What money cannot buy

Posted: 19th January 2018

The new year came, and with it brought a new term, and new Saturday morning lectures for the Academic Scholars to devour. Our first, came from Mr Gallimore of the History department, with the title ‘What Money Cannot Buy’. The talk focused on the ‘stuttering march of capitalism’, which seemed to wake everyone in the theatre up a bit, including myself.

“The best things in life are free” proclaimed Mr Gallimore, “but let’s be honest, the second best aren’t.” Seeing your child walk for the first time, finding the person you love, leading an attack squadron in Afghanistan; luxury yachts and 5* star holidays just don’t quite compare. And of course, you can’t legally buy a child, or love, Mr Gallimore was quick to point out. He then referred to a book by Francis Fukuyama, with the bold title ‘The End of History’. A book which claims capitalism has officially arrived, and the free market is the only way forward. But are we all there? Or do we just want to be? These were the fundamental questions that were to be addressed in the talk.

Mr Gallimore’s mellifluous tones then progressed on to the topic of politics, and the debate of was it the best or the worst time to be a politician? Four that Mr Gallimore himself knew, three of which are MP’s, supported the latter argument. In his opinion, there are no inspiring characters in current British politics, which I certainly concur with. So, do we have the worst politicians, the worst voters, or the worst circumstances? It can be argued that it is much easier to stand up for the strugglers, the weak, the lame, the poor. However, that isn’t the current state; we as a society are, and I quote, all ‘fat and happy’. However, Mr Gallimore strongly disagreed with this argument.

But it is actually an exciting time for politics and for my generation. The traditional ‘left’ and ‘right’ are being challenged – Corbyn and Labour now have the immense support of young people, who subscribe to the idea of socialism. Whereas the ‘right’ is now seemingly represented by Trump. Is this the way to advance, with the free market being challenged? How do we make our minds up? Mr Gallimore expressed the idea of the world becoming a market with a few well-thought-out examples. After-school clubs becoming childcare with the right to be late (as long as you can pay for it), firms literally buying the right to pollute the environment via Pollution Permits and carbon trading, and the controversial topic of Cecil the Lion – all proved to us that the market affects everything. Even speedy boarding at an airport: the more you pay, the easier it gets. But sometimes, money can’t quite get you there. For example, getting into Oxbridge. It’s your passion, desire, and commitment that drives you, making you stand out, and excel. The same goes in sport, with the likes of the great cricket all-rounder Keith Miller, who would get the bus to matches surrounded by his spectators. He played for the love of the game, not the money, unlike some footballers today who are paid millions just to turn up.

Nearing the end of his talk, Mr Gallimore told us the story of Tommy Lee, a handy-man at a Walmart that had invested in life insurance. Tommy dropped down dead, and the insurance company payed out to Walmart, not his family, as economically and financially the employer faced the real loss: one less worker in the labour force.

Mr Gallimore concluded, and left us with some very thought-provoking questions. Is the free market always right? Is there now, perhaps, room for some kind of socialism? Where do morals trump the market and should we all just accept the status quo, by accepting that the free market is always best? These were all questions that left us all reassessing our world view and, to an extent, our own moral compass.

Personally, I found that this talk challenged my own views on the ‘left’ and capitalism – and my eyes have been opened to a very different type of society and that we should not just accept things the way they are merely because “it works”. On behalf of all the Academic Scholars, I would like to thank Mr Gallimore for an immensely interesting and captivating talk.

Ben Jackson, Y10 Academic Scholar

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