Lootin times

Posted on October 24, 2011


So, the analysis is out, finally on the UK riots.  No, those who were caught were not primarily from gangs. Yes, they were predominantly from disadvantaged households and communities. Surely, this data puts paid to any suggestion that it was ‘pure criminality’ and mainly ‘criminal elements’ at work, or even worse that it was ‘the criminal classes’ to blame as so many government ministers would have us believe.  It does raise questions though about how the marginalised and excluded feel about the very society they are excluded from.  Speaking fractally, we might ask the same question of the 99% about the 1% of us who control 99% of the world’s wealth.

This week the New Scientist hardcopy edition highlighted recent research which modelled ownership of the world’s multinational companies.  The work by mathematicians using systems theory aimed to answer the question on whether ownership and therefore power is concentrated in the hands of the few. The results are stark: just over 1300 companies own over 60% of global revenues; and under 1% of the world’s largest multinationals control 40% of this pool of wealth.  In fact, the study shows that power is concentrated in just 147 companies – each with close associations to each other.  The predominant multinationals are unsurprisingly the banks.  The most powerful companies in the network included Goldman Sachs, Barclay’s Bank and JP Morgan Chase.

Ironically last week saw the HM Revenue and Customs being hauled over the coals for giving Goldman Sachs a tax holiday for ten million pounds interest the company owed.  A tiny sum one would have thought for a company that owns a fair chunk of the globe.  But it gets more odious than that.  It transpires that GS owed the money in the first place because they had tried, like a number of other companies, to avoid paying tax on their employees’ wages, by posting these to the Virgin Islands.  Unlike other companies, they had refused to pay the tax and fought the government through the courts for five years.  When they were finally found at fault, they withheld interest on the money they owed, arguing instead for a tax break from the UK Government who, for reasons unknown, gave it to them.

So, let’s run this again:  a young person who incites people to meet in a certain place in London for the purposes of rioting receives a four year jail sentence which is upheld on appeal.  A multi-national company which intentionally, and with great forethought, attempts to evade paying income tax, does not get punished, it gets rewarded with a tax holiday instead.  The former is the intent to loot, and the latter is the intent and the implementation of this intent to loot the government’s coffers and ultimately all of us of the money we need to keep the basic things we all rely on (even the richest of us) up to scratch – like the roads for instance. Oh, and by the way, those rioters were punished more than usual with over 44% given custodial sentences when compared to 18% on the running average for cases before Magistrates Court.

When those in power abuse their position to such a great degree how can anyone else be expected to uphold any values about spending or obtaining money, goods or influence?