Greed is Good?

Capitalism would call the property baron Nicholas van Hoogstraten a success, if he hadn’t arranged a hand grenade attack on one business rival back in the 60s, or been convicted of the manslaughter of another, for which he was jailed for 10 years in October. Apart from such violence, the likes of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, George W Bush et al have frequently praised and encouraged us to develop Hoogstraten’s other traits: his ruthless competitiveness, his desire to acquire profit, his obsessive love of money, and his hierarchical survival-of-the-fittest view of human life, where rich go-getters are good, and poor tenants renting his flats are worthless “filth”, who deserve to be exploited and abused.

If he hadn’t gone a bit too far, transgressing laws designed to stop the system descending into barbaric chaos, the political servants helping capitalism to run as smoothly and fruitfully as possible would have been holding Hoogstraten up as a role model to be celebrated and emulated along with Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and other “self-made” moneybags of the world.

It is an appalling fact that, without the Hoogstratenisation of society, capitalism would be in dire trouble. Our education system under government control must, and will, Hoogstratenise children, teaching them that competition, entrepreneurship, employment, market forces, profits, personal fortunes and money are all splendid, so that the system is perpetuated by maintaining the thinking and behaviour at its core.

And though other capitalists and their political puppets would now distance themselves from Hoogstraten, the actions of millions of Britons and the imprisoned businessman are much the same. The working class are urged to work hard to get on. Hoogstraten also “worked” hard to get on, buying properties cheaply with sitting tenants, then “winkling them out” (as he put it) in order to sell on for far more with vacant possession. If our income is threatened by possible unemployment, we might be minded to work harder and longer so that if anyone’s sacked, it’ll be someone else. When Hoogstraten’s income was threatened by an imminent fraud trial, he was minded to send in a pair of tooled-up heavies. We want to possess a nice home, so did he–a new £40 million copper-domed pad called Hamilton Palace in East Sussex. We are driven by capitalism (the cause of property crimes) into trying to keep strangers away from our homes by fitting good locks and burglar alarms. Hoogstraten blocked off a footpath that came near his home with barbed wire and big industrial refrigeration units. We are urged to save for our retirement. Hoogstraten has saved some £60 million.

And just as Joe and Jane Public are aware that there are more powerful people who can help or harm their finances, and who have to be sucked up to, like a bank manager, so it was, too, with Hoogstraten, who tried (and failed) to curry favour with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, hoping that extensive land he owned there would escape invasion and seizure by squatters.
Money drives and heavily influences the daily lives of non-wealthy working, unemployed, sick and retired people, as it did Hoogstraten. Was his money mania significantly different from anyone else’s pursuit of this tool of capitalism? Hoogstraten’s fixation with money caused him to tell the jury at his Old Bailey trial “whatever money you have, it’s never enough”. Even after he was found guilty, and told by the judge that he must pay one third of the prosecution’s costs (£120,000), his preoccupation with his monetary worth reared its ugly head again, with the tycoon retorting “and you’re suggesting I’m not the victim, I suppose?”.

Capitalism wants us to believe that by copying people like Hoogstraten (minus bombs and murder), we can go from rags to riches. Just as this multimillionaire landlord began his empire by supposedly selling his stamp collection as a teenager and buying cheap property, you too can acquire great wealth through competition, investment, speculation and exploitation for profit, if you succumb to the brainwashing.

Which brings us to the psychiatric report that the judge requested, and Hoogstraten went along with. The psychiatrist who examined him told the court that Hoogstraten was not mentally ill, but exhibited “narcissistic and paranoid” personality traits. But narcissism, being an exceptional interest in oneself, is a capitalist requirement for making lots of money. You don’t get rich by worrying about how chasing profit may be causing discomfort or upset to others. And paranoia is necessary in business, as a failure to be highly suspicious and wary about the activities of similarly ruthless competitors can bring financial ruin.

Me-first thinking and extreme concern about others getting the better of you are actually necessary personality traits within capitalism, and Hoogstraten had become so heavily influenced by these, and the goal of obtaining ever more money that accompanies them, that in reality he had become mentally disturbed. But his sickness is our sickness. Anger, arguments and violence caused by money are rife in our society, and there have been many other deaths involving poor working class people attacking one another because of it. Capitalism is a sick system that requires mental sickness for it to continue. The cure is socialism.

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