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Slothrop
11-05-2010, 11:36 PM
Obvious question - what happens next?

Best case scenario seems to be a hard rethink on stuff like civil liberties and social justice and reemergence in a few years when lib-con (con-dem?) falls apart as a genuinely progressive party that's still palatable enough to middle england to actually get in when the Cameron honeymoon period wears off (current estimates suggest next thursday) and the cuts start to bite.

But I have no idea what the factions and players are and can't help guessing that we're likely to end up with the same old same old with a smiley new face fronting it.

crackerjack
12-05-2010, 12:22 AM
Obvious question - what happens next?

Best case scenario seems to be a hard rethink on stuff like civil liberties and social justice and reemergence in a few years when lib-con (con-dem?) falls apart as a genuinely progressive party that's still palatable enough to middle england to actually get in when the Cameron honeymoon period wears off (current estimates suggest next thursday) and the cuts start to bite.

But I have no idea what the factions and players are and can't help guessing that we're likely to end up with the same old same old with a smiley new face fronting it.

Labour will stay centrist with some of the neo-liberal cocksucking trimmed, but not abandoned. Civil liberties stance should improve. But there'll be no return to 80s factionalism. Next leader will be a Miliband, though don't know which ( pref Ed)

craner
12-05-2010, 12:05 PM
Labour are surprisingly strong; it's interesting how many Labour MPs agreed that a Lib-Lab deal would be a larger disaster than opposition. This is the best opposition position we could hope for, all things considered: core vote firm, extremist and small parties mostly smashed by Labour candidates, all the key leaders still in place (no Portillo or Mellor moments), very little factionalism (Cruddas is a pretty benign left-of-centre candidate, Ed Balls has softened around the edges, Blairite ultras are almost an extinct breed, etc.). The biggest things to sort out are: party funding; party-union relations (not simply repairing them); and, I guess, the consitutional make-up of the party needs re-alignment, after the battering it took by 13 years of centralising, Presidential-esque power.

Slothrop
12-05-2010, 01:35 PM
Economic centrism is kind of to be expected. I guess from a personal point of view, my big issues with labour have been
* belligerent foreign policy
* dreadful record on civil liberties (ID cards, detention without trial, religious hatred legislation, increased police powers in the name of stopping terrorists[1], retention of DNA from innocent people etc)
* Poor progress on social justice (obviously not something you can do overnight or for free, but their approach to education seems to have been pretty counterproductive for starters).

All of these are things that I'd expect the traditional labour party to do better on, so I guess I'm asking
a) How have these tendancies even got into the labour leadership?
b) Are they likely to be identified as things that need to be changed before the next election?
c) Which of the current factions and potential leaders are going to want to change them and which are going to want to keep on the same track?




[1] or peaceful protestors

hucks
12-05-2010, 03:17 PM
Economic centrism is kind of to be expected. I guess from a personal point of view, my big issues with labour have been
* belligerent foreign policy
* dreadful record on civil liberties (ID cards, detention without trial, religious hatred legislation, increased police powers in the name of stopping terrorists[1], retention of DNA from innocent people etc)
* Poor progress on social justice (obviously not something you can do overnight or for free, but their approach to education seems to have been pretty counterproductive for starters).


Re: social justice - do you mean higher education fees? Agree with you on that, tho I don't think the rest of their edcucation policies have been poor from a social justice perspective.

I work in the area (I research poverty stats, basically) and the retrospective assessment will probably be quite positive. Overall, changes to the tax and benefits system distributed towards the poor and away from the rich. It's The Rest of Capitalism that has resulted in the gap between rich and poor not shrinking.

The overall approach was totally centrist and top down, though. You can imagine Brown in the Treasury with a big graph going, "If we add 25p to working tax credits, 250,000 people will come off beenfits and go into work...". Very little room for local variation, hugely bureaucratic systems...

scottdisco
12-05-2010, 03:24 PM
the retrospective assessment will probably be quite positive. Overall, changes to the tax and benefits system dsitributed towards the poor and away from the rich. It's The Rest of Capitalism that has resulted in the gap between rich and poor not shrinking.

hucks otm. i repeat myself when i note Lane Kenworthy saying that (http://lanekenworthy.net/2009/06/01/did-blair-and-brown-fail-on-inequality/)


In a Financial Times op-ed, Matthew Engel says


This month, it was revealed that the UK’s Gini coefficient, measuring inequality between rich and poor, had reached its highest level on record — after the longest period of Labour government ever. You do not have to be a Labour voter to wonder what, then, has been the point of it all.

I wouldn’t want to offer a full-scale defense of the Labour governments’ strategy (see ch. 11 of this book (http://books.google.com/books?id=xrguNQAACAAJ) for my views), but there is a reasonable response to this particular challenge. Inequality of market incomes has been increasing almost everywhere. Arguably, it has risen less, and government has done more to mitigate its impact, under Labour than would have been the case under the Conservatives. It’s impossible to know that for certain, of course, but the following data on inflation-adjusted income growth during the most recent periods of Conservative and Labour rule are consistent with this assertion.

http://lanekenworthy.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/didlabourfail-figure1-version1.png

vimothy
12-05-2010, 03:25 PM
http://freethinkecon.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/distimpactlabour.jpg?w=570&h=395

crackerjack
12-05-2010, 03:28 PM
Economic centrism is kind of to be expected. I guess from a personal point of view, my big issues with labour have been
* belligerent foreign policy
* dreadful record on civil liberties (ID cards, detention without trial, religious hatred legislation, increased police powers in the name of stopping terrorists[1], retention of DNA from innocent people etc)
* Poor progress on social justice (obviously not something you can do overnight or for free, but their approach to education seems to have been pretty counterproductive for starters).

All of these are things that I'd expect the traditional labour party to do better on, so I guess I'm asking
a) How have these tendancies even got into the labour leadership?
b) Are they likely to be identified as things that need to be changed before the next election?
c) Which of the current factions and potential leaders are going to want to change them and which are going to want to keep on the same track?




