04/07/15 Walk a Mile Capitalism for beginners.

Snuggle down with a steaming mug of cocoa folks, this is going to be even more entertaining than Dr Sheldon Cooper’s ‘Fun with Flags’.

That said, I think it’s important for us to prepare for Ozzie’s cornucopia of joy – otherwise known as ‘The Budget’ – coming up this week.
I’m going to fire some questions your way and you’re going to respond with, ‘I know this…er…I think I know this…I thought I knew this…’ before doing exactly what I did – googling the answers. 
What is Capitalism?
Possibly the best way to look at that question is to first ask ‘what is capital’? 
Well, the Google dictionary tells me that capital is…
‘wealth in the form of money or other assets owned by a person or organization or available for a purpose such as starting a company or investing.’
Lovely. 
This philosophy that we live by in our Western Society puts the ownership of THINGS at the forefront of our minds. 
Whatever, do you think, happened to peopleism? 
Ok, let’s make it a bit more peopley – why not try thinking about a place where folk meet up? 
Let’s ask…
What is the Market?
For those of you who immediately thought of 2 furry critters trying to persuade you to buy car insurance, there really is no hope for you…
Well, as you all know, back in the day, the ancient Greeks would exchange their bits and bobs at the Agora – an outdoor market place – an institution from which agoraphobia was born. 
Traders would meet the steely gaze of others, getting the best deal buying and selling grain and cattle and shit…not literally shit, you understand…shit just sounded a bit more gangster than ‘other sundry goods’.
In this day and age, the vast majority of the world’s trading happens through our great financial institutions – the Nasdaq – the London Stock Exchange and Kwik-E-Mart, where stockbrokers meet the steely gaze of…
Er…well…actually…
A lot of this cumbersome buying and selling is now done by machines. Well, by computer algorithms to be more precise…
When I say ‘a lot’, I actually mean around 80% of all financial trading transactions are done through algo-trading. 
To help get your head around this – imagine playing Monopoly where the participants were only allowed to play every fifth turn.
Fun and engaging? Yeah, I know! 
For those of you who’ve been fearful of a terminator style, Artificial Intelligence world domination scenario, it looks like…
a) The machines have already taken over and…
b) It would have made a really shit film.
Hold on – I know what you’re thinking…yes, other than ‘when will this blog ever end, I could be watching Wimbledon?’
You’re thinking there must be a point when this gets altogether more…yes, let’s keep using the word…peopley.
Worry no more, dear reader, worry no more…
The next question is…
What is The Economy?
The Greeks – yes, the Greeks AGAIN – those wise people from which civilisation sprang forth – were the same folk who came up with the economy.
Only, when they thought of it, it was a lot more homely. The direct translation means ‘managing the household’.
Yes…at last – the household, the home where people live, love, work, rest, play and die. 
Only…
Well, what do YOU think of when somebody mentions THE ECONOMY?
Personally, I think of some big bloated creature, that looks not unlike Jabba the Hutt, that must be continuously fed lest we feel it’s wrath.
A creature that MUST grow at ALL costs.
Even though simple physics states that this is impossible, a fatter, ever growing economy is essential for…
Er…essential for what exactly? 
I would think that though, I’m a…communist? Humanist? Long haired naive hippy? 
As part of Capitalism, an ever growing and healthy private sector is essential. 
To help me understand the functioning of this mindset, I like to reflect on the shenanigans of the participants in the ‘Apprentice’, that caricature of all things market driven, where profit is king. 
Where folk buy shit, dust it down and polish it up, and flog it for something it isn’t. 
That said, it advertises that great British belief that stresses how important it is for us to stand on our own two feet. Where we shouldn’t expect handouts. Where we should be strivers, not skivers. 
Where we shouldn’t look to the government to support – in fact the government should keep their grubby mitts out of our day to day lives…
That government is best that governs least…
….as someone or other once said.
There should be a safety net – but people who work should never receive less than these skivers…should they? I mean it’s ridiculous that these parasitic….
How much do you get on job seekers allowance? 
£57.90 if you’re under 25
£73.10 if you’re 25 and over
