Tag Archives: Superman

Contemporary Britain, a country dominated by Nietzsche’s untermensch (under men)

Nietzsche hated democracy because it makes possible the rule of the common man and the suppression of the superman. A term that Nietzsche uses to describe the common man is untermensch or underman, a term which was open to misunderstanding and abuse. What he meant by the untermensch was a man who lacked the potential to live the life of a ubermensch or superman. What was never understood was that for Nietzsche the distinction was based on intellect and character, not power or physical strength. Originally he named the saint, artist and philosopher as his supermen. Even his dislike of Christianity as the religion of slaves did not stop him admiring Christ as a possible superman. He admired Christ as a founder of a religion but despised Christians for slavishly following the beliefs of another. What I think is most useful is his description of the untermensch as those in thrall to a slavish culture. People incapable of independent thought. When I look at the British parliament and the legislatures of other Western nations it seems obvious that we live in an age of the untermensch.

What the untermensch share is a slavish adherence to a common culture which means that politicians of whatever political stripe, will all give the same replies to questions on policy. These are a few examples which demonstrate this clearly.

In Britain the housing market is broken and many people are forced to live in private rental sector. Properties in which they have no security of tenure and for which they pay ever increasingly exorbitant rents. Whenever it is suggested that these tenants should be given security of tenure or have their rents controlled, the same parrot cry comes from politicians, whether of the parliamentary left or right, that such controls would only make matters worse. They claim that such controls would force landlords to withdraw from the market, reducing the number of properties for rent and so making the situation worse for tenants.

Britain’s railways are the most expensive and some of the least efficient in Europe. When it is suggested that these railways should be taken out of private ownership and returned to the state, it meets with howls of derision from the collective parliamentary body. Everybody in parliament knows that the state is peculiarly unfitted to run business and businesses such as the railways are best left in private hands. The solution to the problem is as every parliamentarian knows is to transfer the railway franchises to more efficient private owners.*

There are many other examples of the politicians collective thought that could be mentioned. What is common to these practitioners of politics is a hatred of those that think independently, they expel or seek to suppress from the collectivity of politicians those who think differently. At present the parliamentary Labour party is seeking to purge itself of a leader who thinks differently. A glance at the politics of contemporary Europe provides evidence that those who think differently have no place in the mainstream political parties, they have to come from insurgent parties such as Podemos in Spain or The Five Star movement in Italy.

One common place truth of contemporary political analysis is that the political elites have lost touch with the people. It is a resentful and sullen people that turn to the populist parties of the right. These parties at leas recognise the pain of the people, something that the political parties of the left fail to do. Durkheim called socialism a cry of pain, the parliamentary socialist parties of today no longer this truth. Rather than ignoring the people, parliamentarians are following a culture that denies the validity of other expressions of the truth other than its own. Truths that might appear obvious to the people are to politicians merely uninformed opinions.

Another demonstration of the untermensch mentality is the slavish following of opinion polls. Rather than leading, politicians prefer to follow, all to often they are prepared to abandon their principles because the people as expressed a different views to theirs in an opinion poll and the peoples will  must be respected. Never do they consider that they are elected to lead the country, they prefer to follow.

The language of politics is so often that of the untermensch. One of our most popular newspapers is said to ensure that all of its content can understood by the average thirteen year. It does not tax its readers with difficult text or content. Similarly our leading politicians prefer the language of the thirteen year old which are  expressed in what are meaningless phrases or slogans. Our current Prime Minister is campaigning for re-election with a series of simple phrases, such as that she will provide ‘strong and stable government’ as opposed to the opposition who represent a ‘coalition of chaos’. She it seems feels no need to present a detailed and reasoned manifesto to the electorate.  A vague and rather meaningless manifesto will suffice and that is all she and her advisors believe is necessary is a few repeated slogans to get out the vote.

Defenders of the present political system will argue that the overwhelming majority of parliamentarians not only went to university, but elite universities and got good degrees. However the very intelligent can be members of the untermensch, as its a mentality or way of thinking and it is as much about  character as intellect. Politicians rarely stray beyond the party line or parliamentary consensus of views, they sacrifice their individuality on the altar of group think. What Nietzsche’s supermen do is to challenge the conventional thinking of the time. When politicians continually speak and think in the language of the average thirteen year old, it cannot but deform their personalities. What at first becomes a means of communicating with the masses through does through constant repetition become incorporated within their personality. They take some of the characteristics of what they affect to despise, the common or under man.

While I think that Nietzsche’s understanding of British democracy is correct today, it has not always been the case that the British parliament promotes the mediocre at the expense of the talented. Today parliament has been overtaken by the culture of the untermensch, whether its expressed in terms of loyalty to the one’s party, obedience to the will of the people or submission to the dominant Westminster belief system. In previous times there has been a much more vigorous culture at Westminster, one in which individualist thinkers could thrive and even achieve the highest office. What is needed is an ending of the stranglehold on Westminster culture of the parties of the consensus, then politicians of an independent mindset will begin to flourish there.

There are those who will have a different understanding of Nietzsche’s concept of the superman. Mine derives from the earlier writings of Nietzsche, as his understanding of the superman did change in his later writings. Obviously those who have read ‘The Will to Power’ a book created by his sister out of his notes will have a very different understanding. Personally I think that this understanding of Nietzsche’s superman is invalid and of little intrinsic merit.

* Any independent minded economist could easily expose the flaws in such thinking.

