Bankers, governments and the media, who exercise such influence over our working and financial lives, have peddled the view on a daily basis for decades that market freedom (capitalism rebranded) generates wealth for all. I consider it a fiction, a lie, a public deception, propaganda at the expense of the poor at home and abroad.
We are told that “greed is still good.” Such financial greed is a pathology, a form of mental sickness, an addiction like alcoholism, drug addiction and pedophilia. Such greed by the big sharks, who consume smaller businesses, destroy the lives and livelihoods of countless numbers of working people in the West and rest of the world.
Due to a virtual absence of real inquiry into this message, governments have ensured major tax cuts for the rich, especially the filthy rich, minimised regulation of banks and allowed the gap between the rich and poor to reach the greatest levels since the 19th century.
Bankers, their shareholders and the market speculators have pursued profit, bonuses and maximisation of dividends with little or no regard for the working poor, the unemployed or the future. The view that the market is self-regulating has proved a naïve standpoint to the extreme. Greed is destructive without exception and violates social harmony.
Furthermore, the media, owned primarily by wealthy barons, has tarnished the political concept “the left” to the degree that politician dare not take any real steps to protect the poor from the brutal extravagance of the rich, as he or she will seen to be a “socialist,” a “left winger” and a danger to the main stream of society.
We have seen that Western governments have then bailed out the bankers when their banks collapsed with unbelievable debts. The UK national debt, the total amount of money the British government owes primarily to the private sector, is £940 billion and rising every second. This year the annual government borrowing is around £149 billion. Why? The government spends more money than it receives in taxation. The government plugs the gap by selling bonds – called gilts – to investors around the world that the government has to repay fully with interest.
Governments go on borrowing their way out of debt. That is one form of lunacy. Governments are also reducing support for the poor through cutting services and employment in the public sector. This is another lunacy.
Instead of regulation of the market, real taxation of the rich and breaking up of the power of major banks, the government tells us that we all have to accept responsibility and we all have to pay to reduce the national debt. Those bankers, hedge fund managers, business speculators who received huge salaries and payouts and engaged in a breathtaking amount of sheer greed, past and present, ought to be bearing the full responsibility for this financial mess instead of squeezing even more the finances of the young, the unemployed, the sick, the low-income categories and the retired or those approaching retirement.
What happens? Yes, our political leaders condemn the bankers and the market speculators. It is empty rhetoric. Governments take no real action to pass tough legislation to ensure justice and redistribution of wealth through taxation and protection for those with little. Instead, it is business as usual. Why? Governments and the big banks prop each other up.
The big banks encourage their customers to borrow money from them to buy goods and services at high interest rates while offering pathetically small interest to those prudent customers who save money in their banks. The banks also have substantial interest charges for those who go into the red, even for a few days. Why? The banks pocket the differential. There is no easier way way to make huge profits to benefit you know who.
We need a public debate not as an ideological battle between the political left and right but from the standpoint of ethics and compassion. Why should the government cut public services? Why should the poor pay for the selfishness of the rich?
It is important to remember that there are wealthy people who live noble lives with integrity and give generously expressing their deep concern for humanity. The Buddha gave detailed guidelines on the wise use of wealth, and criticised frequently those who lived lives of greed. He said ethics includes examination of the means the wealthy create their wealth, their relationship to the application of wealth, lifestyle and responsibility of the wealthy to ensure they share their wealth with those in need.
Jesus turned over the tables of the moneychangers outside the temple, the primary area where citizens congregated. He protested against the money changers exploiting the poor through profiteering. It is the same greed today as 2000 or 3000 years ago.
What is our voice?