It is truly amazing how language or the use of a word can so influence the perception within our human minds as to what is actually going on. For instance, the recent kidnapping and torturing of foreign nationals by the American CIA was not actually called operation kidnap and torture, possibly as this may have caused a few ripples even in the conveniently myopic US congress. No we had “extraordinary rendition” taking place which of course means virtually nothing to the vast majority of us.
Equally the assassination without trial or any attempt at a judicial process of those deemed as “terrorists” by the US and others, primarily using remotely operated drones, is not state sponsored murder. Nope these are simply targeted killings. Well if they are targeted, surely it must be ok then? The Buzzard does however wonder how enthusiastic the American people might be as and when other states decides to start bopping off American citizens without judicial process in order to meet the objectives of their global aspirations. One suspects that this would not of course be seen as targeted killing but as “state sponsored terrorism”. If I was living in a tribal region of Pakistan and my family home had just been blown apart and my family killed by a remotely operated drone, I might equally feel I was being exposed to state sponsored terrorism too. We all know just how many people, even after having been found guilty by the rigorous judicial process of trial by Jury, are subsequently acquitted on appeal. Yet we are supposed to believe US intelligence and that of their various allies is so excellent that all the people they remotely decide to kill are guilty terrorists. No chance then of murdering entirely helpless and innocent civilians by mistake is there? No need for a judicial process? Maybe these humans and their destroyed lives are just “collateral damage” another convenient turn of phrase. Do you think the American public would have the same view if a family and their home, in say Des Moines, was blown apart by a CIA operated drone based on an intelligence hunch it would be seen as acceptable collateral damage? The Buzzard dreams of a world where every human, regardless of race and culture is treated with the same dignity and respect. Such a world would be a true indication that humans were finally evolving as a species. Sadly there is very little evidence of this becoming a reality
We can therefore see how exactly the same actions can be described in very different ways to make some of the most outrageous atrocities sit comfortably within the human psyche. One of the main battlegrounds for the use of misleading language is the activities of the extraordinarily wealthy, our dear friends the capital addicts of the world who sadly judge their own sense of worth by the size of their capital hoard. Amongst the favourite term that they like to use is “wealth creation” or they may refer to how much they have “earnt”. Using the term earnt does of course imply a justifiable position in that it is through their hard labours and efforts that they have accumulated a vast capital hoard. Equally “wealth creation” implies that that the activities of these individuals have led to all this wealth being created, rather than just being redistributed in the world. This must surely be to the benefit of us all?
This is the dialogue that our capital addicts, and the politicians who fawn over them in an attempt to join their ranks, would like us to maintain. We the masses should be duly grateful and put up with the somewhat annoying sense of entitlement from such creatures owing to the benefits that accrue from their activities. The trouble is that such language does not actually explain what has really being going on in the world.
Most of the developed countries in the world are steeped in debt which is absolutely crippling these societies and the aspirations of the large majority of people living within them. Average salaries have been falling in real terms, poverty, homelessness and unemployment has been rising. The value of shares in the global stock markets has been stagnant whilst at the same time the greed obsessed minorities in the boardrooms have been awarding themselves exponential salary, pension and bonus increases.
None of this is remotely surprising. Every single povertyteacher in the history of our troubled species had clearly spelt out that an obsession with greed can only ultimately lead to misery. This is true for both the sad individuals concerned and those who are unfortunate enough to be impacted by their actions and our wider societies. We live in a world with a virtually unconstrained viral capitalist model and where capital acquisition has become the new religion. Selfishness and greed are seen as causes for celebration rather than the sad consequences of damaged and deformed human psyches.
What has actually taken place in our societies is really rather simple, we just need a more appropriate language. Rather than wealth creation and earning, what has really taken place is systematic wealth redistribution, capital extraction and exploitation. The capital addicts in our societies use various mechanisms, such as the current investment banking system, to exploit the majority in order to extract value and capital from them. This significantly increases the pointless size of their already over inflated capital hoards to the benefit of nobody, not even themselves. At the same time this has a hugely damaging effect on the rest of the humanity and other the other poor species unfortunate enough to cohabiting with us on our fragile planet.
Recent estimates, as revealed recently by the Tax Justice Network, indicates a conservative figure of £13 trillion stashed away in tax havens by a relatively small number of extreme capital addicts in the world. If you put this sum back into the various economies from which it has been extracted there would be virtually no global debt problem. The publishers of this information and the media that has commented on them have of course missed the point. They have criticized the obscenity of this amount of money being hidden from the taxman. The real obscenity is the fact that, in so called democratic global societies, it has been considered acceptable for a tiny majority of humans to extract these vast sums at the expense of the majority. The impact on our economies, if this sum were to be reinvested in the structures and enterprises within them would of course be transformational. Our economies would grow, living standards, health and wellbeing improve and social structures and facilities enhanced. The world is paying a huge price for its blind commitment to the worship of mammon. This also illustrates how much our democratic institutions have been shaped and perverted by the greedy and manipulative and the politicians who fawn over them. The democratic deficit in contemporary societies is the subject of another series of articles that is being developed and posted on the Buzzard so I will not elaborate further in this article.
