Is looting the inevitable end-game for extreme capitalism?
For thirty years or more, launched by Margaret Thatcher’s now infamous quote “there’s no such thing as society”Â and echoed by Gordon Gekko’s paraphrase of the Ivan Boesky dogma that “greed is good”Â, generations have been brought up to believe that life should orient around self-serving brand acquisition and little else.
In a world bombarded with messages that constantly reinforce the importance of consumption whilst simultaneously increasing the divide between the richest and poorest in society, it should come as no surprise that at some point a breaking point would be reached; and here it is. The genie is out of the bottle, with a collective realisation by the mob that it really can have it all, because the Police just can’t be everywhere at once. It’s a Wizard of Oz moment. There really is no power behind the curtain.
So the mob can return home, sated, with the carrier bags bulging with goods; the same goods they have been told, time and time again they need in order for their lives to have any meaning.
Whilst we’re on the subject of looting, we shouldn’t lose sight of the white-collar version of this aberration happening every day of the week on the trading floors of the world’s banks and stock markets.
We lurch from one debt crisis to another as the vultures of extreme capitalism target successive national debts. They scare the markets into a slide, where by virtue of hedging they can make vast amounts of money, only to make more money after the market subsequently bounces into recovery. Central banks struggle to focus after being sucker-punched by veracious traders who care for little more than the bonus pot at the end of the quarter. We are witnessing extreme capitalism eating itself.
So the high street looters in the sporting goods stores take what they want, while the rest of us pick up the tab with higher insurance costs and prices. The bankers and traders take what they want too, and yet again, we pick up the tab through taxation and cuts in social services, the healthcare system and pensions.
It’ll take a generation of painful austerity for us to start to fix the ills that manifest themselves in mass lootings. As the looming pensions crisis hits, with an ever ageing national demographic, maybe we’ll realise that we need to help one another through the worst times; that we need to bind together and move away from the cult of the self.
As far as the systemic looting of the global economy is concerned, surely we should impose a transactional tax that will help rebalance the nation’s books, bringing just a small amount of pain to the financial institutions that have brought us collectively to the brink. If that means some of the banks leave our shores, then so be it; the government says it wants to rebalance the economy in favour of manufacturing and innovation and reduce dependence on the financial sector, so this can only be seen as win-win.
So there is such a thing as society; it’s those of us not on the streets helping ourselves to whatever we want. It’s those of us not on the trading floors lining our pockets; it’s the vast majority of citizens around the world picking up the tab to pay for the actions of the selfish few. We need to broaden this debate, take responsibility for our actions and refocus our priorities away from consumption.
Any form of extremism is bad, and extreme capitalism is no exception. We can only hope that the well-spring morality and collective responsibility hasn’t been tainted for ever by this rampant, government sponsored selfishness.