Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Tory attack on Britishness

Tories on Twitter are defending the so-called Dementia Tax. A few things I would note about this. Elderly care will be privatised in full. Elderly people will be tricked into signing a rotten contract. If you give them permission to take even part of your assets, they will take all of them and slap you with a bill. That is the inevitable conclusion to this policy. Also you won't actually get good care if you receive it at all.

Any provider will be on a work to rule schedule to ensure the basic KPI's are met but that's all. The system will largely depend on immigration and whatever sub-minimum wage illegal immigration they can get away with. They only have one goal in mind - to take everything you have. If you expect it will play out any other way then you are ignoring twenty years of history. Just look at what they did to pensions and how massive chunks of your money vanish in "management fees". It disappears the moment you go to collect it.

Some ask why people shouldn't be force to sell their homes. Well the simple answer is that those who do own their own homes tend to be less of a burden on the state. They've paid for the care through their taxes and since only a fraction will ever need long term care, this is the system we have to hedge against losing everything. It's part of the social contract. More to the point, there's no way it actually costs what they say it costs. The bulk of the costs prop up the bureaucracy behind it. That won't be any less under a private regime either. When it comes to bureaucracy, private sector efficiency is a myth. They do what the water companies do and inflate the costs deliberately when striking a price with the government.

Given how the housing market has been distorted out of all recognition, destroying inheritances will also end any hope of the next generation getting on the housing ladder. Are they going to do anything about that? No. Having to work to your grave is exactly where they want you and they don't want you living independently of the system.

Even if you are a libertarian who thinks we should have low taxes and a small state, look at the current tax burden. It hasn't come down in any meaningful way. You've cheered on all the cuts but where do we get to the point where fewer state services results in lower tax and smaller government? Answer: never. Not in a million years.

Imperfect as the current system may be it at least keeps the money in the family. Libertarians are always telling us that money should stay in the hands of people who earned it. Liquidating those who needed care just means the money vanishes into either Richard Branson's wallet or indirectly to some far east investment fund. In what way is that better? You can argue that tax is theft but the state giving licence for the private sector to take what you have is also theft.

I am open to argument that the system needs reform but there needs to be a more intelligent overlap policy if you are changing the social contract. Robbing a generation of their assets is no way to go about it. And by the way, please don't get me wrong, I still favour market based solutions and I know the system does need a reboot. I know it's unsustainable. But I know a daylight robbery when I see one.

In this Britain needs to show a bit of backbone because this is the final assault on private property and it is an attack on who we are. There is something about Britain that makes it open to markets and free trade. But then we carve out certain exceptions. Territory upon which commerce may not trespass. In some respects that holds the UK back in that there is considerable scope for NHS reform which is being stifled. That though speaks to a certain national instinct which should not be overlooked.

In this I'd cite Jeremy Clarkson. Stay with me on this. He says "In Britain, Mr Normal sees a Ferrari as a reminder that his life hasn't worked out quite as well as he had hoped. And he sees its driver as a living embodiment of the good-looking kid at school who got the girls, and the sixth-former who nicked his packed lunch on a field trip. "He believes that if he can inconvenience a Ferrari driver, just for a moment, it's one in the eye for the rich and the privileged. It's 'score one' for the little man."

"This is not true in other countries, though. "A Ferrari in America is a spur, a reminder that you need to get up earlier in the morning and try harder," Clarkson says. "In Italy it's a thing of beauty to be admired. Elsewhere it's a dream made real."

He's half right. We do tend to frown on vulgar displays of wealth. His reasoning though is flawed. Perhaps it stems from our religious mores and our social development that we view commerce as something inherently grubby and corrupt by nature. I feel the same way.

A couple of years ago I went down to Portsmouth for a job interview with a telesales company to do software development. The history of the firm was a meteoric rise of two entrepreneurs. Parked outside was the owner's BMW i8 sports car. I'm not a fan. It was that which turned me off the idea of working for this firm. It turns out they buy up personal data looking for mobile phone contracts about to expire. They have a cold calling sales team offering "special tariffs" since they've bought up air time of their own. I happen to know a little bit about this system and it largely involves hard selling and a degree of dishonesty. It is a model that depends on the gullibility of buyers.

I've seen this before with a gas supplier, going door to door getting people to switch. These salesmen would go out in brand new Range Rovers. Somehow, somewhere, somebody is being fleeced. I've also worked in private health where telesales operatives are trained to talk up the prospect of privatisation to sell insurance plans. And when it comes to our legal profession we see an industry that routinely bankrupts their clients. The whole system relies on preying on the fears of people and exploiting vulnerable and gullible people.

In the USA, this is endemic to the culture. They have no scruples about it. It is a culture built on the principle of caveat emptor which spawns a predatory business environment where everybody is fair game. London is a bit like that which is why everybody there is on the make and doesn't make room for other people.

So when I see an expensive sports car I don't see an innovator or an entrepreneur. More than likely I am looking at a parasite who wouldn't lose any sleep if a pensioner was made homeless to pay for his toy.

Obviously one cannot be a purist about these things. All of us have to make our own peace with the universe because we are all on some level hypocrites. I know I am. I've worked for many of these companies for their enrichment and my own. There are, however, lines I will not cross. And that is why I am suspicious of elderly care privatisation. I would rather live with an imperfect system than open the door for wholesale theft of property

The fact is that Britain is a compromise between the special and the economic. We don't like exploiters, we don't like frauds and we want the system to be equitable. We respect the rule of law but increasingly we see that the capture of government by corporate interests uses law against us to imprison us and fleece us. While government gradually robs us of our liberties, corporates slowly acquire everything around us until nothing is our own and the spoils go to they who conform.

I think this is ultimately what "neoliberalism" means to me. It is not capitalism or market based commerce. It is a sanitised and legalised daylight robbery - and a massive transfer of wealth to the already wealthy. Toryboys cheer it on as though it were the living embodiment of Thatcherism when in reality its a corrosive confidence trick that will ultimately leave us with nothing. When the multinationals have taken all we have they will decamp and go elsewhere. That is why when I see threats to leave the UK on account of Brexit, I just think "off you go then". It may mean a lower standard of living for some, but most probably won't notice the difference.

The way I feel about it now is that unless we draw a line in the sand and carve our something for ourselves then we will be left with nothing. Just an empty society where everyone is picking each others pockets. The Tory dream of an ultra liberalised economy may have superficial appeal but its a smokescreen for a fire-sale of UK property be it public or private. One way or another they will take what you own. Neoliberalism is no respecter of private property. If it cannot steal what you have it will legislate itself the power to do so. Theresa May speaks of a fairer society and wears the clothes of an anti-liberal, but she won't stand in the way of the trend to appropriate the national estate. Her social care policy tells us that much.

You don't have to be a Corbynista or even a socialist to recognise that we are being conned. Never in a billion years will I vote for a socialist party. What I want though is a robust government that will stand up for the social contract that offers the people a protection against rampant vulture capitalism - while ensuring that honest commerce can take place without impediment. That is not this government and it is not the Labour party either. I cannot think of a time when the public have been so badly served by politics.

That inherent Britishness I spoke of is an instinct of where the line is between the two extremes. I believe it is that which ultimately swung the Brexit vote. There is a British equilibrium that makes up our collective character and it has for centuries defined our institutions. If we do not act to safeguard this then Brits will lose all that they have that's worth keeping. Let it always be the case that Brits sneer at vulgar sports cars. The day we lose that is the day we lose our moral centre.

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