Cui Bono?

Who benefits?

Here’s a question: if you had to choose, what’s more important to you, your personal wealth or the welfare of your country?

For the overwhelming majority of us — the 99% — the question is pretty much one and the same, because what little wealth we have is entirely tied up in our country one way or another. So most of us would answer, the welfare of our country. But what about the 1%? How might they respond?

I was inspired to ask this question and write this piece by an article that recently appeared in something called Money Week, which I’d never heard of until I paid a routine visit to the usually excellent Matt Taibbi’s column in Rolling Stone. At the top of his column was an ad for Money Week, together with a link to an article titled “The End of Britain”. Being British, I thought I’d take a look.

Money Week claims to be “The UK’s best-selling financial magazine [serving] tens of thousands of subscribers in more than 60 countries”.

The article takes the form of a letter to the general reader, and is signed rather anonymously by “The Money Week Team”, which seems to comprise about twenty people most of whom appear to be experts in economics and financial services. The first part is a long diatribe about how the end of life as we know it is just about upon us. Quite a lot of the information supplied to support this position is probably fairly accurate; I don’t take issue with that; but as I got further into the piece I slowly felt my hackles start to rise.

After doing its utmost to terrify the reader about Britain’s financial situation the piece introduces the next section with the following:

But how did we get here? After all, we were once the richest and most powerful nation on earth. What happened to all of our money?

There then follows a little bit of history starting in 1909. Now it’s always interesting with these kinds of article to see what particular moment in time the writer chooses for their starting point. It suggests that up until that time everything was wonderful, and then Something Terrible Happened.

The section appears under the sub-heading “A dangerous experiment gone wrong”, and opens with the following words:

On the 1st of January, 1909, something happened for the first time in British history. The government agreed to redistribute taxes to support people in their old age. On that day, more than any other, the modern welfare state began in earnest.

Unsurprisingly, given the title and opening sentences, the brief section of the economic history of Britain blames our economic woes on our country’s brief flirtation with a few socialist concepts. But we learn nothing about the considerable role played by the 1% in bringing about social and economic collapse.

We learn nothing of what passed before 1909, such as the massive theft of life-sustaining public land by the 1%, and that took place over the best part of four centuries. We learn nothing of the murderous social conditions imposed on the people by the 1% as a direct result of their “Industrial Revolution”. We learn nothing of the terror felt by the 1% at the successes of the Russian Revolution – the threat of a good example -  and which, possibly more than any other single event, prompted Lloyd George’s “dangerous experiment” of 1909. And far from being “the first time in British history” that taxes were redistributed to help support those who needed it Lloyd George’s “dangerous experiment” was no more than a slight modification of a public welfare system that began life in the 16th century (as a consequence of the Protestant reformation obliterating the role of the Catholic church – which had previously provided some relief to the poor), and which was itself radically overhauled in the repugnant Speenhamland reforms about a hundred years before Lloyd George’s “dangerous experiment”.

The historical section of Money Week’s article continues in much the same way – blaming the poor for the suffering of the rich. None of the numerous crimes of the 1% are identified for criticism – such as their love of Permanent War, their continual theft of public property (such as the on-going looting of our public services), their on-going plundering of the environment in the sacred name of quick profit, and the total control of private banks over public money.

So, given that Money Week’s historical analysis of our economic woes is so obviously inaccurate, one has to wonder if there’s anything of any value at all in the article. Well, yes, actually, there is.

Most of the piece uses the jargon and measurements known and loved by the 1% themselves to show that their own system is an economic catastrophe. Of course, there’s not one word that points out that fact, the fact that only the 1% can be held responsible for an economic system that they wholly control, an economic system they’ve forced on the world and which their own oracles are now openly admitting is an absolute disaster; but that is the inescapable conclusion of Money Week’s own article, and they say so in so many words, referring to it as an “unsolvable problem”, and an “inescapable problem [that has] only ever had one outcome: financial collapse”. It has to be said, if the piece had been written by steely-eyed communists a better job of rubbishing the 1%’s economic system could not possibly have been done.

