This is a slightly strange error for Owen Jones to have to cop to. The One who would lead us all to the sunny uplands of a socialist economy doesn’t seem to know what socialism is:
“The urge to punish all bankers has gone far enough,” declared a piece in the Financial Times just six months after the crisis began. But if there was ever such an “urge” on the part of government, it was never acted on. In 2012, 2,714 British bankers were paid more than €1m – 12 times as many as any other EU country. When the EU unveiled proposals in 2012 to limit bonuses to either one or two years’ salary with the say-so of shareholders, there was fury in the City. Luckily, their friends in high office were there to rescue their bonuses: at the British taxpayers’ expense, the Treasury took to the European Court to challenge the proposals. The entire British government demonstrated, not for the first time, that it was one giant lobbying operation for the City of London.
Bankers are employees of banks. The employees of an organisation having an ownership right in the profits of that organisation is a form of socialism. In a capitalist organisation the profits would flow, uninterrupted, to the shareholders, not the employees.
The current structure of banking pay in London, with those bonuses, is more like the profit share at John Lewis, of the divvie to the customers at the Co Op, than it is to anything reminiscent of hard line capitalism.
Socialism, despite what Jones may think, is not just whatever he approves of just as the definition of capitalism or free markets is not the same as whatever we approve of here.
By the way, shouting about how 12 times more bankers got big paychecks in the UK than the rest of the EU is simply evidence of the fact that the European finance (indeed, the largest portion of the international, global) industry is largely based in London and The City. It’s no more surprising than finding out that the majority of people paid to make Parma ham are in Northern Italy, the majority of those making Stilton are somewhere north of Watford Gap or that there’s a definite shortage of those paid to herd reindeer in lands where olive trees thrive.
Good grief, even Karl Marx managed to get to grips with the implications of Ricardo and comparative advantage. Might be worth Jones giving that a crack.