Words by David E.J.A. Bennett
In the words of our illustrious, Suidae-affiliated, former prime minister, David ‘call me Dave’ Cameron, ‘Britain is Broken’ – or at least he thought it was in 2010 (stealing the epithet from The Sun).
If my memory serves me correctly, Dave was referring to ‘chavs’ (or, as is more politically correct, young people from poor backgrounds desperate to attach themselves to an identity). And these ‘chavs’, in Dave’s opinion, were the cause of Britain’s supposed moral breakdown.
The word ‘Britain’ is, of course, a very vague synecdoche. To suggest that all of something is broken because of a supposed break in a tiny part of it, is, of course, sensationalist nonsense. Sensationalist nonsense used to portray the leader of a political party as a kind of moral Batman figure.
Dave’s suggestion at an entire nation being broken may, however, ring truer today than ever before… and not because of boys and girls from council estates wearing uniforms picked straight out of Sports Direct.
In the reality outside of Dave’s head, Britain is not broken, not wholly – but it may have had both of its legs fractured. And the reason for this national double tibia/fibula break is, undoubtedly, austerity.
You will have seen headlines buzzing around of late, suggesting things like ‘Austerity is Not Working’ and ‘Tory Austerity Comes into Question’. But a more accurate headline may be “Austerity has not worked, it will not work, so stop doing the austerity!”
The concept of austerity is perhaps an attractive concept to any budding Chancellor of the Exchequer bent on writing their name into the history books as the person who fixed the national debt (aka George Osborne).
But, in a Capitalist economy such as Britain, austerity is a cataclysmic economic strategy!
Firstly, the most important factor for any Capitalist economy is… yes, capital.
The trusty Oxford English Dictionary cites ‘capital’ as being: “wealth owned by a person or organisation or invested, lent, or borrowed. The excess of a company’s assets over its liabilities”.
With even the most basic grasp of economics, such as my own, we may determine from that definition that taking away capital at every possible opportunity would be severely damaging to a Capitalist economy.
If fixing a national deficit is the order of the day, then austerity is an extremely negative strategy in combating it. A strategy that in fact goes against the very nature of capitalism: i.e. making profit.
For a fully functioning capitalist economy, you need to have a general public with enough disposable income to be able to spend money, and save money.
If austerity means cutting funding to the public sector, this obviously means jobs will be lost, thus people have less money to spend and save, and more people become unemployed. Higher unemployment means more money needed for a benefits system, and with just those two example you have both taken away the spending power needed to make a capitalist economy function properly, AND added more cost in the form of benefits.
According to Barnado’s website, “there are currently 3.7 million children living in poverty in the UK … 1.7 million of these children are living in severe poverty.” Even more shockingly, “63% of children living in poverty [in the UK] are in a family where someone works.” This is a direct result of the austere measures taken by the government over the last six years.
Child poverty is lower than it was 70 years ago, but it is unequivocally on the rise under conservative austerity.
For a nation, according to some listings – such as cityam.com – in the top five wealthiest nations on earth, these poverty stats are nothing short of disgusting.
If Britain’s collective wealth (that of individuals, businesses, etc) was shared out equally, each individual would have around £112,176. So, somewhere in that collective wealth, there is a miscarriage of funds, a miscarriage of justice, and a miscarriage of morality.
Poor people don’t just appear on some sort of magic poor people tree, or by the usual way that humans come into being; people are cultivated into poor people by their society. Sometimes they are cultivated by themselves being terrible with money, but more often than not they are cultivated by a system which allows people to fall away into poverty.
This Conservative government’s mentality appears to actively want to cultivate poor people… probably just so they can have someone to scapegoat when they inevitably ruin the economy completely and plunge all of us into darkness.