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Star Comment: Capitalism can’t be ‘reformed’

INCLUSIVE capitalism is on a par with compassionate conservatism in the league table of political oxymorons.

It is instructive that the inventors of such mythical concepts always come from the 1 per cent of the population who already dominate wealth and power.

They can speak enticingly of putting “nature and human communities” at the heart of future economic models, as Charles Windsor did at the Inclusive Capitalism conference in London’s Mansion House.

Or they can appear provocative, like International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde did, by quoting the words of capitalism’s arch-critic Karl Marx in Capital to the effect that capitalism carries within it the seeds of its own destruction.

However, having teased their audience of wealth and pension fund managers, senior insurance company executives, asset managers and sundry other financiers with their unorthodox musings, neither pursued the logic of their arguments.

The heir to the English throne must be aware that millions of people in Britain languish on council housing waiting lists with no prospect of a home.

He, on the other hand, owns tens of thousands of properties in various countries from which he derives a huge income to supplement that from the Duchy of Cornwall.

Far from putting “human communities” at the heart of his preferred economic model, Windsor prioritises personal wealth maximisation.

So much for his spurious statement that “the primary purpose of capitalism should surely be to serve the wider, long-term interests and concerns of humanity.”

In turn, Lagarde floats her Marxist quote without examining it to recognise that the quest for private profit and higher productivity leads inexorably to lower demand for labour and the creation of an “industrial reserve army” of the unemployed to pose a constant threat to workers’ jobs and living standards.

Who could fail to recognise in today’s world what Marx described in Capital? — “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is therefore at the same time accumulation of misery.”

Despite assiduously spread stories about clampdowns on tax avoidance or an unfair tax burden borne by the richest 1 per cent, the reality is that while most people experience a worsening standard of living, those at the top enjoy rapidly increasing post-tax incomes.

This at the same time as Save the Children warns that five million children in Britain could be locked into poverty by 2020.

While the gilded elite grows richer at an accelerated rate, housing costs, food prices, heating, transport and childcare shoot through the roof and cannot be met by perpetually falling real pay levels.

Britain is one of the world’s richest countries, but it is seeing a constant rise in the number of foodbanks opening to deal with dire need.

This became inevitable once new Labour defaulted on its initial anti-poverty policies even before the financial crisis since when the conservative coalition has championed the financial interests of the City of London.

The government is content to continue stoking a consumer-led boom based on a house-price bubble confined largely to London and south-east England and fuelled by property investments by overseas buyers.

Capitalism will never be people-centred or inclusive, no matter how many warm words are uttered by the likes of Windsor and Lagarde.

Wealth does not trickle down and the people at the bottom will only rise when the obscene riches of big business, banks, landowners and other capitalists are mobilised to benefit society.


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