Democracies will fall under the spell of populists like Donald Trump if they fail to deal with the fallout of globalisation
The rich, as F Scott Fitzgerald noted, “are different from you and me”. Their wealth, he wrote, makes them “cynical where we are trustful” and their affluence makes them think they are “better than we are”. These words ring truest among the billionaires and corporate executives flocking to the Swiss ski resort of Davos this week. The highs recorded by stockmarkets, the tremendous monopoly power of tech titans and spikes in commodity prices reassure the rich cosmocratic class that they have weathered the storm of the financial crisis. The moguls can talk safely about inequality and poverty. But they will do little about it because they do not think their best interests are aligned with citizens. This is a mistake of historic proportions.
Since 2015, Oxfam calculates, the richest 1% have owned more wealth than the rest of the planet. The very wealthy think they no longer share a common fate with the poor. Whatever the warm words at Davos, no company bosses will put their hands up to the fact they play one country against another in order to avoid taxes; no firm will be honest about their attempts to stymie trade unions or about how they lobby against government regulation on labour, environment or privacy that tilts the balance of power away from them and towards the public. The largest western corporations and banks now roam the globe freely. As memories of the financial crisis recede, they are going back to the myth that they are no longer dependent on national publics or governments. Lobbyists for the corporate world claim that markets are on autopilot, that government is a nuisance best avoided.
Readers respond to Andy Beckett’s recent Guardian article
Andy Beckett’s long read was elucidating and possibly prescient (Post-work: is the job finished?, 19 January). However, it’s not just a matter of whether workers can survive having the time and freedom of post-work but also how to manage the transition from one to the other. As a retiree of almost 70, most of my friends and I fill our days with meaningful activity alongside pleasurable family and leisure time. Nonetheless, some of them found it hard to make the switch.
Fortunately the health service allowed me to cut down my job to half-time working at first, and this helped the process of letting go. Then, when leaving the NHS, I was fortunate to still have a private practice for a further six years, for which some of my friends envied me. They told me of the near trauma of stopping work being like falling off a cliff before they found new roles with which to challenge themselves and utilise their talents.
Readers respond to the Guardian’s call for a caring capitalism
When I started as an inner-city priest in Elephant and Castle in 1973, belief in social justice abounded, together with hope and confidence in community work. As vicar of Tottenham in the 80s, the years preceding the Broadwater Farm riots, I watched the erosion of community wellbeing with mounting horror and was surprised the riots didn’t come earlier. In myriad ways since 2010, the Guardian, a lonely beacon of light and hope, has tracked daily the downward spiral to the destitution, homelessness, child poverty and collapse of social care that is the quagmire of Westminster governed England today. Your editorial on caring capitalism (20 January) is no exception.
Now it’s time to cut the tosh. I don’t say put all the sophisticated analyses on the side of the plate. But let’s focus on how simple it is: human beings, like plants, need the water and warmth of love to thrive, even to survive. This includes what I’ll call social love. Millions are not receiving it. A generous view of shared humanity is fundamental to the wellbeing of everyone, including the rich. I want it back.
Callers to the White House this weekend got an unusual message from Mr Trump’s staff.
US-backed Kurdish militants say they have beaten back Turkish troops in northern Syria.
At least five people are killed in a police crackdown on protests against President Joseph Kabila.
Foreigners at the Intercontinental Hotel were deliberately targeted, an eyewitness told the BBC.
Vance McElhinney was rescued from an orphanage in Saigon in 1975 and grew up in Northern Ireland.