Inequality, Ideology and Independence

5.0.2‘I’ve never seen such a phenomenal rise in personal wealth as the growth in the fortunes of Britain’s 1,000 richest people over the past year.’ These are the words of Phillip Beresford who has been compiling Britain’s rich list since 1989.

But no one is really surprised. We hear on what feels like a monthly basis a new statistic and a fresh outrage relating to the dominant feature of our time: massive inequality, globally and within individual countries. Never the less the figures from this years Rich List are staggering.

The combined wealth of the listed 1000 individuals now stands at £518.975bn. That’s risen by 15.4%  in just one year. That’s a huge rise in such a timescale. Remember this list is  composed of publicly identifiable wealth, and does not include analysis of the wealth amassed in private bank accounts. In truth it is probable that even this list of the super rich is not representative of an even higher rung of the mega wealthy.

The Queen has seen her wealth rise to £330m after putting on an extra £10m in the last year alone. Of course the wealth of the royal family is far higher – this is only what is publicly available to report. Joining the British elite are 104 billionaires who in combination muster  a total of £301bn. The number of billionaires  choosing London as their playground stands at 72, the highest number of billionaires to inhabit any city, anywhere in the world.

The rich are not just getting richer, they are sitting on fortunes of historic proportions. Of course at the other end the picture is getting more miserable. Over a quarter of the population of London, the billionaire city, live in poverty. In the same year as the wealth of the richest 1000 we know about grew so massively, over 900, 000 people required emergency food aid.

Britain is a low pay economy, and millions struggle by on poor wages. It is a profoundly sick ideology that says in the context of this rich-poor divide, workfare should be introduced, benefits of disabled people cut, and the elementary services which the majority rely on slashed and privatised. Inequality is going to grow, rapidly, over the coming decade as a direct result of this. Far from their being an attempt at addressing the issue, a process of entrenchment is well underway following the logic of the last three decades of an upwards distribution of wealth and power. This Tory government have acted as an accelerator for this process, and a catalyser for policy more radical than Thatcher.4

The ideology of inequality

Some have argued that the richest of the rich are a key component of the economy, and should be encouraged. But in reality they are the product of an economic system that necessarily leads towards gargantuan divergence between the rich and poor. The right-wing claim that while the rich have an evidently superior standard of living, their riches benefit society as a whole. But this is not in evidence. The tightly knit political and economic institutions and structures working towards the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, and intensifying the transfer of both wealth and power from the public to the private sector are not accidents.

The right promote the idea that opposition to this state of affairs is extremist, fringe or immature. But the situation is now so bad, that the demands are not even that radical. Everyone with a shred of human decency is speaking out, and you don’t have to be a revolutionary to stand up to what is going on.

Take Oxfam for example:

‘..the government needs to re-balance the books by raising revenues from those who can afford it – by clamping down on companies and individuals who avoid paying their fair share of tax and by starting to explore greater taxation of extreme wealth – rather than relying on cuts to services that have a disproportionate impact on the poorest in society, some 13 million people who are currently classed as living below the poverty line.’

Added to the armoury of the status quo is debt. Debt is being deployed not only as a prison on the movements of the individual, but as rationale at the level of the state to carry out the austerity agenda, leaving the very top off the hook.

Academic and activist, David Graeber who authored ‘Debt: the first 5000 years’ says:

‘…the ideology of debt is one of the most powerful tools ever created to justify situations of violent inequalities and not only make them seem moral, but also make them seem as if it is the victim who is to blame.’

What is often missed is that this level of inequality has negative social outcomes, as well as economic. It is because there is a scramble for resources and wealth, rather than a plan of investments and social security, that toxic politics can take root. Because we live in a divided society between the rich an poor, the ideological infrastructure must make a reckoning with how it can justify poverty. Instead of taking aim at the root of the problem, it seeks to identify vulnerable, often voiceless sections of society, to scapegoat. Don’t look here, look over  there  at the immigrants taking your job. That formulation represents a most intellectually dishonest position, but it is necessary.  A system based on massive economic inequality, cannot at the same time .allow itself to become the focus for peoples frustration.

So, for all the stoked hate, and after doing everything possible to commend the super rich to us as part of a strategy to generalise increased wealth across the whole of society, Britain has failed its people in favour of buffeting a tiny elite.  It didn’t have to be like this. Professor Danny Dorling explains:

“The super-rich compare themselves to a global elite and sterling’s depreciation has meant that compared to their peers in Europe or the US they are losing ground. Hence we see bankers and top CEOs getting big pay rises. It does not have to be that way because in Switzerland and the Netherlands the top one percent take 6% of national income not 15%. It’s our elites that are greedy.”

