‘Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.’- STEVE JOBS
When I first stood for election to Parliament, I believed that all we needed were the right kind of ministers, pursuing the right sort of plans. Now I believe we need a revolution. Politics, I have come to see, is a cartel. Like the economy, it’s rigged in the interests of an emerging oligarchy.
We face a twin assault; oligarchs on the one hand, radical populists emerging in response to them on the other. Sweeping change is needed if the liberal order is to survive.
Something extraordinary is happening to politics. A mood of populist revolt is taking hold. Across Britain, the United States and much of Europe, a new radicalism is on the rise.
The established consensus is starting to collapse in many Western states.
It’s been a strikingly similar story across most of Europe. Insurgents and upstarts are on the rise almost everywhere – on the far left and the radical right.
People and parties outside the limits of what was once deemed to be the acceptable political order are on the rise. The old order is starting to fall apart. Why?
It certainly is the case that for many millions in the United States, Britain and Europe incomes have stagnated over the past twenty years.
While incomes might have stagnated, globalization has meant that the cost of many consumer goods has fallen at the same time.
If the rise of the New Radicals was driven by economic distress, you would expect the most economically disadvantaged to be in the vanguard of support for these new movements. If anything, the opposite is true.
The idea that Donald Trump arose as a response to economic collapse is a nonsense.
I have been struck by the fact that the years have been generous to many of UKIP’s most fervent supporters. Many own their own homes. Most enjoy a living standard far higher than their grandparents could have ever aspired to.
If the economy accounts for the rise of the New Radicals, it’s not the economics of destitution but of perceived injustice.
A new economic oligarchy is emerging, able to accumulate capital faster than the economy grows.
The super-rich are no longer millionaires, but billionaires – often many times over. This new elite is not only doing rather well economically. They increasingly call the shots politically.
As we shall see, there has been a concentration of both economic and political power in the hands of a few in most Western states over the past few decades.
Call them an elite or clique or oligarchy, we are witnessing the rise of this new few – and the New Radical phenomenon is in part a reaction to it.
The sort of angry voices that rage against ‘the elite’ are being heard today, Twenty-four-hour news channels means airtime for these new voices.
Donald Trump’s bid for the Republican nomination was propelled by blanket TV coverage. Nigel Farage has had airtime on all the main TV outlets out of all proportion to his own electoral performance.
Thirty years ago, there were no blog sites. Before 2004, there wasn’t even any Twitter or Facebook
Italy’s Beppe Grillo has over two million followers on Twitter. Donald Trump has more than twenty-two million.
Nigel Farage announced that too many immigrants clogging up a motorway were the reason he arrived late for a meeting. Just a few weeks after Farage’s deliberately ‘shock and awful’ comments, almost four million people still voted UKIP.
Why are voters attracted to this, rather than repelled? Because of an intense, simmering feeling of frustration – which few have yet properly understood.
All the established parties favoured bailouts for the banks and cosy deals for big corporations.
They all adopt the same condescending tone, pretending to be on the side of ordinary people but behaving like a caste apart.
For many voters, the arrogance of policy makers is matched only by their incompetence.
Established politicians and pundits have proved clueless as to how to respond to the rise of the New Radicals.
By almost every measure, there is less bigotry and intolerance today. Social attitudes are more liberal and accepting than ever before.
It cannot be the case that there are more people voting for the New Radicals because there are more bigots.
What we are witnessing is a rebellion of electorates within two continent-wide federations – the United States and the European Union – against the growth of powerful federal administration.
Modernity has changed public expectations. The public is less willing to tolerate a process of administration that increasingly feels remote and distant.
The rage of the New Radicals is directed at distant officials and structures that decide public policy with little reference to the public.
New Radicalism is on the rise because modernity has transformed people’s expectations of how things could be. It is the political process, not the people, we need to change.
If bigotry is defined as an intolerance of those with different opinions, it’s not always clear-cut to see who the bigots are.
It is not the people that are out of date and going to have to change, but our politics.
Public policy is increasingly made in the interests of a new oligarchy, which is enriching itself at the expense of everyone else.
And the public is entirely justified in resenting the way their views are treated with such disdain.
People vote for the New Radicals as an alternative, but what alternative do they offer?
If our democracy has been subverted by small elites, how can parties run by small cliques be the answer?
The world is not getting worse. For most people, in most places, the world has got much, much better.
