- Will Hutton writes about the connection between inequality and the loss of any moral or social purpose in public life:
Britain is beset by a crisis of purpose. We don’t know who we are any longer, where we are going or even if there is a “we”. The country is so passionately attached to past glories because there are so few to celebrate in the present. The crisis is compounded since we have been told for 30 years that the route to universal wellbeing is to abandon the expense of justice and equity and so allow the judgments of the market to go unobstructed. Private decisions in markets supposedly are morally and economically better than any public or collective action. As a result the sense of the “we” that binds a society together and gives us reason to belong is being lost. We take refuge in looking after number one, because there is no sense in, nor reason for, doing anything else.- From that starting point, it makes sense that the very people who have secured their positions by exploiting amorality might have trouble seeing how to address it. But Paul Mason sees Greece's election as an example of how citizens can peacefully and democratically revolt against the mindset that people must be sacrificed to economic gods.
The inevitable consequence is a decline in public integrity and a new carelessness about others. This amoral deficit of integrity takes many guises. It is sky-high executive pay, out of proportion to effort or contribution. It is the phone-hacking scandal. It is the too frequent lack of duty of care to workforces and customers alike. It is the careless, indiscriminate sale of so many of our public and private assets. It is the unwillingness to find ways of investing in ourselves, while we look so regularly to foreigners to revive our industries or build our infrastructure. It is the crisis of trust in our politicians. It is the uncontested acceptance that our children confront a worse world than we faced ourselves – from the size of mortgage they will need to buy a house to lower pensions.
The principal obstacle to the recreation of a sense of we – and along with it the shared vision, ambition and purpose for the country which is the necessary precondition for the extensive reforms that are needed – is inequality. Inequality is like a slow-growing but untreated cancer; it can grow with little apparent effect for a long time while the sufferer lives in happy ignorance. Occasionally there may be unexplained physical weaknesses and complaints that suggest something is awry, but other, less alarming explanations than cancer seem both more likely and comforting. Then suddenly the cancer begins to metastasise with catastrophic effects, but it is too late to stop its now obvious spread, and the implications are often fatal.
Societies, unlike individuals, do not die. But the cancer of inequality produces results that are equally catastrophic.
- David Macdonald studies how Canada's economic picture would look if First Nations weren't deliberately cut out of it. And Jason Warick reports on Ken Coates' call to share resource revenue with First Nations.
- Edward Keenan highlights the CRA's selective crackdown against charities whose causes don't fit the Cons' politics.
- And finally, Michael Harris discusses how the Harper Cons' distaste for any accurate portrayal of their government is all too consistent with how truth-tellers are being treated around the globe:
The next prime minister of Canada has either got to let Canadians in on what is really happening in this country and this world, or see the profession of politics fall into permanent disgrace. It won’t be lousy voter turn-out we’ll be talking about then — it will voter turn-off and the extinction of democracy, Alberta-style.
What is happening in Stephen Harper’s Canada — the hoarding and choking-off of information, the outright lying — is going on in many of the aging, decrepit democracies in the West. The establishments of several countries have effectively decided that they are above the law — and often cite national security threats to justify anti-democratic and, in some cases, thoroughly illegal behaviours.