The Moral Inversion in Europe

by Mrs. Sabraw

Using the negative to express the positive has been around for more than twenty years.

Hey, Mrs. Sabraw, that book you assigned, you know, the Winter of our Discontent, well, that book is so bad.

 Gosh, I’m so glad you liked it, Dexter, I thought it was an excellent example of moral inversion.

Even within the last year, a younger thirty-ish person paid me one of the highest compliments I’ve received in many months.

Hey Cheri, I can’t believe you nailed down a part time job at the GSB; you are indeed a bad ass.

Gee, thanks Fred. I’m flattered.

 Steinbeck tells the story of a good man, Ethan Allen Hawley, a grocery clerk, whose circumstances in life tempt him to do things that he knows are wrong.

And funny, by the time the reader has swum around in Hawley’s mind, listening to the carping of his dissatisfied wife, accompanying him to his lousy little job where the canned goods talk to him, and watching his wormy son Allen, who plagiarizes his I Love America essay, repudiate the wrongness of the act, we find ourselves rooting for Ethan to rob a bank, have an affair, take a bribe, and turn his illegal-immigrant boss in to the authorities.

When the bad becomes good and the good becomes bad—we call that a moral inversion, because, in fact, we are cheering on the bad in the name of the good.

(Think of the 20,000 people who attended Bonnie Parker’s funeral in 1934, my grandmother, one of them…) We do this because of our own circumstances or our own personal history.

We are oppressed. We have been used. We are the wrong sex. We are the wrong nationality. We have been occupied. We have been gassed. We have been dominated.

Such an inversion is occurring in Europe right now.

The morning news tells of a vilified Angela Merkel and a vilified German working public, of a country that wants to dominate the southern European countries of Spain, Italy, and Greece—all countries whose social programs are top heavy and whose working class resents working.

So, working hard and saving money, what a population must do to stay solvent, is bad.

Paying back debts, or at least showing good faith with reasonable payments, is bad.

Leaders that lead countries that are doing such (or trying to, at least) are bad.

Or are they good?

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About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
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55 Responses to The Moral Inversion in Europe

  1. Christopher says:

    I, myself, have recently finished reading “The Winter of our Discontent”.

    I didn’t, however, like it particularly. No doubt I had been spoiled by “The Grapes of Wrath”, “East of Eden”, “Cannery Row”, “Of Mice and Men” and “The Pearl”.

    Yes, yes, yes, I think I did understand the subversive moral of “The Winter of Our Discontent”. But any satisfaction I may have got out of understanding this, was vitiated by my finding irritating, Ethan Hawley’s habit of always calling his wife by those silly names.

    This must have driven the unfortunate Mary up the wall, although Steinbeck didn’t say this in the novel. Could Steinbeck himself have called his wives silly names, but could see nothing wrong in it?

    Anyway, I suggest that Mary’s dissatisfaction with Ethan, came more out of suppressed anger at being called these silly names, than from any resentment at Ethan’s being a mere grocery clerk.

    I have to say, though, that nothing in “The Winter of Our Discontent” caused me to think, even once, about Greece!!

  2. Richard says:

    The juxtaposition of opposites and ambivalence towards them is the essence of creation, pervades our inner selves and the world at large. Without it there is no matter, no will, no choice, no morals. It is permanent and insoluble.yet the whole of life is the search for resolution. The greater the uncertainty, the more the mask of certainty, the closer the union, the stronger the force of destruction.

  3. T E Stazyk says:

    Interesting post! But I’m not sure that vilification of Angela Merkel is moral inversion because I’m not sure that the Greece issue hinges on whether the Greek people want to work and/or save. And even if it were, there is a human cost to the decisions being made. The most thought provoking observation I’ve heard is that one of the reasons that Germany is in the position they are today is that its debts were forgiven at the end of WWII.

    • Richard says:

      The debts forgiven in 1953, on terms, derived from the swingeing reparations imposed at the insistence of France in the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, and which, after WWII, Germany had decided to repay.

