No matter how many others go naked
The trouble with capitalism is that it has no sense of original sin, a kind of basic moral obtuseness that underlies so much of what we do. No, the invisible hand is not the hand of God as Adam Smith, who was a Stoic, thought, but a purely mechanical grabbing hand that makes everybody, except those who aren’t, rich. How could nineteenth century British imperialists have destroyed the wonderfully skilled Indian textile industry by military force in order to give the Indians no choice but to buy cheap Lancashire cotton, and then called it free trade? How could a deregulated meat industry have been so greedy for profit they fed animal parts to cows? How could banks have been so stupid as to make sub-prime loans? We took it for granted, said Alan Greenspan, that their sense of self-preservation would have preserved them from such folly. Perhaps you noticed that capitalist fundamentalists who excoriate scroungers who want a few more quid on their housing benefit have no problem when it comes to banks taking 12 trillion dollars of government handouts. What else are banks for, for goodness sake? How idiotic is it in a situation where 1% of the world’s population own 50% of its wealth to imagine that their wealth will trickle down to everybody else and everybody will be as rich as they are? Perhaps you noticed, Mr Hammond, that as the now four centuries of capitalism have gone on the gap between rich and poor has grown wider and wider and wider, except for those brief periods when the money loonies were confined to the asylum. Only Karl Marx imagining the state will wither away because nobody is greedy any more is more daft. No, there’s a bit of the old Adam in us all. If two were on a desert island one would start despising the other because he didn’t have so big a fig leaf. Too much money makes you mad and you start making huge, but huge and ever huger, stockpiles of fig leaves, no matter how many others go naked.