Friday, 14 March 2014

Tony Benn's best bits in videos

     Tony Benn passed away today aged 88. It was not altogether unexpected but still comes as a deep shock to a nation that treasured him dearly and wished there were more of his ilk. This is just a quick post describing his life in videos.

Despite being born into an aristocratic family, Benn fought tirelessly for a more equal, egalitarian, socialist society. This video outlines his political viewpoint.

During the 1980s, Benn was one of the key voices articulating opposition towards Margaret Thatcher's neoliberal policies. 

Benn had been Secretary of State for Energy in the 1970s, and even after leaving the position, defended the miners against Thatcher's assault. 

Incresingly in the 1990s, Benn was marginalized within his own party, as New Labour came to the fore, but he still remained active, campaigning for causes he believed in. He retired in 2001, in his words, "to devote more time to politics." The treatment of the Palestinian people was one cause he championed. When the BBC refused to highlight the issue, he went off-topic live on air and said "if you won't  broadcast the Gaza appeal then I will myself." Classic, no-nonsense Tony.

John Bolton, not used to such strong, clear-talking politics, seemed taken aback at the forcefulness of Benn's argument here on Question Time. Benn cuts the pro-war argument to shreds.

Benn was one of the few figures satirized by Sacha Baron-Cohen's Ali G who came out with more integrity than when he started. Benn refused to treat his interviewer differently and fought back at his ludicrous statements. As a mark of respect (or should that me (respec'?) Ali G said "man, that guy likes a fight."

He fought tirelessly for democracy his whole life and made politics simple and understandable for everyone. The final video is his documentary, Big Ideas that Changed the World: Democracy, which comes as close as possible to laying out his version of history and politics.

After his passing, expertly-penned tributes have been flowing in from nearly all corners. I can think of no better compliment to him than to say he said what he meant and he meant what he said. They don't make 'em like that any more. Rest in well-deserved peace.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

If You Understand Football You Understand the Economy

Money money money, must be funny, in a rich man's world.

     Perhaps no person is more synonymous with Premier League football than the great Alex Ferguson. Calling full-time on his career, he goes out on top. After 56 years in the game, from Red Clydeside to Red Devil, he has seen the beautiful game change dramatically. In this globalized world, English football’s top tier has become a spectacular product on pristine pitches, watched by hundreds of millions, featuring fabulously wealthy talent from all over the world. Not so when Ferguson took the reins at United. His first game in charge was a drab loss at Oxford’s dilapidated Manor Ground, featuring a starting line-up entirely from the British Isles. Fast-forward 26 years; his last game was a spectacular 5-5 draw with only 4 British players in the first-11.

As art imitates life, football imitates business- precisely because they are businesses. In fact, if you understand football you already know everything you need to know about the economy. The goal of the Premier League at its inception in the early 90’s was to capitalize upon and financialize their supporters’ passion. Margaret Thatcher’s “greed is good” mentality struck a chord in football, with Tottenham Hotspur becoming the first English club to become a P.L.C. and float on the stock market. Since Thatcher’s time, in football, as in Britain as a whole, inequality has soared. As in business, those at the top, agents, players and owners, have become fabulously wealthy. But those at the bottom have seen little improvement; 90% of professional footballers earn only a living wage and play in half-empty stadiums.

The Boom

The Premier League is the epitome of globalization. The organization now generates more money abroad than it does at home. The cream of Belgian, Brazilian and Bulgarian talent come to our shores- it is now the most internationalized major league in the Europe. But while adding incredible talent to the game, fans increasingly feel their clubs have lost their roots in the local community, being more interested in attracting lucrative deals in the Far East. There is indeed something faintly incredible about changing kick-off times in Bolton and Blackburn for the benefit of fans in Beijing and Bangkok. Suddenly, clubs are concerned with “branding” and “market-share”. Acting like businesses, clubs increasingly seem to see their fans as little more than walking wallets and fans often feel shut out of their clubs, which have become the playthings of Russian oil barons and Gulf sheikhs.

"I want to bring a local feeling back to Man City."- Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan.

In the era of free-market globalization, businesses were free to chase profit all over the globe. Factories that had employed generations of families were closed and moved to China, Thailand, or wherever wages were cheapest. Wages dropped in Britain, unions were busted and tax avoidance was almost encouraged. Increasingly, banks took control of the economy. It seemed so easy to make money from money. It was boom times ahead. And yet all that money ultimately derived from us, in the form of our loans and savings.