[1] or peaceful protestors

Good points, can't disagree with much there.

1) was a conflation of various things (White House warmongers, messianic PM, genuine fears re terrorism) that are unlikely to be repeated, at least for very long time. Unless you're not just talking about Iraq. Personally I have little or no problem with interventions in balkans, C. Asia and W Africa (which isn't to say i'd endorse everything that happened there).

2) Is still baffles me how Labour got this so completely wrong. It seems like every HO policy was designed on a fag packet with the righting tabloids in mind.

3) This is the big one. Whoever can square the circle of grwoth and better social mobility should be the next leader. Hopefully for a long time.

crackerjack
12-05-2010, 03:29 PM
http://freethinkecon.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/distimpactlabour.jpg?w=570&h=395

So that means the rich got poorer under Labour? Was the data for this gathered at the height of the recession?

scottdisco
12-05-2010, 03:35 PM
as Keith Best of the Immigration Advisory Service once said, Labour's asylum and immigration policies genuinely seemed to be designed to appeal to Daily Express readers. sorry, i just thought of that old quote w what Cracker said about back of fag packet tabloid courting...

vimothy
12-05-2010, 03:37 PM
So that means the rich got poorer under Labour?

No, definitely not. Real incomes increased across the board 2% per annum on average, IIRC. This chart just shows govt redistribution from rich to poor (pre measure of real income change)--as in, govt policies resulted in a loss to top decile of about 8% of net income over term of Labour's rule. That's quite different to the rich getting poorer. More like richer less fast.

Duh: the data is right there in hucks' graph!

subvert47
12-05-2010, 09:48 PM
Labour - where now?

to an International War Crimes Tribunal?

:)

sufi
13-05-2010, 08:26 AM
as Keith Best of the Immigration Advisory Service once said, Labour's asylum and immigration policies genuinely seemed to be designed to appeal to Daily Express readers. sorry, i just thought of that old quote w what Cracker said about back of fag packet tabloid courting...
interesting character; ex tory mp, dumped for insider dealing, seems to have rehabilitated himself, has recently quit the ias & is now heading http://www.torturecare.org.uk/

crackerjack
13-05-2010, 09:12 AM
interesting character; ex tory mp, dumped for insider dealing, seems to have rehabilitated himself, has recently quit the ias & is now heading http://www.torturecare.org.uk/

I was wondering if that was the same guy. While a junior minister he also killed someone in a car accident that most assumed, rightly or not, was his fault.

Slothrop
13-05-2010, 12:54 PM
Re: social justice - do you mean higher education fees? Agree with you on that, tho I don't think the rest of their edcucation policies have been poor from a social justice perspective.

I work in the area (I research poverty stats, basically) and the retrospective assessment will probably be quite positive. Overall, changes to the tax and benefits system distributed towards the poor and away from the rich. It's The Rest of Capitalism that has resulted in the gap between rich and poor not shrinking.

I guess social mobility is what I had in mind.

Higher education fees combined with the drive to get more people into higher education - thus turning university into a way of making sure that only middle class people get middle class jobs - is a big thing.

There's also an increasing awareness (if not an actual increasing problem) of the social barriers to entry (particularly the need to do unpaid work experience) that mean that areas like media, politics, and journalism have become the preserve of the upper middle class - which seems like the sort of thing that you'd expect a labour government to be doing something about. Maybe this is just my preoccupation, though...

baboon2004
13-05-2010, 01:31 PM
I guess social mobility is what I had in mind.

Higher education fees combined with the drive to get more people into higher education - thus turning university into a way of making sure that only middle class people get middle class jobs - is a big thing.

There's also an increasing awareness (if not an actual increasing problem) of the social barriers to entry (particularly the need to do unpaid work experience) that mean that areas like media, politics, and journalism have become the preserve of the upper middle class - which seems like the sort of thing that you'd expect a labour government to be doing something about. Maybe this is just my preoccupation, though...

yes, yes, yes and yes. spot on.

The university system is in many ways a disgrace re social mobility. From interviews I've done recently, it's not just that a degree is considered necessary for many jobs (which is often ridiculous, imo), but the whole method of judging people's suitability for roles is slanted to favour those who have a particular type of formal education. Grinding aptitude all the way. It's a very difficult problem to combat, without reforming the education system from the bottom up, to stop university becoming a middle-class jolly for three years.

From my own experience, journalism/media is a completely closed world on many levels.

Preoccupation = (pre)occupation, in your case?

baboon2004
13-05-2010, 01:37 PM
No, definitely not. Real incomes increased across the board 2% per annum on average, IIRC. This chart just shows govt redistribution from rich to poor (pre measure of real income change)--as in, govt policies resulted in a loss to top decile of about 8% of net income over term of Labour's rule. That's quite different to the rich getting poorer. More like richer less fast.

From something I was reading yesterday, isn't the rich-poor gap now at the same level it was during the '30s, whereas it had lessened considerably from 1950-70 (despite the redistribution under Labour). Sorry, can't find the stats...

Either way, people who think they can't live on, say, £50,000, and NEED more money, need psychoanalysis more than anything else. We have enough wealth in this country for everyone to be very comfortable, which is why I don't understand the preoccupation with growth, as if it's automatically a good thing. It's bonkers (which reminds me of the execrable interview I read with Dizzee this morning...made me wince).

vimothy
13-05-2010, 01:49 PM
Well, I have to disagree with you there. Growth isn't the be-all of existance, but being poor isn't very much fun. I don't even think that it makes sense to be for redistribution and against growth, or against inequality and against growth.

And, of course, if the population is growing but the economy is not, pc GDP is actually decreasing.

baboon2004
13-05-2010, 02:06 PM
Well, I have to disagree with you there. Growth isn't the be-all of existance, but being poor isn't very much fun. I don't even think that it makes sense to be for redistribution and against growth, or against inequality and against growth.

And, of course, if the population is growing but the economy is not, pc GDP is actually decreasing.

