Graeber on ‘savage capitalism’

Is it my imagination — wishful thinking perhaps — or am I seeing this conclusion more and more frequently these days?

Capitalism does not contain an inherent tendency to civilise itself. Left to its own devices, it can be expected to create rates of return on investment so much higher than overall rates of economic growth that the only possible result will be to transfer more and more wealth into the hands of a hereditary elite of investors, to the comparative impoverishment of everybody else.

Thus David Graeber in a fine article for the Guardian (here). There was a brief period in the middle of the twentieth century when capitalism ‘worked’. It provided jobs and decent wages, it provided people with stuff they needed, and it provided reasonable rates of return on investment. I’m thinking of the ‘New Deal’ in the USA, the post-war Labour government in the UK, the Front Populaire in France and the Weimar Republic in Germany (the achievements of which are, sadly, much underrated). In the 1970s, however, capitalism began to revert to type (remember Ted Heath’s warning about ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’?) and since the fall of communism it has abandoned all pretence. Capitalism is about people who already have money and power acquiring ever more of both.

Graeber’s article prompted this comment from bullingdonmorons, which I quote at length because it sums up so much of what’s wrong with the UK today:

Decades from now, history books will record these years of Neo-Liberalism as the dumbest period in human history. They will tell of a system that created vast wealth for a handful of people whilst leaving millions struggling to survive, a system designed to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich, a system that promoted a Malthusian hatred of the poor and a complete indifference to the plight of others whilst extolling the virtues of greed and ignorance.

The last 10 years spanned the worst financial crisis in history, a crisis caused by the sheer greed and criminal behaviour of the richest people on the planet aided by the very deregulation and free market ideology that the right wing so craves, and was only solved by using billions of taxpayers money.

But who has paid the price? In 2004, you needed £700 million to be in Britain’s 50 wealthiest people. 10 years later, that figure is now £1.7 billion. In 2004, the richest 1,000 people owned assets worth £200 billion, today they are worth £519 billion. The 5 richest families now own more wealth than the bottom 20% combined. The average salary for a FTSE 100 CEO is now £84,000 A WEEK.

Meanwhile, for the rest of us? 20% of the population, 13 million people, are now classed as living in poverty, of which over 8 million come from families who are IN WORK. In 2004, the median weekly wage was £462. Today, it is £427 a week. The cost of living has risen by 34% since 2004, meaning that the average disposable income per household is now almost £1,200 a year lower.
In addition, 913,138 people used food-banks in 2013/14, compared to 346,992 in 2012/13 and 26,000 in 2008/09. There has been a 74% increase in the number of malnutrition-related hospital admissions since 2009, whilst cases of rickets have risen by 25% in 4 years. Public health experts have warned that the rise of malnutrition in the UK “has all the signs of a public health emergency.”

And this is happening right now, IN ONE OF THE RICHEST COUNTRIES ON EARTH.

The ruling elite already own all our land, gas, electricity, railways, water and media. They are now coming for our pensions, our NHS, our roads, our schools and our green spaces. They have systematically destroyed the unions, dismantled our protections, created mass unemployment and are dismembering the welfare state. They make it easier to sack us, make us work longer hours for less pay, force our kids to work for nothing, raise the retirement age whilst cutting our pensions and weaken our health and safety laws. Yet executives of blue-chip companies enjoyed a median pay rise of 32% in the last year alone.

We are being shafted.

[…] To paraphrase Lloyd George whilst talking about the Great War: “If the people really knew the truth about what was happening, it would be ended tomorrow, but they must never know.”

Well, it is time we did know, and time we all stood up and said, enough is enough.

Couldn’t agree more.

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