I’m afraid to report that John McDonnell is closer to the public mood on capitalism than Philip Hammond
It was a fiery piece. “This,” UK Labour’s Shadow Chancellor stated, “is an economic system, graphically and obviously rigged for the few, against the many.”
But was Mr McDonnell’s analysis so very different from that of Ruth Davidson, Scottish Tory leader, who complained in her essay for UnHerd that “too much profit comes from tax avoidance, land speculation, financialisation and other unproductive economic activity, rather than through innovation and high performance”?
And there’s that other quasi-socialist Michael Gove who identified the “predator” capitalists, who “at the top [were] taking unjustified rewards”? Not so different from former Labour leader Ed Miliband and his identification of an “undeserving rich” who owe their wealth to rigged property markets or, for example, unjustifiable pay awards from poorly-constructed remuneration committees. Or have I got that the wrong way round? I have, of course! It was Mr Miliband who attacked predator capitalists in 2011 and Mr Gove who applied the auld “undeserving poor” idea to the too-easily-gotten riches of many of today’s elites. In 2015. Not for the first or last time, Mr Miliband ahead of the moment.
And it’s not just the politicians who largely agree. Voters do, too. Polling for UnHerd’s launch week, YouGov found that more Brits thought most top earners were “undeserving” than “deserving”. Opinion in the US wasn’t much more pro-capitalist.
But who does Britain have as Chancellor at a time when the post-crash mood has moved from rescue and firefighting to reform and the building of something better? A man, who by his caution and inaction, is effectively a defender of the indefensible. Trump – for all his anti-Wall Street rhetoric – isn’t much of a reformer either. As Henry Olsen’s forthcoming briefing will catalogue – his administration has largely surrendered to the powerful donor class and their self-serving models of tax, regulation and favoured industries.
Over the coming week we’ll be taking brief looks at the weaknesses of capitalism as it is currently constituted in the West. Our examination will include:
- The scale of lobbying, political donations and hiring of former politicians, public officials and other ex-insiders by certain industries seeking favoured political status.
- The decline of monopolies policy and, er, funnily enough, the gradual (and not-so-gradual) return of monopolies, oligopolistic behaviours and producer-over-consumer decision-making.
- Failure by the State to ensure welfare states support work and of publicly-run schooling systems to give tens of millions of children relevant or even basic skills.
- An over-reliance on loose monetary policy with grave implications for social fairness and efficient resource allocation.
- A different set of rules for deciding pay in the boardroom (oh go on, Charles, have 25% more) than on the shop floor (no, the minimum wage is more than enough for you, laddie).
- And an unfair distribution of the tax burden between smaller firms and global firms; between the generations; and between earned and unearned income.
And – 7 – for tomorrow – the capitalism system’s indifference to the familial, social and national communities it ultimately depends upon for success.
Not an exhaustive list of ailments for a western configuration of capitalism that has often come to be more about favouring cronies over competition. Enough of a list, however, to explain why it’s McDonnell, Davidson, Gove and Miliband – rather than Hammond – who are in touch with the public hunger for change.
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