OK, misunderstanding - was defintiely not saying being poor is any fun! Nor am I against growth, just against the automatic presumption that it's a good thing, or (more so) the most important thing. And the levels of poverty in the UK have long (always) been unacceptable. What keeps people poor in this country is not lack of growth, it seems, but lack of redistribution: http://www.poverty.org.uk/summary/key%20facts.shtml (obv, as you said, Labour did some good things in this regard, though not enough). So yeah, resditribution is much more important than growth in as rich a society as ours.

Rather that, as the 4th richest nation in existence (if that's still correct), then there is enough wealth in this country to eliminate poverty, with decent redistributive policies.

Is the population growing that fast (genuine question)?

Ok - http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=950 It's growing, but not super quickly. I agree that there needs to be enough growth to keep per capita GDP stable, but beyond that? ANd what industries is this growth primarily coming from anyways?

Ok, just got the IMF per capita figures from Wiki - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita

vimothy
13-05-2010, 02:13 PM
In a sense, it's a presumption that you are making as well. You want income growth for the poor rather than across the board. But why? Why shouldn't we cap income at the level of the poor? Why does everybody even need £18k a year? It's all totally arbitrary. From there, you can even call the rich a foreign country and stop worrying about them, and then you've gone right round in a circle.

baboon2004
13-05-2010, 02:24 PM
In a sense, it's a presumption that you are making as well. You want income growth for the poor rather than across the board. But why? Why shouldn't we cap income at the level of the poor? Why does everybody even need £18k a year? It's all totally arbitrary. From there, you can even call the rich a foreign country and stop worrying about them, and then you've gone right round in a circle.

In response to the first question, because, according to whatever measure you choose to use (and obviosuly there's a huge amount of disagreement about how to measure poverty), there are people in this country (obv. including a lot of children) who live in poverty. And I think that's pretty disgusting in a country as rich as this.

Well, I've lived on £18K in London - of course it can be done. And yes, the line drawn is arbitrary, but you can say that about most numerical lines. The point is, the line drawn by those who reserach such things, isn't being met.

In terms of calling the rich a foreign country, how do you mean? I worry about the fact so many people are limitlessly greedy, even though the majority of their wealth is just sitting there. That's pretty insane, in my view.

grizzleb
13-05-2010, 02:31 PM
In a sense, it's a presumption that you are making as well. You want income growth for the poor rather than across the board. But why? Why shouldn't we cap income at the level of the poor? Why does everybody even need £18k a year? It's all totally arbitrary. From there, you can even call the rich a foreign country and stop worrying about them, and then you've gone right round in a circle.It's not really arbitrary though is it. What you've said is pretty much an argument for slavery.

vimothy
13-05-2010, 02:52 PM
In response to the first question, because, according to whatever measure you choose to use (and obviosuly there's a huge amount of disagreement about how to measure poverty), there are people in this country (obv. including a lot of children) who live in poverty. And I think that's pretty disgusting in a country as rich as this.

Measuring poverty is a thorny issue (e.g. you can measure the present discounted value of future income streams from benefits and savings from welfare spending and the UK poor can look quite wealthy). But what I'm trying to say is... imagine, for a moment, that you are king and the date is 1910. You decide that Britain is massively wealthy, and that further growth is unnecessary. You redistribute the pie and hold economic growth in line with population growth, so that pc GDP is stable. Fast forward 100 years and everyone's income in paralleloland is at the same level as the contemporary UK poor IRL. Sound optimal? The fact that it is not is implicit in your argument, it seems to me. Why do we want people who are poor to have higher incomes?


Well, I've lived on £18K in London - of course it can be done.

How many kids do you have?

Of course--it is done, but it doesn't follow that therefore this is a good thing.

Slothrop
13-05-2010, 02:55 PM
How many kids do you have?

Of course--it is done, but it doesn't follow that therefore this is a good thing.
But a large part of the difficulty there would come from the cost of housing. Which is extremely high in london because of (guess what) the pressure on the market due to large number of people making large amounts of money.

vimothy
13-05-2010, 02:57 PM
Okay, so just ignore the presence of rich people for a moment--why is the fact that housing is expensive relative to income a bad thing?

baboon2004
13-05-2010, 03:07 PM
Measuring poverty is a thorny issue (e.g. you can measure the present discounted value of future income streams from benefits and savings from welfare spending and the UK poor can look quite wealthy). But what I'm trying to say is... imagine, for a moment, that you are king and the date is 1910. You decide that Britain is massively wealthy, and that further growth is unnecessary. You redistribute the pie and hold economic growth in line with population growth, so that pc GDP is stable. Fast forward 100 years and everyone's income in paralleloland is at the same level as the contemporary UK poor IRL. Sound optimal? The fact that it is not is implicit in your argument, it seems to me. Why do we want people who are poor to have higher incomes?

How many kids do you have?

Of course--it is done, but it doesn't follow that therefore this is a good thing.

Point taken, but I'm not advocating zero growth per se, so much as saying growth is fine, as long as redistributive issues are taken just as seriously (more seriously, at present), which they're not. Until those issues are considered, further growth will not help anyone but those already well off (as those stats I attached to the last post show, notwithstanding certain areas in which Labour have done fairly well).

Re the 18K, absolutely, my bad - no kids, therefore much easier. It's relative to circumstance, and I should've said that.

My point is, all things remianing the same, I wouldn't be any more content per se at £50K than I am at a very comfortable £30K. As long as people are enslaved to the idea that they will be happier with more money, once they earn enough to get the basics they need for a contented life, people will care more about money than they do about other people. And as an ultimate optimist about human beings, I'd say that this goes contrary to a people's deeper-seated nature, whereby helping other people gives you a bigger kick than helping yourself does.

baboon2004
13-05-2010, 03:10 PM
Okay, so just ignore the presence of rich people for a moment--why is the fact that housing is expensive relative to income a bad thing?

