River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Our Moral Dilemma

January 2014

It is so worrying to see so many young talented people finding it difficult to get work.  Such work as they do get is often poorly paid and sometimes with irregular hours.   Their prospects are made worse by  the current trend for the professions to require interns/trainees to  work unpaid, which excludes all except those with well off parents.  It is clear that there is something seriously wrong with the way in which society is functioning.   It is crazy when some trader in the City can earn several million in a year when, in truth, the work he does probably does not warrant more than £100,000.  If that money were more fairly distributed it could fund many jobs.  Unfortunately the combined effect  of globalisation and unfettered capitalism is creating an ever widening  gap between those that are doing well and the rest, the wealth of the  nation is being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people.   This is not unique to the UK but is the same in most western capitalist societies. The problem was demonstrated to me recently by some data relating to Wal-Mart in the USA.  Wal-Mart wages have been cut steadily in recent years and employees have had no option but to accept, although I believe they have been organising protests.  One employee claimed that his wages had been cut by 25% in two years and that last year he earned $15000 (£9200), the US government poverty line for a family is $23,550 (£14500).   Last year the company Chief Executive, Mike Duke, was paid $20,700,000 (1380 times the low paid employees wage).  Of course he might argue that he has had to cut wages in order to remain competitive, but therein lies the problem, his rival supermarkets will lower their wages to remain competitive and there is the route to a downward spiral.  There is no need for this, if a realistic minimum wage was set all the supermarkets would stop competing by lowering wages.  They could improve their competitiveness by not paying the executives such ridiculous sums.  In the UK taxpayers are subsidising companies that do not pay a living  wage, through tax credits and other benefits, some of that money  indirectly goes to paying the CEO.  Of course it is more difficult when competing in a global market but, surprisingly, those firms that are competing successfully globally are not the firms paying miserly wages. Communism was tried and failed and I think we are now seeing the fallacy  of the Thatcher ideology which believed that capitalism and deregulated  freely competitive markets were the route to prosperity for all.  The UK society was probably at its most equal in the post war years of the 50s and 60s.  Since then the gap between rich and poor has widened, most rapidly in recent years.  If we go on as we are we will get back to the days of the 18th and 19th centuries when a relatively small number of extremely wealthy people owned large estates, were able to build huge houses, fill them with priceless treasures and employ a large number of  servants on menial pay, whilst the rest

worked and grovelled for the crumbs from their master’s table.  In my view it is better to have a more equal society, even if the overall wealth of the nation is less.

The Scandinavian countries seem to have managed there countries rather better.

Whatever we do it is clear that we must not go on as we are.

Ron Watts

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