When they wallow in faux pessimism, the New Radical leaders on both left and right are not simply wrong. Their pessimism precludes the possibility of them being able to offer us anything better.
If you do not recognize that things have got better, you will not be able to see how things could be made better still.
Telling voters what they want to hear is what established parties have been doing for decades, it’s one of the reasons why folk feel so fed up with politics.
Imagine the great wave of disillusionment when the New Radicals change nothing. It will not just be political parties that are held in contempt. It will be the process of democracy itself.
With their incoherent, illiberal agenda, the New Radicals offer little that might actually arrest the emergence of oligarchy.
Like every new MP, when elected for the first time, I was elated. Elation soon gave way to a sense of disappointment. And then disillusionment. Why? I started to sense that Westminster is a cartel. Parliament has become pointless.
Public policy is not made by anyone properly accountable to the public. Those you elect to Parliament rubber stamp decisions made elsewhere.
You might elect new MPs or a new government, but all you are doing is electing a new cast of characters to read the same old script, written in the interests of the same vested interests.
I did not just lose faith in Cameron. I was also questioning what it was to be a conservative at all.
The New Radicals have a point, don’t they? There is something wrong with mainstream politics.
Democracy on either side of the Atlantic has retained its outward form. But it has been hollowed out from within.
Different parties used to represent different sectional interests.
As well as championing different interests, parties used to champion opposing points of view; the free market v. statism, federalism v. states’ rights..
But in many Western states, the established parties no longer articulate opposing philosophies.
How did political parties end up so similar? Because, as in any cartel, the main players have agreed to limit the competition. The rules of the political game have been gamed by the parties.
The established political parties have, over the years, put in place arrangements and come to understandings with one another in order to accommodate their mutual interests. Arrangements that suit them as the purveyors of politics, not voters.
In the UK almost all parliamentary seats have been ‘safe seats’for as long as anyone can remember.
In most seats, most MPs can assume that they are more or less immune from the views of the voters.
A very large number of MPs have never voted against their party line. On anything. In what sense are they representing their constituents?
A willingness to subscribe to an unreflective groupthink is what counts. The whips call it ‘loyalty’.
Politicians all recite from the same script. Until they switch to another. They all espouse one set of deeply held principles. Until they change to another.
The voter notices this sort of thing – and resents being taken for a fool.
Far from holding the powerful to account, the media collude with them, as they trade identikit opinions.
The Westminster press lobby is literally a closed shop. The voter gets spin masquerading as news.
Far from holding the powerful to account, journalists cosy up to them.
All over the Western world, a new elite, or clique, has emerged. This new elite has little loyalty towards and even less interest in the life of ordinary people.
Media scrutiny, instead of challenging assumptions, more often reinforces them.
The new elite are so self-absorbed that they have failed to get to grips with some of the fundamental challenges facing many Western states. And they did not even notice how alarmed and angry voters have become.
You do not need to be an academic to be concerned about rising inequality. It is something that should bother us all.
In their highly influential book, The Spirit Level, Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson argued that a more equal society is a happier one. The less equal, the more malcontent.
According to Thomas Piketty, the rise of the super-rich is an inevitable consequence of free-market capitalism.
He suggests the returns on capital – profits, rents, dividends – will inevitably grow faster than the economy overall. Oligarchy is emerging from capitalism’s unavoidable concentration of wealth.
But he is wrong to suppose that this is a natural consequence of capitalism. It’s the story of capitalism’s corruption.
Presiding over almost every big publicly listed company is the very definition of a self-perpetuating clique.
Corporate fat cats represent a corruption of capitalism.
Corporate avarice exists wherever there is a big organization presided over by a remote, unaccountable elite, overseen by a supine board. Such as the BBC.
Over fifty BBC executives now earn more than the prime minister. The head of OFCOM, the broadcaster regulator, is on £400,000 a year.
Network Rail management are paid banker-style salaries.
NHS Trusts routinely pay over a quarter of a million a year to their top officials. There are now over 50,000 NHS employees on pay deals worth more than £100,000 a year.
Dozens of local borough council bosses now get over £300,000 a year.
In 2011, Britain’s Ministry of Defence handed out £45 million in bonuses to its top bureaucrats.
In 2014, 7,554 university staff were on over £100,000 a year, with the average annual pay packet for a university vice-chancellor over a quarter of a million pounds.
