Opinion: Demonisation of the rich is killing progressive politics

“Demonisation is the ideological backbone of an unequal society.” wrote left-wing commentator Owen Jones in his 2011 book “Chavs: the demonisation of the working class”. He was right but, at the same time,  summed up much that’s wrong with progressive politics in the UK.

Demonisation works both ways. It is easy – and entirely incorrect – to demonise the poor as chavs, crooks, benefit cheats and scroungers. As people who could be high-paid bankers and successful business-people if only they knuckled down and worked a bit harder.

But it’s also simple – and wrong – to demonise the wealthy and portray them as people who, almost to a man and woman, are happy to see the poor crushed underfoot if it boosts their bank balance by a few pounds. Yes, there are rich people happy to see their fellow citizens suffer if it further enriches them. There are people on middle and low incomes like that too. The demonisation of the rich may well have contributed to Labour losing the General Election – at least if we’re to believe the Labour leadership contenders now proclaiming aspiration as so important.

Demonising the wealthy is wrong for two reasons. Firstly, it’s factually inaccurate. We all have our failings, we’re all subject to human psychology. The wealthy aren’t a different breed but simply people in a different situation and subject to the range of human responses any of us would be if we found ourselves in the same place. Some are criminals and should face the full force of the law, but there is no illuminati-style conspiracy against the poor. There’s just people being people, for better or worse.

Secondly, it stands in the way of progressive politicians achieving our goals.

I passionately believe that our country will be a better place for everyone if we can narrow the obscenely large gap between the richest and the poorest. I want to ensure companies behave more like good citizens. Those who have had a massive amount of help from the State to become wealthy (and that’s pretty much every rich person out there) should contribute appropriately back to the State. Everyone should be equal before the law and no-one should have an easier ride because of their wealth or position in society.

Wanting to achieve those goals, I get more and more frustrated when the politics of division and demonisation results in progressives being marginalised in government and our country failing to take the steps it should. It’s so easy, and so comforting, to be in the pub, on Facebook or on Twitter surrounded by like-minded people all agreeing that the way to electoral success is to lash out at the rich even more. Those echo chambers are not reality. In election after election the British people have firmly disagreed.

Blair’s Labour Party secured three election victories by avoiding the issue – Peter Mandelson was famously “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”. The Tories for the most part either aren’t too bothered or disagree on the evidence, believing we mostly get out of life what we put in. The Lib Dems have tended to skirt around it in elections. Recent governments have made some positive changes, but not enough and often balanced by moves in the wrong direction.

If we are to actually bring about these changes, progressive politicians need to find a language that avoids giving the impression we want to either punish people for being wealthy or wreck the economy. The challenge for progressive politicians is not just to come up with the policies but to sell the benefits in ways that our opponents can’t twist to seem scary and extreme. If we can do that, maybe – just maybe – we can go beyond talking about how we’d like to transform our society for the better and actually do it.

* Iain Roberts is the former leader of Stockport Liberal Democrats and Lib Dem Campaign Manager in Greater Manchester Mayoral election and for Cheadle constituency in the General Election

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101 Comments

  • Was talking with some lefties this morning, they were on about poverty and the poor. I asked what was their criteria, what level is one poor etc. No clear answer at all. Equally in this article one asks who is rich, what is the criteria? I think I am “poor” by comparison to others but others probably think I am rich compared to them.

  • George Potter 26th May '15 - 1:38pm

    We live in an economy that has seen pretty much static productivity for a number of years. Yet in this time the proportion of wealth possessed by the top 1 and 0.1% has increased dramatically. Similarly, CEOs now get paid a many times greater multiple of the wage of their lowest paid employee than they did in the past.

    If productivity is at zero the only ways to tackle issues like poverty are either through redistribution of wealth from wealthier people to poorer people or through dramatic increases in productivity of the kind that are most likely to come from radical changes such as a massive expansion of worker owned enterprises.

    Since both of these involve weakening the power (derived from wealth) of the wealthiest then presumably advocating these policies is what you call “demonising the rich”.

    So what I’d say is that the problem with this article is that you seem to think that criticising a grossly unfair outcome of our economic system is the same thing as “demonising” the rich. Which is the kind of twisted narrative I’d expect to hear coming more from the Conservatives than from a Liberal Democrat.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 26th May '15 - 1:51pm

    I agree with this article

    I hope the progressive politicians rise to the challenge!

    What should matter is the message not the income with regards to Liberal principles, and not the contempt shown towards anothers situation, regardless of who they are, it’s called decency and respect.

  • I don’t think proposals like that themselves are the focus of the article, George – rather, the tone of the debate, and that adopted by some of their proponents. Otherwise perfectly sensible ideas can be made unattractive if couched in sufficiently pungent “hang ’em, flog ’em” terms.

  • I think the issue which Iain nails is that demonising a group, whatever their social status, is wrong. George, you are correct that it is unfair that the rich have seemingly prospered more in an age of austerity whilst poverty has increased, but simply demonising a class doesn’t achieve anything. In an ideal world the rich would act as partners, both creating jobs and paying their fair share of tax. We need to find a way to sell that idea to the country at large instead of fanning the flames of hate.

  • What percentage of the upper classes vote for the Liberal Democrats?

  • Glenn Andrews 26th May '15 - 2:15pm

    Demonisation of the rich is killing progressive politics?…. Must fall in the category of silent killer then.

  • This is why I can’t be a Liberal, and why I despair so often at Labour. Any political party that doesn’t see the equitable redistribution of wealth as desirable (and essential) for progress is not one I can vote for.

  • Tony Greaves 26th May '15 - 2:30pm

    The problem is this. If we think that the present levels of inequality are not acceptable we need policies (of whatever variety) that reduce that. This cannot be done without reducing the levels of income and wealth at the top. Many of the top people will campaign vigorously to stop us doing so via all the means they control. One of those of course is the Conservative Party which exists fundamentally to preserve the status, power and wealth of the top people – which it has done over its entire history.

    Whatever we say or do, and however we say it, those people will claim they are being penalised and demonised.

    So get used to it and step up the campaigning.

    Tony

  • A Social Liberal 26th May '15 - 2:32pm

    Of course it is wrong to demonise the rich – the rich who don’t try to gain advantage by using their wealth, the rich who do not abuse the tax system in order to escape paying their fair share, the rich who ensure that the workers they are responsible for are not being exploited and the rich who do not think that there is one law for themselves and another for everyone else.

    No-one should be demonised for having a lot of money, but they should be demonised if they use that wealth wrongly.

  • Peter Bancroft 26th May '15 - 2:35pm

    George raises a valid point, though I read the article slightly differently. It is entirely fair and necessary to look at the drivers of increasing inequality in the developed world (led by the US), but we can do so without lazy stereotypes of fat cats, evil bankers and lazy aristocrats. Having money does not make people evil any more than not having money makes people feckless and unreliable.

    Not only is attacking “the rich” wrong, it’s also rather counter-productive as a political movement mainly going after educated people to be so spiteful towards those with wealth as there is a moderate overlap with our potential supporters.

