Friday, 15 July 2011

Has Murdoch killed capitalist anarchy?

The problem with blogging on the News Corporation self-immolation is that it is almost immediately overtaken by some new, jaw-dropping revelation.  The weakness of Murdoch's position is increasingly obvious - the vacillation about whether to put in an appearance at the Select Committee makes him look both exposed and diminished.

For what it's worth, the best historical analogy that I can think of is Hitler in the summer of 1942 (not suggesting any total correlation between the individuals' megalomanias) with the prospect of defeat looming.  Murdoch probably now sees the Select Committee as an equivalent of Stalingrad - bouncing through that would probably enable him to spew right-wing bilge in the USA (a far more lucrative market) at the expense of his UK newspapers and possibly BSkyB.  There will be attritional, vicious fighting as he will try to vilify and nullify those whose criticisms might be the most trenchant.

News Corp is hardly likely to be the toast of corporate behemoths the world over, as the seismic displacement engulfs the USA (the allegations of potential hacking of 9/11 victims' phones added to illegal activity abroad sanctioned by a US-run company are at least a double-word score).  The downside of American hegemony is that when its exponents are caught out publicly in their efforts to subvert other nations' democracy then the only damage limitation open to the country is to enforce its own laws. 

This will not be good news for multi-national corporations in other markets, as the principle is being established publicly that malpractice cannot be hidden up.  When the same scrutiny is applied to financial and ethical affairs then there is a chance that some of the sharper practices that have been imposed on people through the pressure to deregulate markets, reduce protections and safeguards for individuals and suck profits out of the places that generate them (in the grand cause of international tax avoidance) may be open to challenge.

Politicians must break free of the mantra of "business and enterprise can do what they like" to recognise that they are put in place to govern on behalf of the whole country.  The myth of the invulnerable, benign, wealth-generating entrepreneur has been exploded consistently over the last decade, and it is time that political discourse caught up with this.  Managed capitalism is the least bad economic system, but the combination of Stalinist trans-national corporations and craven client governments has been toxic on a grand scale, and removes moral legitimacy from all concerned.

Although Murdoch looks on his last legs, there are plenty of other monsters to be slain.  Collective disgust is not enough, but it is a basis to move forward from.  Ten days ago I would not have given any odds on the possibility that the House of Commons would unite against a pariah whose tentacles have enmeshed Tory and Labour politicians alike.  For once it is almost possible to be optimistic.

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