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Quite stealthily, and without an electoral mandate, since 2010 the government has proceeded to dismantle the welfare state, and privatise the NHS, the state education system, even the fire service. But for some, it has not been radical enough, or fast enough. Hence the reappearance of Liam Fox, who left the Cabinet in disgrace in 2011.
In a speech to the Institute of Economic Affairs, which exists for ‘expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems’ Mr. Fox said:
"The great socialist coup of the last decade was making wealth an embarrassment. It is not. It is the prize for aspiration and hard work, and its side effects are higher tax revenues, more jobs and more investment."
This is a version of events so far from what most people have lived through in the last decade, it is difficult to know where to start.
Super-rich bankers and those who dealt in exotic financial instruments brought the global economy to its knees, and with one or two exceptions walked away with a fortune. Billionaires hover over distressed European countries buying up their precious assets at bargain prices. This week, the head of Barclays, Rich Ricci (yes, really) has entered 11 horses at the Cheltenham Festival, one of which is called ‘Fat Cat in The Hat’. Mr. Ricci always wears a hat to the races.
A little embarrassment about wealth and how it has been obtained would be very welcome in certain quarters, but there is precious little evidence of it.
Alongside his plea for us to ease up on the poor benighted rich people, Mr Fox advocates what is basically a scorched earth policy towards welfare and public services. No concern is expressed for the people who would suffer the consequences of such policies.
Now, if Mr Fox’s proposed cuts and taxation were to bring about a thriving economy, full employment and a plentiful supply of jobs with decent pay and conditions, perhaps there would be something to recommend it. But that is not what Mr Fox would be working towards. He would also aim to weaken or destroy unions, and reduce pay and conditions to a level where we are competing with workers in the developing world: a race to the bottom.
It is important to understand who or what Mr. Fox represents when he speaks like this. He may still be a British MP but his constituents have a lot of competition for his attention.
Whilst in Opposition Mr Fox founded a charity called Atlantic Bridge, and Shadow Cabinet colleagues George Osborne, William Hague, and Chris Grayling were members.
Now defunct because it ran into trouble with the Charity Commission, Atlantic Bridge was established to bring right-wing, neoconservative, libertarian politics to Britain. The main features of such politics are a deep-seated antipathy towards taxation and publicly-funded services, and an almost religious belief in the superiority of capitalism and the market over all other systems. Welfare is anathema, and the smaller the state can become, the better. It’s capitalism red in tooth and claw.
Atlantic Bridge hosted events both here and in the US with titles like ‘Killing the Golden Goose – How Regulation and Legislation are Damaging Wealth Creation" and in 2003 asked: "How Much Health Care Can We Afford?"
Atlantic Bridge also had close ties with the billionaire-funded US Tea Party, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which exists to write legislation which is favourable to large corporations, and then use friendly politicians to get such legislation passed. ALEC boasts that it gets about 200 pieces of such legislation passed each year.
ALEC seems very much like a shadow government working on behalf of corporations and the super-rich, although just as the Tea Party and the Taxpayer’s Alliance try to present themselves as grassroots movements, it always tries to present itself as being on the side of ‘freedom’ from excessive regulation. You can watch Mr Fox here speaking about how ‘excited’ he was about the partnership between Atlantic Bridge and ALEC.
ALEC fights against such perceived evils as workers rights, environmental protection, and Obamacare.
Mr Fox and his friends aim to see corporate profits rise and the super-rich get even richer. He could perhaps be described as a spokesperson for the 1 per cent
© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor.Tweet