Corporate avarice is not free-market capitalism at work. It is what happens when those that run big, resource-rich organizations are able to help themselves to a larger and larger slice of those organizations’ revenues.
In a normal competitive market, businesses would spend their marketing budgets seeking to persuade customers to buy their product at a price they are willing to pay.
Many big businesses and corporations spend much of their marketing budget paying an army of lobbyists to rig the rules.
Public policy is made with little reference to the public.
In Britain 50 per cent of the public sector’s £187 billion expenditure on goods and services is spent through contracting out.
It’s the corporatist oligarchy that is endlessly lobbying to limit competition and control the market.
Nowhere is the nexus between big business and political power stronger than in finance and banking.
There is a systemic interdependence between banking and big government.
At the heart of the emerging new oligarchy is a nexus where the vested interests of the two meet.
Fiat money allows governments to grow, since officialdom is able to spend without seeking approval from the taxpayer. Able to spend without permission from taxpayers, governments cease to answer to taxpayers.
To keep living beyond their means, governments need to borrow. So they issue bonds – or IOUs – and sell them at auctions. And who tends to buy up these bonds? Banks, of course.
Governments do not act for the public good. They act in their interests.
Central bank inflation targets are about systematically debasing the currency at a predictable rate.
It is done in the interests of debtors – of which government is the biggest. It is a deliberate policy to transfer wealth from millions of earners and savers to officialdom.
Democracy has been subverted. Capitalism has been corrupted and the economy rigged for the few. Perhaps most depressing of all is that none of our mainstream politicians even see it.
Mainstream politicians trip over each other to be seen as the most ‘business-friendly’ when a moment’s consideration would suggest that corporate governance no longer works the way it should in a capitalist system.
We need more than pessimism and anger to put things right.
To change things for the better, we need to offer more than the pound-shop populism of Nigel Farage or Donald Trump.
So where do we begin?
Many on the far-left sound almost apocalyptic when warning us of the consequences of neo-liberalism or environmental collapse.
On the right, people constantly suggest that our Western way of life is in peril.
Infant deaths are down almost 90 per cent in the UK since 1960. Infant mortality worldwide is today half what it was in 1990.
UK road traffic deaths have fallen from almost 8,000 in 1965 to less than 2,000 today – and that is with many times more cars on the roads.
The average income in the UK today is 119 per cent higher than it was in 1950, and 29 per cent up on what it was in 1990.
Even the poorest households enjoy household goods and a standard of living that half a century ago would have been the preserve of the rich.
In 1951, just 14 per cent of UK households had a car. Now 6 per cent of households own four.
With a handful of exceptions, like Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia, almost every country today is better off than it was in the mid-twentieth century.
The average income in China in 1950 was little different from what it had been in AD 50!
In 1981, almost nine in ten Chinese were living in extreme poverty. Now it’s fewer than one in ten.
In 1981, just half the world had access to clean water. Today, 91 per cent do.
For the first time in human history, the share of the world’s population living in extreme poverty is now less than 10 per cent, and falling rapidly.
We are not only better off, but we all benefit from technology that allows us to do things that once only rich people could do.
In Britain, violent crime has fallen dramatically.
Golbally, the number of people dying violently has fallen by 6 per cent since the year 2000.
You have less chance of coming to a grisly end at the hand of another human than at any point in history.
The population of the planet has doubled since 1950. Yet, despite having twice as many mouths to feed, we eat more.
We have higher living standards, and an abundance of material possessions and tools that no other age could have even imagined.
What has elevated the human condition in the past few hundred thousand years is our ability to work with other humans, allowing us to specialize and exchange.
Specialization and exchange unleashed the capacity for innovation.
It allows us each to benefit from ‘an external, collective intelligence’ far greater than anything we each might be able to hold in our own brain.
Specialization and exchange has given us iPhones where there were once only hand axes. It has elevated Homo Sapiens from the swamps to the stars.
History has indeed been a constant conflict between those who produce and those who parasitize and predate. The former has long kept the latter fed. The latter have kept the former poor.
Progress comes when the human habit of exchange is able to happen unhindered; when the hold of the parasites is broken. And for that to happen, I would suggest a society needs three specific conditions.
First, a society must be independent from any external parasites. In a subject society, any surplus is likely to be carted off.
Second, power within a society must be dispersed in order to ensure that internal parasites do not emerge.
Third, although independent, a society needs to be sufficiently interdependent, and able to interact and exchange with the neighbours.
