Plans to sell off forestry land have been put on hold as the Coalition confesses that it misjudged the public mood. The plans will be back. All three of the main London parties are committed to continuing privatisation in order to fund big giveaways to their respective backers.
The great fire-sale is driven by five key principles.
The first principle is that if it makes money, it must be sold to the bankers. In the case of forestry, the trees come with a very helpful tax regime attached. The State, having lost the revenue and given away the capital receipt, must then raise taxes to fill the gap. Bankers know how to arrange their affairs to avoid paying those.
The second principle is that if it doesn’t make money, it must be sold to a voluntary group, under the threat that it will otherwise be shut down. These groups need to raise capital to finance the purchase and any future investment. Banks extract interest in return. If, or rather when, the voluntary groups fail to balance the books, the banks can repossess and sell the assets. The failure of the voluntary groups will provide baseline data about costs that will then enable multi-national corporations to price their bids for State funding to provide any services still deemed vital.
The third principle is that taxes must remain high, even though services are in decline, in order that the State may continue to shovel money into bankers’ pockets. Banks will continue to make profits on debts they have created out of nothing. The UK’s government debt is now £2.32 trillion, of which the cost of bailing out Lloyds Group and RBS accounts for £1.3 trillion. Smaller banks are already included in the larger figure. RBS lost £1.1 billion last year but paid out £950 million in bonuses anyway.
The fourth principle is that property rights must continue to take precedence over human rights. David Cameron recently set out his vision of a State that has withdrawn from everything except provision of the coercive power – the police, the intelligence services, the judiciary and the armed forces. The Pig Society does not extend to farming out justice to local vigilantes, nor security to foreign mercenaries. Cameron knows just enough history not to want to share the fate of Vortigern. His vision nevertheless is a starkly regressive one. The poor are to be taxed to pay for protecting the interests of the rich, not the other way around.
The fifth principle is that any opposition must be neutered, employing ever more draconian laws and sophisticated psychological manipulation to disarm any criticism of the elite consensus. The new emphasis on cyber-security is not about fighting off virus attacks on critical infrastructure but about monitoring and disrupting any organised reaction to the looting. Meanwhile, Cameron’s establishment of the Behavioural Insight Team at Number 10, building on Labour’s ‘Mindspace’ project, demonstrates the extent to which politicians from all three London parties now view voters as no better than lab rats to be subjected to ‘libertarian paternalism’.
The alternative we seek is a Big Democracy, one where the power of money to corrupt our lives is reined in and other values, like accountability, inclusiveness and stewardship, are re-asserted. It also needs to exist as of right, not as a hand-down from the PM that can be swept away at the first sign of a bad headline. This requires leaders less testicularly challenged than Cameron, Clegg and Miliband, all of whom are too close by far to the City of London to take it on. Like the rest of the essentially fraudulent (but allowed-to-be-legal) globalised ‘competitive’ (reptilian) economy, the City must become a thing of the past. Its ill-gotten gains need to be redistributed to local communities to begin the work of restoring all those life-enhancing qualities that the financial class has so long despised.
The coming ecological crisis will require clear thinking about real things. Things like food, fuel, regions, resources, skills, land and clever technology. It will have no room for sociopathic bankers, and they know it. It does no harm to remind them that their crimes against humanity and against the planet will end. And will Big Bang then become Big Whimper? We shall see.