Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Budget: rearranging the furniture (2001)

From the March 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Politicians are sometimes conscious liars—often proudly so. Indeed, that’s their job, to persuade people to support them regardless of their merits rather than because of them, and to justify the actions that the economy demands they make. Politicians confront journalists, grinning from ear-to-ear, knowing their interlocutor knows that they are lying, as they dance through the empty ritual of the media interview. This very fact makes it difficult to estimate what politicians are going to do, and means that they can only be fully understood in retrospect.

This applies especially to the spinmeisters of the Labour Party, who had gone out of their way prior to the election to disguise their intentions under a barrage of rhetoric. With Labour now close to completing its first four-year term, it is possible to look back and examine their period in government by what they have actually done while in office.

The issue of taxation dominates contemporary political debate, with each party competing to be the Party of Low Taxation, whilst simultaneously offering voters higher public services. Tories allege the tax burden has risen, Labour states that tax rates have been cut, endless streams of statistics are hurled viscously in either direction, with illumination being no-one’s goal. In the meantime leftists bleat and demand that Labour “tax the rich and make them pay”. On top of all that, the immense complexity of the taxation system, coupled with intricate shifts in the economy and in methods of presentation, makes it a struggle to try to accurately find out what is really happening.

It has become orthodoxy among Labourites that they lost the 1992 election because of their image of being a tax-raising party, scaring away the affluent workers known as “Middle England”. As a part of their image make-over campaign, and their half-truthful manifesto, they pledged themselves to lower income tax when elected. In the manner of political debate, this allowed their speakers to state that they were going to lower taxes (that is, income tax) even as and when they were going about raising the overall tax burden. Whenever challenged by the Tories, they simply pointed out that the Tories raised taxes 22 times during their period in power.

Taxing problem
Labour have so far succeeded in reducing the starting rate of income tax down to 10 percent. The logic for this is that whilst benefiting the poorest workers, it also cuts taxes for almost everyone else, including the most well-off (since cutting the basic rate lowers the tax paid on that band by all tax payers). Also, as the bulk of income tax nominally falls upon the mid-range of the income scale, reducing the starting rate allows for the appearance of cutting tax for all, without actually costing the government much money. At the same time the state has raked in sizeable sums by ending the IR-35 tax exemption upon self-employed contractors, who though technically selling only their labour power as employees, are able to register as small companies and gain tax benefits.

Reducing the starting rate also has the advantage of tying in with Labour’s employment strategy. Since workers are selling their labour power for a market-defined rate, and will not work for less then that rate, it must be their take-home pay that decides their willingness to work. If their take home pay is lowered, say by taxes, this translates into upwards wage pressures, which ultimately means that the burden for any increase in taxation will fall upon the employers. Conversely, if tax rates are cut, it makes it cheaper to actually employ people, and so cutting the starting rate of tax allows more people to move from unemployment to low paid jobs which can be made profitable.

Labour tied this concept in with their benefits policy, by introducing “The Working Families Tax Credit” (which, they passed off as a tax cut) whereby tax is rebated to low-paid workers, instead of paying them directly in the form of benefits. Whilst this does not affect the overall level of their income, it structures it so that dependence is upon gaining employment rather than claiming state benefits. Essentially, it is using the taxation system as a means of social control to work within the wages system, and to apply labour discipline to the workforce. Thus they can present it as a double coup both of cutting taxes, and also cutting the size of the welfare budget; all by simply rearranging the furniture. Thus, employers are able to exploit cheap labour, without having as great a tax burden to pay.

This reduction in the taxation upon exploiting labour is also reflected in their aim of reducing Corporation Tax as well. The aim is clearly to cut taxes upon production, and so promote investment into those areas. For a long time capital investment in the UK has been problematically low, and the government has sought to ease the burden upon investment via the taxation system. It is in this context that, when they imposed the Climate Change Levy, Labour were keen to point out that it did not represent an additional tax burden, due to offsetting decreases in employer contributions to National Insurance.

Tax farming
The shift from taxation directly on the point production to indirect taxation on consumption has been slowly going on since 1979. The Tories in their final budget observed how nearly half of all taxation came from indirect sources, mostly VAT. Labour has continued this trend, particularly through ever-increasing duties levied on fuel and tobacco.

There are limits, though, to the extent to which a government can exploit a monopoly or oligopoly to levy duties. If businesses are able to pass on the tax increase to the consumer in the form of higher prices this can cause problems. In some circumstances, if the price of a product rises alternative products are sought and demand is choked off. But since both tobacco and fuel, for example, are in their own ways essential with few if any substitute goods available, the result of any price increases caused by tax rises is that black markets and resentment grow up (as the state capitalist regimes in the former Soviet bloc found out). Recently the government has had to increase the amount of money spent on enforcing tobacco excise duty, which has eaten in considerably to its taxation gains. Likewise, the fuel increases resulted in last year’s national blockade and protests. Despite the tantalising promises of politically safe revenue for governments, there are limits to the amounts that can be levied through excise duties.

The reality of the government’s position is that the state is effectively a tax-farming business, and like other businesses, it is entirely subject to the ebbs and flows of the market. It can only raise so much taxation, from any given source and the economy as a whole, as the state of the market will bear. Given that the surplus value siphoned off via taxation is surplus value that cannot be re-invested for capital accumulation by the private sector, taxation represents a restriction upon the capitalist class. Hence, historically, high taxation has been seen as anathema by the capitalists, and much like the small-holder truckers they have organised politically to fight taxation. The amount of tax revenue the state can garner is entirely circumscribed by the needs of profitability.

State spending cannot add to the total of demand in the economy, all it can do is actuate demand, and guide it to overcome consumption problems (e.g. such as sustaining the reserve army of labour). In an economy without nationalised units of production—such as we now have—the best it can do is simply help circulate goods. Capital can tolerate the lost potential valorisation in times of plenty, but when accumulation and profitability slow, it begins to resent the resources lost to unproductive expenditure. Given that taxation has risen from about 9 percent of GDP at the beginning of the century to nearly 40 percent now, a figure that both Labour and Tories seem unable to reduce, it is clear that taxation is becoming too burdensome upon capital.

Labour’s reliance on windfall taxation can be seen in this context. Rather than increase current and general spending which the state will have to sustain in perpetuity, Gordon Brown has chosen to spend large sums on special projects, such as the “New Deal for the Unemployed”, by grabbing the £3 billion “Windfall Levy” from the recently-privatised utilities: a targeted tax which did not affect capital in general, and which did not represent an ongoing drain of surplus value. Likewise, the Chancellor benefited enormously from the sale of the mobile phone frequency licences—a cool £21 billion which can conveniently be accounted as taxation spread throughout the duration of the licence, whilst still being liquidity in the state’s hands.

War chest
Brown’s careful application of taxation, as well as some luck with the economy which has been at the high point of the business cycle, has left the government with a budget surplus, the infamous war chest. Although some money is likely to be spent to create the appearance of a give-away in the March budget, the statements of the government seem to suggest that this surplus will be held to hedge against the next downturn in the economy.

This would be consistent with the government’s whole strategy. Their taxation policies have largely been the usual fare from left of centre social democrats since they all abandoned overt Keynesian practices. What little effect its minor tinkering and readjustments of poverty have, it is always entirely within the scope and allowance of the ongoing workings of the market, and entirely devoid of any capacity to control the economy at a macro level.

Like a ragged, has-been stage magician, the government must keep on performing its budgetary tricks to give the appearance of doing something—anything—to keep hold of some sort of interest in its audience. Taxes go up, go down, and are moved from place to place in a blinding game of find the lady. Underneath it all is a watered-down version of an old illusion—the illusion that the state can control the economy, can direct its course, by playing around with its tax structure. That the act remains the same, time after time, will not stop the show, since the has-beens refuse to stop. They need booing from the stage.
Pik Smeet

50 Years Ago: Socialism on the state? (2001)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are not concerned with discussing the relative merits of state or private ownership in any particular industry, or in general. The basic features of capitalism remain the same in either case—the relation of buyer of labour power to seller, with the propertyless and poverty condition of the latter.

Those workers who expected a better deal from the state than from private employers have been, and are being sadly disillusioned. In rejecting claims for pay increases for railway workers Mr. W. P. Allen for the Railway Executive, recently told a Court of Inquiry “It is possible that far too many of those in our employ expect far too much from nationalisation far too quickly.” (The Star, 8.1.51).

As time goes by it is becoming increasingly clear that the interests of the majority of people cannot be served by any group of leaders who profess to be “on their side” any better than those who avowedly rule them. As Gordon Rattray Taylor puts it, “workers in nationalised industries are slowly waking up to the fact that they have only changed one kind of master for another.” (Are Workers Human?, p.18).

To those who voted Labour last time in the belief that state ownership holds out a solution, or even a step towards it, of their problems we say—profit from your mistake. The only prerequisite to a good life is your understanding its highest expression—a socialist world.

(From article by S. R. Parker, Socialist Standard, March 1951)

Indian Earthquake: Did it really kill? (2001)

From the March 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

In January, a 42-day long Indian religious festival began at Allahabad, 500 miles east of New Delhi. The Kumbh Mela attracted over 70 million Hindu pilgrims and believers, the largest gathering of humanity in history. Around one million “holy” men trekked from their remote hideaways in caves, forests and walled ashrams to be there, some revealing acts of devotion which along with the more traditional maintaining of absolute silence and sleeping on beds of nails, has included hanging upside down over smouldering fires, sitting under pots of dripping water, standing on one leg for years, staring at the sun for long periods, keeping arms permanently raised until they atrophied and in pursuit of total celibacy, having their penises enclosed in cages or fitted atop with iron rings. Such penances apparently bestow special powers, as demonstrated at the festival by the pulling along of heavy vehicles by sacred John Thomases. On one day, 24 January, over 30 million Hindu followers plunged joyously into the River Ganges to gain salvation, immortality and miraculously wash away their sins and diseases. According to the stars, this particular day had been determined to be the festival’s most auspicious time. And how did the Hindu gods respond to this immense display of spiritual faith, devotion and self-punishment with its high point of a mass dip in “sanctifying” waters where devotees prayed for “Mother Ganges” to bless them? With a 7.9 Richter earthquake just 48 hours later devastating Gujarat and killing over 30,000 people.

According to a Naga priest “bathing in the Ganges will accelerate the road to illumination”, so one might expect that following this disaster, a great many people will now stop believing in ridiculous fairy tales about divine nectar of immortality having spilled from a Kumbh (pitcher) into the confluence of three rivers (one invisible!) and thereafter becoming active every 12 years. Dedication and respect by humankind should go towards humankind, not any supernatural being or phenomenon which even if it did exist, manifestly has no inclination or ability whatsoever to prevent death, disease, poverty, hunger, exploitation, wars and numerous other everyday troubles. If thought of as an earthquake from god, and conveying a message, then it would be loud and clear: if the living want to go on living and be free of such horrors and suffering, they should forget all about religion, and act to look after themselves. Something applying as much to India’s Muslim minority who were soon praying to Mecca amidst the quake’s dead, dying and devastation, as it does to the Hindu majority.

If people let others deceive and persuade them into giving priority to belief in an almighty being, life after death and acceptance that loss of life and suffering from natural forces, conflicts, authoritarian control, hard work and the like are the will of god, then those religious leaders and governments claiming to be god’s Earthly assistants possess immense power, freedom to exploit and abuse that power and immunity for social failings. Such extreme influence, class privileges and infallibility explains why religion has existed for thousands of years and continues into the twenty-first century. But if those seeking to brainwash and manipulate us—and young impressionable minds especially—are rejected, and people instead give priority to looking after themselves and their needs collectively through socialism, then we prevent religious leaders from ruling and ruining our lives, along with political, military or any other type of would-be chiefs.

Reality
The reality with earthquakes is they kill only if we let them. They are inevitable, but death is not. It is collapsing buildings that take lives, not tremors in the ground. Throughout the animal kingdom, creatures have adapted to survive in their surroundings, but in our environment, where earthquakes are a fact of life, though nature challenges us to do something to protect ourselves, capitalism compels us to surrender safety to monetary profits and savings. No matter how severe earthquakes are, if buildings were properly built in the first place, then the vast majority of people would survive. This does not happen under capitalism, particularly in poorer countries, since the unavoidable pressure to make and save money affects what does, or more importantly, does not happen. There are pressures to build quickly and slapdashly to meet housing needs by landless labourers forced by poverty to find work in urban areas; inferior materials and construction methods are used in accordance with market forces, with poor people getting poorly-built homes; building inspectors are persuaded by politicians or back-handers to ignore breaches of rules so that businesses get the cheap employees they want and workers get hovels they can afford; landowners lobby governments, hand over party “donations” or resort to simple bribery to have new housing built on their land, even if it is unsuitable or downright dangerous; Mafia groups will drive away more legitimate building constructors. With, moneyless, socialism all such potentially lethal activity is avoided. Human needs and safety come second to nothing.

