Voice From the Back
When Margaret Beckett
took on responsibility for science as trade and industry secretary after the 1997 general election, there were hints that the government’s priorities for science would change. Beckett suggested that improving the quality of life was just as important a goal for science as creating wealth. But over the last four years, the potential financial benefits of science—and in particular the creation of high tech spin-off companies based on new scientific discoveries—have dominated government science policy . . . The £1bn unveiled last month for science facilities by chancellor Gordon Brown signals his continuing interest in the financial benefits of science. Guardian Science, 20 July.
The inadequacies of the NHS are well known.
How awful the position has become is illustrated by the journalist Katie Grant. In praise of private medical care she inadvertently blows the whistle on capitalism: “Thirty percent of all hip replacements and 20 percent of all heart surgery is done privately. A million people are treated in private hospitals each year . . . Private insurance does not make you a parasite. Quite simply, it offers you the best hope of staying alive” (Times, 15 July). And if you can’t afford private insurance?
It is criminal!
The annual cost of crime in Britain is £60 billion—more than £1,000 a year for every man, woman and child in the country . . . The figure . . . is the result of a four-year study by the leading American economist David Anderson, whose paper “The Aggregate Burden of Crime” was recently published in the Journal of Law and Economics . . . “Society will never rid itself of crime,” says Anderson, “but when you take into consideration the resources that could be conserved or reallocated in a crime-free society, the costs are absolutely staggering.” Observer, 23 April. Quite so! But socialist society will be free of property crime because we shall all own the wealth and have free access to it. The basic cause of such crimes will have gone.
We’ve been sacked, fired, made redundant, become supernumerary, down-sized and terminated. As members of the working class we are used to the various terms for being unemployed. But the recent demise of the internet company Boo.com revealed yet another euphemism to disguise our wage slavery: “What is certain, however, is that after the world’s biggest on-line fashion retailer went bust, 300 young people who had previously thought of themselves as role models for a generation of dot.dom entrepreneurs were out of work. In the lingo of the New Economy, they were not so much unemployed as unplugged” (Times, 14 June)
It is not often that Socialists come across a letter that they can completely agree with, so have pleasure in the following published in Radio Times (29 July-4 August):
“Money makes the world go round, according to Polly Toynbee. Before money, she asserts, human life scarcely rose above the animal level, with no scope for thought or creativity. Are we to take it that she has never seen any native American or Australian aboriginal art, wonderful cultural creations form societies without money?
As to the future, she tells us that human nature is just too fallible for us to match our production to human need without money to mediate the process. Even in today’s capitalist society, moist people feel that certain things are too important, too personal, to be bought and sold—sexual relations, for instance, and human organs for transport.
In future, people may come to feel that selling our time, skill and effort to an employer for a wage or salary is an unacceptable loss of our freedom and humanity.”
Bill Gates is reported to be worth $65 billion. As befits a man of such tremendous wealth he has a house that cost $50 million: “As a rich man’s folly it equals William Randolph Hearst’s San Simeon Castle in California, for which the press baron ransacked Europe for antiques. His Shangri-La is all high tech, stuffed with electronic gadgetry. It is mostly buried beneath landscaping, with a 60ft pool, dining for 100, an underground garage for 20 cars, 45 rooms, and electronically controlled music and lighting in guest rooms directed by a pin in the visitor’s clothing. Lights come on automatically as a person moves around, but can be switched on and off manually (so it can be done). It is so massive that neighbours call it Gates convention hall” Herald, (15 July). What future generations in a socialist society will make of such ostentatious wealth contrasted, as it is, with the plight of thousands of homeless in the USA, can only be wondered at.
Freedom of choice
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