Tag Archives: fairness

Have we got the balance right between fairness and equality?

The years since the financial crash have seen the 2010 Equality Act and an apparently unending stream of scandals in which firms have mis-sold products, rigged markets and exploited every loophole they could find to avoid paying tax while enhancing their managers’ pay, entailing in some sections of the media breaking the law for stories.

The Equality Act is the culmination of a series of ground-breaking laws since the 1965 Race Relations Act which have over generations changed attitudes in the UK. These laws have not prevented the stream of scandals, which come from a culture in which social constraints have eroded, so that managers can use their power to pay themselves more and justify that by growing the company however they like, including choosing which law will be applicable.

In all this the concept of fairness has been lost sight of. Everyone agrees what fairness means, but rhetorically individuals often apply it only to themselves in order to win an argument. In small children that is understandable, but growing up involves learning to see how others see things so that we can act as members of society and not just as individuals. The scandals show large organisations have been less good than individuals at learning socially acceptable behaviour. The immediate response has been to seek separate remedies for mis-selling, rigging markets, tax avoidance and media behaviour, whereas the scandals originate in managerial behaviour which has not been addressed. If the misbehaviour is not addressed, it will just find new outlets that are still legal.

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Opinion: Intergenerational Fairness: Are we really building a fair future for our young people?

The challenges that young people face today are considerably different to what the previous generations faced. The baby boomers spent much of their lives enjoying a resilient and rewarding economy, with prospects of owning a house regarded as being the norm.

These days, as a young person, it’s not even a realistic goal, let alone normal. Between 2001 and 2011, house prices rose three times faster than wages. As a double whammy, we saw the recession hit wages and young people’s employment prospects particularly hard. Whilst unemployment is dropping, too many of us know young people settling for part-time work, …

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Opinion: It’s time to concentrate on the “Fairer Society”

Liberal democratsThe main criticism of the party leadership after the terrible European election results has come from those who see themselves on the ‘Fairer Society’ wing of the party. Over the last 4 years the Conservatives in the Coalition have swung more and more to the right on the NHS, welfare and immigration, making the decision to enter the coalition more and more untenable. Liberal Democrats in Government have continued to feel themselves constrained by ‘cabinet collective responsibility’ (CCR) even as the rightward shift has undermined the Liberal Democrat position on a ‘Fairer Society’

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Putting the party’s message in a distinctively liberal context – Part 3: a fairer society

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKThis is the third of three posts looking at the party’s messaging. The introductory post was published here, and yesterday’s on the economic part of the message is here ; this last and final post concentrates on the second part of the message: social justice.

The second part of the party’s message is “building a fairer society”. Fairness was, of course, the theme of the party’s 2010 manifesto, linking the four key policy platforms on which we fought the election (fairer taxes, a fair start for every child, fairer politics and a fairer, more balanced economy).

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Nick Clegg calls for emergency taxes on wealthy

Nick Clegg has told the Guardian that he wants to see a time limited extra tax for the wealthiest so that it can be seen that they are shouldering their share of the burden of the country’s economic challenges. He warned that, with the “economic war” we’re facing likely to be longer term than we thought, it wouldn’t be either “socially or politically sustainable  or acceptable” if the richest weren’t asked to pay more.

He said:

If we are going to ask people for more sacrifices over a longer period of time, a longer period of belt tightening as a country,

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What the future holds for Liberal Democrat tax policies

More economically competent than Labour, fairer than the Conservatives – that’s what many at the top of the party hope the message will be come the next general election. If the economy is not doing well at the time of the next election . However, if it is then the party will need the right combination of economic policies to support that proposition.

That is why people such as Danny Alexander are starting to sketch out possible tax policies for the next general election which will involve giving tax cuts to the least well off, paid for by taxing the richest more.

That combination …

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Visions of fairness: what the voters say they want

“Local” and “fair” are two of the most commonly used words by Liberal Democrats (and others) when trying to persuade the public to vote for a candidate or the party. On Saturday I talked about some of the evidence showing why “local” is such a powerful message, but what about “fair”?

A recent YouGov poll for Policy Exchange asked people what values they most want a political party to reflect. “Economic responsibility” came out top with 59% mentioning it and “fairness” was not that far behind on 50%. No other possible value was mentioned by more than a third of …

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Barack Obama should be more like Nick Clegg

A Republican urging Barack Obama to be more like Nick Clegg is not a combination often seen, but that is what Michael Gerson argues in his Washington Post column, in a trans-Atlantic continuation of the debate over what counts as economic fairness:

Addressing the actual causes of inequality should be common ground for the center-left and center-right – and politically appealing to American voters, who are generally more concerned about opportunity than income equality. A mobility agenda might include measures to discourage teen pregnancy; increase the rewards for work; encourage wealth-building and entrepreneurship; reform preschool programs; improve infant and child health;

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Opinion: Redefining Fairness

Our political discourse has become increasingly dominated by insubstantial ‘buzzwords’ like ‘fairness’ and ‘progressive’ to the point where discussions about politics have begun to focus less on policy differences and more on how these words are to be used. Truly, British politics has entered an era in which the works of Wittgenstein are more relevant to the debate than any properly political philosopher or theorist.

This is perhaps exemplified by the debate within our party over the meaning of the word ‘fairness’. Prompted by Nick Clegg’s Hugo Young lecture, the Social Liberal Forum (SLF) recently wrote in an article here on LDV concerning this subject, and claimed that it means:

“…that society is fairer when absolute poverty is eliminated, the gap between rich and poor is reduced and where people can rise (and fall) through the income hierarchy regardless of their starting point.”

On this definition, fairness is a question of outcomes, rather than principle. It is a term subsidiary to the moral principles that dictate which outcomes are to count as good, and which assign values to the decisions made by individuals inasmuch as they move towards those outcomes.

I am going to argue that this definition is incorrect, that it speaks to an undeveloped concept of liberalism, and that adherence to it will result in our subsumption into a Labour Party moving inexorably rightwards. I will then sketch out a new definition of fairness that aims to avoid these consequences.

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Opinion: Defining fairness

‘Fairness’ is a word often used by Liberal Democrats – but how do we define the term? Virtually everyone in politics says ‘our policies are fair, or fairer,’ but there are many different conceptions and definitions thereof; the concept of fairness to a Tory may be very different to that used by a socialist or a liberal. Even amongst liberals, there is a debate to be had.

Delivering last week’s Hugo Young memorial lecture, Nick Clegg made it clear that he thought, “Social mobility is what characterises a fair society, rather than a particular level of income equality.” and that he …

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PODCAST: Fairer? For whom?

"Coalition: Fairer for whom?" Susan Kramer and Will Straw at LDV's conference fringe

This lunchtime, Lib Dem conference representatives gathered in the staggeringly poorly signposted Hall 1B to hear a stellar lineup of Susan Kramer, Evan Harris and interloper Will Straw from Left Foot Forward hold forth on the subject of “Fairer? For whom?” – excellently wrangled by the chairman, our own Stephen Tall.

As with all Lib Dem Voice fringe events, we were there with …

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