Thursday, 12 November 2009

... able face of capitalism...

Now, let’s be honest. What do we really think of capitalism?
Perhaps that is an unfair question, because it sounds as though the response should be either ‘love it’ or hate it’. And of course it is not that simple.

The thing is: can you view capitalism as a single entity that you support or oppose, that you take or leave? Is it a philosophy? Is it a faith? Is it a system, a way of life? (Is it a bird, is it a plane?) Or is it simply a catch-all phrase that covers a multitude of sins, of activities, of practices? This is a relevant question in an age like ours, in an age that has tested to the limits our ‘faith’ in ‘the system’.

We believe in enterprise. We know that the flow of capital facilitates the efficient functioning of our society. We believe that competition is good, in that it by and large ensures low prices. So in that respect at least, we could call ourselves capitalists.

But the other side of believing in capitalism, or any system at all for that matter, is having faith in those who claim to be its stewards, its custodians. And that is where the problem lies right now. We’ve bugger-all trust in said custodians.

2008 and 2009 were the years in which our trust in business and businessmen reached an all time low. It wasn’t just the reckless bankers and the shady mortgage brokers. It was insurance companies (ruthlessly avoiding payouts) energy companies (high prices), telecoms (slow broadband, poor customer relations), national rail (poor service, overpriced), television companies (faking phone polls and competitions.)

And those other supposed custodians – the ministers of state – were nowhere to be seen. Or at least they only ever appeared to act when scandals were highlighted in the media, and they realized that they better move or else lose the support of the beloved voter. But even then their response was somewhat muted. There were a lot of bold initiatives. But the lobbyists soon went into overdrive and made ministers aware that if they generated too much regulation, they would turn Britain into an economic wilderness. And anyway, how could these ministers really act ingenuously when they had their own dodgy dealings (expenses) to handle?

So, people are indeed trying to get on with their lives, through thick and thin, amid whatever the recession might throw at them. They have little choice but to continue relying upon the system that is still just managing to keep them fed and clothed and housed. But when one is asked whether the custodians - after all that has passed, after all that has been said and done - have done enough to restore people’s faith in that very system that they are supposed to safeguard, one can but reply, in the most humble, restrained and modest terms possible: “Have they fuck?”
By guest blogger Lord Trencherman of Furmity