We do not teach our kids to work hard, to develop their abilities and be good at what they do. Instead, we teach our kids that the best way to the top is to trample on weaker people. We are told that competition is king, yet for every winner it creates it produces a large pile of losers. We tell our kids that the only way to improve themselves is through a long list of beaten competitors. It is a bankrupt philosophy for a bankrupt country.
Over the last three decades we have seen the rise of predatory private equity funds, companies whose sole aim is short term asset stripping. They treat company pensions as an asset of the company, an asset that they can exploit, rather than the future of the staff. They have a short term attitude that the sum of the parts is more than the value of the whole. They break up companies for an immediate profit even when the long term profitability of the company is better when left intact. How can we teach our kids that working hard is important, when we see that the reward for that work can be exploited by predatory private equity, buying up your employer, stealing your pension and making you redundant?
Small companies are being brought to the brink of bankruptcy when the larger companies they supply decide to change payment terms so that invoices are paid months later than before. The large companies do this because they can. How can we teach our kids fairness, when businesses behave in such underhanded ways merely because their size allows them to be bullies?
And now the government is doing the same thing. We are told that Monitor exists to stop "anti-competitive behaviour" and in the Open Public Services white paper we are told that companies will have a right to challenge commissioners over the provision of public services. We see that even if a public provider is doing a good job, providing a service that the public want and appreciate, it may lose its contract to provide the service simply because a private company says that it would like to provide the service instead. How can we teach our kids that if they work hard and become the best they will be rewarded, when the government says the reward for hard work in public services is for a private company to take over the service, employ fewer staff and pay them less?
We see people making vast amounts of money by simply moving money around. Hedge funds and investment banks make nothing, they simply take money from one place (perhaps invested in company stock) and move it to somewhere else (perhaps government bonds) and then, when the time is right, move it back again. No hard graft, no innovation, no product made and sold; just moving money around and making vast amounts of money doing it. We see that one favoured way of making money – short selling – borders on dishonesty: the short seller sells a security they do not own hoping that they can buy it back at a lower price before they have to return it to the lender. we see the effect of short selling for profit as it devalues companies and the pension funds - our pensions! - holding the stock. How can we teach our kids honesty, when short sellers show that so much money can be made by selling things you do not own?
It's about time we started teaching our kids correctly: that hard work and using our abilities is rewarding. But for our kids to believe us that this is true they have to see results that prove the assertion, and we have to prove that doing otherwise is not rewarding. Sadly, hard work does and will continue to result in stress, poor pay and poor conditions leaving us open to exploitation. The government's plans to reduce our state pensions (or make us pay more for smaller public service pensions), and their plans to ration our healthcare when we are in our old age, shows that they do not acknowledge that hard work should pay. We should have used the financial crisis to rid ourselves of the high rewarding something-for-nothing occupations, but we've flunked it and it will take another generation before there is an opportunity to try again.