Letters: In Defence of the Rich / In Defence of the Vast Majority

Date:

Dear Sir,

In the … brazenly condescending column ‘That’s Capitalism’ (WS114) I read a very short but very puzzling piece on Aidan Heavey (Founder and CEO of Tullow Oil). You feel it newsworthy to mention that his total remuneration for the year amounted to €25,962,983. By the general theme of your paper and this column in particular I can derive a clear negative slant on any business issues you report on.

It clear you feel you are shedding the light on business and its dirty little secrets and informing the public of the murky goings-on of the corporate elite-how self-righteous. …

I fail to see how this man making over €25million in one year is worth reporting in your paper. I can only assume you are inferring that this level of pay is excessive. Is this correct? Perhaps the millions in tax his company pays to the incompetent Irish Government is excessive too? Perhaps this man should join the many others who locate off shore and keep it all to himself?

This man repeatedly risked everything he had to get where he is today. Let me repeat that. He repeatedly risked everything he had. He left a secure job. Mortgaged his home. Took on massive debt to finance a very risky venture. After years of struggle and hard work his efforts are paying off. The company just recently borrowed yet again to purchase a larger competitor. Things are going well for this man and his company and as a fellow Irish citizen we should applaud him.

I also notice you care to mention the extensive philanthropic work Mr. Heavey does. I personally know of his involvement in several Ugandan charities that bring clean water to villages and fund education programmes for women. How come this did not make your paper? I assume because it does not fit your childish and simplistic opinion of capitalism.

Best of Luck, ...

Michael Conway

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Aidan Heavey may be a nice guy to go for a pint with, and there is no doubting his charitable donations.  But how did Heavey get all this cash? 

If the average industrial hourly wage is €15.73 an hour, it would take someone on this pay 781 years to earn what Heavey picked up for just one year.  There is something very wrong with, and that’s capitalism, a system that exists to look after the wealthy. 

The means of producing and distributing goods (land, factories, offices, technology, transport fleets, etc) are owned by a small minority of people. These are the capitalist class. The rest of us, the majority, must sell our ability to work in return for a wage.  This is the working class, which also includes our dependents like children, the retired and the unemployed.

We are paid to produce goods and services, which are then sold for a profit (or, like education & health, are essential to the system, although increasingly both health and education are being treated as commodities also). The capitalist class takes the profit because they can sell what we have produced for more than we are paid to produce it. That is why we say the working class are exploited.

In capitalism, the reason for producing goods and services is to sell them for a profit, not to satisfy people’s needs. The profit motive is not just the greed of individual capitalists. They do not have a choice about it. The need to make a profit is a condition for not losing their investments and their position as capitalists. 

But what about the risks Heavey took?  He “mortgaged his home”.  Big deal, most of us are on mortgages.  He took on ”massive debts”.  In other words he borrowed money and gambled that he could pay it back. Are we really supposed to think that the rich deserve all the loot they have simply on the grounds that they could get a loan to purchase the means of production? Meanwhile, the rest of us, the ones who actually do all the work, are only entitled to a basic wage, the threat of unemployment in bad times and no prospect of a ‘bail out’ if we can’t repay our debts?

The alternative we propose is a society that would operate on the basis “from each according to ability, to each according to need”. That is what makes us implacable enemies of capitalism.  We don’t hate most of the rich as individuals but do hate their system of greed, exploitation and selfishness.

Alan MacSimóin
 

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