Tuesday, 15 April 2014


“An economy genuinely local and neighborly offers to localities a measure of security that they cannot derive from a national or a global economy controlled by people who, by principle, have no local commitment.” - Wendell Berry

I do not pretend to understand the intricacies of economics (macro- or micro-). Nor do I think I am an expert in any high-flown financial matters. My budgeting sometimes probably leaves something to be desired, but at least, I do manage my personal finances more or less successfully so that I am comfortable, do not owe money to people and am able to put something aside, planning ahead for a rainy day in the future. So, you may say that unlike many other people I am managing to cope with matters fiscal…

But coping, only just! The vagaries of our economic system, capitalistic greed, our confounded politics, the insanity and unfairness of our taxation system, the escalating charges, costs and fees associated with a “user-pays” mentality are managing to erode our coping mechanisms. “User-pays” indeed! It would make sense in a system where personal taxation was more reasonable, but if you tax the average citizen highly and then expect him to pay for everything he uses as well, then the system becomes grossly unfair and is bound to fester discontent. And there is a lot of discontent around at the moment…

Speaking of fees, charges and escalating costs, the banks in Australia have it all wrapped up! This of course is in strict imitation of similar institutions in countries of the Western persuasion around the world. The charging of usurious interest rates, credit card rip-offs, the creation of ever-new fees and charges, “user-pays” costs and countless other ways of making money out of their increasingly poorer clientele is now a fact of life.

The defence for the shameless profiteering of banks is that their “shareholders must be kept satisfied”. And satisfied they are, as the banks’ profits escalate annually into the billions… One thing the banks forget, however, is that their ordinary customers far outnumber their shareholders. They cannot forever rob the numerous poor Peters to keep on making the few rich Pauls richer. This sort of thing led to several bloody revolutions in the past – France and Russia spring immediately to mind.

The soaring profits also keep the staff on the upper echelons of these august institutions in the lap of luxury as well. The lifestyle of the directors is imperial and commensurate with the salaries, which are truly obscene. The golden handshakes they receive upon termination of employment are offensive to the extreme, the bonuses that are habitually handed out to their ilk are an affront to the increasing poverty which is becoming widespread in the general population. The fee you paid yesterday and the new charge dreamed up today is keeping these people well supplied with champagne and caviar tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…

Increasing waves of privatisation of once government owned companies (e.g. electricity, gas) has led to a rise in prices as far as the consumer is concerned and a decrease in services and customer satisfaction. Widespread urbanisation is occurring and increased building activity (and profiteering) as houses are demolished to give place to apartment blocks is leading to over-crowding, poor infrastructure, increase of pollution, traffic, noise. A neglect of rural areas and a stifling of their development is the other side of the coin.

The solution? Reform! Reform on multiple levels. How to achieve this reform is a matter of contention and will require a great deal of effort and in many cases action that will be revolutionary. Revolution will need to be in the form of a radical change in the way that we interact with the state, large organisations, industries and companies – not revolution of the bloody kind. We are bled figuratively through our pockets, so our revolution must be a figurative one also. Resistance will need to be passive, and organised on a scale that makes a large dent in the profits of these companies. If the Peters fail to deliver the profit to the Pauls, then the Pauls will need to reconsider their stance, attitude and modus operandi.

(The image above is “Tomorrow the city. Vision overcrowded urban planning” Mixed media by Francine Magrou).


  1. You certainly paint a bleak picture, but unfortunately quite a lot of what you say is so true. The answer is not simple and may require a major upheaval in order for the solution to be reached. I would have thought that the GFC would have chastened some bankers, but apparently not...
    The painting is so good!

  2. Yes, the oligopolies of the banks…