So what is to be done? There is certainly nothing to be done if the majority of people passively accept unconstrained exploitation and capital extraction as a socially acceptable norm within their societies. Their labours and aspirations will continue to be harvested by the greedy, like so many stalks of wheat. If this perversity is to end it will require a complete change in attitude to any individual’s right to extract capital.
Now some have accused the Buzzard of being anti-capitalist and I would argue that this is not exactly true. I am anti extreme greed and selfishness by the few at the expense of the many (and the expense of themselves through the damage that pointless addiction to capital does to their own psyches. I would refer readers who desire to explore this further to my eBook “A Certain Lack of Faith” which explores the often malign properties of human attachment behaviour in much more detail). It can well be argued that a certain level of material wealth extraction by a person and their family in society is a good thing. This creates a degree of security; enables provision to be made for pension, housing, quality of living and the cycling of this capital through earnings by spending on goods and services is the engine that finances society. It also creates aspiration and motivation which are essential drivers of energy and enterprise in us humans. The fundamental question that should be asked is at what point does legitimate extraction of capital by citizens that benefits both themselves and society cease. At what point does this start to become a burden and ultimately an obscenity, revealed in contemporary society by the uncomfortable realisation that our once proud economies are now virtually bankrupted with debt?
It is not for the Buzzard to set this point, it would require a rigorous public debate and rational analysis to come to such a figure. My instincts suggest that a multiple of 15 times the average for any citizen in a given society would be reasonable to provide sufficient motivation those who strive for material wealth. This would at the same time mitigate extreme inequality and enable a degree of social justice to take place. In the UK at the time of writing this figure would equate to approximately £1.75 million. I would challenge any human being to argue that they could not have a fulfilled life, with significant deference to their hedonistic desires, having acquired such an accumulation.
The reader will also note that I have not talked about earnings here. It is obvious to anyone with a modicum of wisdom that corporate excesses in pay need to be limited but there is a huge benefit in focusing on capital extraction instead of remuneration. If there is a limit set on permissible personal capital extraction, then any amount of funds gained in any given fiscal year, exceeding the permissible capital limit, will have to be spent (and not on long term assets as these would be included in the capital sum in exactly the same way that businesses value assets). This means that any excess amount accrued in a given year will have to be recycled back into the society that had enabled its creation, thereby benefitting the many. So if our dear capital addict has reached their threshold, they could if they wanted to spend any excess in a hedonistic frenzy which will no doubt quickly cease to give any lasting pleasure but will at least create jobs and develop businesses to feed their appetites. Alternatively they can give this back to society to be invested in social projects for the many, scientific enquiry, the building of infrastructure and for the protection of the most vulnerable.
The diagram below is an illustrative model of the point where a wise society would set a capital extraction cap to mitigate the damage that excessive extraction can cause.
The reader will note that I have not mentioned corporations in this article and these will most probably be the subject of an article at some point in the future. There are however even greater amounts of capital stashed away in tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions by corporations as there are by private individuals in the world. It is again damaging when corporations fail to reinvest their capital back into society and the current situation would certainly suggest the need for the development of a capital withholding tax to be applied to excessive capital hoarding that is not recycled within a sensible time frame. This would certainly incentivise such corporations to invest.
The big question to be answered by the readers of this article is quite straightforward. If you are happy to watch your societies continue to be impoverished through unconstrained capital extraction by a tiny greedy and ultimately sad minority then of course nothing needs to be done. If however you would wish to live in a world where there is a limit to the inequality that is tolerated by society and where everyone has an overarching responsibility to support and nurture the society in which they live, then what are you planning to do about it? We live in democracies; if you want change then you need to throw out the privileged political elite that celebrate the status quo. Change requires organisation by the dispossessed majority and the election of politicians who believe in social responsibility and want to build a world that benefits the many not the few. The path towards a wise society will not be an easy transition for humanity to take. Capital addicts, just like heroin addicts, will fight and cry and cheat and lie to continue to feed their insatiable hunger. Unlike most heroin addicts they are intelligent, entrenched and already holding onto the levers of power.
One warning above all others, be extremely cynical when you hear the greedy and their political acolytes start talking about wealth creation!