  • Mark Blackburn 26th May '15 - 2:37pm

    You seem to have just fallen into the pitfall the right-wing press and their global corporate cronies want you to, by using their narrative. Attacking corrupt bankers, tax-avoiding mega- corporations and exploitative climate-change deniers is not demonising the rich but a populist and legitimate way forward. It’s actually pro-(most)business to have a level playing field and create robust marketplaces that everyone in the equation can benefit from..

  • Samuel Griffiths 26th May '15 - 2:37pm

    George Potter! You took the words right out of my mouth. Perfectly spot on.

  • George Potter 26th May '15 - 2:45pm

    For once I agree with Tony Greaves.

    Any kind of campaigning for economic change means calling for things, at the very least, less favourable to those at the top. So it will always be branded as being “class warfare” or “demonising success” – the worst thing you can do in those circumstances is to concede that those throwing those labels around might have a point since it forces you to campaign softly-softly while they keep hitting you over the head with a cricket bat.

  • Jenny Barnes 26th May '15 - 3:04pm

    They only call it class warfare when the 99% fight back.

  • David Allen 26th May '15 - 3:08pm

    There is now only one class war party, and they are the Tories.

  • You do not have to ‘demonise the rich’ to recognise that the disparities in pay and bonuses, often within the same organisation, are disturbingly disproportionate, increasing and beyond justification. Why is this situation worse in the UK than in the rest of Europe? Such disparities promote inequalities and distort the economic profile of a society, I fail to see how they can enhance society.

    Increases to personal taxation may appear vindictive, encourage dubious tax arrangements and might even exacerbate the problem. Presumably the companies and organisations factor the large payouts into their accounts, so redressing the balance might be more effective through company taxation that is linked to high salaries and bonuses

  • Iain Roberts 26th May '15 - 3:47pm

    George – I think I must ask you to re-read the article. I hope it’s clear that advocating policies to reduce inequality is absolutely *not* what I mean by demonising the rich. I make it absolutely clear in the article that I support such policies.

    Rather, demonising the rich is the narrative which says someone is a bad or immoral person *simply because they are wealthy* – which is a narrative many, especially on the left, stick to (explicitly or implicitly) and which does the progressive cause significant harm.

    Tony – you’re right in your comments but you seem to have missed the point of my article (if that’s my fault for being unclear, I apologise). Yes, we need policies to reduce income inequality. Yes, many with a vested interest will campaign against it. But they have to persuade the voters that they’re right and, by the way we present our case, we can make their task easier or harder. I would like to make their job as hard as possible by ensuring the progressive message chimes with mainstream voters rather than alienating them.

  • Iain Roberts 26th May '15 - 3:54pm

    theakes – a fair point. There are many different criteria we could use, and it’s certainly beyond the scope of this article to pick one. We should use one that results in the improvements to people’s lives that we seek though. There’s no one “right” definition of rich or poor, but there are right outcomes to social policy.

    g – I’m calling for more equitable redistribution of wealth, and for a form of politics that would allow progressives with that message to win the day at the ballot box. Hope you’ll join me!

    Peter – the way you sum up the article matches my intentions in writing it 🙂

    Mark B – agree, and I hope I make the point in the article about the difference between attacking those who have broken the law (e.g. corrupt bankers) and those who just happen to be wealthy (e.g. honest bankers). The attack from the progressive left all too often fails to distinguish between the two and just attacks the rich (e.g. “the 1%”) as bad.

  • Demonise the rich, nothing happens to them. Demonise the poor, they starve.

  • Daniel Henry 26th May '15 - 4:09pm

    I strongly agree with the article.

    I think George, Tony, g et al have all misunderstood what Iain is saying. I think we all agree that we need strong measures to make the country fairer, and this will “hit” the wealthy financially, but there’s a difference between saying “let’s do this together to make the country fairer” and saying “take that you privileged scumbags!”

    Iain is talking about the tone of how we campaign for these measures.
    And I think he’s right – I think we have more chance of success in achieving these things if we use a positive tone.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th May '15 - 4:15pm

    Iain Roberts, I agree, but there are plenty who demonise those on the left too. As you say: it works both ways.

    I have sometimes strayed into the latter boundary, not intentionally, but out of anger at what I have felt was the left demonising other people, but it is important for us not to generalise like that too. However I still think it is a problem that needs to be solved.

    Regards

  • George Potter

    “We live in an economy that has seen pretty much static productivity for a number of years. Yet in this time the proportion of wealth possessed by the top 1 and 0.1% has increased dramatically”

    Well the to 1% and 0.1% have gained at the expence of the rest of the top 10% se the income distribution chart (Table 1) at:
    http://www.iea.org.uk/blog/income-inequality-the-facts

    “Similarly, CEOs now get paid a many times greater multiple of the wage of their lowest paid employee than they did in the past.”

    Yes…

    “If productivity is at zero the only ways to tackle issues like poverty are either through redistribution of wealth from wealthier people to poorer people”

    Leaving aside the lumping together of stock and flow, what mechanism are you suggesting?

    “or through dramatic increases in productivity of the kind that are most likely to come from radical changes such as a massive expansion of worker owned enterprises.”

    Unlikely to do what you suggest in any type of short time frame.

    “So what I’d say is that the problem with this article is that you seem to think that criticising a grossly unfair outcome of our economic system is the same thing as “demonising” the rich.”

    Not so, you can be unhappy with an out come with out attacking individuals.

    Picking up your comment about CEOs, they are paid a lot more now as they are controlling much larger firms than before. The question is why are modern businesses so much larger, given the additional difficulties that controlling a vast transnational bureaucracy. The salaries of other staff in large firms tend to be higher as well. Addressing the factors that cause these concentrations is likely to be much more productive than sitting around insulting people.

    Financial Services is another industry where those working in it are regularly insulted as they are comparatively paid more, the problem is actually that the industry makes too much money which the employees have been able to extract. The problem is the uncompetitive framework that allows the excessive profits, and that will not be fixed by sitting around and insulting people but by identifying how to empower the consumers of the industry’s services.

    Or we could just sit around labelling people, it is much easier isn’t it…

  • Internationalism means the markets became larger ,so the ability to make money increases. If one’s market is the village, there is a limit to how much one can make. Much if not most of the money the City makes is managing in some way , the wealth of the rest of the World.

    If one has skills which are the best in the World then one enters the World market. Ives and Howarth of Apple and Rogers building their new HQ have those skills. The problem is that since the 1870s and especially the 1960s the bottom half of the UK has trailed in the academic and technical skills . Both Germany and Japan developed lean manufacturing in WW2 and applied this attitude of mind to post war production. This meant using more advanced machinery, less unskilled and semi-skilled people , more skilled people ( but keeping total wage costs down ), less waste, more advanced and more expensive cars and producing them with less faults which are expensive and time consuming
    to repair.

    When Toyoda of Toyota visited Ford’s plant at Dearborn they realised they could produce more cars with less people, resources, energy, land and time with less faults( faults are expensive to repair). As consequence of high value manufacturing German car workers can earn $41/hr: if one is only producing low value goods and services there is limit to what one can earn.

    The un skilled and semi-skilled unions often became involved with demarcation disputes with craft unions and also continually objected to new technology which would replace unskilled labour. Many skilled people left the UK because of the unions, : many mine electricians left and became foremen working in mines overseas. The high taxes in the UK from 1945-85 ( up to 80%) many many craftsmen, technicians, scientists and engineers could earn 3-5times their UK salaries. Often school fees were paid and people could afford to pay off their main home and a holiday home after 10-15 years of working overseas.

