Tag: lady brady

Barefoot economic values, TTIP & the democratic retreat.

By Daniel Margrain

Equality before the law is one of the most fundamental principles underpinning justice. It is therefore an act of utter insanity to want to roll back the gains that has seen societies’ flourish as a result of the enactment of these principles and yet that’s precisely what the UK government like that of the US and 13 other EU members seem to be sleepwalking into rubber stamping.

Fifteen years ago, George Monbiot analysed the extent to which the UK government – through the dictates of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI)- had essentially become captive to the infiltration of the state by corporations’ on the national level. What is now being proposed transnationally, is essentially the capture of national sovereignty by multi-national corporations.

The Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), a procedural mechanism that allows foreign investors to sue states’ for damages in a tribunal of arbitration, have in recent years, increased in number and value. They are set to grow exponentially if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which sets the provisions for ISDS, is allowed to go ahead as expected next year.

It will effectively mean that corporate lawyers across the EU and US will be allowed to overturn the laws of individual democratic governments’ with a view to them seeking massive compensation claims on behalf of the corporations they represent on the basis that likely “future anticipated profits” would be adversely affected.

The provisions of the draft agreement which was conducted in secret and only came to light after their contents were leaked to the media in March 2014, followed the results of a public consultation undertaken by the European Commission. Neither appears to have done anything to ally public concerns over the proposed deal which, should it end up being finalized in its current form will, as I will attempt to show below, have profound negative implications for Western democracy.

In December 2013, a coalition of over 200 environmentalists, labour unions and consumer advocacy organizations on both sides of the Atlantic sent a letter to the US federal agency responsible for trade policy, the United States Trade Representative (USTR), and European Commission demanding the ISDS be dropped from the trade talks, claiming that it was “a one-way street by which corporations can challenge government policies, but neither governments nor individuals are granted any comparable rights to hold corporations accountable”.

Clearly, the clauses in the trade agreement relating to investment protection are open to abuse, as is the undermining of national sovereignty resulting from this potential for abuse – issues that were tackled in a Guardian article by Owen Jones. Expanding on this, Martti Koskenniemi, professor of International Law, warned that the planned foreign investor protection scheme within the treaty, similar to World Bank Group‘s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), would endanger the sovereignty of the signatory states by effectively allowing for a small circle of legal experts to be given the power to usurp democratic legislative procedures and standards.

Professor Colin Crouch describes TTIP as “post-democracy in its purest form”. By this he means it represents a deficit in democratic accountability in which the structures of the state have ceded their powers to the imperatives associated with multinational capital. Post-democracy in these terms equates to the shifting of power towards corporations’ where deals are often struck in secret out of the reach of public bodies whose democratic role is to scrutinize them in the public interest.

Whenever scrutiny is removed, the burden of both economic and environmental risk relating to deals between political elites and corporate lobbies, tend to tilt towards the public sphere who pick up the pieces by way of what economists euphemistically refer to as “externalities”. Often, for example, deals involve the construction of large infrastructural vanity projects including football stadiums, Olympic villages and the like, that usually come with negative knock-on environmental, ecological, employment and economic impacts.

The London mayor Boris Johnson’s less than transparent involvement in the Olympic Stadium deal between the London Dockland Development Corporation (LDDC) and Premier League football club, West Ham United, brokered by Lady Brady, is an example of how both the political and business elites mutually benefit from these kinds of potentially environmentally and economically (for the tax payer) damaging and secret deals.

As the Blatter scandal, and more recently, Sebastian Coe’s cozy relationship with Nike and his other underhand dealings illustrate, the corporate, government and national authority ties within the high echelons of sport, are indicative of a wider corruption, albeit an informal kind that, unless you happen to be foreigner, is rarely acknowledged within the British establishment.

In such cases, corruption is normally regarded to be an activity restricted to “tin-pot” dictatorships in the developing world rather than something that has arguably become “normalized” and symptomatic of a broader societal and economic malaise conducive to political life within formal Western liberal democracies’.

With virtually every public asset being up for grabs in the era of neoliberal globalization (and hence reduced to a crude form of exchange value by the elites), means that all aspects of our existence are to be potentially ceded to the altar of profit and multilateral economic growth. This is precisely the aim of TTIP.

But of course not all values are perceived in this crude narrow sense. Employment, environmental, and even food standards protection which TTIP is set to undermine, for example, are concomitant to the public good. Within the context of a finite planet, the same cannot necessarily be said of economic growth.

