ONE blogs – JOHN CALDER – John Calder Man for Monday: PROBLEM #1, EMPLOYMENT

We have a government that does not know what to do and an electorate anxious to vote, but not sure what it wants to vote for. It certainly knows what it wants to vote against. We have an international crisis that is mainly economic, but also a clash of cultures, faiths, nationalistic fervours and class and intellectual differences under which lies a deep and growing fear of what the future holds in store.

The government, and not only in this country, lays all the blame on a global economic downturn for which it refuses to accept any responsibility. It cannot understand why it failed to see what was coming, but any child with a modicum of everyday common sense realised that if you throw a ball in the air it will come down again, that sunrise is followed by sunset and that when your pocket money is gone the shop-keeper who knows you will not give you another chocolate bar. This common wisdom seems to have escaped politicians, newspaper editors, bankers, those looking for a grander life-style, because the Joneses are putting on airs, and most ordinary people.

Gordon Brown’s folly in giving more than our national income to banks and mortgage companies just because they are ‘too big to fail’ without any thought of taking away the responsibility of those who caused the crisis through greed and blindness, and treating them as the administrating receiver of a bankrupt company would do, is inexcusable. It all points to one of the biggest failures of this country, the refusal to develop or maintain an educational system that would allow those with real ability, brains and special talents to rise to the top and be taught to run things properly and honestly without special exaggerated financial rewards, content with the respect that their responsibilities have earned. Instead we have developed an educational system that holds back the brightest for politically correct reasons, and lets those with ambition, but little else to recommend them, to get into positions of power where they hide behind a veil of secrecy that they have devised themselves to cover their shortcomings and general ignorance and incompetence. Those are the people we now have to get out of power and with as little reward as possible. The problem is what the replacement might be.

There is a great danger that fascism is on the way back. It offers a controlled and disciplined society with no more competence, but much surveillance and brutality. Its aim is a non-diversified one-culture non-questioning society where everyone has to think alike and behave alike. We don’t want that, and must be on our guard against it. The difficulty is to find and develop in our mixed society those who are willing to escape their present ghetto, whatever it is, and to develop the necessary skills that can run the country humanely and well, aware of the mistakes of the past and not allowing any individuals or groups to get into a position of power where they cannot be quickly ousted.

This can only be done by imitating the Swiss system of regional democracy, where in small communities whole villages go out to vote, often by show of hands, and frequently. In Switzerland you must vote by law. The central government is small, mainly concerned with international affairs, and the cabinet never exceeds ten. Now that a British constitution is under discussion, we could do worse than look at Switzerland.

We probably have several months to get ready for the next national election, when everyone should vote. What is needed is for national figures to stand up, like Martin Bell and Joanna Lumley, who have proved that an individual can attract trust and a following. Every area must have such people. Let them come forward. Let us look for them.

Finally the Problem Number One, Employment. Forget all the rubbish we hear about green shoots. There is no going back. We are in for a long period of austerity, and the priorities are not to look for a new affluence, but to avoid war, large or small, and to find a way to give everyone paid employment. In Britain the unemployed are now approaching three million. In a year it will probably be over five million. There is only one way forward. Break up the big companies into many small ones. Where they cannot be broken up, nationalise them, with new government-appointed managers at modest salaries. Use the taxation system to ensure that spending power is not differentiated by more than one to fifteen. It does not matter where people live where taxation is concerned. If the money comes from this country and they choose to live in Monte Carlo, make them pay the same tax at source. Control imports to necessities. Stop all takeovers except for nationalisation. Gradually nationalise all companies in this country that are foreign-owned. This will inevitably greatly increase the number of jobs available and wherever possible machines should be replaced by people, who once did those jobs, but were replaced by machines to save money. Forget the profit motive. The aim should be to let things pay for themselves and if possible to do a little better. The profit from what is nationalised should go back to the tax-payer by way of lower prices.

In the meantime there are many people, highly-qualified, for whom there is no way of making a living in sight, and many have come to me for advice in recent months. They must start to band together to share ideas, find gaps to be filled where their knowledge can find an outlet. A convivial society depends on amenity, the enriching of the mind, sharing things, including knowledge and access to the arts, not on profit for the few. We have to start thinking in a new and simpler way, wanting less, putting cooperation in place of competition. New occupations capable of giving a living, but also a pleasanter, if less luxurious life will come into being if we begin to imagine them now. Let’s do it!

John Calder