This is a slightly tangential answer, maybe, but because renting laws in this country are so skewed towards the landlord/estate agent, that in the absence of owning one's own place, many people feel in a very precarious position.

So therefore a lot of people feel 'forced' into getting into the housing market, which is kept high in London precisely because there are a lot of rich people here (I presumer - can't think of any other reason).

massrock
13-05-2010, 03:14 PM
Housing is basically a necessity that is in limited supply and as such prices in a property market that is not properly managed will tend towards (actually way beyond, as we see again and again) the upper limit of what is tenable, let alone reasonable. I'd say 'properly managed' in this case means at the very least not encouraging unchecked speculation.

vimothy
13-05-2010, 03:24 PM
I quite agree re excessive wealth being unnecessary and do find it personally distasteful. But it's not something that I think is important in and of itself. The presence of inequality on the other hand is important and morally wrong and should be ameliorated by redistributive policy. But it's important because higher income = better standard of living, not because higher incomes are bad (on the contrary, low incomes are bad).

vimothy
13-05-2010, 03:27 PM
BTW, housing in the UK is expensive because not enough houses are built: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/consultations_and_legislation/barker/consult_barker_index.cfm#report

baboon2004
13-05-2010, 03:35 PM
I quite agree re excessive wealth being unnecessary and do find it personally distasteful. But it's not something that I think is important in and of itself. The presence of inequality on the other hand is important and morally wrong and should be ameliorated by redistributive policy. But it's important because higher income = better standard of living, not because higher incomes are bad (on the contrary, low incomes are bad).

yeah, i find it distasteful only because of what exists at the other end of the scale. S'all relative, exactly.

but on top of that, i do find it genuinely mentally disturbing, the way people have internalised 'wealth = happiness', whilst paying lip service to the opposite.

Re housing - not enough houses are built because land is so goddamn expensive, correct?

Slothrop
13-05-2010, 03:46 PM
Tbh, I think the idea is less that having more stuff makes you less happy, more that the gap between the (real) wealth of people on low and high incomes has more to do with how happy people on low incomes are than the absolute level of how much stuff they've got - because it's a lot harder to be content with what you've got when utterly unattainable things are constantly paraded in front of you and you're told that this is what you should be aspiring to or even (since the people constructing the narrative of what's normal tend to be at the top of the pile not the bottom) what you're failing if you haven't already got.

baboon2004
13-05-2010, 03:52 PM
Tbh, I think the idea is less that having more stuff makes you less happy, more that the gap between the (real) wealth of people on low and high incomes has more to do with how happy people on low incomes are than the absolute level of how much stuff they've got - because it's a lot harder to be content with what you've got when utterly unattainable things are constantly paraded in front of you and you're told that this is what you should be aspiring to or even (since the people constructing the narrative of what's normal tend to be at the top of the pile not the bottom) what you're failing if you haven't already got.

oh, wasn't saying necessarily that it makes you less happy, just that it's irrelevant past a certain level of wealth (but that worrying about it might in itself make you less happy, I suppose).

Agree with you on this though. And the creation of new markets depends upon convincing people they need new things all the time, and thus keeping them unfulfilled on a material level, while (mostly) not addressing other areas of fulfilment. Keeping people dissatisfied is the way to make money.

massrock
13-05-2010, 03:53 PM
The excessive wealth of some is not entirely unrelated to the extreme poverty of others though is it.

Also 'poverty' is not entirely relative - there is a certain level below which a person or a society is dealing with unacceptable poverty, I would say.

We don't know so much about that 'here' but again that's not entirely unrelated to why they do know about that 'there'. :(

Maybe stating the obv. and talking at cross purposes to the thread...

Mr. Tea
13-05-2010, 03:56 PM
My very half-arsed and cod-psychological take on this is that it's not so much being rich that makes people happy, it's getting rich(er). Stasis is not in itself fulfilling for a lot of folks, it's the sense of "going up in the world" that hits the spot.

baboon2004
13-05-2010, 04:03 PM
My very half-arsed and cod-psychological take on this is that it's not so much being rich that makes people happy, it's getting rich(er). Stasis is not in itself fulfilling for a lot of folks, it's the sense of "going up in the world" that hits the spot.

Definitely something in this. Mostly this kind of empty ambition illustrates self-doubt/dissatisfaction in other areas of one's life, which can be alleviated only by feeling 'better' than others in generally-accepted currency (no pun intended).

hucks
13-05-2010, 04:10 PM
My very half-arsed and cod-psychological take on this is that it's not so much being rich that makes people happy, it's getting rich(er). Stasis is not in itself fulfilling for a lot of folks, it's the sense of "going up in the world" that hits the spot.

It's both, innit? There are two ongoing comparisons - to where you were and to others around you. One of the contradictions in that is that as you move up in the world, you change your peer group, so your comparators are higher, so you don't get to bank that happiness. Richer peple are happier than poor ones, though, cos they still have the poor to look down on, albeit from a distance. I digress...

vimothy
13-05-2010, 04:31 PM
Some interesting findings re poverty and inequality and violent conflict in this paper, "Economics and violent conflict": http://www.preventconflict.org/portal/economics/Essay.pdf

Pestario
13-05-2010, 04:39 PM
Re housing - not enough houses are built because land is so goddamn expensive, correct?

Expensive land is conducive to construction, hence why residential skyscrapers are built in city centres and not out in random fields. The high cost of housing in London results from a combination of inadequate supply and the amount of money available to pay for housing (due to high income earners).

However the high cost of land inhibits construction in cases where the number of flats which need to be built to make the development of said land profitable can't be attained because of planning issues or other remedial costs imposed on the developer. In some cases the govt's requirement for the inclusion of 'affordable' housing units in a development puts such a cost on the developer that the whole project becomes unviable and you're left with no housing at all.

I may sound anti-planning but I'm not, town planning is generally pro-development, however the most important planning decisions are often not made by planners themselves but are at the mercy of extreme NIMBYism and petty politics which stop otherwise reasonable developments. The end result is a very slow, uncertain and costly process which stifles residential development.

