You all know I’m a fully paid up Lib Dem. And I know that it isn’t going to happen for them this time around, though I do hope they will make forward progress. However, one of the reasons I joined the Lib Dems is because I wanted to actually take part in the process of making them electable. The other reason was because, in particular, I want to strengthen them against the BNP who, like it or not, have made political gains at the expense of all 3 main parties.
It’s simply not good enough to say “I like the Lib Dems but they ain’t going to get in”. Well, what are you going to do about it? The whole point of democracy is that we, the people, take responsibility for imposing our authority on the political parties - and not only at election time. If you think it’s crap that no-one knows who Nick Clegg is, but you like what Nick Clegg stands for, then do something about it, even if it is just joining or donating to the same political party that he is a member of.
I just read a book where a guy is told that he wouldn’t make a good army officer because he is more concerned with simply spreading his ideas to colleagues rather than actually imposing his will on a given situation. I think that, from a political standpoint at least, that is the problem with the majority of people today, and with The Left in particular. We have airy fairy political ideals, but when it comes to actually acting on them, we are defeatist and leave it to the next guy.
We see, though, that The Right Wing has no problem imposing it’s will. Let’s take Rupert Murdoch. He’ll literally fund the lies on the Fox network in the US and Sky News over here, and he’ll ensure that The Sun and The Times switch allegiance to whichever party is most likely to suit his personal agenda. A million people voted for the BNP, and they did it because they wanted to impose their will. If only a few percent of them had stayed home or voted for the Raving Looney party, the BNP would have been destroyed at the Euro elections. It was make or break time for them and Nick Griffin gambled his political career. Imposed his will. And won.
Taking personal and individual responsibility for making the changes we can only achieve collectively is the only way we can overcome obstacles like these. But it’s not just a numbers game, it’s about education too. Education of our children, and education of each other.
That’s why I’m writing this.
The burden of health tourism in the NHS is an issue. As is reform of the banking, credit, investment and tax systems and also the way in which we contribute to and receive our pensions. But thinking of these things as problems in isolation from each other is myopic. Scale out to the macro view and think about the ideal (sustainable) system as a whole. What do you see? Is it a system where the gap between the rich and the poor increases incrementally each year? Is it a system where we prop our economies up by first going to war and then borrowing billions of pounds? Is it a system that allows corporate organisations to pay a subsistence wage to Indians or Chinese, for example, for producing goods which are then sold for massive profit globally as the manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors systematically dodge their social responsibilities through a combination of accounting tricks to avoid tax and outright rapacious greed?
The state provided healthcare and education systems provide a baseline. A standard which is the absolute bare minimum that we, as a country, wish to apply to our population. In funding these systems we are saying that there are some things which should not be driven by the numbers on a profit and loss spreadsheet. They should be driven by what is best for society as a whole. And if we want to continue on as something even approaching a democratic and civil society, these things are non-negotiable.
The private healthcare system lets you jump the queue, or receive new, expensive or even experimental treatment which perhaps is critical to you as an individual, but not so much to the population as a whole when balanced objectively against the needs of everyone else. I’ve no problem with people opting out of the NHS and paying for faster or different or experimental treatment. But those people who can afford to do so must realise that private doctors occasionally practice in facilities provided for by…. the NHS. And many private doctors still do NHS work. And all doctors must be registered and regulated. Where does the funding come from for all those things upon which private healthcare literally depends upon? Who funds NICE? Who funds the national programmes of flu jabs and such like? Who funds and trains the personnel of the ambulance service that will get to your house in an emergency before even the private system is aware that you just had a heart attack?
Some people may go through their life perfectly well and never use the NHS personally, but I’m sure that when a close relative develops cancer they would not begrudge the actuarial calculations and decisions made that takes the money that we pay and invests it into a magic system of healing for our population.
Similarly so with education. State schools provide a baseline level of education. If you send your child to a private school you are making the conscious choice to educate your child above and beyond the normal standard and thereby increase your child’s chances of becoming a Doctor, Lawyer, Accountant, or, God forbid, Prime Minister. You should still pay the same rate of tax as other people if you privately educate your children for the same reason that people with no children pay the same rate of tax. Because, as a country, we expect a certain level of education for the entire population, and it is that education system that provides, if you will allow me a metaphor, worker bees with a plethora of skills that benefit the entire colony. Doctors educated at private schools still need the support of nurses (I know Raj loves ‘em) educated in state schools, no?
Our rail, bus and tube systems used to be national property, and I’m not sure that privatising them was good for the population as a whole.
We also have a welfare state. Perhaps we should stop paying into that because we don’t take housing benefit and we are lucky enough to be employed?
I’m not against profit. I my own business for crying out loud! But there are some things which should not be driven by profit. What is wrong in accepting a slightly lower profit in order to provide higher wages to staff and pay more into personal pensions and the tax system? It may be the difference between having either a 5% or an 8% return on investment for the small group of shareholders who directly invest in organisations - as opposed to everybody else who invests in the stock market via their pension - but it is more sustainable and socially responsibly over the longer term than squeezing out every last drop of profit.
When people say we can’t afford to cancel third world debt they are wrong. When they say we can’t afford to educate all people to a decent standard. They are wrong. When they say that we can’t afford a healthcare system, or that we can’t afford to help kids in war torn countries who have limbs blown off by weapons produced and provided through a system dedicated only to providing profit and perpetuated by paying high enough bonuses and wages for people to swallow their humanity, and who then say it isn’t practical to change the system. They are wrong.
We’ve seen that given the right political circumstances producing money from thin air when previously there was none to be had for investment in health, education, infrastructure and so forth, is not a problem.
Capitalism is about “Me”. Socialism is about “Us”. There must be an equitable balance to be struck between the two extremes, but we aren’t anywhere near it yet, at least, I don’t think so.
I thought I had just invented the concept and term “Social Capitalism”, but it seems someone beat me to it by a few years.
OK. I’m done.
Peace love and unity my brothers.