Monday, April 21, 2008

Same old, same old ...

John Maynard Keynes once observed that;

“Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”

I happen to agree. The works of J.M. Keynes, Adam Smith and J.K. Galbraith are all founded on the belief that the market is merely a tool for society and not a replacement for it. Unfortunately in the last few decades we seem to have lost that message.

Our Government is determined to dispose of the 10 percent tax rate (a key part of a progressive tax system), despite fervent opposition and evidence of the harm it will cause to the common people. At the same time that it is penalising the common people (or society), our Government is quite happy to bail out the reckless gambling of the banking community (and the market). It's enough to send Sidney Webb spinning in his grave.

Though this wicked change will harm the poor, I want to take a moment to remember an upcoming anniversary of another wicked act, our treatment of the poisoned people of Camelford.

If you are unaware of this incident, let me remind you. In July 1988, the then government was rapidly privatising a number of industries for reasons of political dogma. During this time, 20 tonnes of aluminium sulphate was dumped into the wrong water treatment tank at Lowermore.

The fresh drinking water for over 20,000 homes in Camelford suddenly turned into a poisonous cocktail. Despite livestock dying and peoples' hair turning blue, the soon to be privatised water authority insisted for several days that everything was safe.

Over the following few years, a government appointed health group investigated the incident and concluded that there was no long term health affects. The medical conditions being suffered by the residents of Camelford, such as memory loss, hair loss, joint pains and general exhaustion were not due to poisoning but were instead caused by anxiety and the mass hysteria resulting from articles in the popular press. This conclusion was gibberish and a convenient whitewash during a time of intense privatisation.

The residents of Camelford have never been properly compensated, their treatment has been appalling and no-one really knows what the long term health effects are.

Had the Government at that time cared more about the common people (or society) as opposed to its privatisation programme (and the market) I wonder whether the outcome would have been any different.

The answer is obvious, but it does also question what has actually changed since then.

It's time things did.