      • Christopher says:

        “……..debts………..which, after WWII, Germany had decided to repay……”

        These repayments were tied to Germany’s trade surpluses, which, in the 1950’s and 1960’s were huge. So Germany was easily able to pay off any debt its creditors hadn’t already forgiven.

        The situation in Greece today is drastically different.

        • Richard says:

          True, but those trade surpluses arose from effort and good management.

          • T E Stazyk says:

            Agree. Maybe the question is ‘who paid for the Marshall Plan?’

          • Christopher says:

            I was waiting for that!!

            Germany’s trade surpluses also arose (and still do) out of the other EU countries (including Greece) buying German goods. So, to the extent that Germany has trade surpluses, Germany’s customers (who are mostly the other EU members, including Greece), have trade deficits.

            Hence, if the other EU countries exported more and imported less, Germany’s trade surpluses would be much less, and might even shrink to nothing.

            In the matter of German debt after World War 2, I need hardly remind you that, since the repayment of these debts was set at 3% of trade surpluses – so that, absent trade surpluses, no debt would be repaid – Germany’s creditors had to buy German goods in order to be repaid, because these creditors had a self-interest that Germany’s economy flourished. This had the effect of boosting German exports even more.

  4. Christopher says:

    Thomas’s comment reminded me that there’s a branch in Philosophy, called Situation (or Situational) Ethics, whereby any action, regardless of how immoral it may appear at first sight, should always be judged in the light of all the factors that went into the decision that led to that action.

    In a word, “context”.

  5. Richard says:

    Following Christopher’s comment I read the Wkipedia entry on Situational Ethics and noted the distinguished philosophers and theologians among its proponents. I noted also how the principles are regarded as in opposition to legalistic notions of fairness and justice.

    The idea is a familiar one and I remember listening to Christian sermons as to the nature of love, or agape, which prevails over all things. The association with Christian teachings, I also noted from the article, is controversial, but I expect love will find an answer to that also.

    As the Common Law developed, it was recognised that its rigours could operate against fairness and justice. The law of equity thus came into being. Fairness and justice were to prevail over the law. In the course of time, in the 14th or 15th century, the principle was officially recognised and came under the jurisdiction of the Lord Chancellor. The irony is that Equity now embraces a complex body of rules which form part of the law.

    The Common Law, for its own part, developed the law of negligence in the well-known case of Donoghue v Stevenson of 1932, a case originating in Scotland but absorbed into the Common Law because the final decision was a majority one in the House of Lords. It established a legal duty not to do or refrain from doing anything which you can reasonably foresee will harm your neighbour. Lord Atkin set out, somewhat tautologically, who is to be regarded as a neighbour. The principles are taken directly from biblical accounts of answers given by Jesus to a trick question about the greatest of the commandments. After the House of Lords decision there followed individual cases interpreting the meaning of the principles under different circumstances.

    The distinguishing of cases according to the individual facts is a clear principle of the law of precedent.

    In jurisprudence, one talks of Natural Law as forming or not forming the basis of established laws.

    Note, then, the perpetual tension between opposites and the richness of undestanding that that tension bestows. In this lies the virtue of adversarial systems.

    • Christopher says:

      In your comment about Situation Ethics and the Law, you made references to Christianity, Jesus, and the Bible.

      This was appropriate, because the Law codifies conduct appropriate to the values of the civilisation underpinning the Law. And the British Law of which you spoke, is underpinned (or has as its foundation) western civilisation, whose foundation in turn is Christianity.

      Since Jesus Christ was the founder of Christianity, and since the Greek crisis is what we’ve been talking about these last days, it might be appropriate for us to consider what Christ would think if He should suddenly materialise, and witness what’s now happening between Greece and its creditors.

      What would this Christ think? The Christ who said, “Blessed are the merciful”, “Blessed are the meek”, “Whatever you did unto the least of these you did unto me”, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”, “If you will be perfect, go and sell what you have, and give to the poor”, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven”.

      Things like that.

      Whose side would Christ be on? Would He be on the side of the Bansksters? – the men whose avarice is exceeded only by their grossness; the men who are the de facto rulers of the Eurozone; the men who have driven Greece into the ground.

