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Voice from the Back

THE FILTHY RICH

"Somewhere in the world, 100-foot yachts are derided as ‘dinghies’ ... and ‘true wealth’ starts at a hefty $10 million. That's ‘Richistan’. The term, which journalist Robert Frank defines as a ‘parallel country of the rich,’ is also the title of his new book about its inhabitants, whom he calls Richistanis. The book got its start in 2003, when Frank, who reports for The Wall Street Journal, picked up a fresh, full-time beat: the new rich..... From 1995 to 2003, the number of millionaires in America doubled. During the same period, the number of households worth $5 million, $10 million and $25 million, respectively, all doubled. In 2005 alone, America minted 227,000 new millionaires." (USA Today, 17 June) As you are reading this in the Socialist Standard and not the Wall Street Journal it is unlikely you belong to Richistan, you are more likely to be a subject of Povertistan.

WEALTHY GET WEALTHIER

"The 2007 World Wealth Report, from Merrill Lynch and Cap Gemini, indicated that the number of ultra high net worth individuals - with $30 million or more to invest - in Britain rose by 10 per cent last year to about 3,750. About one in six of Europe's 23,460 super-rich now hails from the UK. ... Globally nearly 10,000 more individuals joined the ranks of the super-rich, taking the total to about 95,000." (Times, 28 June) So much for the Labour Party's promises about a more equitable society.

BIBLICAL WEATHER FORECASTING

The owning class spend a great deal of money in keeping the Meteorological Office running but a reverend gentleman has come up with a super wheeze to save that expenditure. “The floods that have devastated swathes of the country are God's judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society, according to senior Church of England bishops. One diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless. ... The Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, argued that the floods are not just a result of a lack of respect for the planet, but also a judgment on society's moral decadence." (Sunday Telegraph, 1 July) Simple really - read your bible, do what the bishops say and you can close the meteorological offices and get rid of redundant mops. Floods — what floods?

THE FAILURE OF REFORMISM

"Social mobility is more difficult for children in Britain than for those in most other wealthy countries. A study by the London School of Economics found that poorer children born in 1970 had less opportunity to improve their economic and social status as adults than those born in 1958." (Times, 3 July) Fifty years of reforming British capitalism and the end result is abject failure.

THE CHURCH GOES COMMERCIAL

"A prominent Polish cleric known for preaching against communism and for his anti-Semitic remarks said on Tuesday he planned to launch perfumes, clothing and cafes branded with his image. Father Henryk Jankowski took part in strikes which led to the end of communism in 1989 as part of Solidarity movement. He was later suspended from preaching for a year after insulting remarks about Jews. ... Jankowski, who already has a wine branded with his image under the name ‘Monsignore,’ said he would be on the panel for ‘castings’ of waitresses for the 16 cafes he plans to open in major Polish cities." (Yahoo News, 3 July) Wine making? Cafe owners? What about that story about Jesus casting money changers from the temple? On Sunday mornings priests can preach against materialism but capitalism rules the rest of the week.

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU

"Every day in London, an average person is captured on camera 300 times — on a bus or subway, in stores or office buildings, or simply walking on the street. Britain is home to 20% of the world's closed-circuit cameras, according to a report issued last year by the nation's independent Information Commissioners Office. That may make Britons the most closely monitored people in the world. There are 4.2 million such cameras throughout the country, or one for every 14 people." (USA Today, 4 July) Modern Britain is even more closely monitored than dreamt of by Orwell in his dystopia 1984.

CHARITY AS A STATUS SYMBOL

The immense wealth enjoyed by the British capitalist class is well illustrated by their charity donations. "Two tycoons have in the past few days earmarked stupendous sums for charity: hedge fund manager Chris Hohn, a prime mover in the fight to take over ABN Amro, is giving away £230m, and Peter Crudas, the founder of CMC Markets, is donating £100m. ... The rich have complex motivations for their philanthropy; a real desire to do good may be mixed with wallet-waving competition between Masters of the Universe. Some hope to disarm critics who are uneasy at the gap between rich and poor. Others have so much money they genuinely don't know what to do with it." (Observer, 8 July)