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WiFi-styles of The Rich & Infamous February 13, 2011

Posted by markswill in About me, Media, Politics, Schmolitics.

After this I shall cease apologising for the long delays between blogs, not least because it arrogantly assumes that my reader gives a damn. It might also suggest that I’ve been so damn busy doing Far More Important Things that I couldn’t be arsed to get down to some blue sky blogging. Which would of course be a lie. In fact since my last digital wittering the main focus of my life has been sunning myself on the posh Caribbean island of Mustique, bookended by a rather agreeable day or two in London. However that won’t deter me from dredging up aspects of that experience that I can convolute into clever-clogs sophistry.

In the case of Mustique itself, which is – quite literally – a millionaires’ playground, I might draw parallels with what is going on in the UK economy and, of course, the political turmoil in the Middle East. Hold your incredulity for a mo’ though, because I must also say that it’s a fantastic place to stay if only for the semi-tropical climate, the wonderful snorkeling, deserted white beaches and the wild-life, not least the abundance of tortoises. And although it’s a close run thing, the humans who owns the swanky houses there are not uniformly up their own arses, but it’s interesting to witness the seriously rich minus too many opportunities to flaunt their wealth because the lack of roads to drive their fuck-off cars, restaurants to drop a few hundred quid on a meal and the near universal uniform of swimming cossies, shorts and sandals prove to be a great leveler.

That apart, Mustique is that rare case of what one might call a benign commercial democracy. Territorially, the island is part of St. Vincent & The Grenadines but is owned by the Mustique Company whose shareholders are home owners who live on it. The Company is responsible for maintaining its limited infrastructure, of which water and electricity supply are the most crucial, and also the welfare of the hundreds of workers who mainly live on St Vincent but arrive by ferry to spend weeks at a time servicing the needs of the shareholders. This works quite well inasmuch as most of them are well paid by Caribbean standards and if not boarded on-site with their employers, have homes-from-homes in a neat little village where the Friday night jump-up is just about the best place for whitey to get rum-punched and make an arse of oneself on a dance floor anywhere in the world.

And just for a moment, it did occur to me that if  certain countries were run in such a manner, there mightn’t be so much political hand-wringing and financial angst in the world. Say, for example, a company ran the U.K. and every property owner had shares in it proportional to the size of their home and income, a company which was obliged to provide most of the government services we take for granted, and those shareholders had to pay – again proportionally based on their wealth – a tithe to make this possible. They’d have to make damn sure that things were run properly and the rest of the citizenry, i.e. those who didn’t own property and worked for the enterprises owned by those who did, or one of the facilities owned by the governing company, would either work for a wage which took into account the provision of services and infrastructure, or paid a simplified income tax which achieved the same end.

Yes, I know it’s overly simplistic and open to graft and corruption, but in my experience well run companies are inherently better than poorly run governments… and I’ve yet to come across a well-run government. If Cameron’s risible ‘Big Society’, which is patently a cynical effort to mask cutbacks with charity run social services (thus letting the financial sector which caused the deficit off the hook), doesn’t work – and it won’t – then a benign commercial democracy might seem a palatable alternative… at least to die-hard Tories who by their very nature aren’t of course benign. Or democratic. (‘Course if the coalition really wanted to cut the deficit, they’d simply cancel Trident… but that’s perhaps the subject of a whole ‘nother blog).

Not that I can see the Egyptian military going for such a system anytime soon, but I’m sure that we’re all excited by the relatively peaceful ousting of yet another corrupt despot, if not wary of what will happen next and its impact on this volatile and troubled region. Talking of which…

Being in Mustique when it all kicked off, I was unaware of the Egyptian uprising until it was in its final phase which brought home to me how strange, if not pleasant, it was to be bereft of news media and digital communications. Sure, Mustique does have mobile phones, broadband and of course satellite t.v., but I chose not to engage with any of ‘em until the day before returning home. If only for a week, not being enslaved to the digital world was intellectually refreshing, which was thrown into relief when word got out via my generally dormant Facebook page, which is about as far as I go with ‘social media’, that it was my birthday last week. So many kind souls bothered to post congratulations on my ‘wall’ – although condolences might’ve been more appropriate – that just responding to each of these took up much time and constantly interrupted the Very Important work I was doing. Which made me wonder how on earth real Facebook addicts, and of course the Twittering classes find time to keep their followers apprised of their rich and fascinating lifestyles choices. And more to the point, how they find time to have a life beyond the digital universe?

That said, it’s arguable that without Farceberk and Twatter, the essentially leaderless Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions wouldn’t have happened, so I guess what I’ve just espoused is the redundant whining of a media dinosaur. But then at least my bloggings are nothing if not consistant.



1. andy tribble - February 14, 2011

You said:” Say, for example, a company ran the U.K. and every property owner had shares in it proportional to the size of their home and income”

Ooer, you terrible right winger you, you’re proposing that only property owners should vote and the richer ones get more votes than the poorer ones.