Independence from external parasites and dispersed power to safeguard against internal ones, plus interdependence with the neighbours; we can be certain that these three magic ingredients are essential for intensive economic growth.
Under the Ming, ‘aspect of public life could escape official regulation...’
Just as the European Union has thus far failed to produce an Amazon, or a Google, PayPal, Facebook, Apple or Airbnb, all that regulation in early-modern China meant that the sort of innovation happening elsewhere passed the Middle Kingdom by.
As in our own time, all those rules and regulations were introduced to serve vested interests.
By the end of the nineteenth century, China’s population of 400 million was toiling to support a parasitic elite of 7.5 million, or 2 per cent of the population, who consumed almost a quarter of total national product.
In the mid-twentieth century, China was as poor and underdeveloped as she had been a thousand years before.
It was only after India’s external parasites were ejected in 1947, and her own elite interfered less in trade and exchange in the 1980s, that India began finally to enjoy sustained, rapid intensive economic growth.
If China, the Middle East and India were held back by parasitic elites, they at least never managed to regress quite as far as Western Europe did between the fifth and tenth centuries. Predation and parasitism destroyed civilization across Europe.
The reason we call this period the Dark Ages is that literate society in many places ceased to exist.
Only centuries later, in what we now know as the Middle Ages, do we start to see much evidence of advancement – most notably in northern Italy.
We must add northern Italy to that long list of places – including China under the Ming, the Middle East under the Abbasids, and India under the Mughals – where even the most promising progress came to grief as a consequence of small parasitic elites.
In contrast to China, or the empires of the Mughals, Abbasids or Ottomans, Europe was never unified politically.
‘There existed no uniform authority in Europe which could effectively halt this or that commercial development.’
Without a single political authority imposing uniform policy, there could be systems competition, like there was in ancient Greece.
Good ideas and innovation could spread. Semi-autonomous cities in the Middle Ages were a distinctively European phenomenon.
It’s no coincidence that progress happened where the parasites were at their weakest.
Starting in the Netherlands, something extraordinary happened, which would ultimately make prosperity, rather than poverty, the norm for billions of people the world over.
At first glance, Holland’s emergence was unlikely. Yet, those key conditions that allow intensive economic growth to take hold all happened to be in place.
Firstly, the Dutch achieved their independence from foreign rule. Secondly, power was dispersed within the new republic. Finally, the new republic was interconnected by virtue of geography, sitting at a confluence of waterways.
By the 1590s, one in ten people in Holland was an immigrant.
This combination of independence, free internal markets, international trade and new capital transformed the Netherlands from a backwater into a booming economy.
In 1602, Holland became home to the world’s first modern stock market. Moreover, capital was invested in new industrial technology.
Consequently, Dutch productivity increased and production rapidly expanded.
Because Holland’s gains were made possible by an absence of parasitism, prosperity wasn’t concentrated but shared, Dutch living standards soared.
The English, too, had those three magic ingredients – independence, dispersed power and interconnectedness – necessary to induce intensive economic take-off. And, unlike the Dutch, she had coal, rather than wind and peat, to power it all.
It is no coincidence that the Glorious Revolution was followed by the Industrial Revolution. Consequently, production and trade were free to grow.
The combination of both fewer restrictions on the free exchange of goods, labour and capital, and a growing web of trade links made the Industrial Revolution possible.
England became the wealthiest society the world had ever known.
The United Kingdom by 1860 was responsible for a fifth of the world’s commerce, and two-fifths of the world’s trade in manufactured goods.
By the early twentieth century, the United States had overtaken the United Kingdom economically.
Like golden-age Holland, the United States does not stand out only as an economic powerhouse either. America’s contribution to science and learning are without precedent.
It was not only the Americans following Holland and England up the ladder towards intensive economic growth; other European states, notably Germany, followed and even, Japan.
The removal of internal feudal parasites, in tandem with the growth of a trading network, opened up Germany to specialization and exchange. The result was rapid industrial growth in the last three decades of the nineteenth century.
Japan was the first Asian state to begin to catch up with the West. And that was because she was the first Asian state to have the three key ingredients to achieve intensive growth.
She had overthrown her own internal parasites, she had consciously opened herself up to a global commercial network, and she had kept herself independent from those external European predators that annexed almost every other Asian state.
China started to take off not because her ruling Communist Party got things right, but because they got out of the way.
