My word, isn’t Donald Trump doing well? The hugely wealthy bastion of corporate double-dealing, bigotry, bombast and might continues his merry rollock towards the Republican nomination, to the despair of pretty much every moderate Republican in America. And what’s his big selling points?
- Everything is the fault of everyone else except (mostly white male) Americans.
- Government is corrupt.
- I’m a successful businessman so I know how to run these sorta things.
There’s far too much to be said on this theme, and far too much being said frankly right now, but I do wanna get briefly tense over this notion that because you can run a business, you can run a country. Christ knows I loathe our British government, but if anything one of my major problems with them is that they seem to be of the attitude that it’s all about the money. About saving money; about spending money on things that make money; about selling things to make more money. And sure, money is important, but it isn’t the be-all/end-all of government, or indeed of society. It is merely a tool for measuring the perceived exchange value of a good, that is all. The goods, the final products matter, and a vast number of these products aren’t measured by GDP. The air pollution we produce every day, though it has a massive cost-effect on our society as we try and clean it up afterwards, isn’t assessed by GDP. The value of domestic household chores – cleaning, washing, taking the kids to school – isn’t assessed by GDP. Freedom isn’t assessed by GDP. Nor is GDP necessarily an apt expression of what each per capital individual can achieve with that money, such as healthcare, education or transport.
More to the point, government by its very nature exists to spend money on things that do not make money. There is no immediate profit in having the NHS. There is no immediate profit in maintaining schools, though long-term the profit is huge. There is no profit per se in environmental protection, though again with all these things, the profit comes not now, but in thirty years time, when healthy, educated people can go forth and make more money and pay more taxes. And what can the money from these taxes be spent on? Why, more health, more education, to improve the betterment of the next generation and the next and the next etc., or maybe one day, to simply cutting taxes and maintaining a level of life where we all, every single person born in this country (or any country of the world) can have learning and opportunity and decent drinking water and the chance to get to our chosen place of employment.
In Britain we are at the moment a wee bit obsessed with privatising things. The post office, the health service etc.. The government’s view is that once privatised, with the air of competition about the entire business, medical providers will be under increased pressure to deliver better services at lower costs, because that’s how the market economy works? There’s another big buzz-word too: choice. We can now choose where we go for our colonoscopies, because the NHS is no longer a monopoly. Whoo whoo.
There’s an obvious downside to all this, of course. The NHS exists for one purpose, and one only: to treat sick people. That’s it. Full stop. End of the road. And remarkably, that’s what the vast majority of its staff are all about, are indeed, fired up with fury in the cause of! Who’d have thunk it, but it would appear that our junior doctors, on their average salary of somewhere between £25-40k a year as they work 72 hour weeks and 12 hour night shifts saving lives, aren’t actually doing it for the money. Oh no. They’re doing it because it is fucking awesome to save lives and help people. What a shock.
Private companies, no matter how many efficencies they make, no matter how competitive the market is, still have only one goal, one purpose: to make money for stockholders. That’s it. End of the story. And yeah, a lot of public services need a lot of work, but you know what isn’t working? Bringing in corporate management. A fortune is spent on the services of people who are marvelously, beautifully skilled at making money, and good for them. They have a skill: respect. But we don’t want to make money in the NHS, we want to have healthy people walk away happy.
Likewise, in government, we don’t need very rich people to swish into Whitehall/the White House and tell us that if they made lots of money, so can the nation. We don’t need to have the Bank of England reactulised for actuarial efficiency. We need to have a system that understands that the revenue it raises is for the betterment of the people it’s raised it from, and that the spending of cash to achieve that can sometimes be done by spending it on the people rather than on corporations. People are not the same as corporations. Trickle-down economics does not work. Making companies richer does not enrich society. Money, to cut a long story short – money is not the purpose of life. It is only a tool to something much, much more important.