Mr. Tea
13-05-2010, 04:41 PM
It's both, innit?

Oh yeah, I wasn't disagreeing with your points at all - I think feeling 'poor' relative to the very rich people who live nearby is a huge source of dissatisfaction for a lot of people in this country who, let's face it, actually have far greater material wealth than the vast majority of the world's population.

Thing is, this wealth-relativity effect in the opposite direction depresses people as well, because they see adverts for Oxfam or whatever with starving kids on TV and then feel guilty about what they have got, in addition to feeling inadequate about what they haven't got. Few things make you feel more miserable than the feeling that you're miserable despite not really having a good tangible reason to feel miserable...

grizzleb
13-05-2010, 05:29 PM
Tangentially related but everyone would do well to check out 'Welcome to Lagos' - a 3 part BBC documentary following a bunch of ordinary (i.e criminally poor) people from Lagos about. Really eye opening.

mixed_biscuits
13-05-2010, 05:33 PM
I think feeling 'poor' relative to the very rich people who live nearby is a huge source of dissatisfaction for a lot of people in this country who, let's face it, actually have far greater material wealth than the vast majority of the world.

This is quite possibly true, but is it not the case that, in the absence of income differences people will inevitably let their envy fix to differences in social status, physical attractiveness, sporting talent etc? In other words, envy itself will not be eliminated just by depriving it of a likely object.

Personally speaking, I try to encourage a regression to that childlike state in which I was deliriously happy to see a Ferrari drive past me rather than burn up with self-defeating envy, knowing that such envy is liable to spread to an infinite number of points of comparison between my perceived situation and others'. In any case, the envy is in bad faith as I cannot truthfully say that I have striven to put myself in the position of its driver.

Furthermore, the driver may well be a top surgeon, designer of my superior internet browser or holder of a highly responsible and stressful management position and thus as thoroughly deserving of his prize as I would be unjustified in my feelings of having been denied something due to me.

Regarding paying people well or allowing them to make lots of money, there are great advantages to it: 1) rich people redistribute their wealth to the poor (perhaps more effectively than government does) by spending it on goods and services (and envy-generating conspicuous consumption does this especially well!) 2) high salaries allow people to reorganise their time and effort whilst unsalaried (as well as act as patrons for others) 3) people are attracted to roles that would otherwise be very hard to fill, especially if intensive training or demanding jobs were not to offer compensatory status benefits (in the absence of monetary reward, we might just continue to create a good stock of doctors but not of bankers) 4) the prospect of unusual monetary reward motivates people to undertake risky (launching a creative new business), arduous (musical or sporting training) or downright dull (1000s of hours coding and fine-tuning software) projects and funds these projects retrospectively.

massrock
13-05-2010, 05:40 PM
Oh yeah, I wasn't disagreeing with your points at all - I think feeling 'poor' relative to the very rich people who live nearby is a huge source of dissatisfaction for a lot of people in this country who, let's face it, actually have far greater material wealth than the vast majority of the world.
Hmmm.

Doesn't living in a deprived area surrounded by lots of other miserable poor people contribute to feeling 'poor' as well? I reckon given the same income I would feel richer living in a well-to-do part of town than I would in some blighted hole, although I would probably have to pay a bit more for my croissants.

Mr. Tea
13-05-2010, 05:45 PM
I hear what you're saying m_b, but I think there's a bit of straw-mannery going on here, as I don't think anyone in this thread is arguing for the desirability (to say nothing of feasibility) of reducing income disparity to zero - just that things might be a bit better if it was somewhat less stark than it is now.

Also, arguments about hard-working, resourceful rich people ignore two things: the enormous disparity in inherited wealth/general social privilege (dragged up on a sink estate vs. Eton->Oxbridge->er, prime-ministry...) and the fact that it's far, far easier to make lots of money if you already have lots of money (from whatever source) than if you're starting from very little. For one thing, once you have enough money to invest - be it in the stock market, property or whatever - you can generate income that is not "earned" in the same sense as someone who earns a living growing food, making stuff or providing a service to people.

I mean, c'mon, this isn't exactly wacky Marxo fringe economics I'm talking about here....

baboon2004
13-05-2010, 05:46 PM
Tangentially related but everyone would do well to check out 'Welcome to Lagos' - a 3 part BBC documentary following a bunch of ordinary (i.e criminally poor) people from Lagos about. Really eye opening.

i heard that was very good - thanks for the reminder.

Mr. Tea
13-05-2010, 05:50 PM
Hmmm.

Doesn't living in a deprived area surrounded by lots of other miserable poor people contribute to feeling 'poor' as well? I reckon given the same income I would feel richer living in a well-to-do part of town than I would in some blighted hole, although I would probably have to pay a bit more for my croissants.

Well in London the poor, deprived bits are often cheek-by-jowl with the very up-market areas, aren't they? In Pimlico there's a road that separates a grotty-looking '60s estate from a patch of unbelievably swish Georgian townhouses full of top lawyers, surgeons and portfolio managers. It's the combination of living in a locally depressed area but within spitting distance of a luxury you could never feasibly achieve that gets on people's tits, I think.

And that's without even talking about gentrification and the way people on lower incomes can be effectively priced out of the area they've perhaps lived in all their lives if it becomes "up and coming" and the developers move in...

baboon2004
13-05-2010, 05:58 PM
Regarding paying people well or allowing them to make lots of money, there are great advantages to it: 1) rich people redistribute their wealth to the poor (perhaps more effectively than government does) by spending it on goods and services (and envy-generating conspicuous consumption does this especially well!) 2) high salaries allow people to reorganise their time and effort whilst unsalaried (as well as act as patrons for others) 3) people are attracted to roles that would otherwise be very hard to fill, especially if intensive training or demanding jobs were not to offer compensatory status benefits (in the absence of monetary reward, we might just continue to create a good stock of doctors but not of bankers) 4) the prospect of unusual monetary reward motivates people to undertake risky (launching a creative new business), arduous (musical or sporting training) or downright dull (1000s of hours coding and fine-tuning software) projects and funds these projects retrospectively.

