Postcapitalism by Paul Mason

Most people would agree that capitalism is not working too well these days – to put it very mildly! Author Paul Mason takes us on a journey from the origins of modern capitalism through to the current crisis we are in. At the end he offers some possible solutions in great detail, some of them based on underlying social trends that are already emerging.

Paul Mason

The first half of the book is heavy going in places, although readers more at home with economic theory might have a different view. I found myself struggling to take in the detailed analysis of the likes of Kondratieff, Schumpeter and the relevance of Marx. Gradually the author ties the theory in with where we are now and what may be ahead. Mason suggests that we are at the point of “The exhaustion of capitalism’s 250 year old tendency to create new markets where old ones die out”. The length of several cycles, such as the one just mentioned which corresponds to a complete cycle of Pluto, was interesting to me as an astrologer. Amongst other interconnected topics, the effects of automation in factories and the how neoliberal capitalism dealt with the 2008 financial crash are explored. Most neoliberal capitalist countries are now left with ridiculous unsustainable debts.

The emergence of the information economy and the networked individual are seen as crucial to the postcapitalist future. “A networked lifestyle and consciousness, at odds with hierarchies of capitalism”. The implications of this are examined in the last few chapters, covering climate change, the population explosion and just about every other major problem you can think of. A basic income is suggested. Many of the ideas will be familiar to those who have read the likes of Andrew Simms of the new economics foundation. The reader is left feeling that there may be some hope for the future.

Sanctuary Group’s new chairman, PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) and corporate Britain

Jonathan Lander and David Bennett of Sanctuary Group

New Chair Jonathan Lander (ex-PwC) and David Bennett, Chief Executive of Sanctuary

As the Sanctuary Housing Facebook page continues to regularly delete large numbers of complaints (many of them serious and long-standing, others complaining of Sanctuary Housing Association’s general incompetence and/or fascist tendencies in one way or another) all appears to be well at the top of the corporate world of Sanctuary Group.

Last month it was announced that Jonathan Lander, a former senior partner with internationally huge accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), is the new group Chair. Smiles from Mr. Lander and Chief Executive David Bennett in the press release, it’s all jolly good news. Bennett said: “Sanctuary is known for its exemplary governance (many tenants will be asking what planet he’s on – the organization on the front line is often a total shambles at best) and these new appointments ensure the group board continues to have the skills and experience required to oversee our complex organisation.”

PoundSignUKLander said he was “enthusiastic” about working with Bennett and the board “to deliver customer-focused services that represent real value for money”. There’s a good few thousand elderly, disabled and vulnerable people who are being badly ripped-off (or who have been abused in other ways) by Sanctuary who might have something to say about that last comment. Please see other blogs here for many personal accounts, details and newspaper reports of overcharging, nationwide abuse and neglect, cheating, bullying, lies, bad services, incompetent contractors and substandard properties left to rot for years.

On 2nd October, there was further shuffling at Sanctuary with the appointment of Elwyn Roberts (also ex-PwC) as the new Chair of the Sanctuary Audit Committee. Steve Wood, head of Sanctuary Care resigned the following day, Sanctuary now has him listed as Director of Property.

pwclogoPwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), “independent” auditors to Sanctuary Housing Association and just about every other big company in the UK and America

As can be seen in Sanctuary Group’s financial statement for 2013-2014, PwC are Sanctuary’s independent auditors. Hang on a bit… two ex-PwC men are now at the very top of Sanctuary, Lander having been a senior partner until 2008. Exactly how independent is that? (KPMG, another government-linked massive firm, have since become Sanctuary Group’s auditors… Tim, 2017)

Elwyn Roberts, also ex-PwC, new Chair of Audit Committee

Elwyn Roberts, also ex-PwC, new Chair of Sanctuary’s Audit Committee

PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) is one of the Big Four accountancy firms who between them carry out around 90% of all audits for FTSE 350 companies. They are absolutely massive in the UK (see pwc.co.uk), America and internationally. “In the 2014 financial year, PwC firms provided services to 417 companies in the Fortune Global 500 and 462 in the FT Global 500… For the year ending 30 June 2014, PwC’s gross revenues were US$34 billion, up 6%.” (see pwc.com). However, in 2011 they were heavily criticized by the House of Lords for not drawing attention to the risks that led up to the banking meltdown in 2008:- “It may be that the Big Four carried out their duties properly in the strictly legal sense, but we have to conclude that, in the wider sense, they did not do so.” PwC were particularly singled out for not drawing attention to the risks of the Northern Rock business model.

