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Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary Capitalism’

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 »

The Beginning of the End of ‘the Global Kingdom’

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, March 9th 2013

This week something momentous happened for the future of the Britain, its economy and politics, for Europe, and our relationship with the continent.

The European Union proposed and agreed a curb on bankers bonuses, over-riding the predictable opposition of the UK Government and George Osborne.

The EU proposals supported by the European Commission, European Central Bank, and 26 out of 27 EU members, will put a ceiling on banker bonuses of one year’s salary, or two years if approved by a large majority of shareholders.

There was the usual outcries from the British Bankers Association, CBI and others: people who go by the description, ‘the business community’, but are actually corporate lobbyists for the big firms, which is not the same thing, looking to maintain the same market dominance for their members. Read the rest of this entry »

What do we do with lives and dreams after shopping?

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, January 19th 2012

Another tottering titan fell this week with HMV going into administration. It is the latest in a long line of retail closures: Jessops, Blockbusters, Comet, JJB Sports.

This is part of a powerful challenge to the high street, to Britain’s sense of itself and its town centres, and in the case of HMV, the music industry, coming after the closure of Virgin, Zavvi and Tower Records.

These stories are usually imbued with a golden sense of nostalgia, people fondly remembering their youth and some key Woolworths purchase, and thinking the country is going to the dogs! Rarely are more complex feelings allowed to emerge, about what we do with town centres, the nature of retail, and the power of consumerism in our lifestyles and in how we make sense of our lives and pasts. 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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