      Or would Christ be on the side of the people of Greece? – whose faces are being rubbed in the dirt, and are otherwise being humiliated, by the Banksters through the agency of their lickspittles, the current leaders of the Eurozone.

      I think we know whose side Christ would be on.

      • Richard says:

        Theology and politics do not mix because Jesus addresses the individual conscience and questions of personal conduct. “You hypocrite,” he said, according to Matthew’s gospel “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

        We are not to judge, lest we be judged. This leaves open the question of moral inversion.

        For my part, I do not know whose side he would have taken in the Greek crisis. Mark 12:17 says this:

        “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.”

        Ultimately, we cannot tell who will be “saved”. Perhaps we shall all be “saved”. Some Christians say all that is required is to be a Christian, which seems a bit harsh.

        Then there is the parable of the talents. I quote Matthew25:14-30

        “14 For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[a] and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents,[b] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

        In his advice to the rich man you quote, Christopher, to sell all he had and give it to the poor in order to attain the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus added, ” … and follow me.” If I were a rich Greek pensioner, I certainly would not do that.

        I, myself, hesitate to use religious sayings in order to justify my political prejudices. All the same, you could be right! 🙂

      • Richard says:

        I have developed my thinking on theology and politics, thanks to cyberquill.com in his post The Pope as Climatlogist, and must record an important modification in the terms I use here.

        Theology is not belief. In arriving at belief we are free to judge the credibility of a theological point according to our individual consciences.

        Those who say we must accept the Bible as the word of God and immutable thus make what amounts to a pseudo political point and imply coercion.

        I am still agonising about this, though. In my view, coercion has no place in theology, whether in relation to belief or otherwise. But I am hoist by my own petard in that I make what is, in effect, a pseudo-political point.

        • Cyberquill says:

          Delighted to have inadvertently assisted in developing someone’s thinking, although I cannot quite locate the part where, as you now seem to imply, equated theology with belief. But then again, this entire discussion here hovers about an inch and a half above my pay grade. I was able to follow as far as “bad ass” until it all began to sound quite Greek to me.

          That said, what’s with “The Pope as Climatlogist”? A few more whisper-down-the-lane iterations of my headline, and it’ll read Paul Ate Coleslaw.

        • Christopher says:

          Unlike the Republican presidential wannabes (possibly excepting Donald Trump, who, I must say, I’m starting to like more and more) who all say the Pope has no business sticking his nose into the debate over the environment and Global Warming because this is sticking his nose into politics, I say that the Pope was almost duty-bound to speak out about this supremely important issue.

          However, what the Pope didn’t say in his environmental Encyclical, is what interests me most. He didn’t say anything about population increase as being a major – nay, arguably, the most important – cause of environmental despoliation and the consequential Global Warming.

          This was like going on and on about how wicked divorce is, but not saying anything about marriage as being the most important cause of divorce.

          • Cyberquill says:

            The pope warning against too much human life? That’ll be the day. Let’s just give him props for saying what he can say without getting fired and excommunicated.

            • Christopher says:

              “……..The pope warning against too much human life? That’ll be the day……”

              On the assumption that you’re referring tacitly to birth control, I’ll remind you that birth control – albeit restricted to sexual abstinence or the rhythm-method – is acceptable to the Vatican.

              Hence the Pope – as the numero uno in the Vatican – would accept, at least tacitly, that there can be too much human life.

              All the more pity, then, that he didn’t dwell on this issue in his environmental Encyclical.

      • Richard says:

        With regard to the parable of the talents, Christopher, in 2014, Greece shipped $US35.5 billion worth of goods around the world, up by 63% since 2010.

        Turkey takes 12.3% of Greek exports, then comes Germany at 6.6%, UK 3.6% and US 3.1%.

        I have no idea how to interpret this figures properly, nor do I have similar data for imports. All the same, the Greek people haven’t exactly been idle.

        This points to mismanagement at government level: borrowing more for socialist projects without an eye to profit, which ultimately foots the bill.

        [See http://www.worldsrichestcountries.com/top_greece_exports.html which also lists the types of goods exported.]

