George Monbiot hits the problem squarely on the head:
David Cameron has boasted of running “the first government in modern history that at the end of its parliamentary term has less regulation in place than there was at the beginning.”
This, in a world of accelerating complexity and booming corporate crime, is pure recklessness. But fear not, they say, economic power no longer needs be subject to the rule of law. It can regulate itself.
Some of us have long suspected that this is bunkum with bells on. But until now, suspicion is all we’ve had.
Today, the first global review of self-regulation is published. It was commissioned by Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, but it covers every sector from payday lenders to dog breeders. And it shows that in almost all cases – 82% of the 161 schemes it assessed – voluntary measures have failed.
When the Welsh government introduced a 5p charge for plastic bags, it cut their use by 80% overnight. The Westminster government claimed that self-regulation by the retailers would do the job just as well. The result? A grand reduction of 6%. After seven wasted years, it succumbed last month to the obvious logic, and introduced a charge.
On the other hand, the [government has devised] draconian new laws to reinforce elite power. Corporations are given the rights of legal persons. Their property rights are enhanced. Those who protest against them are subject to policing and surveillance of the kind that’s more appropriate to dictatorships than democracies. Oh, state power still exists all right – when it’s wanted.
Many of you have heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). These are supposed to be trade treaties, but they have little to do with trade, and much to do with power. They enhance the power of corporations while reducing the power of parliaments and the rule of law. They could scarcely be better designed to exacerbate and universalise our multiple crises: financial, social and environmental.
But something even worse is coming, the result of negotiations conducted, once more, in secret: a Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), covering North America, the EU, Japan, Australia and many other nations.
Only through WikiLeaks do we have any idea of what is being planned. It could be used to force nations to accept new financial products and services, to approve the privatisation of public services and to reduce the standards of care and provision. It looks like the greatest international assault on democracy devised in the past two decades. Which is saying quite a lot.
So the self-hating state proclaims that it has no power, while destroying its own capacity to legislate – internationally and at home.
As if the last financial crisis had not occurred, and as if unaware of what caused it, George Osborne, in his most recent speech to the City of London, told his audience of bankers that “a central demand in our renegotiation is that Europe stops costly and damaging regulation”.
Restraining the electorate, releasing the powerful: this is a perfectly designed formula for a multi-dimensional crisis.
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