Friday, 15 April 2016

10 Ways to Subvert Legality

“I haven’t done anything illegal.” – So runs the riposte of many confronted with evidence of wrongdoing.

Admittedly it would be arbitrary to punish people without reference to any objective code of law, but the law itself would sink into arbitrariness if it could be twisted to serve the interests of a few against the common good.

Slave owners were able to defend their business as legal until abolitionists managed to change the law to put an end to their repugnant enterprise. Exploiters of child labour persisted until statutory restrictions were introduced to stop their callous practice. But alas, laws can be undone. Worse still, they can be constructed, not to curtail unethical deeds, but boost them.

Modern plutocracy has opted to buy the law as one of its key operational assets. Here are ten of its favourite tactics:

1. Donate vast sums to political parties and politicians who are more likely to change the laws to suit the wealthy few at the expense of the majority of people.
2. Buy and maintain control over media outlets and promise support for politicians who will bring in or abolish laws that will favour them.
3. Ensure those who have taken control of government with their financial backing do little to restrict campaign funding from the wealthy elite while clamping down on similar funding from organisations representing ordinary workers.
4. Arrange exclusive meetings with their political stooges to remind them what laws should be changed to enhance their market share and profits.
5. Put forward international trading agreements to enable big corporations to sue governments that are not in their pocket and daring to pass laws that get in the way of their harmful profit-making.
6. Move their senior staff into government positions (on a short-term secondment basis or a ‘permanent’ role before returning to the corporate sector) to ‘advise’ on how various laws are to be changed, and acquire expertise on what loopholes can be exploited when those staff are back with their long term employers.
7. Obtain subsidies, contracts, tax breaks, bailouts etc by threatening to cut jobs or wreck the economy if public funds were not forthcoming.
8. Deploy the best lawyers money can buy to contest any charges based on laws they have not yet been able to change.
9. Hide the benefits they gain, taxes they avoid, and bribes/donations they make by using offshore accounts that will continue to be protected by the politicians they have influence over.
10. Demonstrate the long term returns for politicians who help them by offering those politicians lucrative speaker fees, jobs and non-executive board positions after they have left public office (but have importantly retained useful links with others still in government).

All politicians trying to play the ‘Anti-Establishment’ card by superficially distancing themselves from Westminster or Washington, should be pressed to say what detailed plans they have to tackle the ten devious manoeuvres listed above. If all they can say is that they will make their country ‘great’ again, or they are the champions of ‘traditional’ values, and they have nothing to offer to end the plutocratic subversion of the rule of law, then know them for the charlatans they really are.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Only Fools & Porsches

Every year, millions of people are duped into supporting politicians whose real concerns are with helping the superrich elite expand their many mansions and off-shore accounts, not to mention their fleet of yachts, jets, and Porsches.

That is the ultimate indictment of political illiteracy.

All too many people believe that if workers are made ever more powerless, the bosses will be free to make more money that will “trickle down” to everyone; when in reality the bosses will just pay themselves even more and workers are left with greater hardship and insecurity.

All too many people think that if public goods and services are cut and privatised, taxes will be lowered and everyone will be better off; when in fact most of them will lose vital support wherever they turn, while the wealthy few make substantial gains.

All too many people echo claims that if foreigners, minorities, and women will just do as they are told, their country will be great again; when the targeting of scapegoats is callous, and only helps to deflect attention from the exploitation most people have had to endure.

So what should be done?

First of all, we must end the delusion that political education can ever be “neutral” in the face of propaganda and deception. If medical education were only ever to be taken forward when its contents had been approved by quacks and snake-oil salesmen, it would be utterly useless. We cannot raise political understanding if we are not prepared to criticise hollow arguments and expose shameless lies. We will be accused of being biased, but integrity comes, not through retreating from the quacks, but through confronting them.

Secondly, while encouraging people to vote is laudable, it must be backed by explanations of electoral procedures, tactical options and corresponding implications. Some candidates may look pleasant enough on the doorstep, but if elected, they will back their party’s vicious policies in the legislative chamber. The advice ‘Just vote for the candidate you like best’ is as sound as ‘Just take the medicine that strikes you as powerful’. However appealing a particular medication may appear to be, we have to take into account the overall circumstances and how it may work, if we are to find the most appropriate prescription and get better.

Last but not least, we must steer people away from the trap of tantrum politics. It can be tempting to vent one’s anger and frustration by supporting some campaign of ‘tough action’, even though there is no indication of what real improvements it would bring. Demagogues know all too well how to exploit the masses by goading them into thoughtless and aggressive outbursts, when it’s all designed solely for their own aggrandisement. People should be given instead the chance to work constructively to find desirable alternatives through collaborative projects that help each other.

But who is going to make any of this happen?

Educators from schools, through universities, to lifelong learning, should play their part. Community organisations concerned with promoting shared interests and local improvements should integrate political awareness raising into their everyday activities. Businesses should help fund political education as a key part of their corporate social responsibility, and trade unions should encourage all workers to take part. Above all, groups and institutions with a declared interest in increasing political understanding and democratic participation should review their activities and ensure they take on board the advice set out above.