Thursday, 3 May 2012

The rich will always be with us

The UK Sunday Times Rich List was, it seems, published last week, concluding that 0.001% of citizens, about 1,000 individuals among 63M souls, own or are worth £414BN – enough to pay off the UK deficits several times over. Some of the Blessed 1,000 are drones – in hugely overpriced banking, rip-off gambling hedge-funds, fiddling the books and other parasitical activities – and many own vital industries contributing fairly to society.
There are arguments about precise definitions of personal wealth but the Blessed 1,000 undoubtedly wield and direct great economic power. Society needs these rich-nodes of independent wealth to counterbalance and be alternative investment centres to the vast cumbersome wealth of government. While it is true that most major industries are born from long term, futuristic government backed risk investment, (Christopher Columbus, Walter Raleigh, Captain Cook, Empire Building, Scientific Research, The Spitfire, Wars, The Jet Plane (post-migrant recognition), NHS, North Sea Oil, Computer Industry (posthumous recognition), British Leyland (ouch!), the BBC, BT, BP, Nuclear Power, Gas, Electricity, Water, Railways, Agriculture, etc.), the entrepreneurs do thereafter bring the products to the people for their enjoyment – usually efficiently and sustainably. Industrial heroes, industrial leaders, major employers, innovators and entrepreneurs fully deserve their enviable day-to-day rewards, their power and their alleged “wealth”- which in reality is mostly shares in corporate organisations employing millions of people, which few of us would care to work hard enough to own, control and manage. 

The social contract goes awry, as it has done this decade, when the Blessed 1,000 and the Government (“2,000 top civil servants are fiddling their taxes”) shovel their assets into elevated off-shore, off-planet tax-havens, convert as much into cash as they can, pull up all the ladders, slam down the steel trapdoors, cut themselves off from the communities that have enriched them, and refuse to pay taxes or to re-invest in those communities. Currently this self-elevation into the International Super-Rich, into the Drones Class, is denying jobs for up to 40% of 15 to 25 year olds, paying millions of families less than a living wage, trapping them in loan-shark debt, letting infrastructure crumble and sabotaging vital social organisations. Angry critics from the 99.999% might holler a vulgar Manchester imperative “S**t! Or get off the pot!”

In previous centuries, the Blessed 1,000 were mostly pillars of their communities who built Model Villages, Town Halls, free schools, hospitals and infrastructure. That was and is the economic justification for allowing their glorious power to continue. In France they broke the contract and suffered the guillotine, in Russia and the Colonies they suffered confiscation, expulsion and death – and today around the world, radical governments are wresting land and utilities from private hands – for better or worse.

Power and Responsibility are opposite sides of one coin. Power without responsibility will always self-destruct. The rich will always be with us - as long as they act responsibly.

3rd May 2012

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