Saturday, 9 July 2011

Which people is democracy for?

WE live, supposedly, in a democratic country. Which means, in Abraham Lincoln’s great phrase, “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.
Not for the rich. Not for those who happen to have been born wealthy. Not for those who move other people’s money around and end up with a lot of it themselves.
For the people. For you, me and all the folk down your street and mine.
For the people who get old and need pensions.
For the people who are young and need educating.
For the people who get sick and need treatment.
For the people who get unlucky and need welfare.
With this in mind, and with thanks to my friend Alan Baker who dug out the figures – all from reliable public sources – I’d like to share with you a few interesting facts.
• In 2010, state pension payments in the UK added up to £117.2billion. That’s a lot of money. Not so much, though, when you divide it out among more than 10million people.
• The personal wealth of the 1,000 richest people in Britain totals £395bn – of which £124bn is owned by just 20 people.
• In 2008 the UK government spent a total of £581bn on pensions, health, education, defence, welfare and transport. Pretty much everything, in fact, that a government is there to provide.
• That same year it shelled out £850bn on rescuing private sector banks from collapse.
• This year the UK National Debt stands at around 80 per cent of GDP (that’s the total market value of all goods and services produced in the country).
• In 1947 the UK National Debt stood at around 238 per cent of GDP. Yet that was the year the Welfare State was formed. For the people.
Now take another, closer look at those figures and remind me who and what democracy is for?

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