Consume, be silent and die...

Image: barry_b / flickr

When is enough, enough? The latest assessments of the new round of tax cuts for the top end of town indicate that that they will definitely be better off.

But why, I find myself asking? How in all conscience can those with money to burn press for a bigger slice of the pie when they already have much more than they’ll ever need, at a time when there are so many living below the poverty line?

Is it simply about ensuring there is always a couple of bottles of Grange whenever they dine out, rather than having to make do with just one, or restrict their visits to Tetsuyas to two or three times a week?

The mantra in a society that embraces the free enterprise system is that anyone or everyone can attain the dizzy heights, regardless of background and that those who don’t are either too lazy or too stupid to climb the ladder, so they deserve everything they get — or rather, they don’t get.

This is nature at work. The survival of the fittest. Darwinism in action. But is this so? Is there really a level playing field? Do we all have an equal opportunity? Do those from the correct postcode or whose parents went to Kings, Barker, Knox or PLC have an unfair advantage? Why should our futures be determined by an accident of geography, culture or race?

Sure, there are those of us who do manage to climb out of the swamp and “cast off their lowly born tags”, but at whose expense? Some of our biggest wealth accumulators have amassed their fortunes through shopping centres or property development. Those that went by the wayside were the small family businesses, the corner shops who were driven out of business by a set of economics that they simply couldn’t compete with.

The impact on the amenity of both the built and natural environment by the rapacity of the developer in pursuit of "development" — now there’s a word that has been hijacked — knows no bounds. The loss of habitat has seen the extinction of hundreds of species in Australia over the past 230 years. But that’s OK because animals don’t vote and the environment is there to be exploited.

The accumulation of wealth always comes at the expense of someone or something else. An ugly truth but a truism nonetheless.

So how much is enough? If personal wealth were to be capped at, say, $20 million, would this be an intolerable impost? If multinationals were legally required to pay tax on the profits that they extracted from ordinary people before they shipped the dollars overseas then surely the tax burden could be reduced for the rest of us?

Are those of us who choose, because of a social or environmental conscience, not to ascribe to this philosophy of money at any cost, missing the point? Surely there has to be a more equitable approach?

It has been said the two major problems with the free enterprise system are that is not free — its true costs are rarely quantified — and it is sorely lacking in enterprise, in the truest sense of the word.

The top end argue that there have always been the haves and the have nots. That it’s just the natural order of things. That’s the way that it was and that’s the way that it always will be. No point bitching about it. Just consume, be silent and die.

Even while the evidence mounts daily from every corner of the globe of the appalling impact of “development” on the Earth’s climate, the rape of the environment and the exploitation of those least able to articulate the injustice of it all continues at an unabated rate. And there are still the climate naysayers.

Those who are being squeezed are looking for scapegoats. The mainstream media hides the truth and fuels the populist finger pointers. So where will it end? I fear that the short term myopia of the ruling class will ultimately lead us all to ruin.

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