In 2012, the Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB) of the UK fined PwC a record £1.4m for “very serious” misconduct  over its audit of JP Morgan Securities. At the time it was the heaviest fine ever given to a professional accountancy firm in the UK. Some comments on the above article:- “Auditors are so conflicted in their relationship with clients it is a joke.”, “Add at least one zero to the fine and it might start to be meaningful.”, “The elites are just letting themselves off… Theft!!”.

Corrupt and wrong, too big, too greedy. And, as revealed in The Great Tax Robbery: How Britain Became a Tax Haven For Fat Cats and Big Business by former tax-inspector Richard Brooks, unlikely to change. When the government (and opposition) considers any change in financial law, it consults PwC as part of the process.

Current questioning of PwC integrity in recent over-estimation of Tesco profits by £250 million 

Or rather a lot in PwC's case

Or rather a lot in PwC’s case

Right now, the integrity of PwC is once again being questioned in an ongoing investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority. “PwC has been Tesco’s auditor for over 30 years. For that service, Tesco paid PwC £10.4m in the last financial year – plus another £3.6m for other consultancy work. Of the 10 directors on the supermarket’s board… two are ex-PwC… Mark Armour, a non-executive director, and Ken Hanna, chair of the company’s own audit committee.”

Sanctuary Group – an exempt registered charity rip-off and everything that is wrong with greedy and hypocritical corporate Britain today

Sanctuary finance director, Craig Moule

Sanctuary finance director, Craig Moule

Sanctuary Group is very fond of telling the world how successful it is, particularly financially. “The 95,000-home landlord has reported one of the highest levels of gearing – borrowing in relation to assets held – in the sector…  ‘in line’ with the landlord’s business plan and treasury policy. The landlord reported a surplus of £42.6m, down from £54.5m, from a turnover of £592.3m and built 1,481 new homes during the year.” (Inside Housing 1.10.14) There had been earlier reports of a £72 million surplus last year but this apparently included assets from the takeover of Cosmopolitan, which I believe have since been discounted. No doubt PwC are doing their job, legitimately or otherwise. (KPMG, another government-linked massive firm, have since become Sanctuary Group’s auditors… Tim, 2017)

SanctuaryGroupThe privitization of housing stock has happened quietly over the last thirty years and more. Large housing associations have become greedy money-making machines. All Sanctuary care about is money and building their property empire, make no mistake. They are right in there at the heart of the government, the financial establishment and even the Church of England. Local councils also seem to be quick to support Sanctuary, rather than those suffering as a result of their countless bad practices – in fact Sanctuary seem to be good at buying off all sorts of people. The publicity machine is often grotesquely dishonest. Sanctuary are a classic example of the amoral screw-you capitalism that has gradually taken hold over the last 10-15 years. They do some good, offer some good services and help some people and communities – one would hope so with the millions of pounds they have and 11,000 staff. However, if more Sanctuary tenants were middle-class – with money to defend themselves (few Sanctuary tenants now qualify for legal aid) and/or with better education and/or more self-respect – Sanctuary would not last 5 minutes. There would be an outrage, as there should be right now.

PoundSignUKTo anyone out there who has been genuinely helped by Sanctuary – great stuff, you might be wondering what the fuss is about. All things considered though, this shambolic, scandalous, useless, uncaring, arrogant, rip-off corporate monstrosity of a company should be shut down immediately.

