New Internationalist

Spot the difference

For private debts that enriched kleptocracies of one sort or another and were then dumped on the public in the third world, simply read private markets - or banks for short - in the first world.

Otherwise, the 10 guiding principles are the same:

1 The more spectacular the failure of markets, the more political power you must give them.

2 If you bother with elections at all, make sure they are discredited as quickly as possible.

3 The views of the International Monetary Fund, however fickle and mistaken, are sacrosanct.

4 The only legitimate role of government is to underwrite the folly of private markets.

5 Export-oriented economic growth, free trade and corporate globalization are good.

6 Public interests and services are bad.

7 Cuts in public services are better than increases in taxation.

8 Regressive taxation (like Value Added Tax) is better than progressive taxation on wealth.

9 Always rename bad names - as structural adjustment became poverty reduction, so deficit reduction in Britain becomes fair.

10 The bigger the problem, the smaller the solution.

So expect social injustice and climate change in Britain - quoting the G20, the IMF and the rest of the world in aid - to accelerate along the same calamitous path.

Quite by chance, I've been reading Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, first published in 1868. He wrote:

'As is well known to the wise in their generation, traffic in Shares is the one thing to have to do with in this world. Have no antecedents, no established character, no cultivation, no ideas, no manners; have Shares. Have Shares enough to be on Boards of Direction in capital letters, oscillate on mysterious business between London and Paris, and be great. Where does he come from? Shares. Where is he going to? Shares. What are his tastes? Shares. Has he any principles? Shares. What squeezes him into Parliament? Shares. Perhaps he never of himself achieved success in anything, never originated anything, never produced anything! Sufficient answer to all; Shares. O mighty Shares! To set those blaring images so high, and to cause us smaller vermin, as under the influence of henbane or opium, to cry out night and day, "Relieve us of our money, scatter it for us, buy us and sell us, ruin us, only we beseech ye take rank among the powers of the earth, and fatten on us!"'

On reading this now, it struck me that the only significant advance since 1868 has been to add 'Private Markets' to 'Shares'. It wouldn't read half as well.

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