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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Willetts and Hills must be read together

At the end of the last war Britain was a leaner, fitter nation and one ready to breed. It is perhaps an ur reaction of human tribes recovering from warfare to restock the population, and perhaps has been so for tens of thousands of years. A great bulge in the population resulted, a bulge that has swept forwards like a Spanish Wave, dragging a concavity behind it. Now that wave is at its zenith in economic terms - having benefited from free tertiary education, high levels of home ownership, occupational pensions and the like.

It is hardly surprising therefore that the gap now between the richest and the poorest in our society is at its widest.

Two publications must be read together. One is the new Hills Report, fat and replete with tractor production stats but thin as gruel on comment and analysis. The other is David Willetts' book The Pinch.

Hills bears the drear hand of government corrective editing which seems to have removed every comment that might have been taken as a criticism of Labour policy; they've learned a lesson, it seems, since Hills' last and outspoken report on social housing. This is a work of reference rather than a work of policy analysis.

And unsurprisingly, the role of demographics in today's inequalities is barely hinted at. For that, you need to read Willetts. And despite Harman's fixation on intragenerational inequality, the evidence suggests that it's intergenerational inequality that's the more significant; the children of those wealthy baby boomers will continue to do substantially better than those dragged along in the concavity of its wake.

The pertinent questions from policy makers must be around whether it's worth trying to do anything about it, or better to allow it to work itself out of the system over time. Anyone with any experience of the sea will know the power in a single wave, and that allowing it to ground itself on the shore is far easier than trying to attenuate it at sea.


Anna Raccoon said...

Ah Raedwald - so much common sense in so few words, amazing!

Raedwald said...

Ahem. Finger slipped on the keyboard. There are some words there now.

Anna Raccoon said...

Tha's better! Good points too - I did think that Harman had deliberately? missed the point that those with higher incomes probably had so because they were the sort of intellgient aware people that taught their children to read earlier, there is a connection, but not the one she made.

Letters From A Tory said...

Inequality does not naturally work its way out of the system, as people from disadvantaged backgrounds face huge financial, social and logistical hurdles.

That is why the argument should not be about whether a Government does anything, it should be about deciding what the Government should do.

Krauser said...

Remove the government from life as much as possible and it'll sort itself out. Families tend to change fortunes every three generations as the proud grandparents give way to feckless grandkids and vice versa. Apart from it's horrendously perverting influence on the economy and social mores, government also tends to crystalise privelege due to it's tolerance for rent seeking.

Anonymous said...

You must have lived in a nicer bit of austerity britain than most.
And dodged military srvice.
As for breeding - there were morals back then that didn't melt away for some time.