You know how in the argument between public services and capitalism the latter is presented as some kind of default position, where people are just left alone with what they’ve earned, and the former is presented as “redistribution”, where money is taken unfairly from one person to be given to someone else.
Watching Four Corners’ report last week on poor children in the first world reminded me what a lie that is.
Capitalism is a system where those without capital pay more for basic necessities. Where those with capital pay less. Where, at its most basic, capital breeds capital – where to those who have, more is given, and to those who have nothing, more is taken. That’s what capitalism means. That’s why it’s called “capitalism”.
So these poor families in the documentary pay a pound plus electricity to be able to turn on their TV for six hours. They pay more for travel (because they live further from work and in places poorly served by public transport) and they subsidise our credit cards. They pay more for housing – mortgage payments might be more than rent at first, but after five years or so and for the rest of the homeowner’s life, they’ll be paying less to the bank than those renting an equivalent place. Their meagre property gets damaged because the housing in which they live is filled with problems like pervasive damp, so they have to replace it if they can. And because they’re only renting, they can only get temporary appliances, that actually cost more than fixtures a homeowner could install.
And how do we try to balance budgets when the people up the top bugger things up? Do we raise their taxes since they’ve actually got something to sacrifice? No, we cut welfare. Austerity for the poor. Come on, you bastards, your kids don’t need to eat three meals a day!
It’s kind of sickening.
Still, at least the name “capitalism” is honest. It is what it says it is – a system that rewards the people with capital, at the expense of those without.
It’s not like where they call the system that builds corporate monopolies the “free market”.
PS Stay to the end of the Four Corners piece to watch the interview with Danny Dorling. His explanation of what’s happening and what’s coming next is exactly on the money.