Friday, 1 June 2012

Business Rulezzz...

W hen I was a little boy Jesus wanted me for a sunbeam. Now a shiny man in a Lexus wants me for a trickling stream in the great, backflowing delta of trickle-up capitalism. But I'm laughing inside. They can never get inside you, can they...?

The eagerness with which Britain's last Labour government embraced capitalistic aspirationalism is critiqued with great humour by Stefan Collini, in his 2010 article 'Blahspeak'.[1] (I apologise, obviously, for my own terminological sin: "capitalistic aspirationalism". I won't use it again.)

Years pass. Governments depart and arrive. I'm still underwhelmed by the tedious public culture of "business reality", especially as peddled on TV and radio. It's both a promotional buffer zone, and a means of pre-emptive defence, making it possible for the attitudes of self-interested entrepreneurs to be presented as if they were naturally progressive.

Every now and again there's a fuss about the under-taxing of business, usually to do with tax avoidance on a global scale; as with the Transfer Pricing tactic used by Google and others, to minimise their tax liabilities (i.e. their contributions to the societies from which they earn their huge profits).[2] In my fantasy society I can only propose interventions on a smaller stage, and so I wonder if business could be taxed in proportion to the airtime enjoyed by business people on national TV and radio? Big earners for the British state would include Alan Sugar, the little Napoleons of Dragon's Den, Mary Portas, and others.

For this to be fair we'd need to develop an index for evaluating self interest against public good. There could be tax rebates, of course, negotiated on the basis of how hard a ride a business person has on a TV or radio programme. For instance, significant rebates could be claimed in relation to BBC Radio 4's The Bottom Line (20 October 2011).[3] In this episode, presenter Evan Davis insistently harries his business guests with the question of whether the financial services sector actually creates wealth, or merely redistributes it around its own inner circle; and whether or not it simply predates on society whilst bearing no responsibility for the consequences.

It's such a great episode, I sometimes think I dreamed it.

Market imperatives are neither natural nor objective. They're an aggregation of the actions of commercial agents exercising their own interests. Unchallenged, they form a pseudo-logical background to rhetoric about entrepreneurialism, wealth- and job-creation, which is delivered as though everyone could be rich, and resources were infinite. It's doze-inducing.

...hypnotised in out hutches, our bank accounts are opened up via mysterious agreements we never knew we'd made, authorising thousands of micro-payments per year to the myriad service nodes of a few multinational corporations. Society used to want our labour; now the private capitalists whose systems have replaced society just want our cash. Every bit of it. Before we die.

Business rules? Is there still time to reconnect with other kinds of cultural imperative?

[1] Stefan Collini, 'Blahspeak', London Review of Books 8 April 2012, pp. 29-34. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n07/stefan-collini/blahspeak
[2] John Christensen, 'Time for Europe to take tax justice seriously', New Europe, November 2010. Reblogged: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/category/86/
Orig: http://www.neurope.eu/articles/Time-for-Europe-to-take-tax-justice-seriously/103504.php
[3] The Bottom Line. Evan Davies (presenter). BBC Radio 4. Broadcast on 20 October 2011. http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/bottomline/bottomline_20111020-2100a.mp3

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