Thursday, 19 March 2009

Naming the Thing

Hilaire Belloc’s first piece of political writing was an essay on the origins of Liberalism: he said it began with William Cobbett and his rural radicalism, rather than with Richard Cobden and the free trade campaign. I think he was right.

I keep thinking about Cobbett as the various stories flow through every day of the outrageous salaries and bonuses, not just in banking, but at the top of the public and private sectors alike. I read yesterday that the top 123 executives at Transport for London all earn over £100,000 a year.

That doesn’t really compare to the staggering greed of Fred the Shred, or the secretive culture of Roger Jenkins, but it is bad enough.

William Cobbett had a word for this. He called this combination of useless, feather-bedded appointees, and the money system they colluded over, ‘The Thing’. We have The Thing just as much today, and its tentacles are becoming clearer. Just as it was in Cobbett’s day, The Thing feeds off the rest of us – we pay for these sinecures in the public sector, but we also pay through our dwindling pensions for the huge bonuses in the financial sector. They rightly belong to the customers.

We await a political force capable of first naming The Thing, and then taking it apart.

1 comment:

Conall Boyle said...

Oh for Heaven's sake David, it's not the Thing, it's fractional reserve banking, as you well know. Put more simply, it means that OUR money is controlled and issued (as debt) by those pesky private profit-seeking banks. Bring on 100% reserve banking, and an MPC-type outfit to decide how much new money needs to be 'printed'. We can then debate how OUR new money should be spent: Propping up bust banks, on public works or best of all; fructifying in the pockets and purses of the citizenry?