    The talent in a country is like the leavening ingredient in bread ; one does not have to lose much and the ability to rise is reduced.
    If we are serious about increasing the wealth pf Britain then we need to ensure that Britons have better technical/vocational training than in Germany and science and maths training than in China and the Far East. When the teaching unions realise that they are hindering the education and training of Britons and ensure we outperform Germany and the Far East;, then we can have a nation where the entire population is employed in high value manufacturing and the services. When companies have to provide remedial training in maths and english , we have a problem.

    Many of the Quants in the City have maths, physics and engineering degrees from top universities

  • paul barker 26th May '15 - 5:45pm

    A lot of the comments criticising the article seem to be missing the point. Liberalism is about confronting every prejudice, especially but not only those against the weak. Most of us have prejudices against those richer than us as well as against those poorer & both are equally wrong. The difference is that across large swathes of The Left prejudice against The Middle/Upper class is not just acceptable but almost compulsory. For the Labour Party, outright hatred of The Upper/Middle class/Tories is what holds them together. Its a question of whose Side you are on, theres no room for doubts.
    Being angry about injustice can easily sour into hatred of The Others, whoever you think they are & nothing good ever came of hate.

  • Iain Roberts 26th May '15 - 6:34pm

    Anne – the problem is that demonising the rich harms the poor too – it makes it more difficult to get a progressive government enacting progressive policies and that’s what we need to help the poor.

  • Iain: while I agree with the thrust of the article, having forced myself to read it, I think Tony and George’s responses come from the same place my instinctive response came from: on reading the (possibly intentionally) provocative headline, I actually shouted rude words.

    The problem as Anne so rightly says is that while the rich suffer little from demonisation, other than that they might have their feelings hurt a bit, the poor die – are dying. That does cause people to have feelings.

  • jedibeeftrix 26th May '15 - 7:04pm

    an excellent article.

  • A Social Liberal 26th May '15 - 7:17pm

    Can someone who agreed with the article tell me who in mainstream politics has demonised the wealthy lately?

    Paul Barker?

    Daniel Henry?

    Iain Roberts?

  • Iain Roberts 26th May '15 - 7:24pm

    Jennie – sounds like you’re summing up the problem well. Shouting rude words at the headline and demonising the rich are easy, and I can well understand how it makes people feel better to do both. Unfortunately for those suffering, having you or I feel better doesn’t do them one tiny bit of good. Having a progressive government with different policies *would* help but to achieve that we need more people to vote for one and that means learning the lessons and improving the way we get that message across.

  • Iain Roberts 26th May '15 - 7:29pm

    A social liberal: as I point out in the article, part of the problem is that the main parties have all ducked the issue. They haven’t demonised the wealthy, but nor have they advanced policies which would seriously change the gap between rich and poor.

    My question is “If we really want to build a more equal society, what do we have to do?”

    The mainstream political approach is simply to duck the question. Not that nothing has been done – both Labour and the Lib Dems have made some positive contributions – but no serious attempt has been made to get to the root of the issue.

  • Economically a rising tide *can* raise all boats or at least the vast majority of them. I’ve been to former communist countries and attempts to equitably distribute wealth blighted the lives of millions. What I want the Lib Dems to advocate for is more equality of opportunity and some limitations on vulture capitalism. The number of Etonians in the last cabinet demonstrated just how concentrated is the nexus of political power and parental wealth. Its not about demonising the rich, its about a society where you are not limited by who daddy knew.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th May '15 - 7:34pm

    A Social Liberal, Owen Jones demonises the rich. He often says it himself: don’t point your finger at those on benefits and immigrants, but the rich and the bosses. So his problem isn’t finger pointing, or what those of us who disagree call scapegoating, but the fact it is directed at the wrong people.

    It is a reasonable point of view, but I don’t really agree with it. Of course there are some bosses who don’t pay much, but there are some people who commit benefit fraud too. So why should we only focus on one?

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th May '15 - 7:54pm

    Iain Roberts

    I passionately believe that our country will be a better place for everyone if we can narrow the obscenely large gap between the richest and the poorest

    Yes, so how is that going to happen when measures that might slow down the growth in inequality are routinely condemned as “demonising the rich”?

  • David Allen 26th May '15 - 7:59pm

    “Demonising” the rich is what Tories call it when progressive people argue for progressive policies which will help tyhe poor. Ergo, just because rude Tories smear their opponents with this word “demonise” isn’t a good reason to capitulate to them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th May '15 - 7:59pm

    paul barker

    For the Labour Party, outright hatred of The Upper/Middle class/Tories is what holds them together.

    Sorry, but this is utter crap. In what way does the Labour Party express “hatred” for the middle class? Suggesting a little bit of extra taxation which would still be less than was normal a few decades ago, and is necessary if we are to keep the level of services in things like the NHS where costs and needs are rising is not “hatred” of the rich. It is a measure of how extreme right politics has now become the norm that it gets described as such, and it is alarming that people who are supposedly Liberal Democrats go along with that far right nonsense.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th May '15 - 8:09pm

    Iain Roberts

    If we are to actually bring about these changes, progressive politicians need to find a language that avoids giving the impression we want to either punish people for being wealthy or wreck the economy.

    Yes, we need to be honest about what things cost. If people want things like the NHS, state pensions, subsidies for university study etc, it has to be paid for, and that means taxation. Taxation has to come from people who have money. Far-right head-bangers who make out that such taxation is “punishing the rich” or expression “hatred” for them, or other such rubbish should be shown up for what they are – people who want to destroy decent society as it used to be by ending the social consensus we used to have.

    The Liberal Democrats were slaughtered for breaking their “pledge” on tuition fees, but how are tuition fees supposed to be paid by the state if doing what is necessary to pay for then is described as “an attack on aspiration”, “demonising the rich” and that sort of thing? We must END such stupid language and instead have an honest discussion which puts together two points:

    i) What do you want the state to provide?

    ii) How do you want the state to provide it?

    We cannot have sensible and decent discussion on these sort of things so long as the sort of language being used here is taken seriously.

  • George Potter 26th May '15 - 8:09pm

    @Iain Roberts

    Let me put it another way then – your article is based on the premise that demonising the rich and successful is something that’s a significant problem amongst “progressive liberals”.

    So far I’ve yet to see any evidence that there is a significant problem of that nature but I have seen bogus accusations of “class war” levied at lots of liberals who’ve criticised the way our economic system and society are currently functioning.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th May '15 - 8:16pm

    The Occupy Movement was another case of demonising. I remember when they had some big protest near an office I used to work in and they had few policies, in fact I couldn’t find one, but the problem according to them seemed to be in those offices. At the time my finance friends and I were working extremely hard and I just felt like we were being told we were a problem. I remember seething with anger because when you are trying to work the last thing you want is someone shouting at you for apparently being part of some evil conspiracy.

    Finance has problems, but the people trying to solve them need supporting, not just lumped into one greed bracket.