Fully supported by the government, Sanctuary’s tax-free, registered charity, “business model” stinks. Sanctuary are the lowest of the very low for making massive profits while continuing to abuse and exploit many poor and vulnerable people in our society. 

(Chief Executive David Bennett was made a CBE for services to social housing in the 2015 New Year’s Honours list – an absolute disgrace.)

The Sanctuary Group Board

Jonathan Lander

Jonathan Lander

John Doughty

John Doughty

Dr Gareth Tuckwell

Dr Gareth Tuckwell

Nick Baldwin, Group Chair

Nick Baldwin, Group Chair

Robert McComb

Robert McComb

Elwyn Roberts

Elwyn Roberts

On the Sanctuary Housing Group website, you will find pictures and brief biographies of Directors and Executives with lots of letters after their name. Naturally, I would not wish to show any of the Sanctuary Board members (David Bennett, Craig Moule, Ian McDermott, John Doughty, Jonathan Lander, Liz Meek, Nick Baldwin – oooh, LOTS of letters after his name, that must be why he’s the Group Chair, Robert McComb, Thelma Stober, Elwyn Roberts, Dr. Gareth Tuckwell – even more!) or other Executives and Operatons Directors (Amanda Gonsalves, Peter Martin, Nathan Warren, Sophie Atkinson, Steve Wood, Simon Clark, Gordon Laurie, Dennis Evans, Chris Munday – wait a minute, according to the website Chris hasn’t got any letters after his name! OMG!) any disrespect. I myself am Tim Burness L.A.Y.N.A.M. – Letters After Your Name Are Meaningless.

David Bennett, Chief Executive

David Bennett, Chief Executive

Craig Moule

Craig Moule

Such impressive credentials! The author of a book called “A Question of Healing” who has been involved with the hospice movement, an Accredited Mediator, a woman who has worked to improve services for people with schizophrenia and for ex-offenders. Ah… oh dear, here comes the stench of Big Money – two ex-partners of PwC the massively powerful firm of accountants, an investment banker, an ex-Chief Executive of Powergen.

An investment banker? The head of an energy company? Can you hear those Corporate Rip-Off alarm bells ringing!?

Please see previous blog Are Sanctuary Housing Above The Law? and its 500+ comments for how bad this company can be.

I would absolutely refute any suggestion that I might have the view that, whether they realize it or not, these individuals are a money-grabbing, hypocritical bunch of fraudsters who front a totally corrupt and morally bankrupt organization. Any such suggestion that I might think this, or anything like it, made by anyone would leave me with no alternative but to invoke my Persistent, Cereal and Herbacious Complainants Procedure against them.

Yes, Sanctuary Housing Association does some good work – but nationwide neglect and abuse of tenants, including the elderly and vulnerable is no joke. An exempt rip-off registered charity that lies, cheats and bullies people is no joke. Bad services, incompetent contractors and substandard properties left to rot for years is no joke.

£72 million surplus last year. Shame on you, Sanctuary Group Board.

(The above figure was apparently later revised down to £54.5 million – they make around £40-50 million every year. Unbelievably, Chief Executive David Bennett was awarded a CBE for services to social housing in 2015.)

Liz Meek

Liz Meek

Thelma Stober

Thelma Stober

Ian McDermott

Ian McDermott

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism

23Things Cambridge professor Hu-Joon Chang’s international bestseller is an accessible, balanced, warm and entertaining analysis of the myths of modern capitalism. Many books on the subject of what has gone wrong have been published since the crash of 2008, but “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism” goes right to the very heart of the problems in plain language. It shows how the world really works.

Early on, the author makes it clear that this is not an anti-capitalist manifesto. “Being critical of free-market ideology is not the same thing as being against capitalism.” With countless examples from people’s everyday lives, aswell as the world of business and politics, different forms of capitalism are explored. Particular issues with the USA and UK model from the last thirty years feature prominently. To a certain extent, the chapter headings speak for themselves. “Thing 1 – There is no such thing as a free market” (government is always involved in setting rules and regulations to some degree), “Thing 2 – Companies should not be run in the interests of their owners” (running companies for the often short-term interests of shareholders risks destroying the entire system in the long-term), and so on.

