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Tony Grist

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Basic (Very Basic) Economics [Dec. 6th, 2012|02:33 pm]
Tony Grist
OK, so the rich are also going to be hit by the chancellor's latest measures. Good. But will it be proportionate? Will increasing tax on  savings inflict the same amount of pain on the rich as decoupling benefits from the cost of living will inflict on the poor? Of course not. The rich can take it. They have resources. A bob or two to fall back on. That's what being rich is all about. They can take losses without it affecting their quality of life. The poor, on the other hand, feel every cut. A tiny loss in income can spell the difference between eating and not eating, or eating something nutritious and eating rubbish. Take thousands off a millionaire and he's still a millionaire; take a few pence off a poor family and you make them destitute. 

I don't think our politicians understand this. Any of them. They're all rich- most of them by inheritance. Is there a single person on either of the front benches with first hand experience of poverty?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: steepholm
2012-12-06 02:38 pm (UTC)
Quite. It's the widow's mite in reverse.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-12-06 03:33 pm (UTC)
Yes.
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From: cmcmck
2012-12-06 02:46 pm (UTC)
The chancellor certainly doesn't- him and his nice little multi million pount trust fun courtesy of his father!

Fwiw, I was bought up in a council estate post war prefab, the granddaughter of colliers. Mayhap those of us who 'made it' off the estate via education have a least some clue as to what it is to be in need?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-12-06 03:34 pm (UTC)
I come from the middle classes but currently live on benefits. It's been an up and down existence.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-12-06 03:58 pm (UTC)
Yes, life isn't fair but what's wrong with trying to make it more so? "Fairness" is something we Brits care about deeply- quixotically perhaps. It goes hand in hand with our passion for field sports. I have no problem with progressive taxation. We owe a duty to the nation and the nation has one to us. Everyone pays in- according to their means, everyone draws out- according to their needs. I believe in the welfare state- as established in Britain after the last war- and it grieves me to watch it being eroded. I don't see progressive taxation as divisive- rather the other way round. Class hostility is being stoked over here by the perception that the wealthy are coasting through this recession- and not being asked to make the same kind of sacrifices as the poor and moderately prosperous.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-12-06 05:33 pm (UTC)
Yes, I'm very happy to continue. I feel a similar liking and respect.

How do the poor fulfil their duty to the nation? How does anybody? I think that question can only be answered with reference to individuals.

I suppose I'd call myself a socialist- but of a wishy-washy, William Morrisy kind. Or perhaps, I should say, a Charles Dickensy kind. I admire individual benevolence, but I don't think it can be counted on to alleviate social evils in any systematic way. The society we organized in Britain after the War remains my ideal- a socialist society- with state ownership of the major industries and a comprehensive welfare system- but essentially benign and cricket-loving. Maybe there's a measure of sentimentality involved in this, because I am- after all- talking about the society I grew up in.

I believe our differences are- to a degree- national differences. Your position- which I honour and admire- is one that has little purchase over here. The USA has a long tradition of public philanthropy- going back to the likes of the great Andrew Carnegie. Britain doesn't.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-12-06 06:42 pm (UTC)
Rugged individualism is one of America's great gifts to the world. :)

A Brit who wanted to do some considerable charity work would be more likely to form a committee than strike out alone.

You gave the world John Wayne; we gave the world the Co-operative Societies. Both are admirable things.

Surely everyone pays some kind of tax. Those who don't earn enough to qualify for income tax still pay things like sales tax and road tax and fuel tax and all those things. As for good works it's my experience, observation, whatever that the poor (generally speaking) are as generous as anyone else. The old ladies who staff my local charity shop (which is run by the church) are almost certainly living off the state pension and/or sundry benefits.
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From: cmcmck
2012-12-06 05:37 pm (UTC)
There is a huge difference either side the pond, I think, on attitudes to this.

As I said above, I come originally from an impoverished background and made good via state sponsored education and further by my own efforts, paid for by that 'seed money' to get me onto an undergrad course in the first place. I taught seriously disabled and terminally ill kids for many years and now earn a crust writing military history. The colliers' granddaughter is now MA, BA(Hons), BA, Dip SEN, Dip MSH, PGCE. :o)

We're not filthy rich, but comfortably off and I feel that I have a duty to those less fortunate than myself and fwiw I'm also an abuse survivor and a member of a badly oppressed minority. While I'd agree to some extent that there is often too much prating about 'rights' and little enough about 'duties' is doesn't stop me feeling that I have a duty to perform and perform it I will, both via taxes and out of my own handbag.