Another value that cannot be measured in strictly economic terms is happiness and contentment. Can it really be said with any conviction that we, in the first world, are generally happier and more content than people in the developing world?

Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef brings some valuable insights into play within this area. Having worked for many years of his life in extreme poverty in the Sierras, in the jungle and in urban areas of different parts of Latin America, Max-Neef recalls:

“At the beginning of that period, I was one day in an Indian village in the Sierra in Peru. It was an ugly day. It had been raining all the time. And I was standing in the slum. And across me, another guy also standing in the mud — not in the slum, in the mud. And, well, we looked at each other, and this was a short guy, thin, hungry, jobless, five kids, a wife and a grandmother. And I was the fine economist from Berkeley, teaching in Berkeley, having taught in Berkeley and so on. And we were looking at each other, and then suddenly I realized that I had nothing coherent to say to that man in those circumstances, that my whole language as an economist, you know, was absolutely useless. Should I tell him that he should be happy because the GDP had grown five percent or something? Everything was absurd.

He continues:

We have reached a point in our evolution in which we know a lot. We know a hell of a lot. But we understand very little. Never in human history has there been such an accumulation of knowledge like in the last 100 years. Look how we are. What was that knowledge for? What did we do with it? And the point is that knowledge alone is not enough, that we lack understanding….”

The overriding factor that has given Max-Neef hope in the poor communities that he has lived and worked in is:

“Solidarity of people… respect for the others. Mutual aid. No greed. Greed is a value that is absent in poverty. And you would be inclined to think that there should be more there than elsewhere, you know, that greed should be of people who have nothing. No, quite the contrary. The more you have, the more greedy you become, you know. And all this crisis is the product of greed. Greed is the dominant value today in the world. And as long as that persists, well, we are done….”

According to Max-Neef, the best principles of economics are based in five postulates and one fundamental value principle:

“One, the economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy.

Two, development is about people and not about objects.

Three, growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth.

Four, no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.

Five, the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.

And the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence of life.”

In developing postulate three, Max-Neef explains:

“Growth is a quantitative accumulation. Development is the liberation of creative possibilities. Every living system in nature grows up to a certain point and stops growing. You are not growing anymore, nor he nor me. But we continue developing ourselves. Otherwise we wouldn’t be dialoguing here now. So development has no limits. Growth has limits. And that is a very big thing, you know, that economists and politicians don’t understand. They are obsessed with the fetish of economic growth” [My emphasis].


“…In every society there is a period in which economic growth, conventionally understood or no, brings about an improvement of the quality of life. But only up to a point, the threshold point, beyond which, if there is more growth, quality of life begins to decline. And that is the situation in which we are now.”

The aim of TTIP, is the promotion of multilateral economic growth (of which the ideology of progress is seen as emblematic). Paradoxically, this corresponds to the decline in the quality of life characterized by runaway climate change and the undermining of environmental protection that this implies.

The law of diminishing returns as inferred by Max-Neef, would suggest that humanity is currently at the threshold point. It’s up to us to determine our future path and those of our children and children’s children. In order to do that we need to break with the current socioeconomic paradigm.


Are the Brady Bunch hammering the public purse?

By Daniel Margrain

I’m sure that I speak for the vast majority of West Ham fans when I say that the start of each season is met with an air of extreme trepidation. The feeling of anxiety in anticipating what is to come in the opening six weeks or so of any campaign is exacerbated if our first game of the season happens to be a home fixture.

From a personal point of view, I can barely get through the hours leading up to the opening Saturday afternoon kick off without exhibiting a combination of cold sweats, nausea and nervous fidgeting. I can only compare the experience to my school days during the hours leading up to the time when my exam results would drop from the letterbox on to the hallway floor.

You know you have to face the proverbial music at some point but don’t want the potential disappointment that comes with it. You tell yourself you want to know the results of your exams but paradoxically, at the same time, you fear the dreaded fail, rather like sitting through a horror movie with your hands “covering” your eyes. Similarly, I dread putting on Final Score, particularly during the opening day of the season and particularly if the game is at home.

The agony is prolonged due to the fact that our home result is invariably the last Premier League one to be read out, just as it was the case that Ardleigh was one of the last streets on our posties Basildon round. Non-football fans are simply unable to comprehend the suffering we football fans have to endure on a Saturday afternoon. Every season has been the same for me since I can remember and the 2015-16 season was no different.

As our pre-season Europe campaign under our new charismatic manager turned out to be nothing less than an unmitigated disaster, expectations for a good premier league start were low. After confounding the football world with our amazing opening league victory against Arsenal away, confidence was high for the next few games.