Ha-JoonChangFor many, some of the observations in “23 Things…” may seem like common sense, but Chang can still be quite shocking as he slices right through widely accepted political and economic orthodoxies. In the conclusion he suggests ways to rebuild the world economy – build systems that acknowledge the limits of human rationality, ban complex financial products that don’t benefit society in the long run, build a system that brings out the best in people, take “making things” more seriously, “unfairly” favour developing countries – who have suffered badly as a result of free-market policies.

This is a great book that cuts through a lot of economic and political waffle like a knife.

The Future by Al Gore

TheFutureAlGoreThis is a powerful and brave book from the former American Vice President. Al Gore attempts nothing less than a current overview of the whole human condition and our situation on planet Earth, suggesting the choices we have to make and where they will lead us. He is neither overly optimistic nor overly pessimistic.

Gore carefully covers all the complicated big issues in plain language. The current crises of global capitalism and democracy are explored in great depth and from many angles – “Democracy and capitalism have both been hacked.” Interconnected topics include the dominance of corporate elites, the corruption of politics, internet security, the origins of mass marketing, the ethics of modern science, the harm done by excessive use of antibiotics, population issues, the inability of GDP to account for the true consequences of economic growth, the depletion of topsoil and water supplies, the pros and cons of the rise of China, and the politics of the denial of climate change.

AlGoreIn the conclusion, perhaps inevitably, Gore makes the case for America leading the way forward. I must admit that’s probably the only bit of this visionary volume that doesn’t quite ring true for me. But, as with just about all the suggestions in this book, his “priority goals” for America’s recovery make sense – limit the role of money in politics, and reform old laws that allow a small minority to stop legislative action in the U.S. Senate. “The world desperately needs leadership that is based on the deepest human values.” Al Gore deserves to be taken seriously. Here’s hoping this book makes at least a small difference to the mess we are in.

Pluto in Capricorn

As highly intelligent people such as Richard Dawkins can tell you, astrology is obviously irrational and unscientific nonsense. There is no evidence that it works. Good, that’s cleared that one up!

Those of us deluded enough to think that there is something in astrology (it has been a major part of my life for over twenty years now – I am obviously in need of psychiatric help…) are very aware of the long-term significance of Pluto in Capricorn from 2008 to 2024. Neptune, Uranus and other planets are factors but Pluto seems to be particularly relevant these days. Deep and profound change to worldwide economic and political structures is the order of the next few years, beginning with the undermining and destruction of the old ways.

Capricorn is the sign of integrity, hard reality and responsibility. As the bringer of “death and re-birth”, Pluto has just begun its transformative work in the most serious and often depressing sign of the zodiac. Recognizing limitations is a key issue for Capricorn – the limits of individual consumerism, of global capitalism and its economic model, liberalism, the number of people on this planet, climate change caused by human activity and so on and so forth. In the view of good old Russell Grant:- “The transforming planet Pluto now in Capricorn supports this need to curb wastefulness, excessive spending and uninhibited consumption.” Pluto destroys what is no longer relevant.

Capricorn the Goat values hard work, authority, respect, and achievement. The key is integrity. Individuals and organizations who take genuine responsibility are likely to thrive and re-generate. On the other hand, corrupt businesses, politicians and unnecessary government organizations are not likely to survive the next 15 years. Traditions will be renewed or discarded. Another Capricornian theme is old age – the economic consequences of an increasing elderly population have become a major social issue, in Britain at least.

Personally, I’m rather relieved that heavy-going Pluto in Capricorn doesn’t form any difficult major aspects to my own birth chart for a few years yet! By contrast, anyone born in the first two or three days of Capricorn will already have personally experienced a personal “death and re-birth” as Pluto moved over their Sun.

The key to dealing with the difficult energy of Pluto in Capricorn is integrity.