Monday, 8 September 2014

The Wealth of Nations

I have been thinking while walking Dillon the Dug; what is the actual difference between the capitalist model of true social democrats and that of the neo-liberal scatologists?

I took me back to the opening thoughts of Adam Smith in his great economic treatise on what constitutes the wealth of a nation. Smith is clear, the Wealth of a Nation is predicated by its natural and human resources.

Smith is also quite clear that there is a direct relationship between productivity and sense of worth of the worker. A sense of worth not simply in cash terms of what they are paid but also support for the workers family be it health, education, a roof over their heads and access to decent food at reasonable cost. Smith's capitalist, economic model was brought together at New Lanark, if in a rather patriarchal manner - as befitted the times - but none the less an example of social democratic capitalism in action. A model still held up to the world as an example of the positive impact of capitalism on improved worker welfare, often by the most rabid of the neo-liberals.

In England Quaker business entrepreneurs copied the 'New Lanark model' while putting their own touches of patriarchal 'guidance' in with the workers recreation facilities and other benefits. The Cadbury's and Rowntree's were the exceptions in the UK, as most business at the time of the industrial revolution and ever since looked to get as much out their work force, for as little they could get away with, housing the workforce in single roomed slums and over crowded tenements where malnutrition and ill health were the norm amongst the families and job security often a day to day experience - the neo-liberal model of capitalism writ large and seen at work across the USA to this day.

In the late 19th Century, as the UK middle class grew in size and consumer power, there came an increase in moral rectitude. The poor, it became 'decided', need not always be with us and that society (that is the middle classes) had a duty to ease poverty and discrimination where ever it presented itself which in turn saw a series of public health measures on drinking water safety and safe sewage disposal encompass the cities of the mother of the British Empire. In the early 20th Century the Liberals enacted the first National Insurance scheme to ensure everyone had a basic pension after the age of 65, in the 1920's this was developed to give access to basic health care by encouraging the setting up of provident health societies which improved the access for workers (and their dependents) to health care via their trade union or work place. In 1948 the funds in these provident societies were handed to the NHS and today have morphed in charitable 'Friends of Great Ormand Street' health care fund raisers and like across the UK.

It appears the nearly 300 year cycle of improved respect for the human natural resource in the UK has fallen from its heights and is now plummeting down to its nadir. The UK Government in Westminster is in the process of destroying the remnants of the UK's social democratic traditions which started with Adam Smith's great treatise being made real, from New Lanark onwards.  Workforce consultations are now a rarity, even more so after the UK Trade Union Movement's self destruction of the 1970's. Malnutrition once again stalks the streets of the poorest in UK society. Education is once more predicated on access to wealth. Preventable diseases related to poor diet take UK citizens' lives in ever increasing numbers and in England, for now, the sense of there being a safety net from cradle to grave has been erased, nor will it stay or long in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland if this UK Parliament has its way.

It could be argued; the last three decades of increasingly neo-liberal governance in the UK Parliament in Westminster has undone the work of far sighted individuals across the UK in the previous 20 decades and destroyed all the promises made to my father's generation who had actually put their lives on the line between 1939 and 1945.

I sense commentators who are describing the levels of poverty, malnutrition and preventable ill-health now at 'Dickensian' levels across the UK as not being that far 'over the top' and what ever UK or rUK Government is elected in May 2015 life is only going to get even worse for those at the bottom of the heap. The cry from the UK political, business and landed elites is once again:

"The poor are always with us; it is all their own fault; let them suffer."

Ignoring all the evidence, to the contrary, of the previous 200 hundred, and more, years of social development.

Why, as we are being given the chance, would the Scots want to remain attached to this ignorant way of running a country into the ground?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for such honesty. It is absolutely disgusting what is occurring. I have voted YES so we can help show the way to a fairer society.