What ensured the extraordinary intensive economic growth we have seen in China is not some grand plan, but rather the absence of interference from grand planners.
What a tiny number of Dutchmen and women started to do in the seventeenth century almost all of humanity is now doing.
The history of Germany and Japan in the first half of the twentieth century illustrates how dystopian an economically advanced society can become when a parasitic oligarchy retakes control.
Productive civilization is a more fragile thing than we perhaps care to understand.
Nazi despotism didn’t stop at abolishing democracy and dissent; it relied on an assault on private property and economic freedom, too.
In Japan, which came to be Nazi Germany’s most powerful ally, the productive were overwhelmed by the parasitic in a similar way.
Japan and Germany are the terrifying proof that modernity is no guarantee against parasitic take-over.
Could it happen again? Should we worry that all that is civilized and certain could disappear?
New Radicals being elected as a new oligarchy, but as a populist reaction against an emergent oligarchy.
From England’s Arkwright in the eighteenth century to Amazon today, it is this ploughing of the surplus back into production by the productive that generates transformative gains.
When institutions are extractive, they explain, small elites are able to rig the system and live at the expense of everyone else.
Extractive institutions are not the primary cause of extortion, but the means through which it is sometimes done.
Extractive institutions are a consequence, rather than a cause, of oligarchy.
Elites have constantly invoked a set of ethics that legitimize and sanctify the transfer from the productive to the parasitic.
Parasites prefer a world in which there is redistributive exchange, rather than the agreement of two consenting parties.
They needed an ethical framework that legitimized extortion.
Once free exchange established a toehold the power of emperors and kings waned.
Subverting the claims of extractive elites to shape and order society by design proved to be an essential prerequisite for human progress.
Like the Reformation, the Enlightenment was a rejection of authority in regard to knowledge.
Certainty of knowledge, and the old insistence on authority, was replaced by criticism. More people started to see the world as a product of self-organizing agency, with neither purpose nor extraneous design.
Europe only exceeded many of the economic, architectural and technological achievements of the Romans with the recovery of the idea that the world was not just a consequence of divine design.
Many contemporary observers saw the American and French revolutions as part of the same phenomena. The stark differences between these two movements only became more apparent with time.
The French Revolution did not create a liberal order under which the conditions conducive to free exchange could exist, it had far more in common with what happened in Russia a century of so later.
In terms of toppling the old order, both the French and Russian revolts were supremely successful but each proved to be a disastrous failure. One form of tyranny was merely replaced with another.
France went from the dictatorship of the Bourbons to that of the Bonapartes, Russia from the Tsar to Stalin.
Contrast all of that with the way in which the Dutch revolt of the sixteenth century, or the Anglo-American ones of the seventeenth and eighteenth, dispersed power.
Each of these revolts in their own way helped to create those conditions conducive to human progress. External parasites were ejected. Power was dispersed as a safeguard against internal predation. The productive were left free to engage in specialization and exchange.
In America after victory at Yorktown, the American’s drafted a constitution with elaborate checks and balances on an elected president.
After England’s Glorious Revolution, Parliament was full of disparate interests. After the American, Congress and the courts prevented the concentration of power.
By contrast, in the wake of the French and Russian revolutions came institutions that concentrated power, like the French Directory or the Soviet Politburo.
An absolutist belief in reason led to the guillotine in France. In Russia, it led to the gulag.
Despite a bounty of data showing that life has got so much better for so many people, many who see themselves as liberal simply refuse to accept it.
Many who see themselves as progressives seem to reject the idea of human progress.
There is a presumption that we have fallen from some sort of pristine pre-industrial past; liberals have become deeply pessimistic.
Instead, many ‘liberals’ are advocates for having small elites arrange things for us instead.
They are on the side of those that presume to make public policy with little reference to the public.
The New Radicals are a consequence of the problem, not its cause.
Reason is in retreat. On both sides of the Atlantic, a crude populism now dominates the public debate.
In place of rationalism, we now have a kind of post-truth politics. The implication is that voters are irrational. Ignorant. And wrong.
The rise of the New Radicals is a reaction to the elite’s arrogance and intellectual dishonesty over many years.
When it comes to public policy provision, we subject young people to the whim of ‘experts’.
It fosters a sense among the governing that there is nothing they cannot organize. It’s a pretty disastrous way to try to run a country.
Small, self-serving elites don’t just mislead the masses. They deceive themselves.
