THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC MALAISES OF FREE MARKET SOCIETIES.
The United States has a healthcare system that delivers worse public health outcomes at a far greater cost than most Western European comparators. Britain has a creaking transport infrastructure that is a national economic liability. America fares little better; levees round New Orleans collapsed, devastating that city, which is a shadow of its former self when it comes to providing housing for poorer residents who fled the inundation. US infrastructure overall received a “D” Grade report from a number of sources, indicating inadequate expenditure and a progressive decline.
So-called Private-Public Partnership agreements in the UK, used as a political device to hide public borrowing, have already begun to ruin hospitals and schools through the crippling capital and maintenance costs demanded by private “partners”.
The costs of domestic power and electricity in Britain is a disgrace, fuel poverty is becoming a major health risk, and the lack of a coherent strategy and investment in environmentally responsible generation (or any form of generation) puts the country at risk of a serious power shortage in the not too distant future. The government is obsessed by cheap gas, a risky alternative to more environmentally friendly and sustainable sources that require long term investment.
UK rail fares are the highest in Europe for a network that is put to shame by the best in Europe.
Investment in advanced technology and other manufacturing businesses that used to be a mainstay of the UK economy has for some time been amongst the lowest in the developed world. Worse still, most of the once - powerful technology base has been ruined by bad strategies, deals aimed at pleasing institutional investors - or simply sold to foreign bidders.
Britain has the worst record of any advanced country in these regards - the US, otherwise a bastion of market fundamentalism; has been at pains to protect its precious technology base from foreign incursion, and has been willing to give public support to struggling companies - as well as subsidising high technology industry through huge defense spending.
From the 1970's, consumerism became rampant in Britain and America. A sophisticated advertising industry encouraged beliefs in entitlement to lifestyles and consumption beyond the means of many people. Politicians encouraged consumption as a means of keeping the populace happy. Many people borrowed heavily to support a lifestyle “entitlement”. Booming house prices encouraged the illusion of steadily growing wealth. Driven by stagnant earnings, personal and national indebtedness in both Britain and America rose to, and are still, at dangerous levels. Banks indulged in orgies of irresponsible lending for housing and personal consumption to citizens who couldn't afford to repay their debts. Sub-prime mortgage lending was the trigger for the worst banking crash in living memory - which in turn sparked the worst recession of modern times.
Inequality has soared whilst real average incomes stagnated. The gaps in wealth and earnings between the rich and poor in the US and Britain are the largest of any developed nation and are growing fast as a result of government policies. There now appears to be a growing underclass with no hope of escaping their exclusion from the social mainstream.
Rich companies and individuals have avoided paying tax (their contribution to society) through using sophisticated tax planning and offshore tax havens.
Britain, driven by fear of being downgraded by Standard and Poors and other ratings agencies, leading to higher borrowing costs, embarked on an austerity programme that has arguably made matters far worse and intensified the recession caused by the banks. Public services are being degraded, welfare costs slashed, poor people made homeless, quality jobs lost, lending to business decreased to the point of pain amongst smaller companies. All in all, the current programme of austerity is likely to substantially reduce income to the public exchequer and commit Britain to a decade of stagnation.
Spain, Greece and Portugal are in an even worse condition. The European Union lent billions to develop their economies, and the banks lent billions more. These monies were used in mainly unproductive ways - in personal consumption, property speculation, in funding bloated central bureaucracies, and in unaffordable wage levels combined with retirement and other provisions that were completely unsustainable. Now both countries face austerity programmes imposed by the European Union that will ensure social misery and lasting economic disaster. So severe are the conditions of these programmes that it is almost impossible to conceive of a situation in which the base economies can ever recover to a level which will support a reasonable standard of living for the majority.