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Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary Capitalism’

The coming rebellion against the world of the Sunday Times ‘Rich List’

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 16th 2018

Starting in 1988, The Sunday Times ‘Rich List’ is now in its 30th year. It has survived and prospered through all sorts of political seasons and economic social periods, from the high point of Thatcherism and ‘Loadsamoney’ to New Labour’s own embracing of the super rich, and the slow turning against the grotesque excesses and indulgences of such forces. And yet here we are, nearly a decade after the banking crash and years of static and falling living standards for most, and it still exists unapologetically.

This year’s list came with a concerted attempt at spin and reinvention. It was supposedly about the fact that it was all change at the top, out with the old and in with the new – with new money, new elites, and more women. Robert Watts, who compiles the list, shamelessly punted this line:

Britain is changing. Gone are the days when old money and a small band of industries dominated. Aristocrats and inherited wealth has been elbowed out of the list. Today’s super rich include people who have set up businesses selling chocolate, sushi, pet food and eggs. Read the rest of this entry »

Ideals for Living: The need for guides on how to live a better life

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 2nd 2018

How many times do you hear people say that these are ‘grim times’? It has become commonplace – but a bit of perspective and history is needed. These aren’t after all as grim times in the UK, or the West, as they were in the 1980s in terms of economic dislocation and the Cold War, and nor are they anywhere as dark and foreboding times as the 1930s and the march of fascism and world war.

They are certainly times of confusion and as such many people are looking for guides, signposts and recommendations on how to live a better life. They also explain the search for simplicity and for reducing some of the most complex areas to easy to read and understand lists.

Infamously, list-ism reached beyond satire with the so-called ‘Ed Stone’ in the 2015 UK general election. Labour’s six central pledges were carved in stone to show how seriously they took them, in what quickly became a tombstone for Ed Miliband’s leadership and for Labour’s electoral fortunes.

On a different scale are the various manifestos of modern life. Some are self-promotion and vanity exercises such as Hong Kong businessman Sir David Tang, while some are send-ups of the whole industry, such as Scottish writer Bill Duncan’s ‘self-hate’ book on Calvinism, and others more serious and substantial. In the latter camp is the writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her ‘Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’, just published in paperback. Read the rest of this entry »

The World Has Been Turned Upside Down: The End of the Era of Robber Baron Capitalism

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 24th 2018

The world has been turned upside down in the last few weeks. Ten years after the banking crash showed that the economic assumptions which shaped most of our lives were bogus, along has come the collapse of Carillion, the biggest outsourcing company in the UK.

The taking of the public out of public services has been a long war of attrition which has been waged by all the mainstream Westminster parties. It hasn’t improved public services or benefitted the public. Instead, the winners from it have been the companies who have won such contracts, their directors and shareholders, who have made millions of pounds from the public purse.

The Public Private Initiative (PFI) and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) was born of John Major’s government, but came of age under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown: being seen as a way to engage in significant public investment while keeping it off of the government’s books. Of the 720 PFI-PPP schemes more than 75% of them were signed off under New Labour’s period in office. They liked the supposed efficiency the private sector aided, but in reality, were driven by undertaking public spending off the balance books and the dogma of thinking ‘private good, public bad’.

Most of us know that public sector monopolies can provide poor services insensitive to the needs and interests of the public. But the tales of PFI-PPP were of a new order of providing services which weren’t about the public, but creating a guaranteed income stream and scam to the vested interests of crony capitalism. Thus, PFI-PPP schemes involved grotesque inefficiencies and inflexibilities which were paid for by the public purse. Read the rest of this entry »

What part of Britain is not for sale?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, April 3rd 2016

This week the future of the steel industry moved centrestage, Scottish parties have finally started talking tax, and the Tories version of what they call a ‘national living wage’ came into force.

British steel used to lead the world. In 1875 it accounted for 40% of world production.  The industry employed 320,000 people in 1971, which has fallen to 24,000 now. It produced 24 million tonnes in 1967, down to 12 million tonnes today.

Tata Steel – an Indian company based in Mumbai who bought Corus in 2007, an amalgamation of British Steel and a Dutch firm – employ 15,000 of the current 24,000 jobs in the UK industry.

The world has a huge steel surplus – the product of Chinese industrialisation, low costs and state subsidies. The US Government has put up protective trade barriers to protect domestic steel from Chinese competition. But the EU, egged on by the UK, has argued against any such action.

This is about many things – high quality, high skilled jobs; good apprenticeships; the future of manufacturing; whether the UK has any kind of industrial policy and what role, if any, government has beyond rhetoric and retraining. Read the rest of this entry »

Britain has become an Unequal and Unfair Society

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, July 13th 2013

Britain has been mired by scandal this week: MPs proposed pay rise, BBC Executive payouts, and the controversy of G4S and Serco engaging in corporate abuse of power.

Yet through all this people tell themselves that one of the central characteristics of being a civilised country is progressive taxation and the degree to which we successfully redistribute resources from those who have the most to those who have the least.

This week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released figures which showed what many have intuitively known – that the UK no longer has a progressive taxation system.

Their figures showed that the top 20% of households paid 35.5% of their income in tax while the bottom 20% paid slightly more, 36.6%. The top 20% paid 24.7% in direct taxes and the bottom 20% 10.2%; the top 20% 10.8% in indirect taxes and the bottom 20% 26.5%. This is a regressive tax system. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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