Sunday, 24 July 2016

Daylight Robbery

The term "daylight robbery" isn't actually used to describe actual robberies - whatever time of day they might take place. It is a figurative phrase that associates an instance of unfair trading with actual robbery. Not just any old robbery, but one so unashamed and obvious that it is committed in broad daylight.It is thought to have originated from the window tax as it was described by some as a "tax on light". 
The Window Tax was introduced in 1696, during the reign of William III, when Britain was burdened with expenses from The Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the costs of re-coinage necessitated by the "miserable state" of existing coins, which had been reduced by clipping small portions of the high grade silver coins. It was levied at two shilling on properties with up to ten windows, rising to four shillings for houses with between ten and twenty windows. It was extremely unpopular and to avoid paying the tax some houses from the period can be seen to have windows bricked-up.
The Window tax was abolished in England and Wales on this day 24th July 1851. But "daylight robbery continued . The capitalism of the 18th and 19th century was built on the piracy and slavery of the 16th and 17th. Millions of pounds of gold, silver and spices plundered from the "New World" financed the basis of the banking and trade system. One of the first commodities to be traded was human beings. Slavery played a vital in the early years of capitalism. Many English titled families of today owe their knighthoods and dukedoms to this sordid trade.
And some will argue that  the current day-to-day running of the system is daylight robbery. A worker's wages only represent a fraction of the value of his/her labour. The rest flows into the boss's pocket. This was what Proudhon meant by the oft quoted "property is theft", and the system continues to be run to ensure that we slave our lives away so that the rich can get richer in what amounts to daily robbery. Then there is the case of Sir Phillip Green  who shamelessly indulged in all forms of perfectly legal daylight robbery, Phillip Green bought BHS for £200m in 2000. When he bought it, the BHS pension fund had a surplus of £5m, rising to £12m in 2001. Now the same pension fund is suffering a black hole of £571m, and BHS as a whole owes debts of £1.3billion.
Green used its initial success to finance his takeover of the Arcadia group (which includes Top Shop) in 2002. He then proceeded to essentially rob it of a fortune, using BHS assets to back loans for other businesses in his Arcadia empire; handing out £422m in dividends (mostly to himself) over two years; above all, dodging Corporation Tax by gifting his Monaco-based wife, Tina, a mind-boggling £1.2billion in 2005. All this helped Philip and Tina amass a personal fortune currently standing at £3.22billion.
Having used and abused it for his own bounty hunt, Green then dumped the ailing BHS (and its pension fund) on a three-times bankrupt, Dominic Chappell, whose Retail Acquisitions Ltd had barely been heard of previously - for a derisory £1, in March 2015. 11,000 workers were left abandoned facing an uncertain future , facing the job centre but for their former boss Green just another day in paradise. From the lofty sundeck on his latest plaything, Sir Philip, dubbed Philip Greed,  can be found surveying the new £100million jewel in his fleet of three superyachts.
He flew into Malta the other day by private jet to join his tax exile wife Lady Tina on board.

I guess we should continue to stand guard against daylight Robbery that takes place before our eyes, the wrecking ball of capitalism that is effecting peoples lives..
But the problem is that we live in a society where capitalism itself has become rampantly feral. Feral politicians who cheat on their expenses, feral bankers who plunder the public purse for all its worth, CEOs, hedge fund operators and private equity geniuses who loot the world of wealth, telephone and credit card companies load mysterious charges on everyone’s bills, shopkeepers who price gouge, and, at the drop of a hat swindlers and scam artists who get to practice three-card monte right up into the highest echelons of the corporate and political world.
A political economy of mass dispossession, of predatory practices to the point of daylight robbery, particularly of the poor and the vulnerable, the unsophisticated and the legally unprotected, has become the order of the day. I strongly recommend Naomi Klein's book The shock doctrine : The rise of disaster capitalism which explores the complexities of capitalism and the effects of it's daylight robbery much better than I ever could. On that note, after seriously depressing myelf, I'm off  for a smoke, and to catch the evening light. Good evening.

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