        • Christopher says:

          “……….This points to mismanagement at government level: borrowing more for socialist projects without an eye to profit, which ultimately foots the bill……….”

          Actually, this points to the application of the dogma of Austerity, which – as anyone who hasn’t had a frontal lobotomy knows – dampens demand for goods and services, which in turn puts people out of work and freezes the economy, sometimes even causing it to contract, as has happened in Greece.

          • Richard says:

            You could be right, Christopher – about my frontal lobotomy, I mean – it’s just that I don’t remember it.

            Nobody doubts that more true money creates more economic activity. What, though, if it is merely recycled without value being added?

            A handout to a lobotomised retiree, the beneficiary of socialist sentimentality, produces no economic activity until he sends someone out for a dozen cream buns, and then economic growth ceases, since he adds no value to the cream buns. The baker, on the other hand, slaves in his bakery from the early morning, takes his buns to market and competes for buyers. He sells sells to workers who then have energy to add value in their trade. Part of his profit he spends to good purpose for he has acquired it by the sweat of his brow, the rest he either tucks away for a rainy day, ploughs it back into baking or other enterprises or hands it to the government to recycle with ever diminishing returns.

            It is not just spending Mr Keynes’s money that counts, but how it is spent. It is better spent in the market place, by and large, than by governments. There are exceptions.

            The model of the Great Depression is obsolete.

            • T E Stazyk says:

              Richard could you share your proof that the model of the Great Depression is obsolete? I don’t follow the reasoning.

              • Richard says:

                I have an opinion only, Tom, not a proof, since I have not laid out any axioms. Proofs do no more than process assumptions that were cherry-picked for consistency in the first place. That is especially so in economics where the assumptions are not drawn from observations of Nature but from interpretations of human activity, heavily laden with opinion in the first place.

                The “Great Depression” was the result of a near total collapse of markets which meant that economic activity virtually ceased and starvation, despair and social breakdown ensued on an ever-increasing scale.There was no welfare state to speak of and little money in general circulation amongst true wealth producers.

                The markets collapsed because of capitalist greed and a delusion that making money out of money creates wealth.

                Mercifully, artificial government money was applied to well-chosen projects that revived the markets. That was a one-off, assisted by the demands of subsequent wartime activity and was no replacement for the market itself.

                In the developed world the current economic conditions are different. There are vibrant markets – see the above figures for Greek exports – and sophisticated welfare states paid for by those markets. Excessive state intervention, either by over-regulation, inordinate taxation or the introduction of false money can only stifle those markets in the same way that capitalists did before and still do: both interfere with the democratic assessment of the worth of work done that takes place all the time in the market-place.

                One of the questions for our time is how to stimulate vibrant markets in the under-developed world by means of judicious foreign aid and investment (do not confuse those terms) and proper use of natural resources accompanied by the creation of welfare states, measured according to what those markets can sustain.

            • Christopher says:

              In the world of today, where – courtesy of the internet – we have access to knowledge undreamed of by our forefathers, I often wonder how some people today can still insist the earth is flat.

              Now, I think I know!!!

              • T E Stazyk says:

                Thank you Richard, but in the impossible to resolve world of blog comment conversations, you have, to me, “proved” that the Great Depression model is with us. The GFC was, as you say the Depression was, caused by “capitalist greed and the delusion that making money out of money creates wealth.”
                The problem is that making money out of money does create wealth, but not for an economy only the people who hold the money. Further, the Depression was the result of a global shift in the economic base from agriculture to manufacturing–and there is abundant evidence that the current downturn is the result of a global shift in the economic base from manufacturing to services/technology. These things create discontinuities which catch up governments, businesses and people.
                The Depression ended because of massive public works (which are among the first things that contemporary austerity puts a stop to) and of course the military spend for WWII. When WWII ended the US and England had some of the highest marginal tax rates in history (the US kept them until the 1980s.) During that period the US economy grew incredibly and the highways and health care system and space program were all built. Today marginal tax rates are at an all time low, capital is moving out of the markets and into private hands and the depression model is well entrenched.