Likewise, in football, the TV money flowed in. Clubs hiked their ticket prices- 920% since the Premier League started. A ticket to Ferguson’s United in 1990 would have cost the equivalent of just £6.20 today. Ticket prices are putting a strain on families; I know people who spend all their disposable income on Saturdays. The “real fans” often cannot afford to go to games, increasingly leaving the “prawn sandwich brigade” to fill up eerily quiet stadiums. But clubs’ money is ultimately coming from our pockets, in gate receipts and millions of Sky T.V. payments. Speaking of T.V., Sean Ingle has revealed that the league could afford to cut ticket prices to £0 and still increase profits, thanks to the bumper increase its new T.V. contract. Don’t hold your breath. Cracks in the surface are appearing with increasing rumblings about widespread corruption, with drugs, match fixing and bribery seemingly commonplace.

"Did somebody say corruption?"- Sepp Blatter

Germany, however, resisted the urge to close down its industrial centres, and strong German unions kept wages high. While not as “glamorous” as finance, manufacturing kept the economy ticking along. Today, the German economy is the strongest in Europe. Likewise, most German clubs are owned by strong supporters’ unions, who run the club in the interest of everyone and keep prices low. Tickets are as cheap as €11 at Dortmund and €13 at Bayern, while star forward Robert Lewandowsi earned “only” €1.5 million per year, a paltry sum compared to his English counterparts. German clubs are also notably better at bringing through local talent.

The Bust

            As surely as death and taxes, when there is a boom, there is a bust. Throughout the free-spending 90’s and 2000’s, teams in Britain and Spain were spending well beyond their means, and the leagues racked up huge debts. It turned out that the industry could not regulate itself. For political reasons, teams in Britain and Spain were considered too big to fail and given loan after loan to bail out their incompetent and greedy executives. Sound familiar? Spain’s economy is in dire straits, with 27% of the population unemployed. And while Britain has an eye-watering debt, Germany, who never quite bought into the illusion is on much steadier ground.

The Solution

            In an excellent piece, David Conn has suggested the German clubs’ model of democratic ownership by the fans. Most German clubs are owned in the majority by their fans, who vote to keep ticket prices fair, player wages under control, and do not plunge their club into perilous debt. More than that though, clubs are run for the benefit of all, maintaining a strong community spirit and fierce loyalty, which makes for fantastic atmospheres at even the drabbest of games. It has brought success on the pitch; the German Bundesliga provided both teams for this year’s Champions League final, with two teams who take pride in nurturing their own local talent. 15 of the 26 players on show at the spectacular were German.

            This model has proved highly successful in other sports. Green Bay, a sleepy little town of 104,000 in rural Wisconsin, is home to the Packers, one of the most famous and successful teams in American football. Despite its size, the team has sold out every game of its gigantic 80,000-seater stadium since 1965, and there’s a 37-year waiting list for season tickets. Its secret? It is community-owned. Its incredible team spirit draws fans in from all over the world to the little town that punches well above its weight. Its model has drawn widespread praise; whenever asked who he thinks is the best owner in sports, Dave Zirin responds “the thousands of Green Bay Packer owners.”

            The model does not just work with sports, however. It can be used in business as well. One company that is better than most is the retailer John Lewis. An employee-owned business of 76,000, it consistently tops customer satisfaction surveys. Furthermore, each year, the employees’ share the company’s profit, this year, equivalent to 17% of their annual wage.

            In contrast to much of Spain, the employee-owned Mondragon Corporation is going from strength to strength. From its roots as a small co-operative making heaters, it has grown to become the 7th largest corporation in Spain, with €32.5 billion in assets. It employs 84,000 workers, the majority equal members. It incorporates retail outlets like supermarkets with heavy industry and finance. It even has its own university of 9,000 students. Average employee wages are considerably higher than in comparative jobs. Again though, it is more than wages, it is about giving people dignity, security and opportunity, summed up in their slogan, “humanity at work”.