  • Little Jackie Paper 26th May '15 - 8:24pm

    I wholeheartedly suggest a reading of this:

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/revolt-of-the-rich/

    I don’t doubt your sincerity here Mr Roberts, but if you really do think that we need to narrow the gap then it will need something a bit stronger than corporatism as usual, just with a bit more money tickled out of it here and there. Energy reference pricing here, rail fare freezes there are of limited value. The issue here is corporatism, not the rich per se.

  • Little Jackie Paper 26th May '15 - 8:28pm

    Matthew Huntbach –

    ‘The Liberal Democrats were slaughtered for breaking their “pledge” on tuition fees, but how are tuition fees supposed to be paid by the state if doing what is necessary to pay for then is described as “an attack on aspiration”, ‘

    Indeed. It’s a funny old world. Not that long ago the Conservatives called fees, ‘a tax on learning.’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/3024041.stm

    It’s not lost on me that in terms of, ‘aspiration,’ I shouldn’t have bothered with learning or anything so passe, I should have just got a pile of debt and chucked it at the property market all those years ago.

  • Alistair
    A Sampson analysed backgrounds of people in his anatomy books. In the early 1960s , Direct Grant Grammar schools educated 2% of the population but 16% of Oxbridge came from these schools and Manchester Grammar School vied with Winchester for entrances to Oxbridge. When Labour and Socialist influence Dept of Ed ( the officials) changed grammar schools to comprehensives in the late 1960s to mid 1970s was the time when many public schools such as Eton realised academic standards had to rise. The percentage of non-public educated people entering Oxbridge and other top universities since 1944 rose to the mid 1970s.

    The removal of grammar schools and the improvement in teaching and raising of entrance standards to many public schools has meant they have increased their influence at the top since the late 1960 early 1970s. I think the reason why so many public schools still exist , is because so many comprehensives are inadequate. When parents are senior professionals they are recruiting top graduates from top universities and they know what it takes to get into them ,as they have been through the system. They know far better than the leaders of many teaching unions !

    Until the mid 1970s, bright working class and middle class boys and girls passing the 11 plus could enter Dulwich and JAGs,now no pupil in SE from this type of background has access to this type of education. In Sampson’s 1965 , book he analysed over a 5 year period , the percentage of pupils winning scholarships to Oxbridge ( not just entering): apart from Winchester and Westminster ( where there were closed scholarships only for pupils from these schools) Dulwich came top and most of the top 20-30 were direct Grant Grammar or Grammar Schools NOT public schools.

    As A Johnson has said what public schools offer to pupils is not just academic ability but confidence which was what the the Direct Grant Grammar and top Grammar Schools did but which very few comprehensives do , apart from the likes of Camden Girls School, Dame Alice Owen, Oratory, etc, etc.

    Until children from poor families in inner city areas and some rural areas get access to schools which have high expectations, high standards in academic , sporting, music, art and drama subjects , teachers who have been to top universities, who receive career guidance and encouragement earlier enough in their life , then public schools will do well. When only 60% of comprehensives offer Further Maths Alevel, hardly any offer IGSCEs and Cambridge Pre-U and public school pupils take twice as many A levels in Maths and Sciences and three times as many in modern languages , then poor children will struggle to enter top universities.

  • Having read the article and the ensuing debate, perhaps a better title would have been “demonisation is killing politics”. I think Iain’s point has become lost in the noise of an argument about economic fairness. It stands to reason that if one is against demonising people at one end of a spectrum, then one should also be against demonising those at the other, for more or less exactly the same reasons (and I would argue this is probably the liberal standpoint to take on this issue). Dehumanising any discrete group and painting them as ‘other’ or demonising them serves to massively drive down the standard of debate. The demonisation issue should, I think, be tackled separately from the argument about economic fairness.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 26th May '15 - 8:57pm

    Iain, great piece which as so often is proven correct by the comments it attracts.

  • The problem with this article is that the kind of demonization it describes (“almost to a man and woman”) simply doesn’t exist, certainly not within mainstream parties like Labour and the Lib Dems. So it’s an article based on a fiction. Unless, that is, Iain can provide some examples?

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th May '15 - 9:59pm

    Charlie

    When only 60% of comprehensives offer Further Maths Alevel,

    Why should anyone who has the skill to teach Further Maths A-level become a teacher when that skill can get you a far higher paid and easier job elsewhere? But if you paid teachers more, it would require more taxes to raise the money to do it, which as we see here the right-wing head-bangers would call “demonisation of the rich”.

  • Iain Roberts 26th May '15 - 10:11pm

    George – can you point to where I said “progressive liberals” demonised the wealthy? (you put “progressive liberals” in quotes so I assume you’re quoting a phrase I’ve used).

    Little Jackie Paper – I’ve not proposed any particular solutions, that’s well beyond the scope of this article. From the comments I made about what the main parties have done, I hope it’s clear that I think they haven’t yet come up with the policies needed to fix the problem, though.

    Stuart – I think I’ve covered this in a previous comment. The mainstream parties don’t demonise the wealthy, but nor to they propose policies which will seriously narrow the gap between rich and poor. Why not? Partly because they know it’s electorally unpopular. Why is it electorally unpopular? Partly because the people who *are* proposing it are demonising the wealthy in a way that voters consistently reject. There are many examples of people who do demonise the wealthy within the parties – those pushing the “1%” campaign and attacking bankers merely for being bankers, for example.

  • Matthew Huntbach – Calling for a modicum of restraint in tone hardly makes one a headbanger. As I and others have said, the policies being advocated are fine (the ones you and others have outlined, I agree with, for a start); the problem Iain has identified and which others have agreed with, is the language and the “hang ’em, flog ’em” attitude being displayed (the same argument can be made of people’s dismissal of “politicians”, for instance). Demonisation of vulnerable groups makes the more vulnerable; demonisation of powerful groups makes them unwilling to listen to otherwise perfectly reasonable proposals, hence Iain’s original point. If you can’t see that, then that’s really very sad.

    As I said above, if one rejects demonisation of the poor, one should also reject demonisation of the rich, or of bankers, or of politicians, or anyone for that matter, of any stratum, on the same grounds of unfairness.

    Bottom line: blanket negative judgements predicated on the broadest categorisations are not something self-professed liberals should be condoning. We cannot and should not pick and choose who that applies to, for that would make us colossal hypocrites.

  • Also, at no point has Iain argued that redistribution of wealth policies are demonisation, as you seem to be suggesting. In fact he has said this is exactly what we should be doing. What he *has*said is that we should avoid portraying the wealthy as an enemy to be torn down or taught a lesson. This requires couching the arguments with a bit less venom and a bit more virtue. Nothing more.

  • Little Jackie Paper 26th May '15 - 10:49pm

    Mr Roberts – ‘I hope it’s clear that I think they haven’t yet come up with the policies needed to fix the problem, though.’

    Sure, and that’s fair enough. However I’d have to ask whether the, ‘demonization,’ you identify, or claim to identify, is the symptom of problems or the cause of them. We often hear the call go up for, ‘change,’ albeit there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of agreement on what that means. But will any party (and I stress here, ANY party) really offer change?

    My own view is that what is meant really is change from what is often termed, ‘the open agenda.’ All parties have for 30+ years sought to open the economy – it’s been a clear political consensus. Successive governments have opened borders, opened the economy to private and overseas ownership, been open to flows of foreign money, open to international institutions, open to, ‘new,’ (read insecure) working and so on. Those you see as being, ‘demonised,’ appear to be those perceived, rightly or wrongly, as having been on the sweet end of the open deal.