A similar nice idea, but which will never happen, that only taxpayers would vote. Because human nature being what it is, if you get a large number of people who aren’t paying for things, and a smaller number who do actually do the paying, the non payers will keep on voting to spend more and more of other people’s money. That’s why we’ve got free bus fares for pensioners: they vote.

Things get even more unfair if you get a group of people who have to pay the taxes but have no vote at all, boy will they get hammered. Which is why airport taxes keep going up – we don’t care, it’s tourists who pay and they don’t vote here.

In fact, the biggest example of a non-paying majority and a pay-for-everything-but-but-don’t-vote minority is our local government rates system, in which most of the income is generated by businesses paying business rates but who have no vote at all.

For a truly democratic local authority – that is, one that wants to collect the most votes – there is nothing in the system to stop them absolutely caning local businesses in order to buy votes by giving away, for instance, free transport or rock bottom council house rents.

This problem is inherent in one-person-one-vote democracy, and the only thing that stops it happening everywhere is that people just haven’t noticed the possibilities.

The one person who noticed the huge risk of injustice here is your friend and mine, Mrs Thatcher. She tried to bring in the poll tax because she noticed that there was no way to stop local authorities such as Liverpool from hammering the tax paying minority in order to give away goodies to the non-tax-paying majority and thus winning every vote. So her thinking was, if every voter paid a tax – even a little bit – that was proportional to spending, it might make all of them them think twice about voting to spend it.

However as we know, the whole thing was played back to us as an attack on the poor, we believed it, and what she got was riots in the street.

markswill - February 14, 2011

Interesting to see how often Mrs Thatcher appears in the Comments Section, Andy… but see my brittle riposte to Frank W, above.

2. Frank W - February 14, 2011

Andy is exactly correct.

Fuedalism has its appeal, but not to me much, cos I is determined to be a serf. Mark, on t’other hand, plainly does fancy the baronial lifestyle. And why, as we say in Cornwall, not?

Serfs, sadly and of course, never did understand or even recognise irony.

markswill - February 14, 2011

Too late for a baronetcy I fear Frank (and of course I do fear Frank), but perhaps Mr Tribble might heed your refernce to irony (see below) ?

3. Dick Pountain - February 14, 2011

Mark – very well put. Mustique has indeed been described as “millionaire socialism”. House owners aren’t permitted to set their enormous egos free and do stuff that would detract from the common good, like driving fuck-off cars or landing LearJets, and they have to pay their share of the infrastructure costs.

Because they’re all rich it fulfills Marx’s condition of an end of scarcity (in microcosm) which has never been achieved in any real socialist state. And there lies the rub in applying it more widely…

4. linda stokes - February 14, 2011

Hi ya, Mark
Please let me know how i can get hired on servicing the rich in such a place. The climate here is no longer life-form possible, let alone, friendly.
Also, for another take on FaceBook, dont think there’d have been an Egyptian uprising without it.

Cheers, and glad you hadda good time.

5. markswill - February 14, 2011

Thanx Prof. Stokes, and I did (obliquely?) make the point that the Egyptians (and Tunisians) wouldn’t have risen up with ForceBrick. Snow in Oklahoma is clearly the work of Islamic radicals… or at least that’s what Fox News says.

6. Ian Powis - February 14, 2011

Mark , seeing as how the ‘Big Society’ has been in the news again today I wonder how you can so cynically call DCs efforts ‘cynical’. Isn’t this the problem? Just because it’s not your view it’s ‘cynical’. How about giving the guy a chance and then giving marks out of 10 at the end of this term. Lets face it he’s got an awful big hole to get us out of after the last lot and there’s no shortage of folks wailing ‘why us’? Well perhaps it’s because they wasted huge amounts of money achieving very little. You’re possibly right about Trident, but some brave decisions cancelling lots of other defence stuff. I particularly like the scrapping of Nimrod. Seems like the defence contractors have been going ‘dare you’ on this for years. Remember TSR2? Still I like your view on Mustique, although take it to the extreme and don’t you end up with the old South Africa!? Cheers, Ian (and have you booked for September AGM yet!)

markswill - February 15, 2011

Well Ian it’s easy for me to be cynical because, well, it’s in the genes… just like Cameron and Clegg have a life of privilege behind them so therefore they act accordingly (and see Ian M’s comment above, and mine to his). But yes, I’m willing to see how they fare after a year or two because, well because I don’t have any option and we live in a (sort of) democracy. AGM booking? Nope, but it’s in the pipeline!

7. Ian Marchant - February 15, 2011

I want to agree with Ian P up to a point, but only because in our current system we get one lot or the other, and since one lot launched two illegal wars, were inimical to human rights, and were perfectly relaxed about the banks fucking us all over, and are now led by an andenoidal gimp who likes Simply Red, we therefore have to put up with the other lot. But we can dream…
Your idea reminded me of ‘Stand on Zanzibar’ by John Brunner, where a largely benign company takes over a failing state. I’d go for it if the company was a co-op. And we got stamps.

markswill - February 15, 2011

Yeah, well, it’s the Simply Red thing that sticks most in my craw. That and he heads a cabinet stuffed with millionaires who’ve never had a real job in their lives.

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