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The Corporate Superman Myth and the decline of British industry

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Image of Superman taken from bbs.sxrb.com

The of Theory of the business superman or why the British economy is constantly under performing

The readers of Marvel comics are not the only believers in superheroes and supermen, so are British politicians and other members of the various elite groups. Readers of ‘Superman’ realise that it is only a story but that is not true of the British political class, they do believe not only in one but several supermen. In the original ‘Superman’ can be rendered helpless and weak by kryptonite and the belief in British political and business circles that there is a kryptonite in the British society which turns business supermen into ordinary weak fallible human beings. It is this kryptonite which is responsible for the constant poor performance of British business.

What is this kryptonite that turns members of the business elite into mere ordinary mortals, that prevents these supermen from ever shedding their Clark Kent persona and revealing their true nature? This kryptonite is something known to us all, it is high taxes and over regulation, the familiar red tape. Governments have responded quickly to remove this poison from society. Taxes for the productive entrepreneur have been reduced by staggering amounts, from a marginal tax rate of 79% in the mid 1980s to 50% today. In fact few executives pay the 50% income tax, as a pro-business has made it possible to reduce that tax burden to 2%, through offshoring income to what in effect are shell companies. In fact the government through Her Majesties Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have collaborated with rich individuals and big corporations to help them reduce their tax burden.

The other poison which paralyses these supermen the government has reduced to such a minimum that its toxic effects are barely noticed. The government has reduced the cost of labour by removing all those employment protections that pushed up the cost of labour for the employer. Trade unions have been so emasculated by legislation that they can no longer effective bid up the price of labour or even resist the reduction in its price. The recent industrial problems at Grangemouth illustrated this when the government supported the employer Ineos in its planned programme of wage cuts for refinery employers. In the same vein the government has removed most of the employment protections that prevented employers using their workers as they please or how they believe they will be used most effectively. No longer does dismissing a worker involve expensive redundancy payments or trip to the industrial tribunal to defend against the claim of wrongful dismissal. (The government has reduced the possibility of employees taking their employer to an industrial tribunal by imposing a tribunal fee of £1200.)

If the stories of the business superman had any truth in them Britain would now be one of the most productive and prosperous countries in Europe, as it would be not only the fastest growing economy in Europe but also the world. However the reverse has happened economic growth has remained mediocre, increasing numbers of people have been falling into poverty and the productivity of the British worker has fallen. What political and business classes failed to realise was the main cause for failure lie not within a poisonous anti business society, but in the very ordinariness of the business class. Rather than being a superior group they are very like the other members of society, no better or worse. They don’t have any special talents. People such as Michael O’Leary the Chief Executive of Ryanair are unique, few business leaders have their acumen. Rather than liberating the inner superman the changes have liberated the inner Clark Kent. A series of mediocre managers claim the mantle of an O’Leary vastly overpaying themselves and underperforming.

At present I am reading Robert Burton’s ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’ and the words that he quotes from an unidentified philosopher on leadership which ‘Of an infinite number, few alone are senators, and of those few, fewer good, and of that small number of honest, good, and noble men, few that are learned, wise, discreet and sufficient, able to discharge such places’ (p.82) these are words that our hero worshipping politicians should heed. What instead of there being a group of supermen running our business corporations, there are instead a group of Clark Kent’s who should never aspire to leadership positions.

What economists of a Neo-Liberal persuasion, politicians and business classes fail to realise is that high status and superior position does not confer greatness on an individual. Yet all too often these people assume the role of Demi Gods, regarding themselves as superior to the ordinary run of mankind. Again I rely on the words of Robert Burton to express the reality of this situation. He writes that where the wrong type of men are in power ‘all things are ugly to behold, incult, barbarous, uncivil,a paradise is turned to a wilderness” (p.86)

Given that men in power whether in business or politics are more often than not men of mundane abilities and wisdom, they are unfitted for roles of leadership. They will abuse the position which they are granted, often using it to extort from the company large sums in payment for their services. There are occasions when it is hard to believe that these people are working in the interests of the company rather than themselves. Given positions of responsibility for which they are unfitted, these men will either through their mediocre performance turn the business is into a underperforming one or through their recklessness bankrupt the business. Despite the claim that in a competitive market economy there is no reward for failure this is untrue for senior company executives. The failing director is dismissed with a generous severance package, so generous that they will never experience want. If the company fails through their incompetence they will have taken steps to ensure that their income and wealth is protected. Any observer of the Stock Exchange will be able to name companies that thorough the incompetence of their senior executives have ended up in the hands of the administrator.

It is not the interest of the common good that these mediocre individuals should be allowed to run large business enterprises as they please. There needs to be some legislative or regulatory framework that forces senior executives to improve their performance. What is notable is that there has been a collective dumbing down of business management since the bonfire of regulations that was the Neo-Liberal economic revolution, as these executives are accountable to non one. The one exercise in democracy the company Annual General Meeting is but a stage managed show in which the company directors talk about how well they have performed.
One change that would improve the performance of these under performing executives is a change in the law that made company directors and other senior executives accountable for the poor performance of the business under their stewardship. A financial charge on those directors incomes and wealth made in the event of the firms failure would see the end of much poor and irresponsible decision making. Bankruptcy law as it protects poor performing senior executives from any financial penalty as all debts to creditors are charged to the failed business, never to the executives who drove the business into bankruptcy.

The author believes that what is desperately needed is a new statutory regulatory framework to force senior executives to work to a higher levels of performance. A system that imposes no penalties for failure allows many corporate duds to thrive in the board rooms of British businesses. Neo-Liberalism goes against the grain of human nature as evidence demonstrates that the corporate geniuses are few and far between, and the so ordinary people that dominate businesses are incapable of performing well in a regulation free world. A much tougher regulatory regime would not prevent the few corporate geniuses such as Michael O’ Leary from thriving. What it would do is prevent British board rooms being dominated by the corporate duds, as is so often the case now.