’t paying their fair share of tax.”

“Aha, the 1 per cent, you mean?”

“Exactly, the 1 per cent.”

“How much tax do you think they should pay?”

“Um – well, more.”

“More than what?”

“More than they are doing now!”

“How much do you think they are paying now?”

“Well, not enough.”

“We’re going in circles here. We’ve established that you’d like the rich to pay more than a quantity of tax which you admit is entirely unknown to you. It’s 27.7 per cent, by the way.”

“What is?”

“The percentage of income tax paid by the top 1 per cent of earners in the UK. It’s 27.7 per cent. I looked it up. It’s on the revenue and customs website. It’s a little fact you might find useful next time you get into a discussion about whether it should be more than that.”

“Let’s go back to this something nicer business.”

“I’ve got a five point plan. Number one is more meaningful equality of opportunity. Left-wingers have been too interested in making sure people who make very different choices end up with similar amounts of money. Right-wingers have been too glib about levelling the playing field and accepting whatever outcome the market produces. We need much more attention to the quality of nurseries and schools.”

“More easily said than done.”

“Isn’t everything? Number two, raise more taxes from environmentally damaging activities. For some reason we seem to have decided that jet fuel and domestic heating deserve a tax break, yet simply being rich is regarded as the most profound of pollutants.”

“What about the banks? They’ve been doing toxic things.”

“They have, but the idea that the cause of the crisis was simply fat cat bankers is juvenile. The financial system – its regulations, risk management and ethics – is profoundly flawed. Fixing those flaws is a hugely technical problem as well as a political one. Fighting the banking lobby is going to be necessary but not sufficient. And that’s point three.”

“Point four?”

“We need to pay serious attention to our innovation system. Patents are useful in some circumstances but seem to be distorting the computing industry. There is far too little attention being paid to ideas that really matter, such as low-carbon technology or antibiotics.”

“And point five?”

“Point five is the most ambitious of all. We need a cultural shift in parts of business. Capitalism can’t just be about trying to make money – that’s the ethics of a used car salesman or a drug dealer. Capitalism has to involve a sense of creativity, boldness and pride in a job well done. The most successful companies have usually had this and many still do – from Apple to Brompton to Zipcar – but many financial companies seem to have long ago abandoned them.”

“None of this quite amounts to the overthrow of capitalism, does it?”

“No. I think it’s going to be rather more difficult than that – and a lot more useful.”
The real and lasting success of the Occupy Wall Street movement isn't the tents cluttering up city centres. It is the fact that it has got jobs, inequality, poverty, and the shortcomings of capitalism onto the political agenda. It is helping to slowly turned the supertanker called "the state" to chart a new course for a better future than the complete freeze-up of society as the 0.01% end up with 90% of the income and 99.999% of the wealth of society. That kind of social pyramid with a handful owning everything ends democracy and destroys the economy. The rich can hire only so many servants to pad around after them braying out praises to keep their egos afloat. A real economy needs a real middle class to keep industry and innovation going.

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