The Money Week article is quite a long piece, and I must admit I didn’t have the stamina, or the stomach, to examine every word of it. One might wonder why the writers bothered. What could have been the motive for writing such a devastating critique of the 1%’s economic system in a publication whose main readership is, presumably, the 1% themselves and their assorted flunkeys? Well, the answer to that question starts to become clear towards the end of the article, because towards the end of the piece we have a section titled “Escape is Impossible”, and it begins with these words:

In recorded economic history, every single country with debts as big as ours – every single one – has suffered a devastating economic collapse. There are NO exceptions.

When I was a young chap my best friend was a Jehovah’s Witness, and I remember the many times his family tried to convert me. They had no end of magazines to show me with pages of illustrations of catastrophic scenes such as floods, earthquakes and the like, and panic-stricken people running around seconds before inevitable annihilation. These images were meant to show the inevitable soon-to-happen end of the world – Armageddon. The only hope I had of possibly escaping it all was to join the Jehovahs. Those days all came flooding back to me as I read the closing paragraphs of Money Week’s article.

After a section titled “How the government could seize your wealth” comes a section titled “Let us show you how to preserve your wealth”. No matter that a mere page or two earlier we’d just been told that “Escape is impossible” and “There are NO exceptions”.

It all becomes very clear in the end. Money Week’s article is nothing more than a very long advertisement for one of their products, a “free Wealth Preservation Report”.

If it weren’t for the fact that the piece is almost certainly intended for the reading pleasure of the 1%, one could feel quite angry about the open intimidation tactics being used; but as it’s meant to intimidate the 1% instead of normal people, who really cares. So those of us who know a bit about the subject needn’t waste too much time pointing out the other… inaccuracies, shall we call them – such as the section headed “Government over-spending =borrowing”.

That title is obviously misleading to start with, because nearly all government spending equals borrowing. That’s how the 1% designed the system of government funding to work. And what does government OVER-spending mean anyway? Presumably Money Week would say it’s the “dangerous experiment” of paying pensions to old people? Presumably they’re not referring to the funding of illegal wars, or using the tax credit system to subsidise the labour costs of big business?

The section opens with these words:

When you spend more than you earn – there’s only one way of paying for it. By borrowing money. That alone is bad enough. But remember, we also have to service our debts – to pay interest on a pile of debt that’s mounting ever higher… debt that we’ll never pay back.

Whilst that’s fairly true of normal individuals, it doesn’t have to be true of governments, and to suggest that money supply is exactly the same for individuals and governments alike is either intentionally misleading, or just plain stupid. Individuals cannot and should not be able to print their own money; but governments could, and should. Governments should not have to fund public services by going cap-in-hand to a private banking cartel. They should simply turn on their own printing press. The fact that it’s difficult for the British government to do that has nothing to do with pension payments for old people, and everything to do with the way the 1% have rigged the world’s financial system.

One other quite interesting feature of the piece is that concluding section. Titled “Here’s what you need to do – urgently”, it suggests a method of personal wealth preservation for the reader. There’s not a single word proposing any kind of political reform, no suggestion of what might be in the best interests of the country, no suggestion of what action the reader might take to ensure that the economic woes of the 99% are tackled and overcome for the sake of others.  Oh, no. The only action the reader needs to do urgently is make sure no one can get hold of his own ill-gotten wealth, and is advised by the trusty experts of Money Week that:

Thirdly, and in many ways most importantly, we’ve found several “bolt holes” outside the UK you can move a part of your wealth into right away.

So here we have it, the same tired old practices of every failed empire in history being advocated once again – with a letter written to the super-rich; a letter to those who have looted and plundered anything and everything possible, and warning them that now’s the time to bury their stolen treasures in some faraway tropical island where they may rest their blood-stained thieving hands whilst enjoying a long and well-deserved happy retirement. The country that nurtured them and protected them will inevitably disappear into oblivion – because that nasty David Lloyd George introduced a law to pay a pittance of a pension to old people – but never mind, at least the super-rich will be O.K.

John is a writer and political activist based in England. He can be contacted through his website. His main contribution comprises three free-to-use works-in-progress: The People’s Constitution, The School of Kindness, and EnMo Economics . Read other articles by John.