1) whilst I agree that beneficent rich people are necessary for a number of reasons, the main one isn't buying goods and services, i don't think. More direct redistribution, as with charitable trusts; 2) patron point is ok, but otherwise I don't see how what you've said is a good thing; 3) i'd rather more good doctors/teachers etc than good bankers - they're far more necessary; 4) risky jobs - as I understand, for most people the risk/adrenalin itself is the buzz*; arduous jobs - both the things you've mentioned aren't arduous, but very privileged positions to be in, if ijndeed you ARE lucky enough to get paid to do them; dull jobs - a point here, sure. giving shares to workers as well in these cases, so they're directly involved in company success? But loads of people do dull jobs because they have to to get by, and don't get paid loads.

* much as he gives me the creeps, Duncan Bannatyne's (Dragon's Den) line about the only reason to make loads of money is then to be able to give it away (even if slightly disingenous) is a good, sane one.

baboon2004
13-05-2010, 06:02 PM
Well in London the poor, deprived bits are often cheek-by-jowl with the very up-market areas, aren't they? In Pimlico there's a road that separates a grotty-looking '60s estate from a patch of unbelievably swish Georgian townhouses full of top lawyers, surgeons and portfolio managers. It's the combination of living in a locally depressed area but within spitting distance of a luxury you could never feasibly achieve that gets on people's tits, I think.

And that's without even talking about gentrification and the way people on lower incomes can be effectively priced out of the area they've perhaps lived in all their lives if it becomes "up and coming" and the developers move in...

And also (as I'm sure you agree) the well-founded sense that there is no meaningful sense in which most rich people have earned what they have.

Yeah, gonna happen to Elephant soon, so it seems...

massrock
13-05-2010, 06:05 PM
Well in London the poor, deprived bits are often cheek-by-jowl with the very up-market areas, aren't they? In Pimlico there's a road that separates a grotty-looking '60s estate from a patch of unbelievably swish Georgian townhouses full of top lawyers, surgeons and portfolio managers. It's the combination of living in a locally depressed area but within spitting distance of a luxury you could never feasibly achieve that gets on people's tits, I think.
Yes, and there are surely reasons, even identifiable and potentially addressable ones, why that disparity is highly unjust and unnecessary.

But I'm kind of with biscuits on the envy thing, whether they were being completely serious or not. There's so much stuff around, I don't feel the need to own all of it to appreciate it. I can go for a walk, use my imagination, or look at the sky. Or if I really do want something I can make it my aim to get it. Also I can be glad to be me and not someone else. ;)

It's tricky as well because allowing a sense of dissatisfaction to take hold can in itself contribute to a place being shit.

mixed_biscuits
13-05-2010, 06:05 PM
2) patron point is ok, but otherwise I don't see how what you've said is a good thing

Well, for reasons of self-actualisation and -determination, it's preferable to have the opportunity to earn twice what you need over one year and spend the surplus on a year out than to attempt to do whatever interesting thing you want to do in short, tired bursts after each day at work.

Slothrop
13-05-2010, 06:09 PM
Yes, and there are surely reasons, even identifiable and potentially addressable ones, why that disparity is highly unjust and unnecessary.

But I'm kind of with biscuits on the envy thing, whether they were being completely serious or not. There's so much stuff around, I don't feel the need to own all of it to appreciate it. I can go for a walk, use my imagination, or look at the sky. Or if I really do want something I can make it my aim to get it. Also I can be glad to be me and not someone else. ;)

But this argument is kind of like "I don't see that poor people / black people / women are disadvantaged, I'm a poor person / black person / woman and I just got on with it and made something of my life..."

massrock
13-05-2010, 06:12 PM
Is it?

massrock
13-05-2010, 06:12 PM
Is it an argument?

baboon2004
13-05-2010, 06:12 PM
Well, for reasons of self-actualisation and -determination, it's preferable to have the opportunity to earn twice what you need over one year and spend the surplus on a year out than to attempt to do whatever interesting thing you want to do in short, tired bursts after each day at work.

But it's not preferable than a minority of people have the opportunity to do this, further contributing to inequality, is it? You're simply describing the priivleges wealth confers upon wealthy people in that particualr point, not its worth to society.

How about 3/4 day weeks for everyone? That would address the ludicrous work/life balance that many people are forced to negotiate under the present 'system' (though I have zero sympathy for people with lots of choice who choose to go into a profit-oriented job to be milked dry and then complain about it).

mixed_biscuits
13-05-2010, 06:15 PM
But this argument is kind of like "I don't see that poor people / black people / women moan about, I'm a poor person / black person / woman and I just got on with it and made something of my life..."

My argument was against the idea of the reduction of income disparity per se being the royal road to happiness rather than a disavowal of the importance of the cards that life might deal you.

massrock
13-05-2010, 06:17 PM
But this argument is kind of like "I don't see that poor people / black people / women are disadvantaged,"
In no way have I said this. But we do have the power to choose our own attitudes to situations. That's empowering, not looking down on people or trying to diminish their problems. Although nothing wrong with diminishing problems. :p

mixed_biscuits
13-05-2010, 06:17 PM
But it's not preferable than a minority of people have the opportunity to do this, further contributing to inequality, is it?

How about 3/4 day weeks for everyone?

Well, that would be fine; what I'm against is the imposition of an upper limit - for instance, of encouraging conditions in which no-one would find themselves in a position of being able to have a 1/2 day week.

baboon2004
13-05-2010, 06:18 PM
This is quite possibly true, but is it not the case that, in the absence of income differences people will inevitably let their envy fix to differences in social status, physical attractiveness, sporting talent etc? In other words, envy itself will not be eliminated just by depriving it of a likely object.