              • Richard says:

                Thank you for trying to explain all this to me, Tom. Might I try your patience further and ask you to show why a shift in the division of labour causes recession?

                I am not persuaded that making money out of money creates wealth. Is it not truer to say that it transfers wealth from the creators to non-creators? I do nothing to produce the wealth that feeds my dividends, nor that which provides the proceeds of my property. My contribution, if any, is historical (save to the extent of my special circumstances, which I cannot elucidate here). Our respective positions here are hard to disentangle, but I think we are in broad agreement, save for the effect of taxation. That turns upon what view you take as to who is best qualified to direct capital to facilitate growth. That is why I found it necessary to assert that the model of the Great Depression is obsolete, and to suggest other reasons why that might be the case.

                The effect of inflation as a distortion of the market is another factor we have not discussed nor the mechanism it provides to eliminate deficit.

                A small point. By “proof” I assume you mean “logical proof”. I have proved nothing. Logic cannot operate without axioms and I have set none down, as I have already indicated. My conclusions are opinions and fully assailable, as, may I suggest, are yours.

              • Richard says:

                A flatearther? You are too hard on yourself, Christopher. 🙂

  6. Christopher says:

    In the light of sentiments expressed during our informative and lively exchanges over the last few days, that if you don’t pay your debts in full, you are a thief, and therefore wicked, I read with interest *this piece*, that included the following:

    “…..The laws of bankruptcy were invented by the Victorians not to stick plaster over capitalism’s wounds. Insolvency and limited liability lay at the core of commercial enterprise. Borrower and lender alike had to accept risk for capitalism……..”

    Arresting points, we’ll surely agree.

    No doubt the phenomena of insolvency and limited liability were put in place because, absent them, fewer people would take risks to start businesses, since the financial consequences of failure would be too great.

    Hence under capitalism, the rules concerning debt, borrowing, lending, bankruptcy and all of that, are there solely to facilitate the dynamism of capitalism, and don’t therefore constitute a morality play.

  7. Richard says:

    No! No! Christopher – you misquote. Please re-read the discussion. It was only you who suggested that you are a thief if you cannot pay your debts. I said it was one degree below theft intentionally to default. I subsequently proposed four degrees of default, from misfortune to an intention prior to borrowing never to repay. The first required sympathy and indulgence. It was only the last of those that I suggested might fairly be regarded as theft.

    Let us now examine to what extent the Greek financial situation may be likened to business.

    In England and Wales, insolvency, a pre-requisite of bankruptcy, is a separate question from limited liability.

    Insolvency is an inability to pay your debts as they arise. A petition for bankruptcy may be filed by the debtor or a creditor. The effect is to hand over the bankrupt’s affairs to the supervision of the Court operating through a trustee. Sanctions apply to the bankrupt who, apart from certain minor exceptions, loses the capacity to manage his financial affairs and regains them only over a period after discharge. Discharge occurs after the bankrupt’s assets are realised and distributed among his creditors. None of these consequences can apply to a state and in any eventuality would be unacceptable to the Greek government.

    Similar considerations apply to limited liability company receivership, which usually ends in the company ceasing to exist. A shareholder will not have to stump up more than his original investment, which seems fair.

    In both cases, the way a creditor protects himself is to take security. The owner of a small company, particularly at start-up, frequently has to offer his home as security before a bank will lend him money.

    It is thus far-fetched to compare Greek default to business default.

    Under New Labour, the sanctions against bankrupts were eased and remedies short of bankruptcy given more teeth. These measures were taken to encourage enterprise and risk-taking, the central mantras of capitalism, and to enable the insolvent to make a fresh start. If Greece wants to repudiate its borrowing and start afresh, it should leave the Euro, as Simon Jenkin in the Guardian link suggests, and revert to the Drachma, which can then find its true level in international markets. The losers will be its creditors. Such would be the opportunities that the winners could be the Greek industrious and self-reliant. With luck, there might be a surge of energy, bringing about recovery sooner and with less pain than forecast. It is impossible, in any event, that the conscience of Europe at large will allow Greece to disintegrate or its citizens to descend to starvation and homelessness.