I’m going to help old Ozzie with his sums here. He wants to save £12 billion from the welfare benefits budget – but he’s told us that he’s not going to take it from disabled folk or pensioners. 
So, that means he just has to stop giving job seekers allowance to just over 3 million folk for a year. 
The problem is there are only 1.83 million folk getting the benefit…
No worries – we’ll just give them nothing for 2 years…sorted. 
Just recently, Jeremy Hunt has made the suggestion that, so people are aware of the burden they’re being on the tax payer, pharmacy dispensaries should put the actual cost of the medication on each of the items. 
It’s essential that we move on from this something for nothing culture. 
People need to know the value of money. 
To this end – the queen’s going to have ‘I’m paid £3798 an hour’ embroidered onto her crown. 
Hysterical whimsy aside, we’re living in strange, hypocritical times. 
We have campaign groups pushing for folk to be paid a living wage. 
Read that again and allow yourself to appreciate how ludicrous that sounds. 
We are one of the most wealthy countries in the world and yet here we are having a discussion about whether or not we should pay people enough to participate in our society.
It’s ok though, the government tops up the income of low paid workers – so we don’t need to worry about that. 
A recent study has estimated that the government pays £11 billion in working tax credits to low paid workers every year.
Companies that are making substantial profits are saving money by short changing their employees. 
We’re told that a living wage would make companies less competitive – less competitive with companies in countries where working and living conditions are so bad it would be fair to say we’ve managed to outsource slavery – out of sight out of mind. 
But, hold on, hadn’t we decided in this capitalist world, where only the fittest survive, that companies should stand or fall by what happens in the markets? 
That people who rely on government handouts are skivers who somehow deserve their impoverished position in society? 
Surely by paying £11 billion in working tax credits we are indirectly paying these huge, already very profitable, companies to compete in their respective markets?
Whatever happened to market forces? 
Like the banks in the early noughties, these corporations give themselves a good ol’ capitalist slap on the back when publishing their profits, but they’re very quick to develop communist anti-market leanings when it looks like they can get a handout…sorry, bailout from the taxpayer(s) – I think there’s more than one. 
Think of all the money we’d save if old Ozzers did away with tax credits at the same time as ensuring that all of the workers in the UK were paid the living wage. 
Or if some control was placed on the wildly out of control private rent market?
Which really isn’t a market when the purveyors of accommodation can charge what they like and local government will pay accordingly. 
Ah, well, now, you see…Iain Duncan Smith has come up with a remedy for this – cap the benefits of any household to £20 thousand a year.
Please note – there’s no notion of controlling the increase in the cost of private rents – just the individual’s ability to pay for them. 
But somehow we’ll keep blaming the poor. 
To help with the situation, on Wednesday, Ozzie is going to cut working tax credits – to save the underpaid from the revolving door of paying taxes just to get them back again. 
Administratively this isn’t a terrible idea – but I’d be astonished if these shirking workers (people who inhabit that limbo – that no man’s land between receiving a living wage and being on benefits) were as well off post budget as they are now. 
Watch Ozzie as he tells us how the low paid are being exempted from paying taxes – then allow yourself a moment of quiet reflection as you wonder to yourself, 
‘What is national insurance?’
You’ll obviously come to the same conclusion as me – it’s a charitable donation to the government – er, to themselves – to us. 
Definitely not a tax. 
No…
Hold on Chris, I thought this was a beginners lesson on Capitalism?
Head spinning?
Circles within spirals?
Wheels within wheels? 
Let’s keep it simple then.
Capitalism is whatever those in power tell you it is. 
Anything else is the politics of envy. 
You just need to be a bit more patient for those trickle down economics we’ve been told about. 
Do you know, I started this blog fully believing that I had some manner of grasp of all this…
I can’t help but think that this all reflects a general lack of walkamileyness…
If only we could…
Looks winsomely out the window…
Walk a mile
Chris

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