    Whilst there has been rather airy thinking about equipping the population to benefit from open, the stark truth is that some people have done rather well out of the open deal whilst others have not. Take the finance sector that others have mentioned. I would find it extremely hard to explain to someone who lost their job on the production line or to low-waged EU migrants that an open economy is fair when some jobs are open to be zeroed and outsourced to Bulgaria but the finance sector has protections. Yes, it lacks nuance, yes it’s not like-with-like. But the point I make here is that demonization, if it is real, is a symptom. The cause is a brand of open that is clearly not doing some people any favours, but which has been strongly pursued across the political spectrum. Think about the Party of IN message and how it went down – that was basically open on steroids.

    Note how when Ed M was Labour leader he had four strong policies – opposition to war in Syria, energy reference pricing, property taxes of some sort and non-dom abolition. All had some level of support across the parties and all could be seen as more consistent with, ‘closed,’ rather than open.

    I’d imagine all parties might find the implications of open lacking in support uncomfortable to some extent. But I would suggest that a better starting point for your progressives would be to have a long, hard think about the open agenda and how/if progressive can reconcile with the open agenda. That’s the cause, the demonization you bemoan is merely symptom.

  • Little Jackie Paper 26th May '15 - 10:54pm

    John Grout – With respect (and to be clear I mean that)

    ‘demonisation of powerful groups makes them unwilling to listen to otherwise perfectly reasonable proposals.’

    Deep down do you really believe that?

    Can you give me an example of such a proposal that powerful groups have been unwilling to listen to due to alleged demonization?

  • Iain: oddly your reply to my comment elicited the same reaction as the headline.

    I humbly submit that it is not just those who “demonise the rich” who need to learn to talk to other people without infuriating them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th May '15 - 10:56pm

    John Grout

    What he *has*said is that we should avoid portraying the wealthy as an enemy to be torn down or taught a lesson.

    Yes, and who actually is doing this? Politics has shifted way to the right in recent decades. In economic terms, the Labour Party under Ed Miliband was about where the Conservative Party was under Margaret Thatcher. It is ME who is calling for “a modicum of restraint in tone”, because I am suggesting that using the term “demonisation of the rich” for any policy that might involve raising a little more taxation from those who can most afford to pay it is ridiculous, and is damaging the sort of sensible political discussion which is needed.

    I am sorry, but Iain Roberts most definitely IS arguing that redistribution of wealth policies are demonisation because that’s the term he uses for the timid centrism of the Labour Party in the recent general election. That is, he is joining the extreme right by accepting their use of this ridiculously exaggerated language.

  • Matthew Huntbach
    I think there is a good reason to bring in 6th forms. I believe that the introduction of University Technical Colleges , reform schools, comprehensives for children of 11 to 16 years of age and 6 th forms would help to spread the talent.

  • No, he isn’t! This is a point about tone and language, not a point about policy. He actually criticises the Blair government for being too lax re: the redistribution of wealth. Based on his comments about redistribution of wealth (which he emphatically supports) and creating a more equal society not rigged in favour of the wealthy (which he emphatically supports), I think one has to take his criticism of the recent Labour campaign to be one of language and tone, and not one of policy. I am more than happy to be corrected by Iain on this point, however.

  • Also, claiming that he is joining the extreme right by making this point is hyperbolic to the point of comedy (see my above comments about how liberals should approach demonisation of any stripe).

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th May '15 - 11:07pm

    Iain Roberts

    Why is it electorally unpopular?

    Because right-wing head-banger paint it as such, and fellow-travellers like yourself go along with them instead of challenging them.

  • Little Jackie Piper – Apologies, I didn’t see your comment. Hostile language and bearing tends to make people less receptive and more likely to dismiss their opponent, regardless of what they’re actually saying. It’s a basic point of human nature. I don’t have an example readily to hand, as I’m tired and on the verge of going to bed, but I suggest looking at articles and op-eds in the Financial Times, Economist and other such publications; there are examples in both which I’m aware of over the past six months but which I can’t summon the energy to search right now. In the meantime, bed. 🙂

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th May '15 - 11:23pm

    John Grout

    No, he isn’t! This is a point about tone and language, not a point about policy

    Yes, and MY point is about tone and language. I just don’t see this large scale “demonisation of the rich” which he is claiming exists. When the policies of Ed Miliband’s Labour Party are described as such, then I don’t think it’s Ed Miliband that is using extremist and damaging language, I think it’s those who are using this extremist terms to describe what are actually very mild policies: as I said, economically about where Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party was (top rate of income tax was 60% for most of her premiership, for example).

    Who are these people who Iain Roberts claims are “agreeing that the way to electoral success is to lash out at the rich even more”? I myself believe there are big demographic pressures which mean that if we are to keep the NHS providing health care free of charge, a level of state pension enough to live on, and so on, we are going to need to raise taxes, and it seems to me that if that is done it has to come from those who can most afford to pay for it. I also feel there is an imbalance and some disincentive to work when so much money is made from property ownership these days rather than earnt through work, and it would be helpful to shift some of our taxation from being on income from work to money gained through owning or inheriting property. Now, who is the one using extreme and intemperate language when any attempt to say this sort of thing is written off as “lashing out at the rich”?

  • But if the criterion upon which you judge governments is equality of outcomes rather than equality of opportunity or overall standards of living then surely the fewer people who study further maths the better.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th May '15 - 11:58pm

    A great deal of the problem, it seems to me, is that most people in this country have no idea of budgetary figures. As I’ve said, serious political discussion ought to be about what is it that we want the state to do, and how can we raise money to pay for it to do that. But it isn’t. There seems to be almost a complete disconnect between these two aspects of politics, people moan about “the cuts” and call for the state to do things which would cost huge amounts of money, but go along with the line that any raising of taxation is bad, an “attack on aspiration” or “demonising the rich” or some such language.

    See how this happened with the student tuition fees issue. The Liberal Democrats were attacked mercilessly for going back on their pledge, yet almost none of the attacks ever linked this to taxation, ever accepted that if universities were to be fully subsidised it would require big taxation to do it. Instead, most of the debate on this issue seemed to suggest that universities could be paid for by a wave of the hand, and so it was just nastiness not to do it that way and instead have the tuition fees system. When you push people on this issue, they will generally mention some item of government spending that amounts to millions (MPs’ expenses as an example) and say something like “Huh huh, cut that, and you’ll pay for it” when what you are asking about is something that costs billions (increasing needs of the NHS). Perhaps this is not surprising in a country where being innumerate is considered something to boast about.

    I sometimes read the Daily Mail, and it’s so amusing to find big parts of it “why oh why?” articles to which the answer would be “because you would be the first to complain about the taxation that would be needed to do it”, with other big parts of it articles pushing the right-wing extremist line that taxation is “demonising the rich”.

    So, what happens is that if you ask people about the level of state service they would like, it’s easy to get the impression that people are much more left-wing than their politicians, and there’s a big gap on the left which could be moved into by any party seeking to gain votes, but when you ask them what they think about taxation, it’s easy to get the impression that most people in this country are very happy with the current balance in politics – which is very much to the right of where politics used to be when I was younger.

