Selling your grandmother(s)

Long ago, I devised a measure to rate the naked ambition of one of my then colleagues.  This was based on the number of his grandmothers he would be willing to sell to climb the next rung up the corporate ladder.  In those more innocent days, I was not positing that the sold grandparents would wind up in a 100% beef lasagne, probably just on a quay-side in Valparaiso – a location for some reason linked in my mind to the white slave trade (I have no idea why and I would like to apologise unreservedly to the Chilean port for this base canard).  On this scale, my ex-colleague scored significantly above two – thus requiring the imagining of a thriving secondary market in female grandparents.

This government seems to share the messianic zeal for privatisation of its ideological predecessor – well, I say ideological, though in my more cynical moments (basically, those moments between me waking in the morning and falling asleep at night) I suspect it has far more to do with the financial kick-backs.  I might take a different view of privatisation had ever proved successful, but with the mess made of the railways and with BT and the privatised utilities being among the most hated and least trusted corporations in the land – the successful privatisation (from the perspective of the UK populace) is as rare as hen’s teeth or frog’s fur.  Privatisation has often been described as selling the family silver – usually at massively below its “market” value – but I think recent news suggests we have now moved into selling the family (or at least its older, female members).

Yesterday, I gave blood – the quickest method of weight-loss I know, though one somewhat ameliorated by the subsequent gorging on free biscuits.  For my previous 74 donations, this blood was used purely for the public weal – but now, it would seem that my public spirit is also to enrich a bunch of US venture capitalists.  In the catalogue of wickedness perpetrated by this government, this sets a new low.  It also strikes me as very dangerous to introduce market norms where they do not belong – perhaps the government would do well to read Michael Sandel’s excellent book What Money Can’t Buy.  I do wonder if people will be quite so willing to give freely of their life blood if such generosity is going to reward foreign venture capitalists?  I am far from convinced that I trust commercial interest with our blood supply – let’s face it, commercial corporations have not covered themselves in glory in recent years with their probity (particularly, when they thought no-one was looking or had ensured that it was in people’s financial interest not to look).  I wonder how long we will have to wait before the horse plasma scandal breaks?

2 thoughts on “Selling your grandmother(s)

  1. Stuart Ffoulkes says:

    Well, it would seem that my blood is safe from American capitalists – for w little while, at least. But this begs a question: if the plasma isn’t coming from donated blood where is it coming from?
    Was I right about the horses? Or are we about to see the return of the resurrection men?

  2. Stuart Ffoulkes says:

    Further research would suggest that our masters are not merely venal but incompetent – as a result the NHS Blood and Transfusion service has been forced to clarify what has actually been sold off. It’s new master may be somewhat apposite, as like (some) venture capitalists we obtain our plasma by bleeding poorer Americans dry (though I still want some money each way on the horse option).

    Yes, little did I know that after finding myself one pint lighter, NHSBT incinerates my plasma and replaces it with stuff bought from the US. This is because of the risk of vCJD – which I would have thought was incredibly low – which is not expected in US blood. However, as US blood is donated in return for cash I might imagine it comes with a wide range of other issues (the extra cash must be quite appealing to the financially-challenged intravenous drug user, for example). My gut reaction would be to go with a local supplier – but I did drop biology in the 3rd form, so I could all too easily be wrong!

    My limited understanding of venture capital is that it tends to invest in sound but undervalued businesses which can quickly be turned around for a profit. One might ask why our government is flogging off such a business. Curiously, I used to work for a company which had a similar business plan – taking cash today, but forgoing future profits while retaining much of the risk. This strategy did no go well after a while, and its main protagonists are now serving length prison terms (or are dead). Perhaps we might hope that history (as so oft before) will repeat itself…

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