            The cure to the crisis, whether in sport or business, is economic democracy. When teams are democratically controlled by their fans, they do not vote to bankrupt them or price themselves out. Likewise, employee-controlled businesses do not vote to send their jobs abroad or for huge pay cuts and layoffs. But it is more than that; they offer far better environments, where people are treated as humans, not simply exploited for profit. Perhaps this model would be one Ferguson would raise a glass to.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Radical Islam, Richard Dawkins, and the New Atheist Fundamentalists

I will just come out and say it. I really like Richard Dawkins. I like his witty, middle-class, cricket on the lawn, more tea vicar personality. He and David Hume were the first authors that got me to critically think about the existence of God. I was convinced by the God Delusion. I also have no love for Islam, let alone radical Islam, but I was always faintly uneasy about some of the company he kept, who seemed to be more interested in attacking Muslims than helping people think critically.  Furthermore, as a historian by training, I always felt there were long-term historical and political factors that best explained the animosity between East and West.

But I was dismayed with his recent comments. After a lively discussion with the Huffington Post editor, Mehdi Hassan, a practising Muslim, Dawkins insinuated that Muslims were unfit to be journalists. A storm of protest erupted, with more than one commentator wondering whether Dawkins believes Jewish people should be fired from their jobs, too. Searching for Dawkins’ well-reasoned and erudite response, I instead found this tweet: “Haven’t read Koran so couldn’t quote chapter & verse like I can for Bible. But often say Islam greatest force for evil today”. I was astonished. Dawkins, the Oxford professor and best-selling writer on religion had not done even the most basic research on Islam? Did he literally not know the first thing about the topic? I freely admit that I have not read it either, but I do not portray myself as a leading expert on religion. Dawkins is a best-selling biology writer as well. Has he even read “On the Origin of Species?” We assume a certain intellectual rigour from Oxford professors, hence the widespread shock at his revelation. What would Dawkins think of a tweet from a religious person that said “Haven’t read Darwin, but I know evolution is wrong and science is greatest force for evil today?”

The line taken by Dawkins, quite possibly influenced by more politically-minded atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, appears to be a version of Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” theory; a doctrine that holds that Islam and Judeo-Christian culture are fundamentally opposed. One represents backwardness, violence and superstition, the other democracy, liberalism and enlightenment. After the late Edward Said demolished this notion, few took the theory seriously except those great champions for democracy and enlightenment values, George W. Bush and Tony Blair.  

I often notice among scientists a healthy contempt for the humanities. They feel those without scientific training tend to become vague or show their ignorance when they stray too far into the world of science. Dawkins himself is fond of referencing the infamous “Sokol Affair”, where a postmodern journal published a hoax article of garbled, scientific-sounding nonsense. But perhaps the opposite can also be true; that scientists appear to be rather naïve when it comes to political matters. Perhaps Dawkins does not “feel politics in his bones”, as Terry Eagleton suggests.

A History Lesson

But is Dawkins right about Islam? In order to reach conclusions, a look at the history is revealing. Whatever one thinks of him, Noam Chomsky has never been accused of not feeling politics in his bones. Citing National Security Council documents, Chomsky identifies that, as early as the 1950’s, the U.S. government sensed there was a “campaign of hatred against us in the Middle East”, not by the governments, but the people. The reason: “there is a perception…that the U.S. supports status quo governments, which prevent democracy and development and that we do it because of our interests in Middle East oil. Furthermore, it is difficult to counter that perception because it is accurate.”

These “status quo governments” are often the root of radical Islam. In his book, “Secret Affairs: Britain’s Secret Collusion with Radical Islam”, Mark Curtis goes through the history of the region in meticulous detail. Curtis found that, far from being enemies, virtually every major radical Islamist group has been nurtured, trained and funded by Britain for five reasons:

1. “As a global counterforce to the ideologies of secular nationalism and Soviet communism”

2. “As “conservative muscle” within countries to undermine secular nationalists and bolster pro-Western regimes”

3. “As “shock troops” to destabilise or overthrow governments”

4. “As proxy military forces to fight wars”

5. “As political tools to leverage change from governments”.[1]

     The two British objectives in installing or maintaining radical Islamists in power are:

1. “Influence and control of key energy resources, always recognised in the British planning documents as the number one priority in the Middle East.”