Take the power back

It does not have to be like this in the future. It is possible, and necessary, to build a sustainable society that puts the people first. But like anything that has ever been worth having, it is going to take hard work, focus, dedication, ideas and action. We need to redirect not just our own lives, but of our society as a whole.

World renowned economist Joeseph Stiglitz writes:

… I see us entering a world divided not just between the haves and have-nots, but also between those countries that do nothing about it, and those that do. Some countries will be successful in creating shared prosperity — the only kind of prosperity that I believe is truly sustainable. Others will let inequality run amok. In these divided societies, the rich will hunker in gated communities, almost completely separated from the poor, whose lives will be almost unfathomable to them, and vice versa.’

This is the choice we face. Britain is going only in one direction, and there is no challenge to it coming from any of the Westminster parties. The British establishment have bought a one way ticket to their own gated community.  The rest of us will be left on the low pay scrap heap, while we pay for services that were once free universally. There is no point in denying it: the future of Britain is for the rich. No one else will matter. That is why sections of London are being economically  cleansed: to make way for the billionaires and their millionaire  entourage. That is why 70% of workers in Scotland live on less than £25k a year. Low pay, temporary contracts, unemployment and privatised services. Welcome to Britain.

To win independence and the chance to rebuild a society that works for us all,  we need to get this basic message out far and wide, and we need to mobilise the dispossessed who for once can be the masters of a better future. On September 18th, the people are sovereign. Do not give that sovereignty back to the people who have left us behind in the wake of the opulence of the super-rich. In these times, the economic case for Yes could not be more stark.

Comments (22)

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  1. Iain Ross says:

    Powerful message and this is what the debate about Independence should be focused on, no wonder the No campaign do not want to engage and stick to trying to grind the hope out of people. I just wish many of the people that I work with would take the time to listen to and engage with this message instead of just moaning about Alex Salmond and the impending doom we all face.

  2. David McCann says:

    The recovery that this government claims is underway, has come at a terrible price. Barclays bank is to lose 19,000 jobs over the next three years.
    No doubt share prices will rise, and the Condems will claim another victory.
    And the 19,000? They will find themselves on the dole, competing for low paid jobs in a diminishing jobs market, with ever rising food and energy prices.
    An independent Scotland can make a start by creating a more just and fairer society. Vote Yes on Sept 18th.

  3. picpac67 says:

    Another important element is that the increased wealth of the 1% doesn’t come fairly or honestly. Much of it comes from investments in practices that despoil the environment and ruin people’s lives – especially in wars based on lies, like those in Afghanistan and Iraq and the bogus “war on terror”, which has the added function of keeping people in a state of fear and imagined dependence on the state to protect them from a fictitious enemy. The poor in other countries pay heavily for these neo-colonial adventures (the real death toll in Afghanistan and Iraq is some 5 or 6 million), but so do the poor at home who are more likely to become the cannon-fodder, risking their lives fighting in fake wars on behalf of the so-called elites.

  4. joseph O Luain says:

    I found my self recently on legitimate business in a Job Centre in Glasgow. The guy in the reception area (every visitor’s first point of contact with the system) then proceeded to give me information which I knew to be a load of bollocks. When I pointed this out to him, immediate umbrage was taken and voices were raised (mine mainly). Anticipating his next move, I made it my business to endear myself to the security guard. The security guy, to his credit, remained neutral.

    By this time a line of fellow claimants had formed behind me. It was impossible for me not to sense their disapproval of my behavior. Had it not been for the tacit displeasure of my fellow claimants I would have taken the matter even further instead of withdrawing. How did we ever get to such a place wherein to even mildly take-on the system is frowned upon by the system’s victims? Hegemony, ideology, brain-washing, call it what you will, it is extremely dangerous ju-ju

    I am completely at-one with the sentiments expressed in Jonathon Shafi’s excellent post. He expresses my sentiments exactly, particularly the final para. May I also add: when we have our independence, we must guard it and protect it with every resource at our disposal. There is a war raging, an ideological war which will become much more intense post independence. What we must avoid, at least as far as I’m concerned, is the analytic navel-gazing and fractional point-scoring that the Left engaged in when the Reagan/Thatcher neo-liberal ideologists and their m.s.m. allies were dismantling the post-war settlement around them brick-by-brick. Too many of us took our eye of the ball, post 1989.

    1. joseph O Luain says:


      For Jonathon Shafi, please read: Bella Caledonia

    2. grumpydubai says:

      You are quite right Joseph.

