“Taxing the rich may now be the most consensual proposition in politics. It looks like the next political trend”. This is the theme of Simon Kuper’s latest FT column; how the pendulum of public approval is swinging away from the ‘sacredness’ of private property – towards the grace of our ‘collective’ goods: respect for our shared planet – for our shared well-being. Covid affirms that a resilient public health system is the fundament of any well-functioning society; that massive state intervention can be a very necessary part of any functioning economy.
French economist, Thomas Piketty, is my tax-the-rich mentor – it’s worth skimming this short interview in a French Mag. He says that neo-liberalism justifies any concentration of wealth, as if billionaires were our saviours; but the notion that they create jobs and boost growth is false. While the number of billionaires exploded (from 100 in 1990 to 600 today) per capita income growth in the US halved and inequalities doubled; Piketty’s work highlights the destructive power of inequality. He says that the ‘common good’ affords no justification for the existence of billionaires – his wealth tax would eliminate them
Simon Kuper ends his column referencing the research of Italian economists (Barone and Moretti) – which found that high earners in Florence in 2011, included many of the same families as in 1427. If this is true, it is most discouraging – but also a signal: that it will take more than our present piddling efforts to shift the 500 millionaires who own half of Scotland.
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Last week, Bojo was briefly amongst us, to ‘flash the cash’ – “the claim that an independent Scotland (alone among five million-strong European nations) would assuredly have been too small, too poor and too useless to organise its own Covid bailout, without England’s help”. This quote is from Joyce McMillan’s most recent Scotsman column – which, as usual, I found helpful. In spite of her unfaltering passion for independence, McMillan doesn’t think the time is right; wants to see a stronger grass-roots ‘yes’ movement – separate from any political party. The question in my mind, is how much the Covid experience is shifting the public mood. Both the Tory and Labour parties have squandered all credibility in Scotland – but we deserve better than the SNP; strange times.
The conduct of our industrial scale salmon farming damages Scotland’s reputation for good food and a clean environment. Campaigners are contemplating legal action after a video showed salmon being deloused by a floating washing machine (torture chamber). These are living creatures, subjected to all manner of suffering – for profit.
Scotland has a new left wing, pro-independence media group that makes campaigning journalism for political change; it’s called Skotia and its website depicts lots of young enthusiasm. Corporate media controlled by a wealthy few, damages democracy (Murdoch’s mafia). Healthy societies produce initiatives like this.
Among the organisations trying to steer us towards a fairer society is the Jimmy Reid Foundation (I’ve always been a Jimmy Reid fan). Of the five topics covered in their latest paper, I welcomed thoughts on the lack of a Scottish Care Service – decisive action is long overdue.
The welfare of a nation cannot be inferred from simply measuring its total national income – GDP ignores social value, inequality, climate emergency etc; everyone accepts that it needs replaced. This piece in the Conversation looks closer at what we really want to measure.
At the end of 2014, Ursula le Guin was honoured in the USA National Book Awards; her short acceptance speech was typically inspirational.
See full text and video.
“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality………Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words……but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom.”