It may sound daft to some, but it means I sleep nights with a clear conscience whilst wondering how some of the political classes manage it!

Edited at 2012-12-06 07:40 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: steepholm
2012-12-07 09:10 am (UTC)
where he calls upon others to use the work of *their* hands?

This seems to assume that rich people are all self-made entrepreneurs who have become rich through their own efforts. Given that many people inherit their wealth rather than earning it, I wonder how you feel about increasing taxes on inheritance and other sources of unearned wealth?
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[User Picture]From: steepholm
2012-12-07 08:33 pm (UTC)
I gather from subsequent comments and deletions that this question is not to receive an answer (does this make me an "ire-filled creature")? It's a pity, as I've been trying to get some kind of view on this from economic libertarians as and when I meet them, and have yet to succeed.

Edited at 2012-12-07 11:54 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2012-12-06 07:35 pm (UTC)
I like the original American ideal of the united body of citizens protecting themselves against a tyrannical government

I have never understood this viewpoint. Yes, in a dictatorship, it makes sense, but the US and the UK are democracies. We the people vote in the government and we can vote them out again.

Perhaps due to the way the US elections work you don't get that feeling of the power of the ballot box, but governments here know that if they annoy the people too much, they'll be out on their ear next election time.

The British pride themselves on their love of fairness. That doesn't mean that we think life is fair; we know it isn't, but we prefer policies that increase rather than decrease fairness. Hence the Poll Tax bringing about the downfall of the Thatcher government.
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[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2012-12-07 09:49 am (UTC)
I'm sorry if you felt that I intruded on a private conversation, but I normally assume that comments made on public posts are open to reply from all readers.

One of his points is that your rich politicians -- whom I would think one must include amongst "The British" -- are not being fair.

Exactly! And because the British people believe in fairness, they are calling the politicians on their policies. If we didn't care, we would let the politicians carry on being as unfair as they liked.

With regard to our industries, it's not EU regulation that threatens them. Fishing has already been destroyed by over-fishing and the Icelandic cod war. (Note, Iceland isn't in the EU.) Our heavy industries were destroyed by the Thatcher government pursuing Milton Friedman's laissez faire free market capitalist theories. Our sole remaining iron and steel producers are owned by an Indian company -- again nothing to do with the EU or government regulation, simply the power of The Market.



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[User Picture]From: veronikos
2012-12-07 12:46 pm (UTC)
Perhaps you are right. I should have carried on my conversation with poliphilo by private message.

Edited at 2012-12-07 12:47 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-12-07 02:44 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry to lose your comments.

Feel free to message me anytime.
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[User Picture]From: veronikos
2012-12-07 05:16 pm (UTC)
Me, too. I find most people to be ire-filled creatures incapable of seeing anything but their own points of view, despite their alleged, lip-service to tolerance and compassion. You're a noteworthy exception, of course. And...just between us...I know it comes from you having looked your own self in the eye. As have I.

My spouse is English, and I travel widely in the UK. I'm accustomed to the very short shrift that most British give Americans, just as a matter of course or habit. People deny such outwardly, but the inner sensorium cannot be fooled. :D
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-12-07 05:58 pm (UTC)
Political opinions shouldn't be taken too seriously. Mine were formed in opposition to my parents' because that's the sort of relationship we had. I stick by those opinions but I know they're not essential.

We Brits were king of the castle and you replaced us. It's something we find hard to forgive. :)
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[User Picture]From: davesmusictank
2012-12-06 10:09 pm (UTC)
I agree with you poliphilo one hundred per cent
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From: cmcmck
2012-12-07 02:56 pm (UTC)
'Is there a single person on either of the front benches with first hand experience of poverty?'

I did a bit of checking around and you might be surprised at what I came up with:

Education secretary, Michael Gove. Fairly impoverished council estate product like my goodself.

Hasn't given him much insight, is all I can say!

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-12-07 03:27 pm (UTC)
Interesting.

Mind you, setting his politics aside, Gove comes across as having more hinterland than most politicians. For one thing he reads books. I remember him appearing on late night review shows.
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From: cmcmck
2012-12-07 06:12 pm (UTC)
Having been a teacher for many years, I tend to have an automatic distrust of education secretaries of whatever political fig.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-12-07 06:14 pm (UTC)
I can understand that.
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