Friday, 3 March 2017

How to run the world!

In a world where a small group of rich people own more and more of the world's wealth, it's interesting to see what they do with their money. In many cases they could just keep it in a box under the bed, take out a little every time they need something and still have enough to live a couple of lifetimes. I don't think I have heard of anyone doing that. Making money must be addictive: the more you have the more you want.

Anyway, there is one rich man called Robert Mercer, the owner of a network of technology and media companies. He Funded Ted Cruz in his bid to be the Republican candidate in the US elections and when Mr Cruz dropped out, Mr Mercer switched his funding to Donald Trump - $13.5 million. 

It's an expensive business standing for election for the presidency. In theory anyone can become president. In practice, you need a lot of money behind you.

This rich man's money also funded Breitbart, the right wing news site, to the tune of $10million. And he has a $10 million stake in a data analytics company, Cambridge Analytica.

That strikes me as a prodigious amount of money to be spreading around.

Cambridge Analytica apparently specialises in "election management strategies" and "messaging and information operations". They are good at looking at what you do on social media, analysing it, and then feeding you information to influence the way you see the world.

Cambridge Analytica worked for the Trump campaign. Some people say they had some influence on the UK referendum but Cambridge Analytica denies working for the Leave campaign - they probably had nothing to do with the Remain campaign either for that matter. However, the organisation Leave.EU says it worked for them and taught them how to target people and scoop info from their Facebook profiles.

So it goes. Without money you stand no chance. The rich have already inherited the earth. They can mould things their way.

It's very scary. You use social media, they track what you like and, more importantantly what you "like", and set about controlling you. Be very careful what you put out there!

On the other hand there is a not so rich Dutchman called Rutger Bergman. He has has written a book "Utopia for Realistsv - And How We Can Get There" - in which he sets out a kind of plan for sorting the world's problems. His plan calls for a measure of global cooperation.
He proposes a Universal basic income for all of around £12,000 per year. Along with that he suggests a short working week of 15 hours. Open borders are part of his plan too; everyone should be able to go and work wherever they please.

He calls for a recognition that globalisation has lifted masses of Chinese out of poverty, doing more for the country than communism ever did. No one acknowledges it, he tells us.

He also says the left needs to decide what it is FOR, what it is in favour of. "I think the big problem with the left is that it only knows what it is against. So it's against austerity, against homophobia, against racism. I'm nor saying I'm not against those things but I think you should be FOR something. You need to have a new vision of where you want to go."

Is this too idealistic? Unworkable?

Ideas like his are around though. Some Dutch towns are conducting trials on basic income. Finland has implemented a trial but only with the unemployed. Fife and Glasgow are looking at a scheme and the Swiss are interested. Shadow Chancellor Andrew McDonnell has said that "it might be an idea whose time has come" and Benoit Hamon, French Socialist candidate, has included it in his manifesto. There's even a US tech billionaire, Elon Musk, expressing an interest. He knows that work will become more scarce as work on robotics and AI advances.

So now we just need to get the governments of the world to agree and persuade those rich people to spread their wealth around differently. Not much if you say it quickly.

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