    My own feeling is that it’s the extreme tone of the language used by the political right that contributes more to this than any sort of extreme language used by the mainstream left – which is the opposite of what Iain Roberts is saying. That’s why I don’t think the solution to this problem is to kow-tow to the right and go along with their use of language and ask the left to be more moderate in tone.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th May '15 - 12:03am

    Richard S

    But if the criterion upon which you judge governments is equality of outcomes rather than equality of opportunity or overall standards of living then surely the fewer people who study further maths the better.

    Yes, and if you believe the moon is made of green cheese you would surely want fewer people to study maths and science because they might learn something which goes against your beliefs.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th May '15 - 12:12am

    Little Jackie Paper

    It’s not lost on me that in terms of, ‘aspiration,’ I shouldn’t have bothered with learning or anything so passe, I should have just got a pile of debt and chucked it at the property market all those years ago.

    Indeed, or just chosen the right parents and grandparents, so you can lead an idle life knowing you never have to work hard because big dollops of inherited cash will come your way. The Conservatives tell us that taxing that cash is somehow an attack on aspiration or enterprise. Just how long do we have to reward the enterprise of those who came across with William the Conqueror and established the landed aristocracy? If you taxed land and inheritance and such things more, you could tax money earned through work less, and that would surely be really more rewarding of enterprise. But the Conservatives get away with saying the opposite, in part because of people like Iain Roberts kow-towing to them and going along with their nonsense instead of challenging it and showing it up to be nonsense.

  • Charlie, as it happens I went to a grammar school and studied further Maths and… Oxbridge. I would love my children to have the same chances, but they wont where they have grown up. Unfortunately where I live the secondary schools have particularly poor outcomes, there seems to be a lack of ambition there, 3rd worst outcomes in the country for white kids from poorer families. The typical solution here is to move when kids are of age. The Govian solution is for me to find other parents and start our own school. The Lib Dem solution is pupil premiums, doesnt seem to work to raise standards so far.
    When it comes to university degrees, I dont think any of us voted to massively expand the sector nor to replace more expensive courses with chalk and talk courses. I would like us to take specific action to encourage firms to hire locally. For example, I would force big US companies to hire at least 1-2 new Brits per visa granted to a person from the subcontinent. For the last 10 years I have regularly worked with people being brought onshore who have no special expertise but are cheaper than local.workers. We then funnel folk into McJobs. This is the great economic lie, the job market has been hollowed out so that many jobs no longer pay the rent, let alone for a mortgage.

  • The idea that there is some sort of opposition between “equality of opportunity” and “equality of outcomes” is absurd. The only way that you can know whether opportunity is, in fact, equal, is by studying the outcomes.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th May '15 - 1:18am

    I must agree with David-1: those with the most power have the most opportunity. I don’t think it can be separated. However Richard S does make a good point: equality is not the only measure of success.

  • A Social Liberal 27th May '15 - 1:56am

    Eddie
    neither Owen Jones nor Occupy are in mainstream politics, the former is a commentator not an implementor and the latter is simply a pressure group. I would have had more sympathy with a suggestion such as Tony Benn but even he was an irrevelancy (if an interesting one) by the time of his retirement.

    Iain
    The only way to rid ourselves of the inequality of wealth within British society is to tax those who have extraordinary amounts of it. This does not equate to demonising them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th May '15 - 6:14am

    Eddie Sammon

    However Richard S does make a good point: equality is not the only measure of success.

    No, and no-one is saying it is. That is another right-wing head-bangers trick, to claim that measures to redistribute wealth and so give more opportunity to those lower down the scale are just there because those proposing them want to see the wealthy pulled down and don’t care about anything but that.

    I don’t feel I live in a free society these days when extremist propaganda language of the right has become so commonplace that it is just used as standard in political conversation as if its dubious propositions were facts that everyone agrees with. The sort of language that is used in most of our newspapers and almost across the political spectrum, as seems to be illustrated here, feels to me like living in the old USSR where people were kept in place by stale old language about revolution and the Communists being the champions of the working class against the evil capitalists still supposed to be lurking everywhere being pumped out in every outlet.

  • Stephen Hesketh 27th May '15 - 7:28am

    Matthew Huntbach 27th May ’15 – 6:14am

    Well said Matthew.

    Although I have never used it, I am coming round to the view that members should use the party symbol. Certain regular pushers of the economic line are not even members.

    LDV editors – why not set the default that we members use the symbol but may opt out of desired?

  • Stephen Hesketh 27th May '15 - 7:49am

    David-1 27th May ’15 – 12:52am

    Agreed – and the Liberal Democrats are a party of equality and equality of opportunity.

  • Denis Mollison 27th May '15 - 8:30am

    Stephen – to get a lib den bird attached to your name like this you need to be registered as a member with LDV, and logged in, that’s all.
    [I often forget to log in.]

  • What gives people independence are a combination of the following
    1. Education, skills and confidence so they can enter well paid skilled employment,
    2. They save more than they earn and therefore have reserves which enables them to easily leave bad employers .
    3. Where two or more employers are offering them work.
    4. The ability to become self employed or set a company in a high value manufacturing or service industry. A Michelin starred chef can earn more money than someone who only has the skills to cook in a take-away. Top Michelin starred chefs have have job offers from around the World, those working in takeaways do not.

    The Laffer Curve shows that taxing people more than about 42% loses tax revenue for the country. Out sourcing to foreign countries tends to increase competition in this country for un and semi-skilled employment and immigration of a foreign workforce does the same. It is only by educating and training people so they can move from un and semiskilled employment on average and below average wages into high value highly skilled employment can inequality be reduced. In an international market the cost of making a widget is largely controlled by international labour rates. This is why cheap clothes manufacture is located in countries like Bangladesh and haute couture is in France and Italy .
    Many former mathematically skilled scientists and engineers from the former USSR and former East European countries found well paid employment in the West( founders of Google Nobel Winner s for discovering Graphene)) because they they the skills whereas those working in un and semi-skilled work did not.

    Those on below average salaries pay little tax , most income tax is paid by the top 25% of earners. Increase salaries and increase total tax received.

  • David-1 27th May ’15 – 12:52am “The idea that there is some sort of opposition between “equality of opportunity” and “equality of outcomes” is absurd. The only way that you can know whether opportunity is, in fact, equal, is by studying the outcomes.”

    What if given perfectly equal opportunities there are still unequal outcomes? Whatg if provision with the type of opportunities it is whithin the states power to provide is not sufficient for an equal outcome? If this is the case, does it make sense to measure equality of outcome to guage the effectiveness of equality of opportunity?

    Maybe you envisage intervention to make outcomes equal anyway, which makes me wonder why equality of opportunity is even necessary. Who needs the opportunity to achieve an equal outcome when it is already assured?

  • Iain Roberts
    The poor were demonised throughout the coalition and before by Labour and that resulted in many agreeing with the Welfare Reforms that affected the most vulnerable. Food Bank usage rose dramatically and shall I mention Bedroom Tax? The rich received more and in what way did that help the poor? It did not, instead the rich poor divide widened.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th May '15 - 12:35pm

    Anne

    shall I mention Bedroom Tax

    Yes, every council house vacated by someone who didn’t need one that big would have been given to a family who did need one that big and didn’t have it before. Why do you think that family that needed that house should have been denied it in order that someone who didn’t need it should stay there?

