So where are we headed? Well, if nothing changes it’s very clear. The corruption of democracy, which means that big money has government in a vice-like grip, will carry on, and we’ll continue to see laws enacted which enable the wealthy to get wealthier while the poor get poorer. As the rich continue to evade ever more tax, the tax burden will have to increasingly fall on ordinary people, but as there is a limit as to how far that can go, the only way the government will be able to keep its finances under control will be to continue cutting public spending. (We are of course already seeing this, where the government is trumpeting a ‘recovery’, while at the same time saying Austerity will have to continue for at least another 5 years). There will be continuous cuts to benefits so that those at the bottom of society will be driven into ever-greater levels of poverty, while cuts to public services will be justified by saying that people should pay for what they get. Eventually there will be few or no free public services at all, and that inevitably means that free health will also go (again justified on cost grounds) and we’ll move to a system as in America where if you want healthcare you must pay for it, and if you can’t afford it – bad luck! House prices will continue to rise, driven by demand from the rich, and the poor will increasingly be driven out and forced to live in ever more dire conditions. This process will go on indefinitely.
There will also at some point very likely be another sort of financial crash, as the dealers and traders continue to gamble with the financial system, which will require yet another government bailout, even more debt, and an acceleration of the cuts.
Eventually we will live in a completely divided society, with the wealthy living in ever-greater luxury, while the poor become virtually ghettoised.
If it’s difficult to imagine or believe that this could happen, then one only needs to look to other parts of the world where societies like this already exist. Anyone who has travelled to South Africa, India, and many parts of South America will be aware of societies where the fabulously wealthy live right alongside the desperately poor. Often the poor are forced to live in shanty towns, slums, or ghettos, while the rich live nearby in huge mansions. In many of these societies crime rockets as the poor feel they have little to lose, so the rich start to live in fear of them and build secure compounds, often with armed guards, to keep the poor out. It doesn’t stop the fear.* Many people travelling to these countries would think what a dreadful way to exist, even for the privileged rich, with society so divided and to live in constant fear of your fellow citizens. Unfortunately, if we do nothing to change our broken system, that is where we are going to end up here.
* If anyone is still in any doubt about the devastating effects of inequality, it is worth reading a book – The Spirit Level – by Wilkinson and Pickett. It talks about inequality, and with ample evidence shows that the more unequal a society is, the unhappier everyone in that society is – even the rich.