Collective priorities

Posted: June 28, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

I was conversing with a friend who had recently worked in Belarus: the infamous last vestige of Soviet totalitarianism.

I listened to some intriguing observations about the KGB and full employment, but one particularly stuck in my mind, with my friend observing that in Belarus, the cost of living is incredibly low, but ‘luxuries’ are unaffordable to most. Apparently, the country imposes a stiff import tax on goods in order to afford keeping the country running, meaning things like consumer electronics are out of reach to the lowest paid.

It was after hearing this that I considered my own nation, and quickly came to the conclusion that our culture has reversed this logic. Our cost of living is becoming out of reach of many, whether it be the price of fuel to get around, the ever-rising cost of food and energy, or extortionate rents, yet our consumer electronics remain available at bargain basement prices. Who wants a flat screen tv if you can’t keep the house warm? This farcical arrangement probably explains the oft-attributed cliché that the long-term unemployed “all have flat-screen tvs and iPads”.

This is by no means merely a ‘market-induced’ side-effect: it’s all State-encouraged. Fuel would be very reasonable were it not for the two taxes heaped on it, or even if we had a viable alternative that a responsible government had subsidised to get it off the ground. The railways have ceased to be an affordable alternative since privatisation, despite more being forced to use them. The State, under its Social Democratic guise post-1945 and pre-1979, also sensibly built council homes and controlled rents, serving its people. Now it has basically abolished the two in order to make private landlords and property speculators filthy rich, contributing to an economy formerly built on heavy manufacturing, now built on rentiers and speculators extracting ‘useful’ money for themselves. Energy, an essential utility formerly affordable when run by the State, now exists to milk its consumers for all they are worth, hiving off all profits and hiking costs when any research or extra infrastructure is required. Food and other essentials now have 20% VAT added.

So while we mock dictatorships that have their people oppressed and living in fear, our own Government takes from us to service banks worldwide, while depriving us of the services that tax is collected on the consensus of. Although I’m sure nobody advocates becoming a Soviet dictatorship, the Neoliberals among us could look and learn something about priorities, rather than seeking only to emulate their spying networks.

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