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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Those Whom Government Cannot Represent

During one of the sessions of Left Forum, we dealt with the following Margret Thatcher quote stating that there is no such thing as society (click here for the source, it comes from an interview):

 What is wrong with the deterioration? [mistranscription?] I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand “I have a problem, it is the Government's job to cope with it!” or “I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!” “I am homeless, the Government must house me!” and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation and it is, I think, one of the tragedies in which many of the benefits we give, which were meant to reassure people that if they were sick or ill there was a safety net and there was help, that many of the benefits which were meant to help people who were unfortunate—“It is all right. We joined together and we have these insurance schemes to look after it”. That was the objective, but somehow there are some people who have been manipulating the system

Please note that previously, and quite consistently, Thatcher had said the following when talking about England's Enterprise Allowance (click here for review of the program):

 The enterprise allowance is for young people who want to start up on their own, have been on the unemployment register, and we recognise—I must tell you this as the background—that having got the income from unemployment benefit and social security, you cannot expect them to take the leap into self-employment with all its uncertainties unless you help them across that gap, and so three or four years ago, we devised a method: “If you want to start up on your own, we will guarantee you for a year an income of £40 a week, so that you know that you have got that coming in, but in order to get the enterprise allowance, to show that you have something to start off with, because you usually need a little bit of capital, you do have to raise somehow £1000!” A lot of people do it. It is astonishing how many find that their families, from their savings, will give them £1000.


If we compare the two quotes along with reading the whole interview, we see that the initial quote declaring that there is no society, just individuals seems less cold. We should note that there were social programs that were condoned by the Thatcher administration and this eliminates the blunt coldness of her original statement.

But we should note a couple of the criticisms cited in the article on the Enterprise Allowance previously referenced. Those criticisms stated that many who relied on the Enterprise Initiative would have become self-employed anyway (remember that one was to rely on contacts like family to raise the money) along with the fact that many of the businesses became 'one-man shows.'

Thatcher's support of self-employment was an attempt to deal with the unemployment problem that had already existed in Britain. In addition, to Enterprise Allowance, Thatcher denationalized many businesses, like the National Freight Company, utilities, and the mining industry. Thatcher was for free markets and self-determination and she opposed trade unions.

We could begin to say here that government is for some people, particularly those who either have connections or can survive, or even thrive, in the free market. Her policies strongly favored business elites, but, as stated, those weren't the only people whom she helped. 

Therefore, though the rest of the article and the times tell us that her comment about there being no society, but there are only individuals is not as cold as it might sound at first. For in other words, there are those who are worthy to varying degrees of their government's support and there are those who don't deserve any consideration from their government.  And it seems that the minimum requirement that existed for receiving consideration from the Thatcher government is that one had family resources on which one could rely. This caused many who had no family that could provide support to be grouped with whom Thatcher described as those who refused to work because they could milk the system. And there seems to be a conservative eagerness to group too many people into this category because not to do so would challenge their faith in Capitalism.

This problems with deciding who is worthy of their government's support and representation and how worthy they are is a battle still being fought today. And, again, Conservatives are too eager to say that the less well off don't deserve their government's consideration because it is their fault while the more successful people deserve a greater amount of their government's benevolence because of what they bring to the table. Such a mentality provides a roadblock to democracy. That is because such a mentality promotes the consolidation of power to those who "deserve" it elites of the private sector while others don't deserve it. 

But the more consideration one receives from their government, the more government benefits one receives whether those benefits come in the form of beneficial regulations, favorable deregulation, domestic and/or foreign policies that increase one's bottom line, or actual business from the government. And if we used the owners of a major league sports team, especially those who are required to meet a salary cap, to illustrate the real problem with this approach to receiving government help. the better we can see how those who are most favored by the government, that is the elites from the private sector, will hurt those who are in the greatest need. For in major league sports teams we know that the more money A gets from the owners, the less is available to B and the rest. And the more B gets from what's leftover from what A got, then there is less available for C. And the progression is not too difficult to see especially how it plays out in real life. A too similar of a progression occurs with getting government consideration and resources.

We should note one other thing here. As Thatcher and her administration emphasized stock ownership, they were falling back on the worst parts of the Thatcher quote we've been examining. This is because stock ownership teaches one to be more concerned with one's own self-interest and welfare and less concerned, if at all, with the welfare of others. That is the culture promoted by stock ownership is an individualist one. The higher the ROI a company provides to its shareholders, the more rewards go to the shareholder and thus the greater the desirable of being a shareholder for that company becomes. And what is lost in the shuffle are the costs to a company's stakeholders, including its own employees, that is its wealth creators, and to the environment. That is because the more a company invests in its employees or spends on protecting the environment, the lower the ROI. 

All of this produces a greater emphasis on the individual and growing cutthroat mentality toward those a company is beholding to. The more emphasis that is placed on increasing one's own wealth from the ROI, the greater others will be seen as threats because of the competition for resources. And the more we regard others as threats, the more society disappears until all that is left are individuals who are living out a survival of the fittest contest. And that leaves us with the realization that the coldness of the original quote from Thatcher is greater than we might have guessed from reading the interview and the context of her statements.



 

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