  • “We” make objective criticisms about policies: “They” demonise the people they don’t like.

    How can we avoid over-use of this word “demonise”? It seems to me that instead of just using it as a routine term of abuse to throw at an opponent, we should be careful to make sure it is actually justified. Sometimes (the classic example being the Tory poster which literally showed Blair with demon eyes!) it is justified. More often it isn’t.

    Iain Roberts talks about “demonising” bankers. Well, if we are not allowed to mention that bankers’ bonuses are sometimes a tad high, then we are somewhat hamstringing ourselves in political debate, are we not? And if we are not allowed to advance the case that lax banking practices were the prime cause of the financial crash, then we can hardly consider ourselves free to debate the issue objectively.

    Iain Roberts’ plea seems to be that we should shoot ourselves in the foot, rubbish some of our own best arguments against inequality, and then race off as fast as we can down the track of “narrowing the obscenely large gap between the richest and the poorest.” It doesn’t make sense!

  • David-1
    “The idea that there is some sort of opposition between “equality of opportunity” and “equality of outcomes” is absurd. The only way that you can know whether opportunity is, in fact, equal, is by studying the outcomes.”

    So you don’t believe luck, hard work, judgement or preparation have any bearing on outcomes?

  • Anne

    “The poor were demonised throughout the coalition and before by Labour and that resulted in many agreeing with the Welfare Reforms that affected the most vulnerable.[…] The rich received more and in what way did that help the poor?”

    Would the correct interpretation be that if someone attacke the poor others should attack the rich?

    If I were to take this to a different context, if I loose control of a vehicle and crash in to the front of your house damaging it your preference is not to repair your house but for you to cash a vehicle in to the front of my house? So we now have two damaged houses and vehicles.

    An eye for an eye leaves the whole world…?

  • I agree with the article, and thought Peter Bancroft’s comment particularly appropriate. Sadly, the mere mention of this sort of thing seems to polarise debate into hard left and right, rather than a developed middle ground.

    We’re never going to fix social problems without money. That money is going to come from those that have it, the wealthiest. You’re never going to get people to give up their dough by treating them poorly, they’re often in a position where they simply don’t have to (nobody has to pay tax – only the rich understand this to be true). Perhaps presenting this as an altruistic norm, rather than a punishment for success would yield better results and I think continually hounding successful people leads to more isolation, lower social mobility and more gated communities. I don’t want more of any of those things!

  • Julian Tisi 27th May '15 - 2:04pm

    An excellent article. As others have said, most of those criicising the article appear to be missing the point enormously. The author is NOT saying that we shouldn’t point out inequality or challenge it. Nor is this even about WHAT policies we support. It is instead about HOW we talk about those who are rich. Many on the left – and in our party – do indeed demonise the rich, bankers, accountants, you name it – and this is surely wrong both in theory and in practice.

    In theory, because how can we know what a person is thinking, what drives them and their actions? And can we really categorise people so crudely without knowing anything about them aside from the house they live in, their job or their bank balance? Especially for us an liberals this is surely wrong – we should be the party of openness and acceptance, whoever someone is. Division and demonisation are the polar opposite of this. I don’t see any contradiction between for example asking someone well off for more in tax and at the same time respecting them for their huge contribution to treasury coffers for the work they’ve put in to get where they have which puts them in the fortunate position of being asked for more. In practice, because people tend not to vote for parties who appear to be their enemy.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th May '15 - 2:16pm

    Julian Tisi

    I don’t see any contradiction between for example asking someone well off for more in tax and at the same time respecting them for their huge contribution to treasury coffers for the work they’ve put in to get where they have

    So you just assume they have put work in to get where they have. Are you quite sure that’s always the case for everyone who’s rich?

  • David Allen

    “Iain Roberts talks about “demonising” bankers. Well, if we are not allowed to mention that bankers’ bonuses are sometimes a tad high, then we are somewhat hamstringing ourselves in political debate, are we not?”

    I think you have misunderstood the argument. Saying bonuses (or in fact total pay) is too high is not “demonising” but that is often not where the description stops. There are plenty of descriptions of “banksters” or suggestions of nefarious shadowy figures from finance controlling everything (the paranoia of “hedgies under the bed”). Talking about why pay in one industry is higher than economically justified (skewing many markets in the process) does not require there to be “baddies” and “goodies” there are often root causes which could be resolvable and are worth discussing but too often people would rather join in the pantomime of “Bankers, booo, hiss” rather than talk about the cause of a problem.

    Perhaps it is because they don’t understand that most people are not born with a box that ticks ‘good/evil’ in their head? Or perhaps it is just more fun to demonise groups of people (and criticise others who do the same). Perhaps the reality, that many problems are caused by a combination of small things that set a framework that directs normal people to act in a way that produces an outcome we don’t like, is too scary for some people and identifying an all-powerful ‘baddie’ gives them comfort.

    I don’t know.

  • Matthew Huntbach

    “So you just assume they have put work in to get where they have. Are you quite sure that’s always the case for everyone who’s rich?”

    Well it is for most rich people, what they often miss is the part that luck (in the broadest sense) enabled that work to translate to success.

  • David Allen 27th May '15 - 4:06pm

    Psi,

    “Saying bonuses (or in fact total pay) is too high is not “demonising” but that is often not where the description stops. There are plenty of descriptions of “banksters”

    Well, looking at the parade of convicted criminals from the banking industry who have shamelessly broken the rules and got away with it, with minimal interference from the top – Can’t you see that sharp criticism, and yes, criticism identifying individuals as morally reprehensible, is entirely merited? Can’t you see that if such criticism is to be eschewed, then we are pulling our punches, and helping the financial industry get away with criminal behaviour?

  • David Allen

    “looking at the parade of convicted criminals from the banking industry who have shamelessly broken the rules and got away with it”

    I’m not sure how many are “convicted criminals” though I think there are several who should be on their way to that status. Criticising those who have engaged in that behaviour was specifically picked out in the original piece as being perfectly ok. Criticising people who have done something dishonest is entirely right.

    As is criticising the decision not to pursue fraud charges in to individuals who conducted that behaviour. I can understand why so many civil proceedings are taken by authorities (easier win) but given the offences the authorities should have taken the extra risk and gone for fraud investigations.

    This failing doesn’t make lumping individuals who were engaging in legal activity (even if being paid an uneconomically large amount for it) in with those who were behaving dishonestly. I wouldn’t be comfortable with lumping someone on living benefits in with someone who committed benefit fraud so why should we make sweeping generalisations about anyone else?

    There is the additional risk that the creation of “baddies” of whole groups of individuals rather than the dishonest ones often distracts us from addressing underlying causes of real wider problems (assuming the dishonesty is being dealt with under the appropriate law enforcement angle).

  • Couldn’t have said it better myself Psi.

  • David Allen 27th May '15 - 4:42pm

    “I wouldn’t be comfortable with lumping someone on living benefits in with someone who committed benefit fraud so why should we make sweeping generalisations about anyone else?”

    Most people who draw benefits are furious about those who commit fraud. The benefit fraudsters work against the interests of those in genuine need. They help Tories “justify” cuts.

