I have just been reading the scariest book ever: Austerity: the Demolition of the Welfare State and the Zombie Economy, by Kerry-anne Mendoza. It is not about the dead come back to haunt us, only in the sense that ideas which we thought were dead and buried are being brought back to life by a small extremely powerful group, we might call them oligarchs who control the best politicians that money can buy. As a voter in I believed a democratic society it terrifies me.
In her introduction Mendoza explains her thinking:
“Austerity is not a short term disruption to balance the books. It is the demolition of the welfare state transferring the UK from social democracy to corporate power. We are witnessing the end and not the beginning of a process—–”
“By the end of this book, it will be clear to the reader that Austerity is unnecessary, destructive and intended as a permanent break with traditions of social democracy.”
Mendoza explains with great lucidity the difference between the public sector and private businesses. Private businesses have one overriding aim to make a profit, this is the alpha and the omega of business. The public sector, whether its the NHS, state education, universities and colleges, affordable housing, legal aid and the prison service. Has an entirely different aim to provide a service, free at the point of need, to every citizen in an open, democratic society. Every child in Britain can attend school at no cost to the parents. In many countries of the world this is not the case, poor children in India and Pakistan go to work.
The idea that everyone grows up to be a healthy, educated citizen is the foundation stone of a plural, participating, fair and honest society. The Scandinavian countries can show us the way. Not surprisingly they are prosperous, peaceful law abiding societies which could show us a better way if just for five minutes we could stop trying to model ourselves on the USA. In Britain for some years now, including the years of New Labour, more and more sections previously mentioned have been sold off at bargain prices; for example Academy Schools, sections of the NHS, council houses even prisons. Of course the tax-payer is still funding all these enterprises and now has no oversight of the accounts, no control of conditions at work, or rates of pay, no annual check on how the money is being spent and the cost no longer appears in the governments accounts. A very nice earner to those friendly oligarchs who can stump up the bargain price and a life-long friend for the politicians responsible.
We can do something, its time to get serious.