Attila’s fan club
"I’m depraved because I’m deprived" runs one line in a song from the musical West Side Story, but the Police Federation doesn’t agree.
At their annual conference in Brighton delegates rejected by three-to-one a motion stating that "crime is inevitably linked to deprivation".
Speakers in the debate queued up to rubbish this and echo the Tory view that crime is down to the "wickedness and greed" of criminals who deliberately choose to break the law.
But they were accused by one of the motion’s supporters of sounding like the "Attila the Hun fan club".
It was a delegate from the Metropolitan Police who made the most profound contribution when he insisted:
"We‘re not playing politics. We’d be no good at politics — we’re much too honest" (Guardian, 20 May).
Since this came from a member of what is widely regarded at the most corrupt police force in Britain then it is surely the unkindest thing yet said about politicians.
It gets everywhere
That inevitable struggle between employees and employers crops up in the strangest places.
Buddhist monks in a Japanese temple have formed the Heartful Labour Union because one of them was abused, assaulted and then sacked by the head monk (Guardian, 11 June).
This head monk refuses to negotiate, thinks Buddhism is going to the dogs because the monks are "only in it for the money", and claims there is no employment relation between the monks and the temple, only one of mutual "trust".
Now a court case will decide if the monks are paid workers or owe allegiance to a "Higher Authority".
Meanwhile, the sacked monk worries about his mortgage and his children’s future and says "money is a key problem. I have to keep my family".
Dressed in his saffron robe, this monk may not have the appearance of your average worker, but he obviously has just the same problems.
Master race again
"Think of it as master race studies. Some Florida schools have introduced a new curriculum which teaches that Americans are ’unquestionably superior ’ to any other nation now, or at any time in history" (Guardian, 16 May).
This policy has been imposed by Christian fundamentalists who control the local school board. Teachers have been told by the board’s chairwoman that they can only discuss other countries if they first tell their pupils that America is "the best of the best". She has never been outside America but said "I don’t need to visit other countries to know that America is the best."
Is this policy crazy? That depends on your standpoint. For instance, another board member explained that they think an American-first policy is necessary for the children because "if they felt our land was inferior or equal to others, they would have no motive to go to war and defend our country"
For anyone who looks at it from that angle, that policy isn’t so crazy, is it?
Professor Robert Hogan, a psychologist at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, claims that most bosses are incompetents who command little respect from their subordinates and only got their jobs because they are good at interviews which he derides as "beauty contests":
"There is a type who is particularly good in these contests . . . These people are arrogant, conceited, believe they are God's gift and won't take blame for mistakes, only the credit for everyone else’s successes. Once they get on the job they drive everyone nuts" (The Herald, 25 April).
Hogan’s claims "are supported by research which shows that among the top 500 US companies 60 percent of chief executives are fired every three years".
And these are the people who call themselves "the wealth creators", demand a monopoly of decision-making, and award themselves huge salaries and pensions. They are also the people whom most workers insist "we cannot do without".
Yet another old British institution is under threat. No, not the Royals or even the Tory Party, but the building societies. There were over 700 societies in 1960 but now there are only 84 with more casualties to come.
The fact is that there are too many societies competing for mortgage business. They have been losing market share to the banks while current low interest rates have caused savers to withdraw funds from the societies to invest in National Savings and shares.
All this explains why the Cheltenham and Gloucester society wanted to merge with Lloyd’s Bank. If this eventually happens then their combined strength will give them the edge over their competitors, so the other societies and banks will be under pressure to follow their example.
In socialist society homes will be built without the need for building societies, banks or mortgages. All that will be required is labour, materials and land, and these exist in abundance.
"Days of boom and bust are over, Clarke promises" read the front page headline in the Independent reporting the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s 15 June Mansion House speech.
This was just another politicians’ promise of course. Pure hot air, since years of experience have shown that governments just can’t control the way the capitalist economy works.
But Clarke is a Tory "wet". Which means he shares the Labour Party (and LibDem, for that matter) illusion that, with a bit of good will and determination, the rough edges can be smoothed off capitalism, as in this case by getting rid of the boom-slump cycle.
Two of his recent predecessors as Chancellor, however, both realise the true situation.
Nigel Lawson told a meeting the following week of the Social Market Foundation (by the sound of it, an institution which believes that circles can be squared) at the London School of Economics that governments have no power to abolish the boom-slump cycle. "The plain fact is that the economic cycle is endemic", he said (Independent, 21 June).
Norman Lamont has said the same thing in his 1991 budget speech when he declared "recessions are always painful, but they are an inescapable feature of market economies" (Independent, 20 March 1991).
Maybe after a little more experience like them of trying unsuccessfully to control the way the capitalist economy works Kenneth Clarke, too, will come to realise that regularly-occurring slumps are an inescapable, endemic painful feature of capitalism.