But West Ham being West Ham, we lost the next two at home on the bounce to less than glamorous opposition before turning it around with three subsequent victories, two of which were nothing less than stunning against Liverpool and Manchester City respectively.

With 12 points in the bag after our opening six games, I felt as though I was, to a degree, in a position to be able to relax. Of course West Ham fans never totally relax. As all life-long Hammers supporters will know, expectations for a successful season are typically medium to non-existent.

If in this current campaign, the Hammers were to finish in a top eight position and have a good cup run I’ll be relatively happy. Despite our recent hiccups in the league, not least in part due to our mounting injury list, I believe our squad is strong enough to secure a top half finish.

With our move away from our spiritual home at the Boleyn into the Olympic Stadium at Stratford in east London from next season, it’s important that we finish high up in the table in order to attract new players to the club while keeping hold of our best.

With a manager and former player (who appears to be finally attuned to the  entertainment ethos of the club that the fans demand) pretty much cemented into place for the foreseeable future, things are as solid as they can be for a club of our size and the relatively limited resources we have at our disposal.

As far as the fans are concerned, off the park shenanigans are, at least on the surface, good as well given that those who run the club plan to substantially reduce season ticket prices in an an attempt to fill the new stadiums 54,000 capacity – a model that other clubs have apparently been encouraged to adopt.

But as I will hopefully be able to argue persuasively in the remainder of the article, this is a double edged sword. Here’s the problem: West Ham United are paying just £15million towards the £272 million cost of converting the Olympic Stadium despite the fact that, should the club still be a Premier League outfit next year (which seems highly likely), it will – under the terms of a new TV deal – be entitled to a payout of at least £99 million.

Small business people, many of whom run their businesses on extremely tight margins, might be scratching their heads as to how it can be that the elite within football, such as multi-millionaire Lady Brady who brokered the deal, are seemingly immune to the kind of market forces that the former are compelled to adhere to?

As far as the super-rich with contacts to the top echelons of political power are concerned – whether they be premier league chairmen or City bankers – it would appear that the kind of business risks the rest of us are prone to, is not applicable to them.

In this regard, it is difficult how one could possibly argue that the Premier League is no different in principle to what happens within the much maligned banking “racket”. Perhaps I’m missing something here and readers will be able to point out to me where I’ve got it wrong.

I’m not one of these obstinate traditionalists who is intent on stifling change. On the contrary, I embrace it. I’m excited as the next man about the move to our shiny new stadium. However, what I’m less than enamoured by is the morally and financially expedient, needless to say potentially corrupt price tag that comes with it.

The reality, however one looks at the situation, is that we, the tax paying fans and non-fans alike, will be subsidizing what essentially is a risk-free big business speculative enterprise on behalf of the super rich. It’s true that in season one ticket prices will be cheaper than our London rivals, but it’s fanciful to suggest that during subsequent seasons ticket prices will remain similarly low.

I have no detailed insight into the medium to long term business plan model that the club has in place, but it would surely be churlish to deny the directors at the club have not been eyeing up something along the lines of the Arsenal model.

Lady Brady and the rest of the high flyers within the club set up are in line to make a financial killing not just from us, the everyday football fan, but also from the wider tax paying public. The various pronouncements made in the media, particularly by David Gold regarding his supposed love for West Ham United Football club, are in part clearly intended at staving off any criticisms of the club over a stadium deal that has been less than transparent.

In my view, what often tends to get overlooked in the rush for on the field success, is the realization that the David Gold’s of this world are multimillionaire, and in some cases, billionaire businessmen and women who are first and foremost motivated by profit. If they happen to be in the position of being able to grab a big slice of these profits by creaming off great swaths of our tax revenues in the process, then all the better for them.

This is not an anti-business stance I’m taking here but an anti-corruption stance – albeit a form of legalized corruption. It’s not good for the reputation of West Ham United Football Club and its fans that we will be perceived as having unfair financial leverage over other similarly sized clubs, predicated on a system of legalized corruption.

I’m not arguing here that these kinds of underhand non-transparent deals and unethical business practices are unique to West Ham United, it’s just that I’m uncomfortable with the idea of us engendering success both on and off the field in a way that is symptomatic of the malaise that seems to have become an accepted, and some might argue, intrinsic aspect of socioeconomic and political life in our country.

That the kinds of informal corruption and unethical business practices described seem to have become a normalizing feature of not only professional football and other sports, but in public life more broadly, is not something West Ham fans, or indeed any other fans, should readily embrace without serious critique.