The TV points out all sorts of truths, doesn’t it? Last week we had a documentary proving there’s nothing new under the sun, showing us how drunkenness, foul language and yobbish behaviour have been part of the British way of life since at least the Middle Ages. And the recent dramatisation of the last days of Robert Maxwell brought to mind the sleaze associated with some of the world’s top businessmen, who act as if they are above the law.
So have we moved on in that area at all? If you think so, you’re mistaken. While more than 5,000 Enron pensioners contemplate a lean retirement and some of its executives languish, unrepentant, in jail, Conrad Black is involved in a major slanging match in the US courts as a former aide dishes the dirt on how he treated company money from Hollinger International as his own.
Meanwhile, Paul Wolfowitz, former president of the World Bank, thought it was OK to give his girlfriend a pay rise and a leg up the corporate ladder. When caught out, did he have the decency to resign? No, he hung in there despite this breach of trust.
So why are we surprised when ordinary employees reject company pension schemes, even despite their employers’ contributions? They may be living hand-to-mouth paying off large mortgages and student loans, or they could just be unwilling to trust their futures to these high-rolling oligarchs who think they can make the rules up as they go along. And frankly, who could blame them?