Even in rich countries like America, money can degrade safety. Multi-storey housing and office premises reach high into the sky despite earthquake risks because maximum profit comes from maximum exploitation of available ground. That means tall buildings crammed with residents or employees of capitalism’s banks, insurers, law firms etc, but high casualties if a major quake brings them down. But even where structures are well-built and designed to withstand quakes, it is usually because owners have decided that far more money would be lost than saved should damage arise from poor construction work or non-adherence to building codes. It might be said that the Japanese earthquake at Kobe in 1995 was an example of economic failure in weighing up money saved to potential losses. At $100bn, it was the most expensive “natural” disaster ever with 6,400 lives lost and 300,000 people made homeless. However, if the cost for achieving maximum safety and structural endurance had been $500bn, then Japanese capitalists acted “correctly”, and the dead were a “price worth paying”. The point is that where residents or workers find they have better survival prospects in better buildings; with capitalism, it is often more incidental than intentional.

Though seismologists don’t know precisely where or when earthquakes may strike, general areas of risk are identifiable. In a socialist society, how we respond to this information would be very different. There would be far greater freedom for those in danger to move to safer areas—action under capitalism that can involve huge financial losses from writing off unsafe homes, shifting businesses to where workers then live, adapting that region’s infrastructure to aid in exploiting the new workforce etc. And those who, for whatever reason, chose to reside in seismic zones, they would then have access to the best buildings capable of withstanding the most powerful of quakes. Although Japanese and Californian architects have designed “active buildings”, some on top of massive rubber shock absorbers or with computerised counterbalancing systems that identify and counteract seismic shocks, what’s the likelihood of such sophisticated technology being used under capitalism on multi-storey dwellings in poverty-stricken areas for workers on subsistence wages? And whereas with capitalism it is nuclear submarines, military satellites, stealth bombers, tanks and the like which get “properly” designed and rigorously tested beforehand to prevent any failures when they’re built in bulk, with socialism such diligence would then be applied to endangered homes and workplaces. Using superior designs, building methods and materials, there is no reason why populated areas should suffer any loss of life or major disruption after experiencing very powerful quakes.

Avoidable catastrophes
In a united socialist world, people would be able to move in large numbers if necessary to completely different regions of the world without any of today’s “them” and “us” animosity and violence created by capitalist exclusive assets, property rights and market-supporting politicians, as witnessed world-wide in places like Northern Ireland, the West Bank, Kosovo, Rwanda etc etc. Not forgetting India’s own continuing divisive caste system with “untouchables” lowest down, ranked as society’s toilet cleaners, 8,000 of whom were employed as “turd pickers” at the Kumbh Mela festival. India’s divisive internal Hindu-Muslim tensions which left thousands dead in riots when Hindu zealots destroyed an ancient mosque in Ayodhya in 1992, and which may soon erupt into further bloody confrontation if a planned new Hindu temple gets built there. And the on-off divisive dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir, a struggle that could claim many times the 26 January death toll in less than the short while the earthquake lasted, thanks to both sides’ possession of nuclear weapons.

We have access to more comprehensive information and news coverage about world disasters than any previous generation of humans, and yet it appears that people don’t feel driven to bring about an end to such catastrophes. Some may be moved to send money to charities or hand over old clothes and blankets, while others are assumed to have compassion fatigue. So why no sizeable political activity for real progress? It seems our society has been influenced to believe that nothing can be done. That big death tolls from quakes, famines, droughts, conflicts etc are inevitable. What efforts do schools and the media make to change this, by explaining both capitalism’s culpability and socialism’s solutions? If people don’t understand, then all there will be are yet more generations of children brainwashed on how to obtain “suitable” employment and use money, and endless TV reports of global tragedies, quickly downgraded by ratings concerns for the next show-biz marriage break-up or rich person’s demise. Brief public interest at best, or channel-changing “Not-another-disaster. There’s-nothing-I-can-do-is-there” indifference at worst. Of course, that suits capitalists and politicians just fine, but it’s only a matter of time before those far-away populations that we feel incapable of helping now will themselves one day be shrugging their shoulders while watching pictures of immense death, destruction and suffering in our part of the capitalist world. A major disaster is heading our way, and the only way to stop it is through widespread realisation that human needs can and must be prioritised, and collective political action for the social change that brings that about.
Max Hess

