Colin's Cornucopia

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Pigs in the Trough

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Every society achieves its philosophical objectives. The vast majority of people now never think about such a thing. Even the well educated have abandoned objectivity and sold themselves to the hedonistic society created in the west during the twentieth century.

We have now achieved most of our objectives. But what were these objectives?

My first answer is "Do not bother to examine a folly. Ask only what it achieves". What have we achieved?


The first thing that is obvious about the changes that have occurred in the last fifty years is wealth. The per capita wealth of the western nations has increased vastly and many people have become extremely wealthy indeed.

Many philosophers and politicians over the ages have claimed that wealth would cure all society's ills. We have certainly cured some of the ills of the society of the eighteenth century but have replaced them with many others.

The difference now is that whilst former ills were endemic and had beset mankind for millennia, our current ills are the direct result of our unsustainable lifestyle.

The wealth and success of every life form on earth to date - and that is many billions of different species over many billions of years - has always depended upon their ability to exploit other life forms of the biosphere. Man changed that by learning to use fire - and recover energy that no other life form could. Firstly the energy of wood placed us high above any other animal in our ability to harvest the planet. Then the discovery of accumulated stockpiles of coal and oil and gas almost totally released us from our former biotic shackles.

We exploited this gift to the maximum and converted the sources of energy into fabulous wealth. This one-time gift will run out and we shall then be forced to compete with all the other species again to secure our energy supplies. But that story is dealt with elsewhere in these notes.

In nature the development of any and every species is controlled by competition and predation. If a species over-breeds it will encourage predators that will tend to multiply until a balance point is reached. A few species without predators, such as elephants, will multiply until they destroy their habitat and suffer a population crash. The biota then recovers and so does the elephant population. Life is full of such events.

All animals have a means of survival and our prime tool of survival is our brain. To use our brain effectively we need to co-operate and to this end we have invented civilisation. This gives us collective protection and requires conformity to the rules that we call law. The means by which we earn our living within this system is called work and the laws ensure we can retain what we earn with our brains.

We have a criminal law that defines those actions we do not allow and civil law that regulates relations within our work. The laws are made and regulated by governments that are directly elected by a majority of the people. Minorities are entitled to hold and express reasoned opposition but must respect the law. The criminal law is enforced by a regulated police force and criminal courts and the civil law by independent courts of law. The armed forces are controlled by the government and protect us from external threats. The government protects us from the Army and the courts protect us from the government. All in all it works quite well.

This is the way our civilisation has worked for over two hundred years. It is by no means perfect but is a great deal better than the majority of civil organisations on earth.

In order to secure our wealth we had to develop a banking system. It has been a factor of life since the first slime graced a pool in the primeval world that all life lives off other life. We cannot escape that. One of our achievements was to concert our efforts to survive with others of the same species to achieve a multiplier effect. Many other species do this but we have carried it to new highs.

We invented a token of our wealth that we called money which enabled us to secure our wealth in ways not otherwise available. It enabled us to co-operate in ways not previously possible. We thrived and our species expanded rapidly - as did our wealth. To store our wealth we had to have banks. A bank is a secure place where we save our excess production which we can then use to guard us against bad times or fund further production. This is an advantage that no other species has.

The tokens we put in a bank have a multiplier effect and can be used by ourselves or others to secure more production - and more wealth. To this end we devised the Joint Stock Company, which is a device to limit the financial liability of any individual and encourage sensible risks, and then the Stock Market to regulate such companies. The Market has in turn devised a myriad of devices to allow trading in a whole cornucopia of products from turnips to jet engines.

One of the key parts of our civilisation was the protection of our common wealth by a well regulated banking and financial system. This is quite obviously a key requirement of survival. You cannot survive if your produce is continually lost to robbers and thieves. The banking system as we know it originally developed in Britain and was regulated by various Acts of Parliament and the banking system was eventually controlled, essentially, by The Bank of England. The financial system or the Stock Exchange developed alongside. Many other countries developed similar systems almost concurrently.

The system worked reasonably well until the crash of 1928 which resulted in some controversial but effective remedies. After 1945 the system had been further modified and benefited by the sudden availability of a surfeit of oil. The whole thing worked to the apparent benefit of the people of the Western countries and they prospered.

Then West Germany and Japan recovered from the ravages of war as did most of western Europe. America had developed its consumption to the point that it needed to import huge amounts of manufactured goods and Europe soon followed this lead. This lead to the development of container ships that drastically reduced the cost of shipping goods around the world.

By this time many of the Joint Stock Companies had grown so big that they were well beyond the control of any national government. Some of them operated on every continent and every country and could move money, men, machines, data, designs, patents, materials and production wherever it best suited them. It was inevitable that they found it advantageous to their own survival to move production to low cost countries. Many of them had resources greater than the majority of countries.

The companies were now free of legislative control and the industrialised nations that had spawned them had no alternative but to change their laws to accommodate their predatory policies. The companies set up their bases in whatever country offered them the best terms and the Stock Markets co-operated to ensure that funding was available at any time and place.

The world became a truly global market place. But it was controlled by a quite small number of people or their companies. National laws and control ceased to have much meaning. The carefully contrived laws governing the banks and the operations of the Stock market were unpicked with equal care to allow the big companies to do whatever they desired. By this means the power of individual states was rendered to naught and so also the power of the citizens of those nations. The citizens who had controlled their own financial systems for hundreds of years no longer did so.