2. “Maintaining Britain's place within a pro-Western global financial order.”[2]

     Britain funded and promoted the Islamist Muslim League in India as a counterweight to the secular Congress party of Gandhi and Nehru. Likewise, in Egypt, the West has been supporting the Muslim Brotherhood since the 1960’s, originally as a bulwark against the secular, nationalist regime of President Nasser. In Afghanistan, the West funded the extremist Mujahedeen against the Soviets. Margaret Thatcher called the organization, of which Osama bin Laden was a notable member “genuine freedom fighters”.[3]

     But it is the most radical of all Islamist regimes, the Saudi autocracy, which is the West’s key ally in the region, which rather damages the idea of a “clash of civilizations”. British officials considered King Faisal “very moderate"[4]- one who “deployed his immense oil wealth in a benign and thoughtful way.”[5] The benign and thoughtful Faisal tortured and killed thousands, while funding Jihadists and Islamising the Middle East.

     The regime, despised and feared by the Arabian people in equal measure, has been propped up and used as a regional policeman, stamping out nationalist movements like the 1965 uprising against the British-backed Sultan of Oman. One of the most repressive regimes in history, he banned the wearing of glasses and talking to others for longer than 15 minutes. The British turned a blind eye to these crimes because the Sultan agreed to keep the oil of the country in British hands. By the 1970’s, secular Arab nationalism was largely defeated. Into the vacuum stepped Islamist parties, paving the way for what we see today.

Science Flies you to the Moon, Religion Flies you into Buildings

     All of this is relevant to the debate, but does not answer the question of whether Islam is the greatest force for evil today. Dawkins often states that religion is the motivating factor in wars. His two favourite examples are the Christian Crusaders and the Muslim 9/11 bombers. “Science flies you to the moon, religion flies you into buildings” is a slogan of the Richard Dawkins Foundation. But is it true? Only one of Osama bin Laden’s stated reasons for the 9/11 attacks can be construed as religious, not that it has to be taken as such. There is little reason to doubt his sincerity when he outlines his three motives for the attacks:

· The U.S.- backed sanctions against Iraq.

· The U.S. support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

· The continued presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia (Mecca being the holiest place in Islam).

     The Iraq sanctions were declared “genocidal” by successive U.N. humanitarian co-ordinators of the country, and killed at least one million civilians, half of them children. Israel’s occupation has created 3.8 million refugees. The U.S., contrary to the media’s reporting, is actively blocking a peaceful settlement by vetoing and voting against literally dozens of U.N. resolutions. It is also quite possible to object to foreign troops stationed in a country on non-religious grounds, particularly if they are being used to attack neighbouring states. If we put ourselves in their shoes, is it because of their religion or the horrors they see daily that Arabs are drawn to violence and hatred? Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni activist, recently testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee,

“Instead of first experiencing America through a school or a hospital, most people…first experienced America through the terror of a drone strike. What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village, one drone strike accomplished in an instant: there is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America.”

     Likewise, there are serious drawbacks with the idea that the Crusades were entirely religious conflicts. If the Crusaders’ aim was to spread Christianity, why did they start by sacking Constantinople, one of the largest Christian cities in the world? The Crusades were unmistakably about wealth, power and empire as much as religion.

     I always felt Dawkins was different to the other “celebrity atheists,” but his recent (since deleted) tweets linking to ultra-right wing racist conspiracy websites unsettled me greatly. But Dawkins does represent a wave of growing distrust of Islam in the 21st century, according to polls. How to explain this? For Terry Eagleton it can be summed up in two words, or rather, two numbers: 9/11. Christopher Hitchens turned his pen to Islam around the same time that his new friends in the Pentagon were orchestrating two major wars against Muslim countries. Sam Harris was criticized for advocating a nuclear strike against the Islamic world. Harris defended himself by stating that if an Islamic state got hold of nuclear weapons, it would be the only course of action available.

     Missing in Harris’ analysis is the fact that there already is a radical Islamist state with huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons: Pakistan. A key ally of the West, the U.S. provided General Zia ul-Haq with the technology for nuclear weaponry. “General Zia is a wise man”, Margaret Thatcher told Parliament, as ul-Haq pronounced a death sentence on his political opponent, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, while doing more than anyone to Islamize his country.[6] Harris is not calling for war against any of the U.S. allies. Strange.

     Harris, an arch-Zionist, who has argued for racial profiling against Muslims, seems to regurgitate the basest Israeli Defence Force Propaganda, disproved by even a cursory glance at an Amnesty International Report. In this atmosphere, it is therefore not surprising that some claim Muslims have a genetic aversion against democracy. These Islamophobic diatribes are prime examples of Orientalism, the derogatory set of Western assumptions about the Orient, detailed in Edward Said’s bestselling work. I would have assumed that, as an academic, Dawkins had read it, but I shall simply recommend it to him.

