Sunday, 24 July 2016
Jeremy Corbyn is under siege from all quarters. He seems like a decent cove, albeit the slightly unhinged one who will nurse a half-pint in the corner of the public bar, patiently waiting for the chance to educate the unwary about how he would build a better society. But at least he has convictions and many people support him for his unyielding adherence to those principles, too, it’s just a shame that they are invariably unworkable. Lawyers have said that Corbyn’s pledge to make companies publish pay details can never be implemented and is simply an unrealistic policy.
While it seems like a great idea to those who stand to gain from it, as Maggie Thatcher said, "The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money". Plus the law of unintended consequences has a habit of surfacing and inevitably hurting the very people you try to help. Free movement of people, for instance, has given us record rates of employment but has also depressed wages so that there is no incentive for people to come off welfare to take a low-paid job. The safety net intended to help out in times of need has become a way of life for millions and worse, for generations.
Bring in a minimum pay law and the lawyers will soon find a way round it, such as making employees declare as self-employed, taking care of their own holiday pay, sick pay and other payroll benefits and often tax-dodging into the bargain. Headline rates go up while real pay drops and less tax is collected. Make pay rates transparent and all that will really happen is that the onerous conditions of earning that published wage will be concealed from view. The only ones to gain, ultimately, will be the employers and their expensive legal advisors
Heath Robinson style, when you pull the lever to make one thing better a whole series of unexpected mechanisms are engaged and for every apparently positive outcome a dozen aberrations will occur. The success of legislation to change behaviour is generally measured at a level which ignores the detail, so something like minimum alcohol pricing does appear to lower overall alcohol consumption. But those who are dissuaded from buying are mostly the marginal consumers anyway; the hard-line alcoholics remain uncured and the market for counterfeit tax-free hooch booms.
If socialism starts out from a happy place where the talk is of equality and sharing and social duty and all that hippy-dippy loveliness, it invariably ends up in misery and as misery loves company there are plenty of failed socialist states out there to study. And this includes the UK. I mean, look at us: With every year of equalities legislation the inequalities widen. With every anti-prejudice law the prejudice hardens. Minimum wages become maximum wages and attempts to restrict working hours are so impractical we have to have an opt-out.
The naked truth...
One day, maybe, the world will be a fairer place, but that won’t happen until a different kind of human evolves and given that we have succeeded because of our greed and opportunism, that human will probably be an inferior breed. Until that day the best advice you can pass on to your kids is that whatever the rules, when the chips are down it’s every man for himself – as true under socialism as it is under any other paradigm. If there are laws there will always be loopholes and the winners are rarely those who abide by the rules.