Those who today preside over public administration like to see the world as a place best shaped by deliberate design, with them at the centre of creation. In that conceit that so many subsequent problems are sown.
For forty years, the experts who run the central banks thought they knew best how to manage the money.
They presided over a series of financial bubbles, the latest of which almost destroyed the Western banking system. All their models and theories marched far ahead of verifiable facts.
EU institutions cannot even accurately account for how they spend their annual budgets.
Is it any wonder that more and more voters no longer trust public policy makers?
For decades, politics in America, Britain and much of Europe has been run as a cartel, in the interests of insiders.
The economy has been rigged in the interests of a small, well-connected elite close to the money–power nexus that has arisen in recent decades.
What is to be done?
While there is a growing sense that power is becoming concentrated, there is a distinct lack of clarity as to the causes.
Amid the incoherence are all sorts of opportunities for any sort of loudmouth to emerge, with apparently easy answers.
Revolutionaries always get to the stage when they wonder, ‘What is to be done?’
From the Gracchi brothers in Rome to Lenin in Russia, it’s almost always been a disaster.
When we ask, ‘What is to be done?’ our answer must not be to impose grand plans, but to set in place systems, so that decisions can be taken without top-down direction.
What we need instead is change that ensures a process of continual variation and error correction.
We need a system that ensures misguided dogmas and pet projects do not damage the rest of us.
Once parasitic elites find a way of drawing off wealth from a new source, they are able to engulf the rest of the society.
The oligarchy emerging in our midst today enriches itself by transferring wealth from the future.
They siphon resources using bonds, banks and the manipulation of money.
Billions of pounds’ worth of bonds are issued every month, and each time wealth is taken from tomorrow so that it might be spent today.
Long after that revenue has been spent, that money will have to be repaid by productive people who may not yet exist.
Western governments use bonds to live far beyond our means – and pass the cost onto tomorrow. When our elite extort our tomorrow, they are assisted by the banks.
Far from creating wealth, many banks today help a small elite hoover it up.
Already in Britain, we have reached the stage where bondholders receive a larger slice of tax revenue than we spend on defence.
A money–power nexus has emerged with a vested interest in plundering posterity.
They get to decide who pays what rates of tax and receives what level of public services.
Bonds and borrowing have, in effect, rendered redundant the conventional constraint upon unaccountable government. By issuing bonds, they do not need the permission of any parliament.
Tomorrow’s voters who will have to pay the bill on those bonds are not around. There is no constituency of the future sitting in today’s Parliament.
We get to the root of the money–power nexus by preventing banks from being able to extend debt and credit indefinitely.
Banks are able to extend credit out of nothing, profiting from the interest.
Why do governments allow banks to have this magic money machine? Because they gain from the consequences of it. Governments are able to exchange all those bonds for cash.
Big banks have become part of a large, cosy, stodgy cartel exactly because they are in cahoots with big government.
Banks have had the most extraordinary sorts of privileges conferred upon them. Now is the time to remove those privileges.
Down the ages, governments have given themselves the monopoly to issue currencies to suit themselves.
Since 1971, inflation has diminished the value of the pound by 93 per cent.
Double-entry bookkeeping transformed the way people did business in medieval Europe.
I suspect that blockchain technology will transform the way we run our currencies. It marks the beginning of the end for state-run monopoly money.
Quantitative easing has created a great glut of cheap credit, pushing up the value of assets, such as London flats and FTSE 100 shares. This has led to a massive transfer of wealth from regular people to the uber-rich.
We need currency competition, ending the state monopoly over money.
We need to take bold steps to cut the parasites off from the source of their wealth – not just vote for those who rage against the injustice of it all.
A New Radical leader wanting to take on the cronyism out to be reinforcing the fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders as owners, not just investors.
Instead of undermining capitalism, we ought to clean it up.
It may seem obvious that anti-oligarchs should seek to reapportion that wealth. But the problem is that, if they do so, they are simply replacing one sort of redistributive exchange with another.
When it has been tried, it has catastrophically failed.
The New Radicals today risk not stopping parasitic elites, but ending up as their useful idiots.
However much one kind of redistribution might counter the injustices of some other, together they each undermine free, mutual exchange – the engine of progress.
We do not need a ‘new capitalism’. We need to renew capitalism: to free
it from the bogus, crony kind that we have today. And we should start by taking on big business.
