Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Owen Jones discusses how an ideology of individualism has undermined both freedom and security for most of the UK's citizens:
There are several reasons why rampant individualism sits at the core of the Tory project. Individualism promotes the idea that our successes in life are purely down to our own efforts. That rationalises inequality, because it perpetuates the myth that the wealthiest are the brightest and hardest working while the poorest are the stupidest and the laziest. Inequality simply becomes just deserts, rather than the sign of a society rigged in favour of a lucky minority. Tax becomes a punishment for success rather than a contribution to the collective kitty.

Individualism transforms social problems such as poverty and unemployment into personality defects, rather than the ills of a poorly constructed society – to be cured by a change in an individual’s attitude rather than by collective solutions, such as a welfare state. It erodes a sense that the majority have shared interests and aspirations, which are not only different from those of the elite, but on a collision course with them. It is fatal to the logical conclusion of this sentiment: that the majority should deploy their collective strength to challenge the concentrated wealth and power of the few.

As a dogma, this form of individualism is a formidable obstacle to socialism. But in practice it has increasingly resulted in insecurity: no wonder, then, that solidarity is so hankered after by so many. Labour has an opportunity to fashion a new individualism, with the promise that only socialism can liberate the individual.
- The Guardian's editorial board weighs in on the choice between democracy and oligarchy - and the dangers of letting the latter triumph. And Lyle Jeremy Rubin writes that conservatives' affinity for unrestrained capitalism can be traced to its entrenchment of social hierarchy.

- Meanwhile, Ann Pettifor offers a reminder as to how citizens can use our power to rein in the excesses of the corporate sector and the privileged few:
It is time for the financial sector to serve the real economy, where people live, innovate and work. It is time for the sector to be dislodged from its position as master of the global economy. For if, in future, we want to tax the rich, to dismantle tax havens, to avoid another global financial crisis, to tackle criminality and inequality, it’s vital that we start to think differently about the global financial system. If we want a system that makes it possible for us to finance the shift of our economy away from fossil fuels, if we want to thwart the rise of nationalism and authoritarianism… we must begin to think differently about the system.

Above all, we, as taxpaying citizens, must begin to think differently about our own power to bring about change. We must think about how to use – or leverage, to use financial terminology – the powers we have. We must remind ourselves of how the private financial system depends on taxpayer-financed institutions. We need this understanding of our potential power to influence and make demands of the finance sector if we are to begin to manage offshore capitalism, to bring offshore capital back onshore.
It’s not enough to be shocked and awed by the publication of revelations such as those in the Paradise Papers. We have to learn that we are not powerless. We have to start thinking differently about tax-paying citizens’ relationships to these global corporations and incredibly wealthy individuals. We have to start understanding that we have power and political leverage over these tax evaders. That as taxpayers we prop up the systems – including the great public good that is our monetary system – without which these private capital gains would not be made. And that as taxpayers propping up the institutions from which the 1% derive huge wealth, we must insist on terms and conditions, regulations and controls over cross-border flows. 
- Finally, Tom Parkin discusses the detrimental effects on democracy arising out of a pattern of shoddy reporting - including this week's series of false reports about Jagmeet Singh's events in Scarborough. But in more accurate reporting on Singh, Ashifa Kassam takes note of his unifying progressive vision.

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