    • Richard says:

      in fairness to you, Christopher, I should quote you exactly lest my comment gives a wrong impression.

      You said …. “By ‘intentional default’ do you mean where a borrower can’t pay back all that he’s borrowed because he’s bankrupt? Mmmm……..to call such an unfortunate, a thief…….”

      You do, however, innocently misinterpret what I said.

      We’ll have no moral inversion here! 🙂

      • Christopher says:

        My original comment (the one you quoted) was in the form of a question, and in the form of a “what if”. It wasn’t a statement of fact.

  8. wkkortas says:

    I read the Steinbeck novel in question some eight months ago, and I would agree with your Dexter–I found it borderline unreadable. As a non-European, I won’t wade in too deeply into the rights and wrongs of Greek foibles, save to wonder if, perhaps, the whole notion of the EU isn’t a bit of a Cold War relic.

  9. shoreacres says:

    I’ve not heard the phrase “moral inversion,” but it did put me in mind of a change that began even before situational ethics became “the thing.” It was called relativism, and as it was presented to us, c. 1970, its basic tenet was simple: nothing is better or worse than anything else.

    Now, with a few decades of this behind us, we’ve come to the point where relativism has been joined with an emphasis on “intent,” and we get hashtag diplomacy as a result. Sound policy? #Bringbackourgirls is good enough, especially if you write it with crayola to prove sincerity and get creative with your selfie.

    Work, responsibilty, accountability, honesty. Those are for grownups, and we are increasingly a nation of children.

    • Cheri says:

      I could not have said it better; in fact, in just two short paragraphs you have nailed it. I observed a number of adult children in Greece and recently, in Italy. All we have, as a friend told me in an email in response to this post, is “our narrative.” He went on to question whether we can always trust our narrative. Interesting perspective.

  10. Richard says:

    Might not your students simply be using evolving auto-antonyms? I cannot imagine anyone under your wing doing anything remotely morally reprehensible.

  11. Christopher says:

    In the matter of the exchange between Thomas and Richard, I have some thoughts.

    Does making money out of money create wealth?

    Well, of course it does. The money you make out of money, is money you go out and buy stuff with. And the more money you make out of money, the more stuff you’ll go out and buy.

    And the more stuff you buy, the more stuff will be produced, so that you can buy yet more stuff. And the more that stuff is produced, the more workers are needed to produce and sell it.

    Sentiments were expressed, I think by Richard, that, in so many words, Socialism is a bad thing. So that the less Socialism there is, the better it is for everyone.

    On the assumption that there was a hell of a lot more Socialism after the Great Depression and World War Two than before, this Socialism created a huge expansion of the middle class in lands like America, Britain and others, so that they transformed into predominantly middle class societies after World War Two.

    One of the many good things that came out of post World War Two Socialism, was – thanks to the GI Bill – lots and lots of schools and universities.

    The irony is that arguably most of those who, today, shout from their soapboxes, and bloviate from blogging sites, that Socialism is a bad thing and must be got rid of, were themselves the beneficiaries of Socialism (in the form of the Welfare state) – the state that built the schools and universities from which these soapbox-shouters and blogging-bloviators had graduated with advanced degrees, so that they could lead comfortable middle-class lives.

    • “……….Does making money out of money create wealth?

      Well, of course it does. The money you make out of money, is money you go out and buy stuff with. And the more money you make out of money, the more stuff you’ll go out and buy ……………”

      Expressions such as “surely” or “of course” serve as warnings to think a little more deeply, not only to the person to whom they are addressed but also to the person using them, Christopher.

      Consider this hypothetical case. A retired solicitor inherits a little money from his parents and has a minor flutter on the stock exchange. To his delight, he receives by way of dividend a cheque from the company named on his on his share certificate for a sum of money not to be sniffed at. He is delighted because hitherto he has only received money of this order by white-knuckling on his pen. He is not even fazed when he learns that the taxman has taken a sizeable chunk of it. Imagine again his joy when the bank statement comes through and he sees a credit from the taxman’s colleague in the Department of Work and Pensions for his state pension, an amount at least equal to the tax on the dividend. He does not pause to consider the tax he pays on the pension.