In 1992, the European Community created the single market. Ostensibly about free trade, it turned out to be something very different
Instead of freeing trade, the single market restricts it. It’s a permission-based system: without the permission of EU regulators, commerce is forbidden.
Just as in the Middle Ages, excessive rules and regulations are stifling enterprise and innovation in the West today.
An entire industry of lobbyists and lawyers has grown up around the corporate interest in influencing officials and rigging the rules.
Corporate privilege is steadily eroding the West’s capacity to produce, invent and compete.
Far from freeing up trade, the single market, in particular, achieves the opposite. It has killed off innovation and intensive economic growth in Europe.
Since 1991, the EU economy has grown by just 49 per cent. This compares to GDP growth of 83 per cent for the United States and 114 per cent for Australia. Meanwhile India has expanded by 382 per cent and China by 877 per cent.
Three decades ago, the twelve countries that then constituted what became the EU registered 25 per cent of global patents. Today, that has fallen to a pitiful 4 per cent.
Regulatory restraint is a major reason why capital has become concentrated in a corporate cartel.
In seventeenth-century England, just prior to the country’s economic take-off, hundreds of monopolies were swept away. Perhaps we need to think of abolishing the last kind of legal monopolies – patents – too.
Many cannot get an appointment with the doctor when they need one. They often cannot even get through on the phone to make an appointment.
For many there is, in effect, no longer a system of primary healthcare on which they can depend.
Rather than creating elaborate schemes to redirect public resources better, we need to give citizens simple legal rights to self-commission certain services themselves.
Rather than everything being provided for by top-down design, we should be able to make more choices to suit ourselves and our circumstances.
Welfare is supposed to provide a security net for the needy. In reality, it ends up being used by corporate interests to keep their payroll costs down.
Public money is in effect used to pay employees what their employer ought to provide.
The effect has been to trap people into low-wage, menial jobs.
As the elites make more profit, workers are paid less and the taxpayer has been left to pick up the bill.
As well as giving citizens a legal right to control their share of public money, we should give them the right to see who is receiving public money.
Millions of people on the public payroll have a vested interest in more money for the public sector rather than necessary improvements in public services.
All public spending needs to be made public.
Let us see a list of those, like the heads of the BBC or those who run the local NHS, with their six-figure salaries.
It’s the public’s money they are getting, so why shouldn’t the public know about it?
The idea that two individuals might study the same set of facts, yet come to different conclusions, no longer seems acceptable.
The answer to the new intolerance is not top-down regulation, or an insistence that opinion be distributed by design. What we need instead is to ensure that opinion is exchanged more freely.
In Britain, the BBC, run by a small, self-regarding clique, is granted over £3 billion a year in public money, paid for by every household with a television on pain of going to prison.
Why should those who write for Guido Fawkes not have a parliamentary press pass, while those who write for the Independent do?
If we stop being told what to think by people who see the world in terms of top-down design, we might at last start to have a political discourse.
It might finally be possible to articulate alternative points of view about everything.
The insurgency is against not only those who presume to know what is best for us, but against the notion that anyone should presume to know.
Political parties, whether insurgent or establishment, epitomize the idea of top-down control.
There is no one person or party we can elect to give us the change we need – and there never will be.
We need to establish self-organizing systems in politics so that instead of small cliques at the top of parties determining the shape of politics, many more people get a say.
Perhaps the most important reform we could introduce to break the stranglehold of the parties on politics is a proper right of recall.
In many Western states, the traditional blue-collar base is becoming detached from traditional parties on the left.
The answer to the problem of party politics is not to create another party. It’s to do politics without one. No cliques or plutocrats. No insiders pretending to be outsiders.
Our elite have compounded their arrogance by acting as if they were God, that they might be the architects of the machine-like systems that govern our affairs.
The grand designs of our elite are as self-serving as the creeds of all those other parasitic elites in history.
It is not nihilism to stop believing in our priesthood of parasites. It’s reason. Instead of belief, we need to know; that knowledge is cumulative, order is emergent, progress comes from self-organizing systems.
The engine of our own progress sits within ourselves, our ability to specialize and exchange – once free from the restraint of parasitic interests.
That great insight is ultimately the only thing that stands between us and oligarchy.
It’s an insight that has coincided with the great periods of progress in human history – but it has been no coincidence.
It’s an insight as relevant today as it has been at any time since it was first articulated in Greece two and a half thousand years ago.