The politics of poverty in Zambia (2001)

From the March 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are approaching the 2001 presidential and general elections and the political situation remains tense. Unemployment, poverty and the lack of viable education and health care has bred outright social discontent and resentment throughout Zambia.

President Frederick Chiluba’s MMD government is still in power and commands majority support in Parliament. The opposition parties remain weak and unable to capture a national consensus, because political allegiance in Zambia is determined by linguistic and tribal affiliations. Thus many of the opposition parties are little known in other provinces or areas. The only notable opposition parties are the UNIP, the Republican Party and the National Party for Democratic Development.

UNIP, after the retirement of Kenneth Kaunda from active politics, is embroiled in a leadership fiasco and stands a slim chance to command a large following. UNIP has a strong regional support in the Eastern province. The Republican Party, led by the local tycoon and former MMD party stalwart, Ben Muria, has a large following in the Copperbelt and Wapula provinces. The National Party for Democratic Development is led by former LONRHO group chairman in Zambia, Anderson Mazoka. This party has managed to scoop a number of parliamentary seats, mainly in the Southern and Western provinces. Its regional base is the Southern province.

An analysis of Zambia’s political scene reveals that the opposition parties have come to concentrate their election campaigns in the Copperbelt Province, especially in Kitwe. This is because historically this province has come to play a dominant role in Zambia’s domestic politics. The mining town of Kitwe is the hub of the copperbelt, inhabited by a vocal and politically aligned working class population. In this semi-industrial and mining town political consciousness and social discontent seem to be expressed more than anywhere else on the copperbelt.

The demise of the copper-mining giant ZCCM has had a marked impact on the commercial and industrial sector in Zambia. Economic development of any kind in Zambia depends upon the export potential of Zambia’s mono-copper-mining sector. Thus the privatisation of the copper mining industry has entailed the loss of revenue to the government. There has occurred a startling decline in overall commercial and industrial production in the copper belt mining towns.

The working class on the copper belt have been subjected to untold misery. The public sector has shed its labour force while those who have remained in active employment receive salaries in arrears and work under shoddy conditions. Privatisation of the public and commercial sector has led to widespread unemployment in Zambia. The surrendering of city council housing units to people paying rent to themselves has deprived the city council of revenue and thus led to a decline in community welfare.

The sale of the council houses was a presidential directive and thus political. But the future consequences were not taken into consideration; nor could these consequences be corrected by the government. Urban cities have been turned into villages overnight, characterised by social poverty, child malnutrition and squalor. This voluntary creation of slum townships is a new development in Zambia and has led to the frantic manoeuvres of President Chiluba to retain a large following.

The city townships have been turned in havens of social poverty. Because those who have purchased council houses cannot go back to rural areas when they retire, this tends to have a marked pressure on land in urban areas. Most of the retrenched working class population remain restricted in the townships, where they engage in household commercial activities of one kind or another. The unpaved roads, unlit streets and unmaintained water and sewage systems means that life in these townships remains hard and unbearable.

In an economy characterised by endemic social poverty and unemployment the MMD government is concentrating on handing out hefty amounts of money through well-timed presidential donations to needy members of society. But this is a naked political campaign gimmick which has brought rebuke upon the MMD government and tarnished the charismatic status of President Chiluba. Recently in Kitwe’s Mindolo township a Catholic priest turned down the presidential donation of K10,000,000 from the MMD Member of Parliament for Nkana constituency. It was an incident that shocked and which had never happened before.

Because the MMD government is heavily funded by mining investors like the Anglo-American Corporation, the opposition political fraternity stands a little chance to compete with the MMD in terms of campaign expenditure. Nor does anyone need to be told what purpose the colossal sums of money realised from the sale of privatised para-statal firms has been used for. If the MMD government is unable to find funds for expenditure on education and health, from where does the president get the money he hands out in donations? The widely publicised calls for a third term of office for President Chiluba are merely designed to create an image of his popularity and thus win the confidence of the overseas private investors, since, legislatively, Chiluba cannot stand for a third presidential term.