      The solicitor has done nothing for anyone else and yet has been rewarded. He has produced no wealth, engaged in no economic activity nor contributed to GDP, whatever may be called, and yet he congratulates himself for making money out of money and paying his taxes.

      It is true that he catches a bus on his free bus pass, alights at the bank, pays in his cheque, comes away with a little cash, turns into the coffee shop, celebrates with a piece of cake and an Americano and catches the bus back home. He has received goods or services from the bus driver, the teller at the bank, the baker and the baristas, all of whom have sold their skills and wares in the market at a price that was acceptable to our lawyer friend and thus contributed to the common good by working for others and were suitably rewarded.

      This little tale shows that whilst our hero has made money out of money, he has created no growth with it and has been of no use to the economy at all. Indeed, he has been a burden to it. Had all the money circulated in the market, and functioned only as reward for work done, only then could it be said to have created wealth. But such is socialism.

      • Christopher says:

        Whether the money you get is via wages or dividends (money out of money) doesn’t matter. It represents wealth because you can spend it and invest it, and you are required to pay taxes on it (that the government then spends).

        Your money (wealth) by circulating further through the economy, expands it (the economy) through the “multiplier effect”, and so creates more wealth.

        So, does making money out of money create wealth? Of course it does.

    • Richard says:

      Socialism is only state capitalism.

      Private capitalism has these virtues:
      1 Payments are limited to a sustainable proportion of the profits of work done. State capitalism has no need of profit and bleeds the life-blood of the market, ultimately to extinction.
      2 It does not enforce charity. A wealth producer freely donates to the capitalist, albeit as a result of financial constraints and he might free himself from his obligations by working more. Taxation for social projects ill-conceived by socialist sentimentality is enforced charity and the beneficiary has no need to work at all.
      3 The circulation of money for no work reduces what can workers can buy with that money – dubbed “inflation”. This helps the worker to reduce his obligations to the capitalist. State capitalists reduce what workers can buy without providing compensation.

      Private capitalism’s vices are slavery, exploitation and fraud. These are regulated by conscience and in extreme cases by law. State capitalism has all those vices and uses the law to promote and extend them. As for conscience, socialism is no friend of the poor and needy, its elite basks in self-appointed acclaim and luxury and by distributing the rewards of workers to its clients ultimately strangles the market, that only free and democratic forum for wealth production, the maintenance of human dignity and the relief of suffering.

      But things are not black and white. There is a place for socialist welfare to fill glaring gaps left by the market and for social reforms (most striking when by virtuous private capitalists with a social conscience) to eliminate excesses such as those of the Coliseum, but not at such inordinate expense of wealth-producing workers that those benefactors cease to function.

    • Richard says:

      May i invite you to read this, Christopher, a description of the corrosive effect of left-wing socialism for which Keynesians, Neo-Keynesians and social democrats are unwitting apologists:

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/11762773/Ive-lived-under-Jeremy-Corbyns-rule-it-turned-me-into-a-Tory.html

      • Christopher says:

        Knowing nothing about the article’s writer or the man who is the subject of the article, I can’t comment on the content.

        I did note what the man who is the subject of the article, is alleged to believe, which supposedly is:

        “……spending cuts should be slowed down……..is strongly opposed to privatisation, academy schools, the increase in tuition fees and the Trident nuclear deterrent. He was also opposed to the UK’s involvement in the Iraq War…….”

        Most of it quite sensible in my view………

        • Richard says:

          Janet Daley was an adherent of the far left, but is now a Conservative. She is a respected political commentator. Corbyn is a Bennite candidate for the Labour leadership, tipped to win because, it is said, his supporters have hijacked the party. MPs who nominated him for a “debate” now regard themselves as “morons” and say they will not vote for him. It is questionable whether he will have the support of a majority of Labour MPs. His associations with anti-semites and terrorists has caused concern in some quarters. If he becomes leader, some say, Labour will be unelectable.

          Perhaps now you can comment on the content.

          I know you are conservative in your views, Christopher. 🙂

          • Christopher says:

            “………I know you are conservative in your views…….”