     And yet, the events of the Arab Spring, where hundreds of thousands of Muslims risked their lives to fight for democracy, should have buried the idea forever. Furthermore, public opinion shows that Muslims are hardly irrational, anti-science terrorists. Belief in evolution topped 78% and 67% in Lebanon and Palestine. In the U.S., the figure is only 40%. Likewise, only 15% of Iraqis and Jordanians saw any conflict between Islam and science. Meanwhile, overwhelming majorities of Muslims in every country condemn attacks on U.S. civilians.

     Faith is defined as belief in something without evidence. Dawkins defines fundamentalism as strident beliefs that cannot be changed. But the new atheists have gone from criticizing religion to demonizing one particular religion without studying the evidence, pushing them perilously close to fundamentalism. In fact, when it comes to Islam, it is often difficult to tell whether we are reading “rational scientific” atheism or ramblings from the neo-fascist terrorist Anders Breivik. After all, Harris did claim that “the people who speak most sensibly” on Islam are “the fascists”.

“Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death.”

“The [Iraq] death toll is not nearly high enough…too many [Muslim jihadists] have escaped.”

     Both quotes are from New Atheists. Could it be that some of the crudest, anti-Islamic racism is being dressed up under a guise of secularism and rational thought? Is Dawkins a fundamentalist? I invite him to read Curtis’ and Said’s books to see if the evidence changes his mind, because the shallow, poorly-researched Islamophobic position he is taking does not befit a man of his intellectual standing.

[1] Curtis, M. “Secret Affairs” (2012) p. 16.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., p. 137
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid., p. 175.
[6] Ibid., p. 153.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher: Freedom Fighter?

Margaret Thatcher: Freedom Fighter?

     Margaret Thatcher's face stares out at me from the front page of the April 13th edition of the Economist magazine, just below the words, “freedom fighter”. Not the words that typically sprung to mind when thinking of her, I read on. “The essence of Thatcherism”, it writes, “was to oppose the status quo and bet on freedom”. Her battles with the left, particularly the miners, led to great advancements for the country. It backs up its assertion with some statistics:“The inflation rate fell from a high of 27% in 1975 to 2.4% in 1986. The number of working days lost to strikes fell from 29m in 1979 to 2m in 1986,” and “the top rate of tax fell from 83% to 40%.” Are these really freedoms? They sound rather more like achievements that benefit what the Occupy movement would call the 1%. So, for whose freedom did she fight for?

     Certainly not Nelson Mandela's African National Congress Movement, whom she labelled “a typical terrorist organization” as late as 1987. Nor for Northern Irish Catholics, either. Thatcher proposed a “Cromwell Solution” to the Northern Irish question, that involved the forced expulsion of the Catholic population from the country. Nor for the people of Chile; Thatcher defended dictator and torturer Augusto Pinochet during his extradition battle, thanking him for “bringing democracy to the country.” This was a democracy where parliament was shut down and tens of thousands were killed, imprisoned and tortured. Economically, the result was soaring unemployment and poverty and falling industrial production. Purchasing power dropping to just 40% of what it had been in 1970, coupled with a rise in wealth and power for a small section at the top of society.1 Friedrich Hayek, one of the chief architects of what happened in Chile, recommended the country as a model for Thatcher to follow. She agreed Chile to be an “economic miracle”, but lamented that Britain's “democratic institutions and the need for a high degree of consent” made “some of the measures” taken “quite unacceptable”.2

     The Economist states that the ideas of Hayek, an Austrian economist, had a profound influence on her ideology. Hayek argued for the removal of the government from nearly all affairs of daily life, leaving individuals to compete in a free-market sea. Central planning was inferior to the free-market, as it impinged on the absolute freedoms of the individual. Deregulation and privatization were the panaceas to the country's problems. Thatcher famously carried around copies of Hayek's work, pulling them out and stating “this is what we believe”.