Personally speaking, I try to encourage a regression to that childlike state in which I was deliriously happy to see a Ferrari drive past me rather than burn up with self-defeating envy, knowing that such envy is liable to spread to an infinite number of points of comparison between my perceived situation and others'. In any case, the envy is in bad faith as I cannot truthfully say that I have striven to put myself in the position of its driver.
.

I agree that envy is to some extent a natural human emotion, for whateevr various reasons.

But there's a huge difference between doing what you say with respect to a Ferrari (which no-one needs) and beign envious of things such as a decent place to live.

baboon2004
13-05-2010, 06:20 PM
Furthermore, the driver may well be a top surgeon, designer of my superior internet browser or holder of a highly responsible and stressful management position and thus as thoroughly deserving of his prize as I would be unjustified in my feelings of having been denied something due to me.



er, depends what kind of surgeon and what kind of work this manager is in - working hard in and of itself does not make you thoroughly deserving of anything,a s it depends what you are doing.... This to me is one of the prime attitudes that people have to grow out of. Many people work all hours to further oppression of various kinds....

Edit: i was thinking of a plastic surgeon in this case...not so much oppression as preying on people's insecurities, but that's for another discussion!

massrock
13-05-2010, 06:20 PM
People don't need to be envious to want or expect a decent place to live. I mean it's not just about comparison.

scottdisco
13-05-2010, 06:24 PM
Tangentially related but everyone would do well to check out 'Welcome to Lagos' - a 3 part BBC documentary following a bunch of ordinary (i.e criminally poor) people from Lagos about. Really eye opening.

seconded.

nice one that paper re economics and violent conflict Vim, will have a look later. btw, greatly appreciated your recent composite/House of War post re Estonian austerity.

massrock
13-05-2010, 06:25 PM
Land, land, land, land, land. And the way it is used and taxed.

That is the issue that needs addressing, the big economic distortion. In my opinion.

Vimothy mentioned in another thread that in the UK .3% of the population own 69% of the land.

massrock
13-05-2010, 06:28 PM
Speaking of which did anyone (not) notice this man standing behind Gordon Brown on t'telly on election night?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oogQgUwv8Y

grizzleb
13-05-2010, 06:29 PM
Does anyone really feel envious when we see people cutting about in Ferraris? I think it's pretty funny. So many rich people can define themselves only in the context of their wealth. There's a corrupting and pretty pitiful element to richness as well, no?

I read in the metro that some questionnaire or other showed that a large majority of people earning 150k or less don't consider themselves 'rich', which kind of sums up the way that wealth works. As soon as you earn more, you spend more, on the same stuff, apart that it is now more expensive. And other trifling, needless, throwaway stuff.

@mixed_biscuits - how does 'conspicious consumption' redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor? Just because Gucci employs people for minimum wage doesn't necessarily mean it's doing them a favour.

vimothy
13-05-2010, 06:32 PM
"Spend more money or we're all fucked"

mixed_biscuits
13-05-2010, 06:37 PM
I read in the metro that some questionnaire or other showed that a large majority of people earning 150k or less don't consider themselves 'rich', which kind of sums up the way that wealth works. As soon as you earn more, you spend more, on the same stuff, and trifling, needless throwaway stuff.

Perhaps, but I think that arguments for wealth-limitation from compassion are more likely to be disingenuous than not in the case of the rich, as, inevitably, the next people to be seen cutting about in Ferraris will be the wealth limiters themselves.


@mixed_biscuits - how does 'conspicious consumption' redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor? Just because Gucci employs people for minimum wage doesn't necessarily mean it's doing them a favour.

Well, I suppose because, firstly, the 'spend, spend, spend' ethos means that money gets recycled quickly and, secondly, because the kinds of goods that are bought are over-priced and so its producers are thus paid over the odds.

vimothy
13-05-2010, 06:39 PM
Ultimately, we kind of want rich people to spend money: it becomes income for the rest of us. On the other hand, rich people who do not spend money are not consuming economic output and so are not receiving any real benefit from their wealth--just amassing paper.

****

Re house prices, Phillipe Legrain: http://www.philippelegrain.com/another-dangerous-property-boom/

massrock
13-05-2010, 06:39 PM
and, secondly, because the kinds of goods that are bought are over-priced and so its producers are thus paid over the odds.

Won't be the actual producers who benefit the most from that though will it. That difference being the essence of capitalism and all.

scottdisco
13-05-2010, 06:41 PM
@mixed_biscuits - how does 'conspicious consumption' redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor? Just because Gucci employs people for minimum wage doesn't necessarily mean it's doing them a favour.

i was also going to have a go at asking about the first bracketed aside in m_b's point number 1 earlier (which, tbf to m_b, they somewhat tentatively introduced w the word "perhaps"), but this is a shorter and better reply than what i was about to say.

the point w producers being paid over the odds is that we're still in a very unequal society.

and producers of a lot of goods that are sold in, for example, High Street UK (w its wealthy chain owners, its financially savvy chain shareholders, its struggling small businesses, and its shop-floor staff, the whole spectrum, granted), are actually basement wage Chinese factory workers. etc.

i agree, from the pov of a very rich person, that compassion arguments re limiting their wealth are not cutting it, from their pov.

grizzleb
13-05-2010, 06:42 PM
Perhaps, but I think that arguments for wealth-limitation from compassion are more likely to be disingenuous than not in the case of the rich, as, inevitably, the next people to be seen cutting about in Ferraris will be the wealth limiters themselves.



Well, I suppose because, firstly, the 'spend, spend, spend' ethos means that money gets recycled quickly and, secondly, because the kinds of goods that are bought are over-priced and so its producers are thus paid over the odds. I wasn't arguing for wealth limitation out of compassion, more just making an aside about wealth/envy. Free time is the one thing which wealth gets you that is enviable, all the other trappings are just stuff people use to shore up the fact that maybe their free time is just wasted...