      We need to ensure the Scotland of the future and its people educate, nurture, maintain and preserve such an inclusive and caring Society

  5. Dr Ew says:

    Now, now. These people work bloody hard and their wealth will be reinvested in, er… well, anyway they pay their taxes and… er… eh…

    …This is just envy stirred up by lefties and workshy dole scroungers and Romanians and bloody cybernats and…

    Darling! Do something!

  6. If Scotland brought in a basic living wage for all its citizens could it also bring in a maximum living age? What income might be considered more than enough to live in luxury?

  7. jacksloan2013 says:

    Sorry, that should have read wage! I am not in favour of quite such drastic economic cleansing of the rich – yet!

    1. rabthecab says:

      Thank God for that! 🙂

  8. Alt Clut says:

    I’m sixty two and all of my adult life I’ve felt revolted and outraged by this kind of inequalty and greed. Every political campaign that I’ve ever been in has got my support because it aimed in one way or another to fight this situation. I think that to my last day I will, as I’ve always been, be baffled by why more people aren’t as angry about this as I am. The only rational answer is the power of ideology.

    A good article and another grain of sand in the balance against the parasites who dominate our world. Independence won’t solve the problem but, it will give us the democratic tools to put a big fistful of sand in the balance in one small, forward looking country.

    1. joseph O Luain says:

      I’m with you on all you say Alt Clut.

      I am frequently reminded of Aneurin Bevan when “In Place of Fear” (1952) rightly or wrongly, he opined that history shows little evidence to suggest that a longing for freedom is intrinsic to the human-condition. Bevan believed that the inculcation of such a sentiment might only be achieved through political leadership.

      Well, you’ve been around almost as long as I have so you’ll be more than aware of the fact that Labour, for many, many years, hasn’t been exactly active on the inculcation front; if anything Labour has been acting to the contrary in Scotland for generations.

      I suppose my point regarding you’re understandable bafflement is: how can we expect people to hold progressive opinions and aspirations if the party responsible for building and encouraging such an outcome has been off-the-job and engaged in lowering the expectations of Scottish people for generations?

      More power to you Alt Clut.

  9. Andy Scott says:

    On September 18th we are free.

    Free to choose.

    We must choose the Union.

    We must embrace a vision of togetherness and usher in a new era in these islands with Scotland at its heart.

    We can create a stronger City of Edinburgh in the model of London, proudly multicultural, tolerant and welcoming to business, visitors and immigrants alike.

    We can maintain a society where it is possible to achieve a level of wealth unimaginable even to the hardest working of professionals.

    We can create special schools to groom the leaders of the future. The very best society has to offer in terms its young men will be guided by the very best of our teachers to ensure the interests of our City.

    We can strengthen our representatives with a new house of our
    lords, ensuring continuity of our values.

    We can create British jobs for British Workers by investing in a modern nuclear deterrent for the future, stationed literally in hearts of our people. This will dissuade any breach of our territories and ensure our place on the World Stage.

    We can keep a smaller but far more powerful conventional force by utilizing warheads with depleted uranium and the latest in drone technology.

    We , and our children after us can fight to promote the values of Democracy and Freedom so hard won by our forefathers and we can do all this whenever or wherever America may tell us.

    Vote NO

    Vote Tory

    or Labour

    or UKIP

    or liberal Democrat

    or BNP

    or EDL

    or SDL

    but always ‘Britain First’

    Better Together

    1. JimnArlene says:

      That, just about, sums the no camp up. Vote YES.

    2. rabthecab says:

      Hard to know if you’re being sarcastic, or you actually mean that nonsense.

      If the former, chapeau. If the latter, please take your head out of the sand and have a look at the real world.

      1. Andy Scott says:

        Sorry Rab/Johnathon, it was likely an unhelpful contribution. An emotional brain-fart posting after immersing myself a few hours in the online versions of newspapers.

        As the UK marches ever rightwards i thought i would have a go at a positive case for the Union.

        Since nobody else has.

      2. rabthecab says:

        No worries Andy, I owe you a bit of an apology as well, for dismissing your post without bothering to offer a counter to any of your points.

  10. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    This is the stuff of revolution and a Yes vote is nothing less than the first volley of shots. Whatever direction the so-called residual UK turns, currently rightward, we have a stunning alternative; the return of democratic sovereignty to our people. Shedding that notorious Brit propensity to shy away from complaining or making a fuss would be a desirable by-product (Joseph O Luain above). We need to get “bolshie”. We need to embrace risk, fire up our collective imagination and dare to think well beyond the box. We also need leaders prepared to “boldly go”. Old Dame Britannia is dying, do not resuscitate.

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