Thursday, 30 July 2015

Capitalism's Last Gasp?

If the latest plethora of books on the subject is anything to go by - probably not. An article in The Spectator critiques the latest offering by a C4 presenter and Left wing ideologue. Yet again, a left winger is predicting that Capitalism is doomed, and that it will be replaced by 'greater sharing of resources' - which seems to be Left wing speak for 'Sodomy non sapiens'. Essentially, this prediction has been trotted out since Marx and probably before him and they still haven't managed to come up with a workable alternative.

Capitalism is as old as humanity. I would suggest that it began when Ugg first discovered that he could trade a leg of mammoth for a months supply of fish, which could be traded for a wife, new sandals, a years supply of leather loincloths and a bag full of freshly napped arrow heads and axes. That he could trade those for the rest of the year and keep everyone else working to supply him with more trade opportunities and food probably arrived at the same moment. And, I would venture, that ever since some 'thinker' in the group has whinged that Ugg's enterprise approach to trade is 'unfair' and fails to 'distribute the proceeds evenly.

I suspect that Capitalism, love it or hate it, will always be around in some form. The reason is that, unlike the Left's ideal society and system, it is flexible. It responds to change. It adapts, and it rewards effort, enterprise and innovation - all of which are anathema to the sort of 'managed' redistributive economic systems favoured by most people on the Left of the political spectrum. Ironically efforts to 'control' economic activity, or to redistribute the rewards usually result in a widening of the gaps between 'rich' and 'poor' and ultimately in the 'means of production' actually being moved entirely abroad.

Recently I have indulged myself, reading some of Owen Jones' work and making an attempt to read several other tomes on 'non-capitalist' economic systems. I've given up. None of them seems able to see that any system such as they propose doesn't actually 'fix' anything. In fact they simply exchange to entrepreneur with some Party Hack and associated Apparatchiks who reward themselves and patronise everyone else in the name of 'fairness'. Nor do they seem able to recognise that every attempt to create the sort of systems they favour fail for the same reason every time. People do not like being told what they may and may not have. They do not like having some faceless bureaucrat serving a 'leader' enjoying the fruits of everyone else's labours, telling them they aren't entitled to some reward for their efforts because it is 'unfair' to the bone idle twerp they work alongside.

As The Spectator article says -
Oddly enough, the recent batch of left-wing doom and conspiracy books, from those of Russell Brand and Owen Jones to the more serious and informed Mason, point to a unified worldview. This sees human beings in democracies not as people with free will and unimaginable potential, but as inanimate beings to whom things are done. 
I do agree that raw unadulterated Capitalism produces some big inequalities, but teaching me to be envious of the guy who ventures his capital (earned or unearned) in some new business venture and strikes it rich, isn't addressing the problem. Most folk need only three things - a regular income, security and a 'home'. Yes there are those who live in sixty room mansions, own a yacht and four cars, but most of us never could even if we lived in some Left wing Utopia.

If there is one thing I have learned reading history and travelling in my work capacity, it is that there is a distinction between ideological theory and reality. I would love to see a more equal society in which no one goes hungry, no one is homeless or without medical care, but I also recognise that, no matter how attractive the ideological theory, it is unlikely to be achieved in any human society. Simply because humans are not all the same. We come with all manner of personal abilities, skills and ambitions. Ideology seldom takes account of that. In addition every Left wing regime I have ever encountered ran on the same principle - the belief that the 'State' owned the money in everyone's pockets and could spend it. So they floated loans, printed more money, raised taxes until it hurt, spent the money and then wondered why their economies flatlined. As Mr Micawber famously said; "Income Twenty Pounds per annum, Expenditure Nineteen Pounds, nineteen shillings and sixpence - happiness. Expenditure Twenty Pounds and sixpence - disaster." A lesson there the Left simply refuse to learn. Their solution to everything - raise taxes! Tax the rich until the pips squeak as one Left wing Chancellor of the Exchequer put it. The result of his idiocy was a massive departure of 'capital' and a fall in revenue income.

Recently I was surprised to learn that in present day Russia income tax is a flat rate irrespective of income. Health care, social welfare and so on are all set at 'basic' levels. If you want better, you are free to buy it, but the 'State' doesn't provide it. That applies across a range of former communist countries, and, contrary to what writers like Owen Jones believe was the case, often this replaces a system where everyone paid for the best for the ruling elites, and got just the basic care themselves. Many other nations have similar systems. Hong Kong was one and still is, and China, Taiwan, India and several other major growing economies have the same idea - one rate of tax for everyone. In Hong Kong the super rich were encouraged to be 'philanthropic' - and they were often very generous.

I have to agree with the writer of The Spectator article. There is clearly something in the left wing mindset that refuses to acknowledge that no system is entirely 'fair'. Or that there will always be inequalities. That, after all, is the human condition.

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