Thesis Number: #2 (Page 5 of 8)
The Culture of Corruption
To camouflage the historic injustice of land grabs that originated the culture of income transfers, apologists for the status quo focus on those who cheat the Welfare State. Newspapers routinely publish information about the scale of the “scrounging”. One report explained that a person earning £100,000 a year contributed almost £550,000 to the state welfare system over his working life (Watts 2013). Implication: salary earners were subsidising the life-styles of layabouts. No calculation was offered to reveal how taxpayer-funded services raise the capital price of the homes owned by the top earners who, over their working lifetime, reap a fortune in net gains, all of it unearned – classic cases of incomes transferred from the working population.
Rent-seeking, such as that which corrupted the banking sector, germinates a corporate culture that favours fraud as a routine way to make profits. Mis-selling of mortgages, rigging of interest rates, sham deals to rip off small businesses… none of this could have happened if it was not sanctioned by a culture grounded in legalised greed.
As working households were squeezed by the depression that followed the land-led boom, the Welfare State leapt into action to protect the bankers. This was welfare writ large, “demonstrated by the lack of suicides and the descent into poverty among the present generation of incompetent greedy bankers compared to those of the crash of 1929. In their relentless demand for yet further hand-outs they show every sign of the welfare dependency they so deplore in the poor” (Rose and Rose 2012:304).
Bankers are the tip of a corrupted culture. Britain, again, serves as a good case study, because it is not regarded as corrupt as countries like Italy and Greece.
Analysis of the fabric of society must begin with the law-makers. Members of Parliament have been exposed for routinely falsifying their expenses. The favoured trick was to “flip” their second homes (the interest on their mortgages having been paid by taxpayers). The politicians understood that a turnover of land-based assets yielded enormous tax-free capital gains.
From there, the corruption penetrated down to all layers of society…policemen taking bribes from journalists… newspapers breaching people’s privacy by hacking into telephones…civil servants fabricating advice to government ministers that cost taxpayers fortunes in wasted investments… The list is a long one. Such cases stem either directly or indirectly from the legalised transfer of other people’s earned incomes. To test that claim, we need to trace the chain of causation back to the way in which a nation’s rents are mal-distributed. For example, can we link the needless deaths of many patients in Britain’s venerated National Health Service (NHS) to the culture of corruption?
In February 2013, three volumes of evidence were published that documented the operating methods at one hospital. Through negligence and managerial dereliction of duty, about 1,200 people had died needlessly. But this was not a failing in just one hospital. Five others fell under suspicion with the claim that as many as 3,000 more patients had died needlessly (Rayner et al, 2013). The patients were not victims of random negligence. They died because of a social process.
Although the findings of the official enquiry were treated as evidence of an abuse of the “values” that allegedly prevail in the NHS, the deaths were the direct result of a value system that had been formally articulated by the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. They set financial and body-count targets against which performance in hospitals would be judged. Consequently, the care of patients was subordinated in favour of statistics that demonstrated value-for-money efficiency. Whistle blowers who registered their concerns were intimidated into silence. Nurses were put under pressure as staffing levels were cut in response to austerity measures adopted after the economy crashed in response to the land-led property boom/bust.
The politicians achieved their goal. Ministers from the Department of Health could stand up in Parliament and claim that, on the basis of clock-watching criteria, progress was being made in the nation’s hospitals. This was the value system against which the deaths must be judged. The NHS did achieve its targets. The deaths were the collateral damage of a Predator Culture (Harrison 2010). The deaths were not the results of a few aberrant individuals. They were one of the ripple effects of the culture of rent-seeking, which framed the financial terms on which the public sector was administered.