HTLGI2013 The common good

May 27, 2013

Shirley Williams was to my mind the only real loss to the Labour Party when the Gang of Four broke away before finally combining with the Liberals.  She is now at that age of of a generation (like Mary Midgely) where wisdom shines forth.  This was a very articulate presentation on the question of ownership.  Refreshingly she did not confine herself to what is wrong, but also to what we could do about things and I agree with her on the idea that mutualism is one important way forward.  You can see the benefits in German Industry and that is evidence enough.  Interesting that arose from the Labour Party creating a post war structure for Germany that they failed to put in place within the UK to our great shame.   Barbara Castle (another strong woman of the Shirley Williams generation) tried with In Place of Strife but fell to the machiavellian short terms interests of Jim Callaghan.


Looking at the future we have very little idea of where we think we ought to go and how we are going to get there.  Will start with different forms of ownership and what has gone wrong.

  1. Communism, state socialism that started out with a remarkable idea namely that the people owned.  The problem arrived early summed up in a wonderful book 'The New Class' 1956 and he write as a leader of Yugoslavia in the early days of Tito.  He thought state socialism would produce its own ruling class so there had been in all previous systems and it happened in two years – the nomenklatura which had all the characteristics of other authorities – children of leaders go to the best schools etc. etc.  reference to wilson making ministers travel economy and confusion with USSR visit. Mrs Thatcher not invited to join Charlton Club.
  2. Co-operatives never quite worked as we created an alternative in the west in which share holders were responsible for a company.  But what has happened is that great institutions now own the shares, individual share holders are over shadowed.  The ideal of Adam Smith and the like for small shareholders is not real
  3. Globalisation.  The essence of democracy is that taxation is at the heart of the process and the key to democratic accountability is the right to determine tax.  We can still say if we want expenditure or taxation.  However our voice is diminished by global companies and there is no global democratic structure in existence.  So globalisation is breaking link between taxation and the voted democracy.

So what do we do?  (i) create global economic accountability through laws or regulations.  Unfortunately unpopular in England.  or (ii) accept democracy bypassed.  Or we have to share national power with global bodies.   So take IMF which can tell a government its wrong.  Another example is OECD has been trying to stop bribery and corruption in international markets.    UK would not buy into this although US, Netherlands and others did.  Only two countries left refusing to sign a bribery covenant – Japan and UK now only UK.  Reason is out financial services were doing too well.  Only finally got it through as it became an issue in the election and both major parties had to commit, finally applied 2012.

We have a difficult question so do we accept transfer of national sovereignty to a global body.  THe only way to balance capitalism is by having a democratic structure above their heads.  But the globe cannot be policed adequately at a national level so really have to change.

People say that we have lost our moral compass, no longer have the same level of responsibility and commitment   we used to have.  One alternative is industrial democracy, reference back to her time as a cabinet minister.  Should employees have a part in determining what happens?  1:80 from 1:9 in equality from when she came into power.  Has worked well in Germany where its still more like 1:9

In this country there was conflict between trade unions who wanted to control and others who wanted all employees, net result the white paper in the 70s failed as no one would agree?  Would mutualisation (the John Lewis alternative) work any better?


Between 1840 and the 1980s ruling classes were kept in place by fear of rebellion .  No one is frightened any more? 

Response – hanging the ruling class from lamp posts has a poor history.

How could you progress with asking CEOs of multi-nationals to pay more when heads of local government are voting themselves big salaries.  

Response The argument that is constantly used for high salaries for public servants has been profoundly affected by competition with the private sector.  Goes with a change in attitudes of mind, being a public servant used to bring status and respect so compensated for low salary.  We are also now slaves of the money culture and its the only way we respect people.  Everyone is being measured by what they earn not what they do and its a serious difficulty.  Global elite now has more in common with each other than it does with their own countries.  Same universities, clubs etc. etc.  They share that life and it is so unlike the rest of us that they become more and more remote from being concerned about or caring about their own people.  Global ruling class with extraordinary degree of cohesion.

What about our behaviour as consumers?  The choices we make

Response This is another area of commonality, all the supermarkets have a lot in common with each other.  What they promote is becoming more and more similar.  Common consumer world, china was an investment society but is becoming a consumer society.  SHopping now the most popular leisure sport in the UK

If corrections are not made to the inequalities then there will be a violent correction? 

Response  I almost wish that  were so.  What is more likely is an apathetic and depressed group of people and back into personal solipsim.  A third of the people and rising are having a conversation to do with their own families, they divorce themselves from society creating a world around themselves.  Incolvement of children in the computer world means we could create our own world.  All revolutions were collective response but they are becoming increasingly rare.  Fewer and fewer people belong to political parties, trade unions etc.  Hard to see one's way out of this.  Mutualisation is one way out of this.

The CEO of google rounded on British Government about tax.  With issues more and more technical how do you deal with it?  Response We now have a technical elite with no concept of what it is to bea responsible   citizen.   Used to be that there was a moral obligation, not just to avoid tax.  A citizen should respect their responsibility.  Germany has that morality, Greece does not (the two extremes).  its not good enough to say pass the laws and I will comply as they can just move on.  Most people are abdicating to the technical elite and that is dangerous as we will end up in societies which are robotised.

Why do the liberals support Landsley's plans to privatise NHS. 

Response they didn't, defends the amendments the liberals made.  Gave examples removed 14% private sector premium, removed need to pure competition.  Says many CCGs don't realise they are not bound.  Lots of misunderstanding largely led by Twitter.

No one voted the current coalition, might we best be governed by Europe

Response no one can deny there was not a majorty for either party   42% Tory so had to go that way so coalitions are inevitable and you can't reflect democracy otherwise.   She wanted a lib-lab coalition but it ws clear the electorate rejected Brown.  So you end up with a compromise but its a real problem.

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