WHY WE MUST EXPROPRIATE THE EXPROPRIATORS

While workers brace themselves for a tsunami of job losses, which the Chancellor’s Winter Economy Plan will do little to alleviate, it is notable that, according to Swiss Bank UBS, the world’s 2,189 billionaires have increased their wealth since the beginning of the pandemic by 27.5%  (Guardian, 7 October). This builds on a longer term trend in which the super wealthy have accumulated wealth at a dizzying rate. The same source reported in 2017 that billionaires’ average fortunes had grown by 70% in the preceding three years.

Conventional economics – the neoclassical variety they teach in our universities  and which failed to predict the Great Recession –  has no explanation for this growing concentration of wealth. Thomas Piketty came up with a partial explanation in his 2014 book Capital in the Twenty First Century: he attributed it to the private rate of return on capital consistently exceeding the rate of growth in income and output. He called this the “central contradiction of capitalism” but he didn’t explain how or why this differential persists. To explain it we have to turn to Marx and, in particular, his Labour Theory of Value. According to this, the central contradiction of capitalism isn’t a differential return, it’s the conflict between labour (workers) and capital (those who own the means of production). While this conflict remains unresolved, the latter can extract surplus value from the former provided they can sustain the current social order through their penetration and control of government.

Can conventional politics and conventional political parties such as the Labour Party address this contradiction and resolve it? No. Big business and wealthy individuals have too much influence.

Can we not let the super-rich become even richer provided living standards for workers gradually improve as they have over the last 200 years? No. Global warming has added a degree of urgency that has previously not existed, even at the height of the cold war and under the threat of nuclear annihilation. The super-rich, however, have insufficient incentive to address the urgent need to transition to a zero carbon economy. The world’s 2,189 billionaires own more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60% of the world’s population (see link below). They can protect themselves from global warming; and they have no wish to see fossil fuels remain in the ground as much of their wealth is invested, directly and indirectly, in them. Yet keeping fossil fuels in the ground, thereby rendering them valueless, is the only known means of halting the rise in atmospheric CO2 .

A condition of addressing global warming is, therefore, in Marx’s words, to expropriate the expropriators. Only then will we be able to start to address global warming.

Reference

https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/worlds-billionaires-have-more-wealth-46-billion-people

A Reverse National Lottery?

The Croydon CP Collective has been converted into a full Communist Party branch. We will meet at 6.30 pm on the third Thursday of each month  at Party Centre, Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Road, Croydon CR0 1BD. Meanwhile, here is a personal reflection on the National Lottery.

A Reverse National Lottery?

With the chance of being struck by lightning in the UK one in three million, the odds on winning the National Lottery jackpot prior to October of one in 14 million didn’t look too encouraging. Since October, however, the odds of winning the jackpot have fallen to one in 45 million. With such unfavorable odds, the justification for buying a lottery ticket might still be justified by the fact that 28% of what you paid for your ticket goes to “good causes”. But isn’t that what taxation is supposed to do? Thus in practice the National Lottery actually functions as a somewhat inefficient tax. But is it a tax on the gullible or the poor?

A study carried out in 2009 by Theo’s, a British think-tank, found, unsurprisingly, that the poor spent a greater part of their income on lottery tickets than rich ones. Expenditure by the mega-rich is, of course, insignificant – what’s another million pounds when one has billions? Other interesting findings come from US studies. In South Carolina, for example, households with incomes of less than $40,000 a year account for 28% of the state’s population but more than half of its frequent lottery players. According to a Tax Foundation study, more than one American in five thinks that buying lottery tickets constitutes a sound retirement plan.

Regardless, however, of the poor chance of any one individual winning the National Lottery jackpot, someone has to win. That, after all, is the pitch made by the National Lottery to punters. Over the last 20 years, the National Lottery has created five billionaires and 4,000 millionaires. The question must, however be asked: do we actually need five more billionaires and 4,000 more millionaires in the UK? As Thomas Piketty has demonstrated, we are now a more unequal society than at any time since the Edwardian era. Don’t we have enough billionaires and millionaires already?

Equality in the UK would be improved if the National Lottery were scrapped and the “good causes” were supported by progressive taxation. But could we go further than this? One idea to ponder is a Reverse National Lottery. There are thought to be more than 100 billionaires in the UK. Could we not require each one to take up a ticket every week with the ‘winner’ paying , say, £1 million to the Exchequer to fund “good causes”? Just like the current lottery it would generate lots of public interest, media attention and overall fun, while “good causes” would be provided for from the proceeds. The one difference would be that inequality in the UK would go down each week, not up. Now wouldn’t that be a good idea?