    The bosses of banks which harbour fraudsters often seem to be blithely unconcerned about the fraudsters. The bosses, of course, do stand to gain if their traders can make extra money by illegal means. The bosses often seem to wake up only when they find a rogue trader who has lost money for his employers.

  • David ou have remarkable knowledge of the collective minds of both benefit claiments and bank bosses. I am impressed.

  • David Allen 27th May '15 - 4:59pm

    Psi,

    “There is the additional risk that the creation of “baddies” of whole groups of individuals rather than the dishonest ones often distracts us from addressing underlying causes of real wider problems”

    I suppose you are right – if what you are talking about are benefits claimants, or the disabled and supposedly workshy, or trendy teachers who are letting down our kids, or poverty campaigners who fail to mix with and thereby understand the superior wisdom of rich businessment, etc etc. But by golly, it helps the Tories to address these “problems” when they attack the people involved.

    Why should this suddenly reverse when it is the rich we are talking about? Why is it that the best way to justify cutting benefits is to say a lot of rude things about the claimants, and yet the best way to tackle extremes of wealth is – according to this article – to go easy on the wealthy?

  • The British welfare state started badly by never including examining a persons academic ability and technical skill. From the very beginning, unemployed peoples English and maths skills should have been assessed and where inadequate , given remedial training. Also peoples fitness should have been assessed and where suitable, people given osteopathic and physiotherapy .

    The aim should have been to ensure people were mentally and physically capable of work. Also the type of work should have been assessed. A person may not be able to undertake the work of a labourer due to injury but they could be retrained to undertake another job.

    Where there was massive decline in un and semi-skilled work due to industrial changes , the welfare and education systems should have ensured people have the relevant education and technical skills an also helped with moving if required. I remember being unemployed and while on the dole I visited a DHSS office and suggested the skills I needed to improve my chances of employment: the woman looked at me with total surprise as this had never occurred before.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th May '15 - 5:26pm

    Psi

    “So you just assume they have put work in to get where they have. Are you quite sure that’s always the case for everyone who’s rich?”

    Well it is for most rich people,

    Most rich people either inherited their wealth or benefitted greatly from having rich parents. It’s not just down to luck, unless by “luck” you include being lucky with the parents you had.

  • Matthew Huntbach No, and no-one is saying it is. That is another right-wing head-bangers trick, to claim that measures to redistribute wealth and so give more opportunity to those lower down the scale are just there because those proposing them want to see the wealthy pulled down and don’t care about anything but that.

    Well if people present themselves as concerned with income inequality – measuring the position of the poor in relation to the rich – rather than measuring the position of the poor in relation to where they were 5, 10 or 20 years ago – then it is is a a charge you are inviting your opponents to make. Fighting poverty is about meeting human needs. If you present yourselves as people fighting for the human need of keeping up with the Joneses then you are offering an open goal to your opponents.

  • David Evans 27th May '15 - 6:23pm

    On the contrary, anyone who concentrates only on the poor, ignores the massive impact and undue influence that the mega rich have on our society and our planet.

  • @David Evans – there is some truth in that, but as a problem its only tangentially related to income inequality – for example all the newspaper proprietors are still going to be drawn from the ranks of the rich regardless of what you do about income inequality.

  • I see no reason a newspaper could not be owned by its employees. But the question may be moot as there may not be any newspapers in fifty years’ time.

  • Matthew Huntbach

    “It’s not just down to luck, unless by “luck” you include being lucky with the parents you had.”

    I don’t agree most is inherited but I was including parents in “luck” but I would go wider some who claim to be “self made” often over look the luck of being in the right place at the right time. Some benifited from parental contacts, some from parental inside knowledge, some had modest starts but the location parents lived in gave opotunities that would not have existed otherwise. But I think think I am at risk of taking us off topic.

  • David Allan

    “Why should this suddenly reverse when it is the rich we are talking about? Why is it that the best way to justify cutting benefits is to say a lot of rude things about the claimants, and yet the best way to tackle extremes of wealth is – according to this article – to go easy on the wealthy?”

    My point is that we should not sink to the lowest level. In a shouting match don’t expect to win, if your opponent Is stronger than you in one aspect then don’t confront them in that way pick an area where you have the advantage.

    I knew a teacher who as the noise level rose would speak more softly, I was much more effective than colegues who shouted over their pupils in the same circumstances.

  • David Allan

    *”softly, HE was much more effective than colegues who shouted”

  • David Allan

    “or trendy teachers who are letting down our kids”

    Teachers is quite a good example to pick about how we need to look at structures. It is a profession which has suffered badly by the public sector nature of it’s work as when other professional bodies have innovated winters of communicating developments it had unions (who I don’t think have ever served their members well) and the pointless GTC set up by Labour. You could suggest that teachers problem has been they haven’t been trendy enough…

  • It’s not just the rich but the right in general as this article points out. It’s counterproductive:

    “People on the left genuinely believe that conservatives are selfish. The problem – for them – is that this belief is not conducive to winning votes. It is not just that “Vote for us, you selfish bastards” would be a bad slogan, it is that any attempt to win votes which is predicated on the idea that not voting Labour is selfish is very likely to fail.

    No-one would sell a product in the market place by arguing that it would be “selfish” to buy the cheaper product. The case is that your product is “reassuringly expensive” – expensive, but worth the expense. Even appeals to altruism are couched in positive terms. People make the case that organic food is higher quality. “Fair-trade” products and appeals for donations to Nepal make the case that you can achieve something by spending that money, and directly link you with the emotional benefits you can derive. They do not argue that it would be “selfish” of you not to donate.

    There is a solid reason for this. If you make the case that voting for right-wing candidates is “selfish” you have implicitly conceded that the voter’s self-interest can be served by voting for those candidates.  You are actively arguing that people who agree with your analysis can serve their own interests by voting against you.”

    http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2015/05/quentin-langley-why-people-lie-to-pollsters.html

  • If we look at the Renaissance, the rise of the Netherlands , the Industrial Revolution in the UK, the economic expansion in Germany 1850 to 1914, the USA from end of Civil War to 1914 and USA computer industry from the late 1960s, great wealth was created by people who had the education, technical and attitude( a combination of confidence and awareness) to develop businesses. In all these cases the people who made fortunes had well above average levels of literacy and numeracy. A major aspect is massive increases in wealth during periods of peace, especially when it occurs after war which is the most effective method of destroying wealth.

    The below people helped to create the Industrial revolution and made great wealth, they did not inherit it.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Newcomen
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Darby_I
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wilkinson_(industrialist)

    Bill Gates , Larry page and Sergei Brin are in the same mould: people with the education, technical skills , confidence and awareness to develop new technology. The problem is that new technology creates financial advantages for those who create or make use of it but it disadvantages those whose ability to earn declines. I would suggest the relative poverty of today ( compared to that of pre WW1) is because people have fallen behind in the technological evolutionary race. In the Middle Ages an archer was well paid and it took at least ten years of training to achieve an adequate level of skill and strength ; now it is superfluous but the ability to develop computer systems can make one a billionaire. I would suggest that if one considers oneself a progressive and believes in free markets, then one must accept technology evolves which will make winners and losers. What is important is to ensure no-one falls behind in the technological race.

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