Inequality for all

To recognize the World Day of Social Justice which was on 20 February, I watched this great documentary produced by Robert Reich, renowned US economist who has advised several US presidents and governments. Though this documentary is focusing on USA, it brings into light the danger of inequality anywhere; danger to people, to living standards, to democracy. In the film Mr Reich suggests to address the challenges of inequality through:

  • middle-out economy (opposed to trickle-down economy which is a pure myth),
  • investment in education (if anything, education can be a Troyan horse to reduce inequality);
  • putting the people first;
  • strict policy on tax justice and stopping tax breaks to ensure fair contribution by the rich to the society (higher concentration of money in fewer hands creates power and ability to influence politics and democratic processes).

He is calling for bigger social change which should should be triggered by society. Complacency won’t work. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NdDupITDv8

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all you need to know about super-rich

This BBC documentary The Super-rich and Us (demonstrated in early January 2015) is probably the best film so far to shed some light on the ill-famous ‘1%’ and their lives. That 1% who caused global financial crisis in 2008 and who are living better than ever. UK has the highest number of millionaires per capita, yet it is also one of the most unequal developed countries, therefore this film asks – how come?

This film is about the myth of trickle-down effect, pro-rich tax regime (UK as the most important tax haven in the world and opportunities for innovative tax avoidance), corruption (HMRC helping companies to avoid or reduce tax), inequality, Thatcher’s ideological heritage, justice, and last but not least – democracy.

Watch it.

 

misbehaving in a tea party: review of UK Gold

If there is one good outcome of the 2008 financial crisis followed by cold-blooded austerity policies, then it is this increased attention to the massive tax avoidance, which has been taking place for years and years. This excellent documentary UK Gold (rent full movie here) is yet another contribution building greater awareness in society about the ugly side of the British wealth and the wealthy. It is about complete kleptocracy, clientelism and lack of democracy.

This film, firstly, disproves the myth that the most notorious tax havens like Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands etc, are independent, autonomous from the British government. This argument of their autonomy from the UK government, which British government often uses to explain its in-action with respect to abolishment of tax havens, is farce. In reality all of these ‘independent’ territories have British governors appointed by the Queen (in addition to the locally elected governments) who enjoy power and influence over their internal policies and rules.

The facts are:

  • 1 in 4 UK companies pays no tax at all;
  • 25bn GBP a year UK is losing because of tax avoidance;
  • 360bn USD developing countries are losing as result of tax avoidance via tax havens (for comparison – annual international aid is about 120bn USD);
  • 98 out of top100 FTSE companies use tax havens;
  • Cayman Islands is the 4th largest financial centre in the world and has more money than NY;
  • Corporate tax avoidance has been constantly rising;

 So, with these facts on the table, one may wonder why then British government is so unwilling to get rid of tax havens? Why it tolerates this escape from responsibilities, undermining of democracy and theft of common purse?

Some of the explanations are:

  • Legislative process has been captured by multinational companies and influential lobbyist groups;
  • Government’s own links with tax havens or their own reliance on tax havens to maintain or improve their wealth (apparently Cameron’s inherited wealth was very much created through tax havens);
  • Over 60 MPs have relations with companies related to tax havens;
  • The City of London, the mother of all tax havens, is the top lobbyist in the UK, the oldest lobbyist in the world, and has a designated seat in the parliament;
  • Since mid 20th century international finance has been the key sector, which has preserved UK’s world power status. Without the City of London and its worldwide cobweb of tax havens and further plans of expansion and influence (the cityUK is behind the ambitious project of making Nairobi the international finance centre) UK would be a medium-size economy;
  • what will the firms like Maples (the leading international law firm advising financial, institutional and business clients around the world on the laws of the Cayman Islands, Ireland and the British Virgin Islands).do, once they wont be able to makes fortunes out of advisory services on ‘developing innovative and effective solutions’ on tax matters?

The last G20 and G8 summits indeed have expressed concerns about the negative impact of tax havens and have even called for concrete actions against them, however, in reality the hyperactive signing of cooperative agreements is far from sufficient to make a significant change. It’s like putting a plaster on an infected wound; nobody will be able to say that you have not done anything, but it will only hide the infection but bacteria will continue growing.

US and EU has been more progressive in addressing tax haven issues, but will they be strong enough to challenge the UK’s status quo?

One of the main narrators in this film, father William Taylor, who is extremely passionate about tax justice issues and wants to make politicians and companies accountable for this theft, ironically calls his own actions of speaking up and challenging the establishment as ‘farting at a tea party’ – you are just simply not supposed to talk about these tings! How dare you, but we should. We need more fathers William Taylor and more such noise-making films like the UK Gold.

Guide to Happiness

When it comes to movies and cinema, I admit, i am very picky. Though cinema is considered to be a form of entertainment, i’m always looking for something more. Messages, lessons, new knowledge.. Something i can still keep on chewing in my mind for hours and days after watching a movie. Therefore, i am very big fan of documentaries. And, one evening a browsing and googling on internet resulted in a discovery of an amazing site – Top Documentary Films – with loads of documentaries for free to watch. Wow!!

amazing.

As the first one I watched – Guide to Happiness, as, I guess, happiness is something we all may be trying to search for every day, persistently and endlessly .. and at the end of the day still not knowing if we have found it or not..

This was a very interesting philosophical interpretation of happiness and besides being very educational, it was a rich food for thought.

Apparently, if we would ask Socrates how to be happy, he would advise us to think twice when just copying or following others because the fact that majority is doing something or thinking in a particular way, does not mean that they are right. He would urge us to more believe in ourselves rather than behaving as sheep following the crowd.

Epicurus would say us that there are three things which may bring us happiness – friends, freedom and an analyzed life (or thinking). He would ask us to think, if what we want is what we actually need.

Seneca’s lesson on anger I have already told to my collegues at work: to avoid stress and anger, be prepared for the worst but dream for the best. So, when you will be prepared, you wont panic and stress if you arrive at work late or somebody damages your car or whatever. You will be prepared and most likely you will have a Plan B already in your mind.

Montaigne would be talking about self-esteem and self-confidence. He believed that it is far more important to be wise rather than to know a lot and have a university degree.

Schopenhauer would argue that it is love which is the most important driver to live. Only love can give a true meaning to our lives.

And last but not least – Nietzsche would advise to avoid comfort zones, but persistently challenge ourselves and experience hardship, because this is the only way to achieve something worthwhile in our lives.

I am still chewing these ideas in my mind and trying to relate them to my approach to life and happiness. One thing what i am definitely sure about is that happiness is not something you can get and have it. It’s more like a process or a path. And every day you have to make a step or two