Sending in the woodworm to save the piano

Casting a fresh and sensible eye over the nation's (hah!) economics

by Dave Randle

There is no universal law that says every time something moves it’s got to make money. It might be the capitalist way, but it is additive, and often inimical to the efficient running of things and the provision of the necessities of life.

On the Buses

Public transport is the infrastructure that enables people to get to work, to go on holiday and to shop for goods. Putting it there is good for the economy without it having to be intrinsically profit producing.

If it is free, or just charged at cost, many more people will use it and the overall economy will benefit. Adding a tier of profit discourages use and puts people back in their cars or leads to them staying away from work and commerce.

Both bus and rail companies were originally created by private enterprise. They were nationalised when it became clear that private companies are, not very surprisingly, inclined to favour the most profitable routes, but even then will not make sufficient money to see much change after fuel and equipment costs and maintenance of thousands of miles of infrastructure, unless fares are priced prohibitively.

The only time public transport has been confident of a return has been with the free bus pass scheme in which they get paid by the government for journeys taken by those with no price-resistance on travelling. Before the scheme, the majority of the buses on British roads had been smoking about the place for the best part of half a century. Suddenly, operators had some certainty of income, so new buses – at hundreds of thousands of quid each – started appearing on fleets all over the country.

What if a similar subsidy scheme was rolled out to all users of public transport – fare for fare matching, for example? Surely fares could be halved and the buses and trains would run at closer to capacity. Operators would have a certainty over hiring, routes and regularity that is currently denied to them, and more people would be out there keeping the economy going around, while the government only contributed a fraction of their usual subsidy with a predictable return?

Poor Returns

Of course, it’s well known outside the weird cult of ‘austerity’ that putting money into the hands of the needy is the best way to restore and maintain an economy. People without yachts and swimming pools don’t hoard their money. They use it to buy day to day necessities. Money paid to them is money going straight into a country’s commerce. Enabling the poor and the disadvantaged to buy food, fags and alcohol not only enlivens trade and industry, it stabilises a large chunk of boom and bust.

No such benefits accrue from taking people out of the market and putting them on the street or into food banks. That way lies contraction of every sort.

Forever Blowing Bubbles

There seems to be a basic misunderstanding among the people charged with running the UK economy. They don’t seem to have caught on to the fact that money isn’t real. If you’re lucky, it might represent something real, but certainly not the gold or doubloons that originally backed it up. Nowadays, it is worth what any one of us thinks it’s worth. In other words, since it is an IOU, do we think the oh-so-trustworthy banks will make good on it when we want to cash it in.

The indications with regard to pensions schemes are not terribly auspicious.

If you do get away with a big capitalist deal, like buying property for half a million, sitting on it for a while and selling it for a whole million, what have you achieved in real terms? The property is older and needs maintenance, but is otherwise what you paid for. Now the same thing has an exchange value of 1m. What does that mean? There’s only one major variable in the equation – the value of the money. It’s now worth half as much as it was when you acquired the property.

Of course, this is simplistic. There are plenty of other factors involved, but the overall effect of the inflation of money is identifiably more obvious the longer any given currency is around.

For What it’s Worth

Politicians steeped in monetarism and capitalist dogma create ever more complex ways of making it appear that the system works. It never really has. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 was a one-off only in the sense that subsequent bounces were cushioned by fiscal sleight of hand.

Certainly, the corporations, the capitalists themselves have done all right on paper. They all make more numbers of IOUs than they ever did – and exponential numbers by comparison to the ordinary citizen who, under the system, has to take up the inflationary slack.

The ‘more money’ that has accrued to the moneyed classes has a lower intrinsic value, so the bigwigs have to pay themselves more of it still in order to appear to be riding the up-escalator.

But the illusion can only really be maintained by the small fry going down the laundry chute.

A production-based economy with the stress taken off monetary value would advance everyone across the board. If operations such as banks, insurance companies, snoopers and much of local and national government that currently produce nothing were done away with, and money was lent interest-free with a view to universal value rather than usury or parasitism, and income tax was abolished in favour of a fair and consistent percentage level of purchase tax, the economy and everyone in it from the great to the small would be healthier and, in real terms, wealthier.

It is the presence of these blinding and failed dogma that makes it impossible for their adherents to find real solutions or to establish workable programmes. It’s like the money fault is hardwired in and they keep rearranging the furniture around it to no effect.

Basic school economics classes taught us about supply and demand, but the one thing that is out of the control of everyone from the government down is supplying the demand for money, for the oil that allows the wheels to turn, that theoretical item which has as its only practical value the supplying of a means of exchange. The more it is exchanged, the more useful it is. The more it is hoarded by the money-rich, the more the nation stagnates.

The Health Service is there to keep the population fit and well – able to work and to partake in the process of exchange of goods and services. It is neither there to make nor necessarily cost money.

It needs infrastructure of course. It needs to be in proximity to the people it is there to serve.

It also needs people running it and providing its services – and they need to be kept fit and well to do their jobs, and they need to be able to play their own part in the commercial merry-go-round. If they are able to do that, they have a high societal value.

Replacing them with machines in response to the tyranny of insurance companies is both practically and even economically counter-productive. Machines cannot learn; they cannot advance; they will inevitably become obsolete and the knowledge with which they were stuffed lost along with any increase in diagnostic and treatment skills.

Machines that are allowed to make independent decisions always dumb down an activity. Calling them ‘smart’ or claiming for them ‘artificial intelligence’ dumbs down humanity.

Machines can be of assistance to skilled and perceptive people. They can never replace them.

Why are we so all-fired keen to replace humans with machines, anyway? We all need work and activity in our lives. It’s an essential that has already been pushed out of balance with leisure and unproductive activity.

The present executive works to put more and people out of work and then derides them for being unemployed.

The Health Service wastes millions on gratuitous drugs and machinery. It wastes further millions on an overbalance of administrators and bean counters. It’s job is to produce results; to keep its customers in the best physical shape it can manage. That job doesn’t tie it to pharmaceutical medicine. Much of what it sets out to do would be much better accomplished by traditional and more natural methods, including and especially nutrition and detoxification. Pharmaceutical medicine is very limited in its results and has piggy-backed on the success of skilful surgeons to turn the world’s hospital and medical facilities into a money making racket.

Hospitals and health centres now depend for their continued existence on keeping people sick, so the drug companies get their screw and give some leavings back.

Completely unable to see how anything is not about money, Jeremy Hunt’s solution to the desperate state of one of the few worthwhile achievements of government is to send in the woodworm to save the piano.

Consultants know nothing about products or service. They only know about money. And they charge a great deal of it to make it look like Hunt is doing something positive. So that’s another non-product taking money away.

But it gets worse. The ‘consultants’ want financial recognition for whatever they achieve, so expect bonuses every time they make a saving on  paper.

So more money than ever is being funnelled away from the NHS, but an even smaller proportion is going toward its intended purpose.

Meanwhile Richard Branson planned to buy up health centres so he can turn them into an ugly imitation of the American system, in which they act as a cash cow for the pharmaceuticals and the insurance companies and would generate enough small change for him to buy outer space, while the punter pays up or has their loyalty card cancelled.

In that, at least, he was thwarted, but was then allowed to sue the health service for not letting him parasite upon it, like the woodworm suing Rentokil or, worse, Steinway.

About Steve Cook 252 Articles
Director, UK Reloaded
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