The newly enfranchised corporate bosses, bankers and financial wizards found themselves in charge of a new manufacturing and money system from which they could skim massive charges. Free from any control, they soon awarded themselves massive salaries and obscene bonuses, pensions and golden parachutes. The politicians who had to collude in this process of change often protested, when challenged, that we need these people or they would go elsewhere and abandon us. They did so anyway.

One of the first, and obvious, consequences of this process has been the destruction of industry in Britain and America. They called them "Smokestack Industries" to attempt to besmirch their character and make their destruction acceptable. But the ploy was to line their own pockets by moving production to low cost countries.

The second consequence was the introduction of Health and Safety laws whose main achievement is to make manufacturing impossible. They then had another excuse to move production to low cost countries that do not have these draconian laws. We suffer the consequences of their actions and pick up the tab in the form of mass unemployment. The entrepreneurs who should be making our country rich are threatened on an hourly basis with being thrown in jail because they are trying to do their jobs. Do you wonder that our economy is in trouble?

One of the features of society in the last twenty years has been the development of mass, permanent unemployment. The country is beset by acres of estates of people whose fathers used to be factory workers but who are now in the third generation who have never known work and never will. Remember, by our definition, Work is the means by which Man secures his survival. These people have no chance of work. They have no means of survival. Do you wonder at the deprivation and social disorder prevalent in our society?

The big companies have kept the mass of the people on their side only by making available to them a cornucopia of consumer goods that has bedazzled them, perverted their senses and sense, and made them believe they have a good life. The vast majority of these goods are simply rubbish. They end up in the bin within days or weeks at most. They are rubbish. Their production is raping the resources of the planet.

After not much more than thirty years of this process the planet is calling in its markers. Global warming threatens many kinds of changes and possible disasters. Over-population threatens but no-one in government gives a damn. All talk of cleaning up the planet but total emissions get daily worse. All the resources of materials and energy are finite but this massive juggernaut runs on as if there were no limits. The ability of the earth to absorb our detritus is also finite.

Now the financial system has itself collapsed. The current position is only temporary. The banks have all collapsed due entirely to their own profligacy and they have dumped the cost on the taxpayers, the very people who ought to be protected by the laws that govern the operation of the financial system. These monsters have wrestled control, operation and profits of the system from the people but have left the consequences firmly on our shoulders. This is obscene. Pigs in the trough.

If you need any confirmation of these matters, just look at the current revelation of the expenses of british Members of Parliament. They have an expense system that makes a pig trough look positively clean. Not only that, but they have made draconian laws to try to protect their system from prying eyes. This is not just a disgrace - it a fundamental abuse of the taxpayers - those who elect them in the first place. It also indicates just how bad the morals of the nation have become when we can elect such people anyway. We should demand mass resignations - not just of ministers , but of all MP's who have participated in this obscenity.

We should also demand the reintroduction of the laws that protect our savings and our industry. The big boys will scream that protection will reduce our standard of living. It will - by their standards - but just where the hell have their standards led us? We really need to re-evaluate where we are going. The problems facing us are massive and we need to be strong and healthy as individuals and as a society to face them.

The first task is to stop the horrible corruption of big business, big money and corporate control of the planet. It isn't working for us. It is working for a very few mega rich individuals who are raping both the planet and us. They really are Pigs in the trough.

Our civilisation had developed the Nation State that had allowed the individual to participate in the politics, or control, of the state and the economic activities by working as a craftsman, shopkeeper, trader or artisan. Men had a stake in society and would fight and act to maintain that state which was mostly for the benefit of all. Men did not generally act in a destructive manner because they would harm their own interests.

Now individuals cannot operate except as lackeys of a big corporation. They must toe the corporate line and their efforts are directed to enhance the lives of the mega rich, not their own. They will remain lackeys for ever, there being no way they can participate other than as compliant slaves. We all felt we were slaves to society - and we were. But at least we had some control over the structure of that society. Now we have none. The shape of society is decided elsewhere.

Do you wonder why millions ogle idiots demanding that they are celebrities? In and age without morals or competence any stupid idiot can demand anything and be believed. Do you wonder why today's musicians shout unintelligible nonsense at audiences who pretend they like it? Without their flashing lights, stage management and technical enhancements most modern performers could not attract the attention of even an idiot for more than the attention spans of the frightful spawn of our schools.

We have chosen the Lowest Common Denominator for our aspirations and we are rapidly achieving that. We see the bank managers with their snouts in the trough and the politicians whom we thought were running our country troughing alongside. Why should we have aspirations to be good when the rest of the world is devouring our cash and our inheritance?

We have abandoned philosophy in an endless hedonistic quest for things that we are persuaded will make us feel happy. They, of course, do not and so we continue an aimless existence trapped in this tarted up enticing trap of promised wealth and beauty and implied sex.

If you want to understand what is going on then turn off the television and radio for ten weeks. Don't buy a newspaper and rely on your friends and family for news. See just what it is that drives them. Don't cheat by peeping on the internet. Just learn to live by yourself and find out just what you want and what are your values. Stop caving in to insidious peer pressure and learn to evaluate news stories for yourself and in accordance with objective standards. If you don't have any or don't understand, then search this site assiduously. You will find a lot of good guidance to get you started. But you must want to take control of your life again. And you will not do that while the world is ruled by pigs in the trough. They must go - and only you can get rid of them.

Colin Walker

17th May 2009

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