            Well, I used to be conservative – when young, when I spoke as a child, and understood as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things.

            You spoke of Mr Corbyn as having been associated with ““…..anti-semites and terrorists…..”. Since the terms “anti-semites” and “terrorists”, can mean different things to different people, I won’t rise to your bait.

            You also spoke of Mr Corbyn as being a Bennite. I’ll assume you mean he was a follower of the late Anthony Wedgewood Benn.

            Because being a “Bennite” can mean, again, different things to different people, I won’t comment on this, except to say that what little I know of what Lord Benn said, I always liked.

            • Richard says:

              Equivocation is a failing of the unwitting apologist. “I’ve not eaten anything,” claims the child with chocolate round his mouth. He is a clever and likeable child and you have to hold back a smile for his own good.

              • Christopher says:

                Whatever Mr Corbyn is, or isn’t, he’s no Donald Trump!!

              • Richard says:

                Do you speak of the unequivocally unacceptable face of capitalism?

                In passing, note that it was held by the House of Lords in 1999 that the marital exemption was never part of English Law, the error dating back as far as 1736.

  12. Cheri says:

    No, sorry, Christopher, I am not a beneficiary of socialism.

    As a proud bloviator against socialism and communism, I recognize the residue from governmental programs.

    Interesting that you use education as your example. Thanks to socialism, we have American education hijacked by the unions. One only needs to look at our dismal statistics in math, science, and reading to know that had American education been more capitalistic than socialistic, we might have a vibrant competitive system instead of one packed with lackluster teachers who can’t write themselves and have job security for life.

    There are pockets of educational excellence in every city and every state but most of them are not associated with public education.

    However, I may not have had this view had I stayed in Public Education. Not until I opened a small business did I recognize how Big Brother flattens creativity while stealing more money from taxpayers to fund more programs.

    All of the waste, lethargy, negativity, and apathy that we see in many junior highs, high schools, and public universities today continues to pile up because paychecks arrive every month without any accountability attached to them.

    Thank you for your comments to my bloviating blog. 🙂

    • Christopher says:

      I put it to you that the shortcomings in Public Education in the USA are more a reflection of the state of American society than of anything else. This includes American values.

      There are many countries in which Public Education does a good job, just as there are arguably many other countries (including, it would seem, the USA) in which Public Education doesn’t do a good job,

      I’m sure you’ll concede that, if every child is to have a shot at being well educated, Public Education is the only way to go. I just don’t think the private sector can educate every child.

      Indeed, private schools do, invariably, educate their pupils (students) better than do public sector schools. But enrollment at private schools is always limited, with their pupils (students) usually scions of the Wealthy.

      The Czars of Public Education in the USA might do worse than look at countries where Public Education does a good job, and copy what they do.

      • Cheri says:

        No. Not true.

        Privatizing public education in the form of vouchers and/or charter schools (there is one in East Palo Alto) is the way that all children might secure a worthy education. The current system is broken but the Democrats continue to have their collars yanked by the union bosses holding the leashes. There isn’t a Democrat alive who would buck that type of monetary support. In California, the teachers’ unions, along with the court reporters and interpreters’ unions, are the most powerful in the state.

        And of course I agree with you (having had at least 25 foreign exchange students in my public educational experience) who had been well educated…most from Germany and Norway, Sweden, and Finland.

        When I talk public education, I only concern my remarks toward the system in which I spent 26 years.

  13. T E Stazyk says:

    These debates about socialism are like the blind men describing an elephant. It so much more subtle and complex. If one suspends one’s residual McCarthy knee jerk reaction to things red or pink (i.e., communism and socialism), consider for a moment the Federal Aviation Administration. Socialist to the core because it is an example of the government exercising control over private enterprise. But it’s the only way to ensure that safety is a higher priority than profit. But wait, you say, airlines will always be safe because if they cut corners and are demonstrably unsafe the efficiency of the markets will ensure that they are punished by loss of market share. Has that ever affected the cost/benefit decisions of car companies?
    Yes, the FAA is an extreme example but I hope might be a demonstration that the issue is not white or black.

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