Are its producers paid over the odds? Aren't the 'producers' who make such goods (the owners of a gucci factory) just other rich people? I'd assume their raw material suppliers are just paid a standard price. Does money get recycled quickly when someone buys a one-off 'luxury' item, or to put it another day - is more money recycled quickly by one person buying one 150k car, as compared to 15 people buying a 10k car?

vimothy
13-05-2010, 06:47 PM
Incidentally, labour's share in the national income is generally regarded as quite a stable ratio, although unsurprisingly there has been a secular downward trend from the mid '70s. The OECD average is now about 70% (down from highs of 75%).

vimothy
13-05-2010, 06:49 PM
is more money recycled quickly by one person buying one 150k car, as compared to 15 people buying a 10k car?

The more important question, since spending is income, is who has the higher marginal propensity to consume--the rich or the poor?

mixed_biscuits
13-05-2010, 06:55 PM
the point w producers being paid over the odds is that we're still in a very unequal society.

I guess what I think is required in order to sort discussions like these out is a very clear model of what each person would consider to constitute an equal society as, depending on the assumptions that one makes about the constitution of individual humans and their interaction, one person's 'equal' society and 'fair outcome' can look very different to the next person's.

For instance, one might minimise individuals' cultural and financial capital at birth, but still end up with huge differences in outcomes, with some people gaining far more from their environment than others. If one assumes that there are intrinsic, important differences between individuals, then one would judge such a differentiated outcome as being 'fair' (assuming one forgives the cosmic unfairness); if one takes the blank slate view, then it would seem utterly unfair, with success the product of connivance or, at best, dumb luck and so more tinkering would be required.

scottdisco
13-05-2010, 07:00 PM
The more important question, since spending is income, is who has the higher marginal propensity to consume--the rich or the poor?

as a % of income, surely the poor?

(do you know the answer Vim, or are you just being rhetorical?!)

oh btw m_b, a fair point. i just meant from say the Gini coefficient pov etc. that's a good starting basis to ground these sorts of chats.

vimothy
13-05-2010, 07:02 PM
Just being rhetorical. Of course the poor have higher MPC.

scottdisco
13-05-2010, 07:04 PM
and so the other way for MPS. righto.

vimothy
13-05-2010, 07:06 PM
Yeah. So people storing up huge amounts of wealth are sucking agg demand from the economy and making us all poorer. Whereas consumption, conspicuous or otherwise, is actually good for the economy.

massrock
13-05-2010, 07:07 PM
What's the most effective way to hoard wealth?

vimothy
13-05-2010, 07:08 PM
Don't spend it.

massrock
13-05-2010, 07:11 PM
If you're holding it in the form of cash. That tends to decrease in value so it's not the best way.

vimothy
13-05-2010, 07:12 PM
If you're being serious then the most effective way is to "invest" in a broad basket of financial assets and re-invest any gains. Compound for years and bingo.

massrock
13-05-2010, 07:13 PM
Isn't that spending it though?

vimothy
13-05-2010, 07:13 PM
If you're holding it in the form of cash. That tends to decrease in value so it's not the best way.

Don't stuff it in your mattress. You want to earn at least the market return.

vimothy
13-05-2010, 07:14 PM
Isn't that spending it though?

No, that's called saving.

massrock
13-05-2010, 07:16 PM
No, that's called saving.

But it's in use? So it's not strictly being 'stored'.

I would suggest that the best way to store up huge amounts of wealth is to use it to buy something that is highly desirable, non-perishable and in a guaranteed limited supply.

vimothy
13-05-2010, 07:19 PM
Like a Ferrari?

vimothy
13-05-2010, 07:19 PM
Saving always occurs via the purchase of financial assets. Buying tangible goods is not saving.

massrock
13-05-2010, 07:23 PM
Buying tangible goods is not saving.
No, but it might constitute the storage of wealth.

vimothy
13-05-2010, 07:27 PM
It can add to net worth, I agree with that. Not without problems though (cough housing price crash cough).

massrock
13-05-2010, 07:30 PM
Housing price crashes are as a consequence of bubbles so they are readjustments, not really losses.

What I'm getting at, if it's not obvious, is where is the bulk of stored wealth, stored?

The value of a Ferrari is highly dependant on conditions. It's not universally desirable, certainly not *necessary*, and not even especially non-perishable.

Gold represents a kind of proxy value, and is in guaranteed limited supply at present. But land is obviously the real repository of wealth.

massrock
13-05-2010, 07:32 PM
I mean if I've got huge amounts of money and I want it to endure for generations I would be well advised to own lots of land on a wealthy little island that doesn't penalise me for doing so.

scottdisco
13-05-2010, 07:33 PM
well, we all know what happened to the UK's gold, massrock... ;)

massrock
13-05-2010, 07:34 PM
well, we all know what happened to the UK's gold, massrock... ;)
http://cenblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/italian-job.jpg

?

;)

massrock
13-05-2010, 07:34 PM
"You were only supposed to prop the bloody economy up!"

vimothy
13-05-2010, 08:28 PM
Gold is not a good buy, historically. And land is just another asset class at the end of the day.

don_quixote
13-05-2010, 08:42 PM
I guess social mobility is what I had in mind.

Higher education fees combined with the drive to get more people into higher education - thus turning university into a way of making sure that only middle class people get middle class jobs - is a big thing.


3 letters

E. M. A.

kids go crazy for it.

brought in by a labour government.

i bet it gets taken away by this one.

baboon2004
14-05-2010, 10:50 AM
i agree, from the pov of a very rich person, that compassion arguments re limiting their wealth are not cutting it, from their pov.

which is why we need to reintroduce the guillotine!

Sectionfive
20-05-2010, 12:07 PM
Diane Abbott throwing her hat in the ring.:slanted:

eh,good luck with that

Slothrop
20-05-2010, 12:23 PM
But yeah, to kind of cut back to my original question, the big issue for labour at the moment is presumably going to be "why did we lose that election and what can we do to avoid losing the next one?"

And I'd be interested to know whether the answer they settle on is likely to be a) something like the issues I already raised or b) "because we weren't enough like the tories to win over the daily mail readers."