     This free-market sea conjured up visions of the hypothetical world of Adam Smith, where individual shopkeepers and artisans competed freely against one another, pursuing their comparative advantage. “Britain”, Smith is alleged to have said, “is a nation of shopkeepers.” Thatcher's father was no different. Growing up in the depths of the depression, the young Margaret saw her father's grocery business prosper. By all accounts, he was a remarkable man who worked incredibly hard. He was simultaneously a personification of the industrious merchant and a great influence on his impressionable daughter. Unfortunately, his success may have been the worst possible message to send to her, as she grew up believing that, if he could, anybody could make it. She appeared not to have grasped, however, that, while anybody could make it through the depression, not everybody could.

     Neoliberalism, the economic movement Thatcher became closely associated with, traces its philosophical roots to the work of objectivist philosopher, Ayn Rand. In a 1959 interview Rand gave a summary of her position. “Man's highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness...I challenge the moral code of altruism, the precept that man's moral duty is to live for others.” Going further, she stated that, “I consider helping others evil” and that “love should be treated as a business deal.” Her ambitious goal was to revolutionize human relations and turn morality on its head. Shunned by academia, she found an audience in the business community, where her central messages of self-interest struck a chord. Thatcher echoed Rand's vision when she insisted that “there is no such thing as society, only individuals”. This part of Thatcher's vision for Britain was what most outraged Glenda Jackson, M.P. Amid a chorus of jeers from her opponents, she gave a speech during the debate on Thatcher's tributes:

     Boris Johnson, Conservative Mayor of London, leapt to Thatcher's defence, stating that she was a “liberator”. Like the Economist, he went on to explain how she liberated the people: by freeing millions of people to buy their own homes and buy shares in British companies like British Telecom and British Gas. Also like the Economist, one can't help feeling that these are primarily freedoms for the 1%. Johnson's comments come off as rather crass, considering the housing and heating crisis the country is going through.

     There are 120 million bedrooms in the UK, and only 60 million people. Yet we face a huge shortage of social housing and some of the highest house prices in the world. The UK builds the smallest new homes in Europe. In fact, the average luxury flat today is smaller than the minimum requirements for council housing in the 1960's. Furthermore, more than 5 million households had to make the agonizing choice between food and heating this winter, as they could not afford both.

     The pressing problems the country faces today trace back to Thatcher's privatization of social services and the deregulation laws of the 1980's. Like Pinochet, she presided over a period of great growth in inequality and poverty. Her legacy is the financialization of the economy, where traditional British industries like shipbuilding and metalworking, and the cities that grew up around them, were cast aside. The increased economic power of British banks brought increased political power, as the financial sector began to sponsor all three major parties. The entire political discourse moved to the right. The socialist values of Labour were forgotten, replaced by the “third way” of Tony Blair and New Labour. Thatcher was once asked what her greatest achievement was. She replied “Tony Blair and New Labour”. From her perspective, she was probably right.

     Thatcher's neoliberalism swept the globe. “Reaganomics” won in the United States, and the West forcefully pushed their idea of the “free-market” on the globe, through institutions like the World Bank, IMF and the World Trade Organization. Deregulation meant big businesses have used their power to buy out competition and achieve monopolies. In the UK, just four corporations, Tesco, Asda-Walmart, Sainsbury's and Morrisons, control most of our food supply. The irony is that Thatcher's policies have made industrious entrepreneurs like her father she so admired, a dying breed.

     Her legacy began to unravel in 2008, when the financial crisis showed that unregulated markets lead to catastrophe. Likewise, Britain's mountainous debt can be traced back to her huge tax cuts for the wealthy. The Economist insists that “now especially, the world needs to hold fast to Margaret Thatcher’s principles”. But just this week, a new study has found that the justification for austerity was based on “bogus maths.” One can't help noticing that the European countries who most eagerly bought into the promise of a financialized economy, the UK, Ireland, Spain, Iceland, were hit hardest when the house of cards collapsed, whereas those countries who maintained their less glamorous manufacturing industries, like Germany, Scandinavia and Switzerland, have suffered the least. Meanwhile, in Latin America, movements challenging the consensus have swept to power.

     Johnson concluded his remarks by stating that “this country is very much in her debt”. No, this country is very much in debt, thanks to her. She destroyed the productive manufacturing base of the country and unleashed the forces of finance. She was not the first to espouse this ideology, and certainly was not the last, but her strident zeal and contempt for large sections of the society made her a “figure of hate” to many.

Ding dong indeed.

1Grandin, G. Empire's Workshop, p.170
2Grandin, p. 172