In its political composition the MMD government retains its linguistic and provincial allegiances as a party of the Wapula province. Linguistic and provincial allegiances determine the strength and popularity of every political party in Zambia. Thus tribalism acts as an impediment to multi-party politics in Zambia, and political domination comes to depend upon the entrenched historical pattern of linguistic and cultural complexities. Political consciousness is more pronounced among the relatively educated and working class in urban areas, more so than among the backward and static rural traditional societies.

Because the MMD is the ruling party, the large following it can command must be attributed more to curiosity than to sympathetic support as such. A large number of people flock to MMD political rallies just to have a glimpse of President Chiluba. But every politically conscious Zambian is aware that the MMD government has disastrously failed to resuscitate Zambia’s ailing economy.
Kephas Mulenga
Zambia

The biggest rogue (2001)

Book Review from the March 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Rogue States: The Rule of Force in World Affairs. By Noam Chomsky, Pluto Press, 2000.

Over the years, Chomsky has been described in various ways: as “the medic trying to cure a national endemic of selective amnesia”; as “the most dangerous man in the US”; as “the little boy who told the emperor he was naked” and, more recently by the New York Times, as “an exploder of received truths”. In this, his latest book, we find Chomsky very much living up to this long-standing reputation.

It is often said that if you’ve read one Chomsky book, you’ve read them all, which is perhaps true in so far as he is a relentless critic of US foreign and domestic policy, sinking his teeth deeper into the same old foe like a vengeful rottweiler with each new publication. Rogue States is no departure from the norm—it’s Chomsky doing what he does best.

Through skilful analysis of internal documents combined with historical context, a meticulous scrutiny of the activities of the US State Dept and a thorough gleaning of the quality broadsheets both sides of the pond, Chomsky again sets himself the task of gauging the US and its allies by the standards they use as justification for the interference in the lives of others.

The Balkans, East Timor and Colombia come in for close scrutiny in separate chapters which reveal the extent of US collusion in the ongoing misery there. In Kosovo, observes Chomsky, the US “has chosen a course of action that undermines—perhaps destroys—promising democratic development”. The Clinton regime’s praise for Colombia as “leading democracy” is stringently challenged by Chomsky. Citing Colombia’s human rights record as one of the worst in the world, Chomsky provides ample proof that the Clinton/Blair doctrine of “new humanism”—the self-styled “historic mission of bringing justice and freedom to the suffering people of the world”—is a total sham. Colombia, notorious for its state terror, produces 300,000 refugees and 3,000 deaths per year at the hands of its security forces, yet is presently the biggest recipient of US military aid in Latin America. The same favoured nation status is reserved for Turkey, whose security forces, in their persecution of the Kurdish people, have destroyed 3,500 villages and created three million refugees. Meanwhile, the US is keen to promote the redeeming qualities of resource-rich Indonesia ahead of the political fate of East Timor at the hands of the former.

Chomsky further reveals the US to be wholly contemptuous and dismissive of UN resolutions and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights it helped to bring into existence and to be severely lacking in any credible justification for its policies beyond its own borders. In the regard, Chomsky further highlights the US passion for free trade, pointing to the developing countries compelled not only to accept US cigarettes and other drugs and commodities but also to advertise them under threat of trade sanctions.

Sanctions and indeed debt “is a very powerful weapon of control” says Chomsky, with half the world subject to US unilateral sanctions, a cruel form of economic coercion condemned repeatedly by the UN. In a chapter on the paranoiac US relationship with Cuba, Chomsky reminds us that Cuba has suffered 40 years of embargoes—the longest in history, and in spite of two-thirds of the US population opposing the sanctions and in breach of WTO rules, all of which is dismissed with the defence that Cuba is a threat to US national security.

Though this can at times be a hard-going book for the uninitiated, the mountains of information make it an indispensable reference work and guide to the methods the powerful use to further their own interests to the detriment of so many. It is moreover an invaluable tool for deciphering the rhetoric the powerful use to rationalise their excesses.
John Bissett