The appendix to the book Ragged Trousered Philanthropists; Mugsborough portrayed Britain itself at the height of Empire: …
Mugsborough was a town of about eighty thousand inhabitants, about two hundred miles from London. It was built in a verdant valley. Looking west, north or east from the vicinity of the fountain on the Grand Parade in the centre of the town, one saw a succession of pine-clad hills. To the south, as far as the eye could see, stretched a vast, cultivated plain that extended to the south coast, one hundred miles away. The climate was supposed to be cool in summer and mild in winter.
The town proper nestled in the valley: to the west, the most beautiful and sheltered part was the suburb of Irene: here were the homes of the wealthy residents and prosperous tradespeople, and numerous boarding-houses for the accommodation of well-to-do visitors. East, the town extended up the slope to the top of the hill and down the other side to the suburb of Windley, where the majority of the working classes lived.
Years ago, when the facilities for foreign travel were fewer and more costly, Mugsborough was a favourite resort of the upper classes, but of late years most of these patriots have adopted the practice of going on the Continent to spend the money they obtain from the working people of England.
However, Mugsborough still retained some semblance of prosperity. Summer or winter the place was usually fairly full of what were called good-class visitors, either holidaymakers or invalids. The Grand Parade was generally crowded with well-dressed people and carriages. The shops appeared to be well-patronized and at the time of our story an air of prosperity pervaded the town.
But this fair outward appearance was deceitful. The town was really a vast whited sepulchre; for notwithstanding the natural advantages of the place the majority of the inhabitants existed in a state of perpetual poverty which in many cases bordered on destitution. One of the reasons for this was that a great part of the incomes of the tradespeople and boarding-house-keepers and about a third of the wages of the working classes were paid away as rent and rates.
For years the Corporation had been borrowing money for necessary public works and improvements, and as the indebtedness of the town increased the rates rose in proportion, because the only works and services undertaken by the Council were such as did not yield revenue. Every public service capable of returning direct profit was in the hands of private companies, and the shares of the private companies were in the hands of the members of the Corporation, and the members of the Corporation were in the hands of the four most able and intellectual of their number, Councillors Sweater, Rushton, Didlum and Grinder, each of whom was a director of one or more of the numerous companies which battened on the town.
The Tramway Company, the Water Works Company, the Public Baths Company, the Winter Gardens Company, the Grand Hotel Company and numerous others. There was, however, one Company in which Sweater, Rushton, Didlum and Grinder had no shares, and that was the Gas Company, the oldest and most flourishing of them all. This institution had grown with the place; most of the original promoters were dead, and the greater number of the present shareholders were non-residents; although they lived on the town, they did not live in it.
The profits made by this Company were so great that, being prevented by law from paying a larger dividend than ten percent, they frequently found it a difficult matter to decide what to do with the money. They paid the Directors and principal officials – themselves shareholders, of course – enormous salaries. They built and furnished costly and luxurious offices and gave the rest to the shareholders in the form of Bonuses.
There was one way in which the Company might have used some of the profits: it might have granted shorter hours and higher wages to the workmen whose health was destroyed and whose lives were shortened by the terrible labour of the retort-houses and the limesheds; but of course none of the directors or shareholders ever thought of doing that. It was not the business of the Company to concern itself about them.
Years ago, when it might have been done for a comparatively small amount, some hare-brained Socialists suggested that the town should buy the Gas Works, but the project was wrecked by the inhabitants, upon whom the mere mention of the word Socialist had the same effect that the sight of a red rag is popularly supposed to have on a bull.
Of course, even now it was still possible to buy out the Company, but it was supposed that it would cost so much that it was generally considered to be impracticable.
Although they declined to buy the Gas works, the people of Mugsborough had to buy the gas. The amount paid by the municipality to the Company for the public lighting of the town loomed large in the accounts of the Council. They managed to get some of their own back by imposing a duty of two shillings a ton upon coals imported into the Borough, but although it cost the Gas Works a lot of money for coaldues the Company in its turn got its own back by increasing the price of gas they sold to the inhabitants of the town…
And it hasn't changed.
This isn't about socialism or capitalism. It is about what happens every day in the legal edifices which run not just Britain but almost every country in the world Communist or Nationalist. (Not that there was ever much difference beteween communist or nationalists, compare for example the USA with the USSR or today's Russian Federation.)
In Britain, the appropriate description for its inhabitants not merchant bankers, polititicians and outright crooks is: