09 July 2006

Devil's Kitchen sure does love inequality (and secretly I think he has a thing for Polly).

Devil's Kitchen is once again talking about his favourite woman and how wealth inequality should be regarded as unimportant.

This is my reply.

What DK fails to realise is that wealth inequality is a problem in itself.

Of course in the UK there is virtually no absolute poverty, but reducing relative poverty is important if you want to improve things.

The more wealth inequality you have, the higher the crime rates and the wider the health and education inequalities etc.

The price of lower taxes (for the rich) is paid by having a less pleasant society to live in and I would argue a less efficient economy.

Yes, reducing inequality will mean higher taxes, especially for higher earners. You ask if 45% of GDP taken in tax is sustainable? Well Sweden has managed many decades with over 50% tax take and Germany many decades around 45% and both have had higher levels of post-war economic growth and higher levels of exports, as well as having much more equal societies and much better public services.

We already have some of the highest levels of inequality in Europe. DK seems to want to move towards even worse levels of inequality (like in the US), the majority of people in this country would rather see less inequality and if we had a decent electoral system we would get it.

30 comments:

  1. "and higher levels of exports"

    Sorry, but why do you think this is important? Are you still stuck in some mercantilist time warp? Don’t you realise that it is imports that make us rich, not exports?

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  2. The order of causation is wrong in part of your argument. Getting a poor education means that you are probably going to be poor. Being poor does not mean that you have to settle for a poor education. Just that thanks to Wilson and Thatcher for getting rid of the Grammar schools, and Blair for getting rid of the assisted places scheme, it is now much harder than it once was. But it is still possible, for an example Frederick Douglas taught himself to read by getting other children to help him, despite having been forbidden to learn by his master.

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  3. What DK fails to realise is that wealth inequality is a problem in itself.


    If I offered you a straight choice between two societies - one where everyone could afford basic food and housing, and perhaps a new garment once a year, and another where everyone can afford basic food and housing, some people can afford to live in comfort and take holidays, and a few people can afford to live in palatial homes with large numbers of staff etc., which would you chose? Note that this is a hypothetical scenario - it's not supposed to represent realistic options.


    Of course in the UK there is virtually no absolute poverty, but reducing relative poverty is important if you want to improve things.


    That's a tautology. You have asserted that relative inequality is "a problem" and now claim that it's important to reduce relative inequality.


    The more wealth inequality you have, the higher the crime rates and the wider the health and education inequalities etc.


    There are a few rather important things missing from this statement. The strongest driver of crime rates isn't wealth inequality, it's the lack of morality on the part of the criminals. Poor criminals burgle houses and steal DVDs from shops, better off criminals embezzle from their employers, fiddle their VAT returns and so on.

    The more someone feels that he is entitled to have the same as someone else does, without having to work for it, the more likely he is to lie, cheat and steal to obtain his "entitlements".


    The price of lower taxes (for the rich) is paid by having a less pleasant society to live in and I would argue a less efficient economy.


    The pleasant part is debatable. Your "less efficient" argument is absurd. Any marginal tax causes inefficiency in the economy. Assume that you want some work done, and it is worth X to you to have it done. Assume also that I am prepared to do the work for you for Y. If X>Y, the work gets done for some price in the middle, and we both gain. That's efficient. Now let's assume that I have to pay a marginal rate of tax m%. In order to take home the Y that I'm prepared to do the work for, I need to charge you Y*100/(100-m). When Y*100/(100-m) > X > Y, the work should be done, because it's worth more to you to have it done than it is to me to do it, but it isn't done because the government introduces inefficiency via marginal taxation.

    The above argument doesn't only apply to me supplying my labour to you - it applies equally to me risking my capital by investing it in your business, investing in improvement of my property to produce more output, or any other economic activity.



    We already have some of the highest levels of inequality in Europe. DK seems to want to move towards even worse levels of inequality (like in the US),


    It would be interesting to do a side-by-side comparison of life in the US and UK, and see at which percentile of wealth or income the purchasing power and quality of life is equal (I think everybody assumes that rich Americans are much better off than rich Brits, but the poorest Americans are worse off than the poorest Brits.) Such a study would illuminate these kinds of discussions.


    the majority of people in this country would rather see less inequality and if we had a decent electoral system we would get it.


    An idea doesn't automatically become sensible just because the majority of people support it. The majority of people have at various times thought that the earth was flat, that peasant women who were even slightly intelligent were witches, that Tony Blair was honest and straightforward, and any number of other absurd things.

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  4. Neil,

    Define "Rich".

    In particular, compare and contrast "Rich" with "successful" and, more particularly "spectacularly industrious, single minded and unbelievably tenacious, hard-working and willing to put their own life on the line for a risky venture".

    Do you think that the nation would be "richer" if those individuals in the second category were substantially dissuaded from doing what they do here in the UK? Because they are exactly the sort of people who will bugger off to the US sharpish if you try and make life more difficult for them here. Huh?

    "Rich" is the terminology of pure unadulterated jealousy. But it's short and "Tax the Rich" makes a natty slogan, which might be why your average lefty moron loves it.

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  5. Tim "Don’t you realise that it is imports that make us rich, not exports?"

    Imports funded by what exactly? In our case UK growth is debt led, which indicates we are obviously heading for a fall.

    Chris "Being poor does not mean that you have to settle for a poor education."

    Statistically it is incredibly likely that that is the case.

    Think of what an inefficient society we have where nearly all the top jobs are placed among the 7% of the population who were lucky enough to have had parents who could afford to send them to private schools.

    anon: To your hypothetical question, I would choose the richer society obviously. However, a more realistic question is this, where would you prefer to be poor and/or disabled or ill and/or in a disadvantaged minority, the US or Scandanavia?

    I believe that high wealth inequality actually damages the economy and quality of life of the majority so the question you ask is unrealistic. The choice would be between a more equal society with an overall higher standard of living OR a more unequal society with a lower overall standard of living. And before you talk about the Soviet Union, I believe that this can only be achieved in a highly democratic state which the Soviet Union was a long way from. Sadly without proportional representation, the influence of the rich and powerful is eroding democracy both here and in the US, making equality much harder to achieve. As Adam Smith stated, corporations will do what is in their interests which is not necessarily the same as the interests of society.

    "it's the lack of morality on the part of the criminals."

    So what is the cause, genetics? because that is the logic of your argument.

    As for economics, this X and Y stuff is too simplified, you take no account of non-financial incentives or subsistance imperatives or the crucial fact that taxation is the most efficient way to pay for some services.

    "It would be interesting to do a side-by-side comparison of life in the US and UK"

    Figures for median household income are (US $43,389 - 2005), (UK $44,400 approx 2005) this suggests that the median person in the US is worse off than the UK median in terms of income/wealth. If you factor in the lower level of public services, the cost of private healthcare and education etc., the median American is much worse off. Considering the huge advantage the US has in terms of resources, the median American should be doing much better.

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  6. PG: "Define Rich?"

    It is arbitrary where you draw the line, but when the lower half the population only have 5% of the wealth I believe we have to redistribute more from the top half, don't you think?

    "people who will bugger off to the US"

    You are of course right that some will leave, they already do. But financial incentives are not their only consideration, plenty of Americans come to the UK because it is a more pleasant society to live in.

    You accuse some on the left of jealousy, but the right has bigger faults. If you are arguing for a meritocracy then you also have to denounce the privileges of those at the top who achieve high salaries without merit, while at the same time many of the hardest working, most valuable members of our society remain undeservedly low paid. Personally I feel we have to protect the poorest regardless of their abilities and this rules out a absolute meritocrisy.

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  7. So what is the cause, genetics? because that is the logic of your argument.


    No, it's mostly upbringing. A person's moral and ethical sense are, largely, determined by his upbringing. Children brought up in a family of criminals and a society where crime is explained and excused are likely to become criminals.


    As for economics, this X and Y stuff is too simplified, you take no account of non-financial incentives or subsistance imperatives or the crucial fact that taxation is the most efficient way to pay for some services.


    No, it really is that simple. Any level of marginal tax makes for an inefficient economy. I would, of course, agree that we need tax to raise money for essential government functions and services. It is impractical to produce a system of taxation that does not levy tax at the margin, so some level of inefficiency is inevitable. The greater the marginal rate of tax, the greater the inefficiency. This isn't a value judgement on whether it's right to levy higher tax for more services or not, it's a factual statement that to do so inevitably reduces market efficiency.

    Subsistence imperitives are also included in that statement - if you are desperate for money because you need to buy food and shelter, you will be prepared, out of necessity, to work for very little - your Y is small. If you are comfortably off and want an expensive holiday, your time is probably worth more to you, so your Y will be rather bigger.

    It's trivial to include nonfinancial incentives - they have value to each party just as money does. The only difference is that Gordon Brown has not yet devised a way of taxing the good felling I get from doing a favour for a friend.


    "It would be interesting to do a side-by-side comparison of life in the US and UK"

    Figures for median household income are (US $43,389 - 2005), (UK $44,400 approx 2005) this suggests that the median person in the US is worse off than the UK median in terms of income/wealth. If you factor in the lower level of public services, the cost of private healthcare and education etc., the median American is much worse off.


    But you also have to factor in the considerably lower cost of living in large parts of America. Also, your figures appear to be before tax. Doing the comparison properly isn't easy.

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  8. Yes, I did the maths years ago - and also factored in which is the more pleasant society to live in. There's no comparison, it's America every time. England? Go fuck yourselves.

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  9. anon: "Children brought up in a family of criminals and a society where crime is explained and excused are likely to become criminals."

    Is this the children's fault?

    "This isn't a value judgement on whether it's right to levy higher tax for more services or not"

    If higher taxes hamper the economy, why do so many high tax economies do so well? Could it be that lower crime rates, better health and education and the better social cohesion of higher tax economies more than compensate for any inefficiencies of marginal tax rates? Even if you don't accept my argument on economic efficiency, would you accept that quality of life is better in high tax countries?

    "It's trivial to include nonfinancial incentives"

    I suspect that non-financial incentives have a bigger impact on the economy than you might imagine. When someone starts a new job, the salary is not necessarily the most important factor for a lot of people.

    "if you are desperate for money because you need to buy food and shelter, you will be prepared, out of necessity, to work for very little"

    This is a very important statement. High unemployment can make it very difficult for unskilled workers to negotiate higher wages. The employer can always push wages down to the minimum for these people, there is no negotiation as the workers have no choice other than to take the work. This is where governments are needed to protect these workers. Surely you can see that the market has no morals (especially when it is rigged to favour the wealthy and powerful).

    "Also, your figures appear to be before tax. Doing the comparison properly isn't easy."

    UK and US income tax rates are similar, a median earner in the US would pay $8k in federal taxes and as state taxes average around 11%, about another $5k, this leaves $30k net after tax. After income tax and NI, the equivalent net median wage in the UK is over $33k. US property taxes are also similar to UK council tax rates, for example in New York the average rate is $1,900, compared to about $1,850 approx in the UK.

    Although cost of some food and other basic items are cheaper in the US, this is more than eaten up by exorbitant health costs. The total spend on health in the US is over twice per capita what we spend and is a lot of money for the median earner to find, typically around $4k a year. Like I have said, considering the advantages that the US has in terms of resources, the median worker should be far better off, but they are not, why?

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  10. anon: "An idea doesn't automatically become sensible just because the majority of people support it."

    I forgot to make this point earlier. I wasn't commenting on the rights or wrongs of what the majority thought, just that PR would represent the majority who favour less inequality, which has to be fairer than an electoral system that favours an arbitrary minority that might go against the majority's wishes (FPTP does not even necessarily give the govt to the party with the plurality of the vote).

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  11. "You accuse some on the left of jealousy, but the right has bigger faults."

    That would be a tacit admission that the left is indeed driven by jealousy then.

    And your comeback against the right:
    "If you are arguing for a meritocracy then you also have to denounce the privileges of those at the top who achieve high salaries without merit, "

    Is that the best you can do? Tell me Neil: when a FTSE 100 director negotiates his pay packet, is there coercion involved on either side? Is there a conspiracy to keep better people out of these top jobs? Does the chairman sit there thinking "Candidate A will be far far better for the company than Candidate B and will give us an edge/increase our returns for our shareholders/secure the future for the company and hence its employees, but we can't possibly give the job to him because he went to a comprehensive school/came from a 'poor' family?"

    Have you tried running a company recently? Do you have any idea how difficult it is? Do you have any idea at all the kind of hours that your average Board Director works?

    "Surely you can see that the market has no morals "

    Ummm.... Neil. That's the whole point poppet. Of course the "market" has no morals. It is the individuals in that market that are moral agents. That said, there is no higher morality - economically - than a mutually beneficial transaction: one with a willing buyer and a willing seller.

    By contrast, Socialism as a system is deeply deeply immoral. It takes by force from an unwilling seller and gives to an ungrateful buyer. And its inherent inefficiencies destroy wealth.

    "(especially when it is rigged to favour the wealthy and powerful)."

    I can see it now: all these rich and powerful people carefully coordinating all the millions of day to day transactions of millions of individuals specifically to make life difficult for the little people at the bottom, so that they remain poor and can't buy all the expensive things that the rich and powerful people produce and want them to buy.... Oh err... hang on. No. That's central planning, or "Socialism" as it is commonly called.


    "while at the same time many of the hardest working, most valuable members of our society remain undeservedly low paid. "

    The hardest working are almost never poor for long. They may start poor, but a true work ethic will make you stand out from the crowd.

    "Personally I feel we have to protect the poorest regardless of their abilities "

    And that is why you are such a fucking moron. "Regardless of their abilities" Neil? Really? Genuinely?

    You think that, say, an Oxbridge Engineering Graduate who goes on a drugs and gambling binge to get himself into monstrous debt and who then refuses to work is as deserving of taxpayer's support as a paraplegic?

    I don't. That is the fundamental difference between you and everyone else in discussion. To give money to such a character is disgusting. It is taking money away from people who have earned it and giving it to those that could have done but did not. That is immoral.

    Neil, do you actually believe that incentives matter? You may believe that all human beings have an inherent capacity for being good (as do I), but if you design a system around this you are a mug and you are going to get shafted. It is not "failsafe".

    All human beings have a natural capacity to take the path of least resistance: if a person has two options or means to get something he wants, he will pretty much always take the easier of the two.

    That is the most basic rule of economics.

    Until you grasp this really simple undeniable fact your ideas will always be treated with contempt because they simply will not survive the first fleeting contact with human nature.

    The welfare state has destroyed the incentives for individuals to provide for themselves. You want more of this. Everyone else here sees that we will all be better off with less of it.

    "Regardless of their ability", indeed. What a complete twat.

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  12. Neil,

    I'm sorry, but this is simply outrageous:

    ""it's the lack of morality on the part of the criminals."

    So what is the cause, genetics? because that is the logic of your argument.


    Anon said:
    "The more someone feels that he is entitled to have the same as someone else does, without having to work for it, the more likely he is to lie, cheat and steal to obtain his "entitlements"."

    How do you reduce this to genetics? This is a disgusting and deliberate misrepresentation because you do not like to admit that it is individuals that commit crime.

    Every time a burglar robs a house he has made a specific decision to commit that exact crime. He has weighed up the factors as to whether it will be worth it, whether he will caught and whether he will be punished (in any way meaningful to him) even if he is caught.

    Poverty does not cause crime. Criminals cause crime. There are some many huge gaping chasms in the causal chain between "poverty" and "inequality" and each separate individual's unforced decision to commit each and every crime as to make your position on this topic openly absurd.

    Individuals have free will. They can choose to commit crime and they can choose not to. It comes down to the morality of the individual.

    That said, your insistence - and that of your fellow travellers - that crime can be "explained" by "inequality" simply serves to undermine the moral imperative influences the decisions of individuals (it makes a criminal think that they will not be punished or that it is not "bad") that would otherwise prevent such crime occuring in the first place.

    If you want a "societal" cause for crime, Neil, it is you, not inequality.

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  13. PG: "That would be a tacit admission that the left is indeed driven by jealousy then."

    Some on the Left may be driven by jealousy, I wouldn't deny that, but there are plenty on the Left who are not driven by jealousy - plenty of successful people. Of course you suggest these people are hypocrites. Why is it hypocritical for a rich person to recognise that inequality and greed is destroying society and to want to see their tax bill increased so that society can be made better? Even you accept that taxation is the best way to provide some services.

    "Is there a conspiracy to keep better people out of these top jobs?"

    Effectively yes. Of course someone with phenonomal drive (and maybe luck) can make it from the bottom to the top but it is far more likely that the children of those at the top will make it.

    "Do you have any idea at all the kind of hours that your average Board Director works?"

    My brother is a director of a large company in the UK. Yes in some ways he does work hard and he works long hours but he would be the first to admit, it is not the hard work of someone on the minimum wage. My brother has done that as well (very briefly) and he found it intolerable (he much prefers business lunches). My brother's salary (with bonuses) puts him in the top 1% of earners in this country. Both he and me were lucky enough not to have dysfunctional parents but what about those not so lucky?

    "Regardless of their abilities" Neil? Really? Genuinely?"

    Even you don't blame the disabled for their plight, their abilities are impaired and yet you accept they need protecting from the ravages of a market that would otherwise leave them destitute, that is all I am saying, there is a moral duty for the rich to provide for the poorest. And of course a lot of the rich don't deserve to be there, it is privilege that keeps them there. Why do you not acknowledge this? For every Alan Sugar there are 10 Duke Of Westminsters. This privilege is a far bigger problem than your 'alleged problem' of paying the poor a living wage.

    Why do you blame children who had dysfunctional parents for the way they turn out? Everything has a cause, even crime. Inequality makes crime worse, that is a undeniable fact. Look around the world, the safest countries are the most equal and democratic.

    "Neil, do you actually believe that incentives matter?"

    Of course incentives matter, but there are not just financial incentives. Do you recognise this? I would suggest that quality of life matters more than economic growth.

    "Individuals have free will. They can choose to commit crime and they can choose not to. It comes down to the morality of the individual."

    What causes their morality? The right is basically saying it is genetic. To blame children for their upbringing is obviously unfair, surely you accept this?

    Punishment is a useful deterrent but prison is just creating worse criminals. I'm interested in methods that reduce crime and increase our safety. From an emotional point of view it feels good to have long harsh prisons sentences, but unless these people are rehabilitated (or locked up for ever and some indeed need to be) then prison is an expensive failure. Nobody is arguing that seriously dangerous criminals should not be removed from society, but they are the minority of criminals.

    Crime is falling in Western societies and this is happening for a variety of reasons. The most effective tools at reducing crime have been technology and reducing inequality NOT prisons.

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  14. Neil,

    Good. So we agree. Some on the left are indeed driven by jealousy. That is an important admission.

    As for the rest of your response: what a load of tosh.

    Let's start here:
    "Of course you suggest these people are hypocrites."
    No I didn't. Quote me or retract this please.

    "Why is it hypocritical for a rich person to recognise that inequality and greed is destroying society and to want to see their tax bill increased so that society can be made better?"
    It's not in the slightest. It's misguided and wrong but it is not remotely hypocritical and I didn't ever say it was.

    What would be wrong (but not hypocritical) would be to enforce your misguided and damaging policies ONTO OTHERS. If you genuinely felt that you were not doing enough for society and should contribute more, then you can do this through philanthropy and charitable giving. In the absence of the welfare state, this happened a great deal more.

    "Effectively yes. [there is a conspiracy to keep people out of top jobs]"
    Explain how this works in a free market.

    "Of course someone with phenonomal drive (and maybe luck) can make it from the bottom to the top"
    So when you said "Effectively Yes", what you actually mean is "actually No". Phenomenal drive (and maybe luck) is indeed the way to make it to the top. That is the whole point of the top. If we were to redefine the top to be "anything that a workshy drug addict with no ability to read or write can do" then the top will become pretty meaningless. You have to be exceptional to get to the top. That is the whole point of a meritocracy.

    "but it is far more likely that the children of those at the top will make it."

    Because they have parents who make sacrifices for them. Because these children do not make the elementary errors that those with little or no parent guidance or sense of individual responsibility do.

    You want your children not to be poor when they grow up. Here are four things you need to do:
    1) Stay in School and work to get your results
    2) Marry first before having children and do not so before the age of 25
    3) Do not do drugs
    4) Work Full time
    (H/t Jane Galt)

    Middle class parents know these things in the same way that they know not to run out in front of a bus. They teach their children these things. Their children know that they will face severe and immediate disapproval of their parents if they look like going off the rails.

    To drum these lessons into your children is not privilege Neil, it is the basic minimum doing a decent job of bringing up children. So this is not about inequality or privilege or some insane conspiracy: it is that the children of the benighted poor are failed by everyone with whom they come into contact, starting with and most importantly their parents. I fail to see how this can in any way whatsoever be MY fault or the fault of any decent middle class parent.

    It is, however, the fault of people like you Neil, because people like you have implemented policies that allow the parents of these disadvantaged children to be entirely divorced from the consequences of their own actions. Their incentives have been utterly distorted.

    Which is why this is such utter shite:
    "Both he and me were lucky enough not to have dysfunctional parents but what about those not so lucky?"
    Middle class parents are not to blame for the dysfunctional parents. The dysfunctional parents are.

    We are not creating privilege for ourselves by "not being disfunctional", but I quite see that you would think there was some kind of conspiracy at work if you are sufficiently loopy to think so.

    "Even you don't blame the disabled for their plight, their abilities are impaired and yet you accept they need protecting from the ravages of a market that would otherwise leave them destitute,"
    And?

    Has anyone even remotely suggested otherwise?

    " that is all I am saying, there is a moral duty for the rich to provide for the poorest."

    No that is NOT what you said. You said:
    "Personally I feel we have to protect the poorest regardless of their abilities "

    Which is complete shite. We have to protect the poorest WITH VERY VERY SPECIFIC REGARD TO THEIR ABILITIES.
    Those who are able but poor because they are feckless and lazy DO NOT DESERVE A PENNY FROM ANYONE. Their poverty is their own decision. They should feel the consequences of it. Once that starts to bite, I doubt they will lazy for long. Indeed, it is very unlikely that they would have been lazy in the first place.

    You need to accept this very explicit difference.

    "What causes their morality? The right is basically saying it is genetic."
    Source please. This is bollocks.

    "To blame children for their upbringing is obviously unfair, surely you accept this?"
    No. I blame the parents. Do you?

    Then I blame the perverse incentives that divorced the parents from their responsibilities at every stage. Which means I blame the policies that you advocate. In short: I blame you and your kind.

    Do you accept that individuals are responsible for their own actions?

    "Everything has a cause, even crime. "
    Indeed. The decision of the individual at that moment to commit that crime. Again, do you accept that individuals are responsible for their own actions? The burglar looking at the door of a house is not motivated by "inequality".

    As for the diatribe about prisons, yes, it is true that more rehabilitation needs to be done, but this misses the point.

    Everything here points to a single root cause: the failure of parents to bring up their children to be responsible, law-abiding, productive adults.

    The "right" suggests that the welfare state has created perverse incentives and undermined - if not destroyed - the social norms that used to ensure that this happened, because the effects of irresponsible behaviour were visible and painful.

    You would increase the perverse incentives. And its all based on jealousy. What a sad case.

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  15. Sorry, one more thing:

    "Of course incentives matter, but there are not just financial incentives. Do you recognise this?"

    Yes. Obviously. But in the context of individual responsibility, you may choose to forgo additional financial reward for greater quality of life or a greater social conscience. That is called "making decisions about your own life and living with the consequences of those decisions".

    You misuse this concept to a ludicrous degree.

    I used this in the context that the state imposed welfare system creates a set of incentives whereby there is no penalty for damaging or reckless behaviour. Funnily enough, we get lots of damaging or reckless behaviour.

    You seem to be saying ? what?

    That this is somehow OK? That dysfunctional parenting is a perfectly valid reaction to the incentive system? An "alternative lifestyle"? What?

    What is your point? Because the charge here is serious. The welfare state CAUSES poor behaviour and creates disadvantaged children. You would boost the conditions that cause this problem.

    In response to your "regardless of ability", I said:

    "You think that, say, an Oxbridge Engineering Graduate who goes on a drugs and gambling binge to get himself into monstrous debt and who then refuses to work is as deserving of taxpayer's support as a paraplegic?

    I don't. That is the fundamental difference between you and everyone else in discussion. To give money to such a character is disgusting."


    So here is the key question: Would you give money to the feckless Oxbridge graduate? He is just as poor as the hypothetical paraplegic. Do you believe that the system should fork out to support him?

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  16. Anon: "Children brought up in a family of criminals and a society where crime is explained and excused are likely to become criminals."

    Is this the children's fault?


    I didn't say that it was. I said that upbringing was a rather stronger cause of criminality than lack of wealth.


    If higher taxes hamper the economy, why do so many high tax economies do so well? Could it be that lower crime rates, better health and education and the better social cohesion of higher tax economies more than compensate for any inefficiencies of marginal tax rates?


    It's possible. The efficiency of the economy is only one contributing factor to the success of a society - there are many other factors. I'm not going to agree with your argument (not least because "high tax" and "low tax" is a gross over-simplification of the differences between countries), but it's certainly possible to imagine people that behave in a way such that this argument is correct.


    Even if you don't accept my argument on economic efficiency,


    This argument, on the other hand, is claptrap. Increasing marginal tax increases economic inefficiency, rather by definition. That's a fact, not an argument.


    would you accept that quality of life is better in high tax countries?


    Well, that's one of the key questions, isn't it. I can't answer for the Scandinavian countries, but I have spent significant time in France, and would take the UK or US any day.


    I suspect that non-financial incentives have a bigger impact on the economy than you might imagine.


    I suspect that you don't know what I imagine :-)


    When someone starts a new job, the salary is not necessarily the most important factor for a lot of people.


    Yes. I know. That doesn't alter what I wrote. I'll give you an example. I currently earn a shade over the UK median wage, doing a job that I enjoy. I could have easily made the choice (and actually still could) to follow a different career, and be making at least 4 times what I currently do. I didn't make that choice, because I place a high value on not hating my job. In the language of my earlier example, my "Y" changes significantly with the kind of work that you are offering.


    "if you are desperate for money because you need to buy food and shelter, you will be prepared, out of necessity, to work for very little"

    This is a very important statement. High unemployment can make it very difficult for unskilled workers to negotiate higher wages. The employer can always push wages down to the minimum for these people, there is no negotiation as the workers have no choice other than to take the work.


    My word - you've said something that's entirely correct :-) If there is an abundance of a particular kind of labour, its value falls. If there is a scarcity, it rises. The lower limit, of course, is enough of a premium over whatever benefits are available to the unemployed to make it worth their while to put in the effort of working. Similarly, an abundance of some kind of skilled labour will drive the price down to the value of the next-most-expensive labour that such workers are fit to supply.


    This is where governments are needed to protect these workers.


    You can certainly make that argument.

    Surely you can see that the market has no morals (especially when it is rigged to favour the wealthy and powerful).

    Umm, yes. The market doesn't have any morals. My armchair doesn't have morals either. The only things that have morals are people. The market is just a tool for measuring the relative value of different things - no more, no less. If people place a high value on a particular kind of behaviour, the market will value it highly. If they don't, it won't.



    UK and US income tax rates are similar, a median earner in the US would pay $8k in federal taxes and as state taxes average around 11%,

    Umm, no, they don't. For those states with an income tax, a median earner will pay something less than 5%. The highest state income tax anywhere is 9.5%, which is the marginal rate payable in Vermont on incomes above $325,000 or so. I could believe that your 11% was the total state tax take (income tax, sales tax, maybe property taxes combined).


    US property taxes are also similar to UK council tax rates, for example in New York the average rate is $1,900, compared to about $1,850 approx in the UK.

    You've just compared the UK average to about the most expensive part of the US.


    Although cost of some food and other basic items are cheaper in the US,


    You've missed out the biggest difference - the cost of property itself. The rent that I paid for a small 2-bed flat in a cheap London suburb gets me a (by UK standards) large 3-bed house with garden in a fairly expensive, crime-free Chicago suburb.


    this is more than eaten up by exorbitant health costs.
    The total spend on health in the US is over twice per capita what we spend and is a lot of money for the median earner to find, typically around $4k a year.


    Yes, heath insurance in the US is expensive. It is, in fact, impossible to create a sensible market in heath insurance (basically because people always have more information than the insurance company about the general state of their health). You can have a market in A&E and sudden critical illness insurance, but not in general healthcare insurance.




    Like I have said, considering the advantages that the US has in terms of resources, the median worker should be far better off, but they are not, why?


    What are the advantages that the US has in terms of resources? You have asserted their existance, but haven't listed them.

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  17. US property taxes are also similar to UK council tax rates, for example in New York the average rate is $1,900, compared to about $1,850 approx in the UK.

    You should also note that US property taxes are paid by owners, rather than by occupiers. This means that the property tax is in effect included in the rent that a landlord asks for a property in the US, whereas a UK tenant has to pay council tax on top of his rent.

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  18. I think The Pedant has been reading my profile - Oxbridge engineering graduate, drink, drugs, debts, debauchery. What a wasted life - but ever such good fun. Fantasy over - guilty of only 2 of the above - but I'm not saying which ones.

    Actually, when I was unemployed last year for a few months, the good old welfare state refused to give me any support at all. My residual income was over their benefits threshold - but well short of the mortgage payments. The Pedant will be pleased to note that the welfare state doesn't waste his taxes on the middle classes. In the face of imminent, crippling poverty, I had to get off my pampered middle-class bottom and find a new job so that the little towcestarians didn't starve. Which is I think the point that him and DK are trying to make about the debilitating effects of welfare ....

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  19. PG: "Good. So we agree. Some on the left are indeed driven by jealousy. That is an important admission."

    I have no problem admitting this, will you admit that some on the right are only interested in protecting their privileged position?

    A lot of people on the right accuse successful people who advocate tax rises as somehow hypocritical, I am glad to hear you are not one of them and I apologise for wrongly assuming you were.

    "philanthropy and charitable giving. In the absence of the welfare state, this happened a great deal more."

    Maybe it did, but this giving in no way compensated the poor for the loss of the welfare state. The poor were much worse off.

    "Explain how this [conspiracy to keep the rich in the top jobs] works in a free market."

    Simple. We do not have a free market. A free market can only be aimed for, it is impossible to achieve perfect competition, infinite knowledge etc. Ask Rupert Murdoch? He is a master at distorting the market, creating monopolistic distortions to exploit by limiting competition.

    The market works best when it is well regulated. It wasn't laissez faire that led to the spurts of economic growth in the US and UK in the 19th century and the post-war growth spurts of Germany and Japan. All of these economies grew due to government expenditure on infrastructure and investment and even due to initial protectionism of fledgling industries. This is why the laissex faire dictats by the IMF etc. to developing countries have been so damaging to their emerging industries trying to establish themselves in markets dominated by Western multi-nationals with the muscle to control the market and unfairly bully small scale competitors out of existence.

    These same distortion can happen in the jobs market. The evidence is there for all to see. Only recently a report was published that showed the dominance of the public school educated in the top jobs. How is it fair that the children of the rich get such an unfair advantage in life? I would argue it is not an efficient way to run the labour market because it reduces competition for the top jobs.

    "Phenomenal drive (and maybe luck) is indeed the way to make it to the top. That is the whole point of the top."

    Yes, I totally agree. You have misinterpreted what I have said. I said that ONLY those at the bottom get to the top this way, those children of those already at the top can get there with much less effort, fantastically less effort just because they had rich parents. This means the calibre of those at the top is reduced by this limiting of competition.

    "To drum these lessons into your children is not privilege Neil, it is the basic minimum doing a decent job of bringing up children...the children of the benighted poor are failed by everyone with whom they come into contact, starting with and most importantly their parents. I fail to see how this can in any way whatsoever be MY fault or the fault of any decent middle class parent."

    But children cannot choose their parents and circumstances. It is not their fault they are disadvantaged in this way. Don't we have a moral responsibility to do something about this unfairness?

    "people like you have implemented policies that allow the parents of these disadvantaged children to be entirely divorced from the consequences of their own actions. Their incentives have been utterly distorted."

    There was more poverty before the welfare state, so this statement doesn't make any sense.

    "You want your children not to be poor when they grow up. Here are four things you need to do:
    1) Stay in School and work to get your results
    2) Marry first before having children and do not so before the age of 25
    3) Do not do drugs
    4) Work Full time"

    But before this can happen for everyone we need to break the spiral of disadvantage that has happened over generations. You shouldn't just dismiss children who are brought up by dysfunctional parents and live in run down areas as 'none of your concern'. These children have a detrimental impact on the economy and on society, which affects you directly. You accept that the disabled shouldn't be left to the ravages of the market, so why should these children?

    "Do you accept that individuals are responsible for their own actions?"

    Individuals are genetic machines that sometimes need corrective action. In this way they are responsible for their actions, but I don't blame individuals for their parents and upbringing or for their genetic make-up. Punishment should only be used where it is a useful deterrent not because it makes some other people feel better. I am interested in what works. How to improve society.

    "Those who are able but poor because they are feckless and lazy DO NOT DESERVE A PENNY FROM ANYONE."

    This is back to the poor laws and the concept of deserving and undeserving poor. It might sound attractive but in practise it is disastrous. You are talking about means testing and poorhouses which are counterproductive and inefficient.

    You go on about the lazy oxbridge graduate example, but the truth is that the vast majority of people are not lazy and want to work.

    "[The right is basically saying it is genetic]. Source please."

    Well the Right blame the poor for their situation, they rule out the market as a cause and they are indifferent to their disadvantaged upbringing, so that only leaves genetics to explain the poor's 'laziness'. What else is there?

    "The "right" suggests that the welfare state has created perverse incentives and undermined - if not destroyed - the social norms that used to ensure that this [parents to bring up their children to be responsible, law-abiding, productive adults] happened"

    When exactly was this utopia? You hark back to a pre-welfare state utopia that never existed. Victorian times were nasty and short for most of the working class, crime was higher and as for morality being better - you are having a laugh.

    "You would increase the perverse incentives. And its all based on jealousy. What a sad case."

    I am not jealous of the rich, I am relatively well off myself. I just recognise that there are people poorer than me because of an unfair system not because of their own actions.

    You talk a lot about the importance of financial incentives but then stress how philanphropy and charity can replace the welfare state (even though history shows that to be untrue). It seems it depends on what point you are making as to how important financial incentives are.

    "So here is the key question: Would you give money to the feckless Oxbridge graduate?"

    Yes. And so would you. What would you suggest we do with him? Prison? - That would be even more expensive. Poorhouse? Slavery? Firing squad?

    At the end of the day, we can remove all benefits from him (as currently would happen - as towcestrian points out) but that would drive him on to the streets, maybe into crime and that would cost society even more. It would probably be worth spending the money to get him off drugs, and although he might refuse work in the short term, very, very few refuse work for long. A bigger cost to society is rich people making money from speculative activities that contribute nothing to the economy and then not paying their taxes, something the 'right' never mention.

    Anon: Even if I pick a state with lower property taxes and lower state taxes, the net income of the median American is still lower than the median Brit. Add in the high cost of health insurance in the States and the American is looking far worse off.

    The US has vast resources of oil and other raw materials that dwarve the UK. The US has much more agricultural land, a surplus in food production whereas the UK has to import most of it's food. And of course US property prices are cheaper, the density of population is a fraction of ours because they have so much more land. They also have the advantages of economies of scale of having a much larger more integrated economic union.

    Despite all these advantages the median American is no better off. Why?

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  20. Neil,

    Apologies: lot of work on so not able to respond in detail - will do so in due course.

    this merits a mention though:
    In response to the four things you need to do:
    1) Stay in School and work to get your results
    2) Marry first before having children and do not so before the age of 25
    3) Do not do drugs
    4) Work Full time

    you say:
    "But before this can happen for everyone we need to break the spiral of disadvantage that has happened over generations."

    Tell me why "disadvantage" stops you from working hard at school?
    Tell me "disadvantage" forces you to have children out of wedlock
    Tell me why "disadvantage" forces you to take drugs.
    Tell me why "disadvantage" forces you not to work full time?

    I say "forces you" deliberately. I say these are choices that any individual can make. You seem to say that this is impossible until the cycle is broken. You suggest that there is something about this "disadvantage" that makes it impossible to avoid making these frankly schoolboy blunders.

    I say these are individual choices. Parents choose not to discipline their children to work hard and not be disruptive at school.

    You seem to say that nothing can be done about this until we have broken the cycle of disadvantage. I say that these are the choices an individual needs to make if they are to do so.

    If you take an average individual who follows those four steps, do you think he will "disadvantaged"? No. Thought not. There is no reason why any individual cannot follow that advice.

    Anything that panders to, or seems to excuse, behaviour that deviates from these very simple steps is only going to exacerbate the problem.

    The welfare state does exactly that: it panders to poor behaviour.

    As for this:
    "Well the Right blame the poor for their situation, they rule out the market as a cause and they are indifferent to their disadvantaged upbringing, so that only leaves genetics to explain the poor's 'laziness'. What else is there?"

    You were asked for a source for an outrageous suggestion that the Right blame crime/laziness whatever on genetics and you produce this utter tosh. Are you really this stupid?

    It simply does not follow that being indifferent to poor upbringing should rule it out as a cause. OF COURSE IT'S THE FUCKING CAUSE NEIL.

    The Right blame the parents for the poor upbringing of their children. That's because the Right believes in individual freedom and responsibility: it is the responsibility of the parents to bring up their children.

    The question remains: how do you correct the problem of parents failing to fulfill their obligations as parents?

    More importantly - and to return to the subject - why on earth do you think for a moment that a feckless irresponsible moron will magically stop being a feckless irresponsible moron just because the Government gives him MORE MONEY THAT HE HAS NOT HAD TO EARN FROM HIS OWN HONEST WORK?

    The way to stop a feckless irresponsible moron being a feckless irresponsible moron is to give him responsibility over his life. That means he has to work out how to provide for himself (and his dependents). That, Neil, is what incentives are about.

    The welfare state - which you would massively expand - would give him even more reason to sit on his arse. but he wouldn't be grateful for it. But he'll still be jealous because you are still telling him he is "disadvantaged", that it's not his fault.

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  21. PG: "Tell me why "disadvantage" stops you from working hard at school?
    Tell me why "disadvantage" forces you to have children out of wedlock
    Tell me why "disadvantage" forces you to take drugs.
    Tell me why "disadvantage" forces you not to work full time?
    I say "forces you" deliberately. I say these are choices that any individual can make."

    But then you go on to admit...

    "It simply does not follow that being indifferent to poor upbringing should rule it out as a cause."

    So you admit that the upbringing of children is the cause of their behaviour. How then can you be indifferent to their plight?

    I ask a straight question 'do you blame the children for their upbringing'?

    You answer by talking about the faults of the parents. You simply avoid answering the question and we know what that means.

    In answer to your four questions you ask above, I think circumstances do make it effectively impossible for some people to do all these things.

    *Just off out so I will continue this later...*

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  22. So you admit that the upbringing of children is the cause of their behaviour. How then can you be indifferent to their plight?

    I ask a straight question 'do you blame the children for their upbringing'?

    You answer by talking about the faults of the parents. You simply avoid answering the question and we know what that means.


    I can't speak for the P-G, but I would have thought that it was obvious that blame can only be assigned to the people doing the blameworthy activity. The blame for a child's bad upbringing attaches to those responsible for his upbringing - usually his parents.

    I also thought that you weren't interested in assigning blame, but in "what works" and "how to improve society". In this specific case, the problem that we are addressing is that the feckless and amoral amongst us teach their children to be feckless and amoral, and that it would be a good thing to break this cycle and have a new generation of children grow up who were more moral and responsible than their feckless amoral parents.


    In answer to your four questions you ask above, I think circumstances do make it effectively impossible for some people to do all these things.


    Those things were:
    - Attend school and work hard
    - Don't have children with transitory sexual partners, or whilst you're a teenager
    - Don't do drugs
    - Get a full-time job

    Most people (particularly young people) should have no problem finding a job. If you live in one of the small number of areas where there is high unemployment, you might need to move. The catch is that your employer will expect you to turn up on time every day, and work hard in exchange for your wages.

    I'm looking forward to you explaining which circumstances it is that conspire to force people to have children whilst they are teenagers.

    I'm also looking forward you you explaining exactly how it is that you think giving money to the feckless amoral parents of these children will lead to their children being more likely to act responsibly, stay in school, keep their trousers on and work hard to improve their lot in life.

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  23. Anon: I just want to know if PG blames the children for their upbringing. If his answer is no then he agrees with me that we should help these children, but I suspect his answer is yes, he does blame them but he doesn't want to admit it.

    Punishing the parents does not help the children, it makes it worse for them. Thatcher proved that. When you have millions of people without work and government policies can double this or more (as Thatcher showed) then how can you blame this unemployment on laziness?

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  24. Neil,

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear:

    We are going round in circles:

    "I ask a straight question 'do you blame the children for their upbringing'?"

    And I gave you a straight answer. No.
    And I qualified it: I blame their parents.

    I then posed a more important question: How do we deal with this?

    Your answer is to do more of the thing that caused the problem. That is the basis of this entire post and discussion: you want radically to decrease the disincentives for poor behaviour that allows parents to abrogate their responsibilities to their children.

    Then there is this tosh:
    "So you admit that the upbringing of children is the cause of their behaviour."

    Absolutely. I have never said anything else. That is precisely what I have been banging on about.

    You seem to think that you have scored a huge point here. You have in fact made a monster howler: you equate "poor upbringing" with "disadvantage".


    "Disadvantage" is something someone else does to you. It is not your fault or the fault of your parents.

    "Poor upbringing" is very definitely the fault of your parents. It is not forced on you by the wicked greedy rich or anyone else.

    You are trying to say that "disadvantage" is the problem and that we must pander to these poor individuals against whom everyone else conspires.

    I say that "Poor upbringing" is the problem and that pandering to it will MAKE THE PROBLEM WORSE.

    Now, back to my assertion that with which you beat yourself about the head.

    You said:
    "What causes their morality? The right is basically saying it is genetic. "

    I asked you for a source. You dissembled and your reasoning was shown to be appallingly lacking.

    Provide a source or retract this please.

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  25. Neil,

    I need to deal with this:

    I asked:
    "So here is the key question: Would you give money to the feckless Oxbridge graduate?"

    You replied:
    Yes.
    Wow. Over here everyone. Neil is giving away money to anyone who wants it for nothing in return.

    Oh, what's that? It's OUR money you are giving away.

    "And so would you."
    No. I wouldn't. He could have gone and got a job and he didn't. He could do now and is refusing to do so. No money. Why should I support someone who refuses to do so for themselves? Why don't I just sit on my arse and get you to pay for me, Neil? And my children whilst you are about it. I'd much rather be sitting in the sun. Incentives matter Neil.

    "What would you suggest we do with him? Prison? - That would be even more expensive. Poorhouse? Slavery? Firing squad?"

    Ummm.... No. None of the above. I JUST WOULDN'T GIVE HIM ANY MONEY.

    Why is this so terribly difficult for you to see? The opposite of "giving some one money for nothing" is not "shoot him", it is "not giving someone money for nothing".

    I think you will agree that "not giving someone money for nothing" is not the same as imprisoning that someone. It is leaving him free and without a criminal record to go and earn his own money.

    "not giving someone money for nothing" is not confining him to a poorhouse. He might end up in a pretty dreadful state if he does not want to earn his own cash, but that would be entirely his own choice. Indeed, if he really was presented with that choice, he would never have got to that state in the first place: he would have been much more careful in the first instance.

    "not giving someone money for nothing" is not condemning him to slavery either. That is, of course, assuming that you are not one of these "wages are slavery" nutcases - something I am less and less willing to assume I might add.

    Even if it was, perhaps you could expound how such slavery would be enacted? How would be the slavemaster? What would the slavemaster get our feckless Oxbridge graduate to do? Why?

    Nor is "not giving someone money for nothing" the same as shooting people.

    It never ceases to amaze me how you can try to present the case of the "Right" by listing all sorts of bizarre options yet leaving out the simplest and most obvious.

    You did it earlier with the genetics thing (which you have still to retract), except then you even managed to list the right answer without noticing it (the right being "indifferent" to the upbringing of feckless amoral and irresponsible children by feckless amoral and irresponsible adults)

    More bizarrely, whenever you are asked to unravel the basis of something you always resort to abstract or vague terms. "Circumstances" make it impossible ...
    "Inequality" causes crime
    "Privilege" keeps the poor out of the top jobs.

    This is wooly sociologist-speak and bears no relation to the actions of individuals.

    Let's look at your latest example:
    "In answer to your four questions you ask above, "

    They weren't questions. It was a bland statement of the four basic things that you should do if you don't want to be poor and you don't want your children to be poor.

    Whatever.

    "I think circumstances do make it effectively impossible for some people to do all these things."

    ?????????????????

    "Circumstances" make it impossible - they are buggers those circumstances. Do they have morals, like your free market, Neil? Or they like those knives and guns that go around killing people of their own volition?

    Let's look at each of these in turn:
    1) Stay in School and work to get your results
    With the current welfare state as it is, there is absolutely no need for a child to leave school and work full time e.g. to support his/her parents.

    2) Marry first before having children and do not so before the age of 25
    Those circumstances are the most frightful cads aren't they? Forcing people into wedlock against their will. Oh sorry, no - it's the children bit, not the marriage bit. Still, they must be pretty cunning to conspire to get TWO consenting people into procreating a baby against their will.

    4) Work Full time
    If you work hard for your employer and have a good employment record, he is going to be understanding if you have some kind of crisis at home. The question is: how common are crises of sufficient magnitude to cause you to stop working full time for a protracted period when you are in your 20s, i.e. when your parents are in their 40s (or early 50s)?

    3) Do not do drugs
    Free choice of the individual. Peer pressure is important, sure, but it comes down to free will. If you have followed steps 1 & 2, and are following step 4, step 3 is a total no-brainer. You will have left behind the losers who would drag you down and will be able to see them for the losers that they are.

    It's that simple.

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  26. Punishing the parents does not help the children, it makes it worse for them.
    Where did I mention punishing the parents?

    "Thatcher proved that."
    Ah yes, the great bugbear. If in doubt, refer to a politician who left power a decade and a half ago. This is particularly important to do when your favourite politician is in fact doing just exactly the same thing.


    "When you have millions of people without work and government policies can double this or more (as Thatcher showed)"
    Governments can put people out of work? But I thought the state was benevolent and only acted in our best interests? Oh, sorry - it has to be the right kind of government.

    It is also important to compare the current tight labour market conditions with those pertaining when Thatcher had to contend with the mess of heavily inefficient, nationalised (but I repeat myself) industries left over from the winter of discontent. That would be a valid comparison. NOT.

    "then how can you blame this unemployment on laziness?"
    Because there is stacks of work out there for anyone who genuinely wants to provide for themselves:
    8,055 jobs in Scotland.
    52,000 jobs in the UK.

    The problem is that no employer is going to take on your average slothful, gobbing, illiterate, innumerate and downright rude British 18 year old, when he can hire a Pole for the same price.

    The right recognises this. The left, meanwhile, has managed to trash our education system in the name of, guess what, "reducing inequality".

    [/rant]

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  27. PG: So if unemployment=laziness and Thatcher more than doubled unemployment, I assume she must also have doubled laziness? Well according to your logic she did.

    You say you don't blame the children for their plight but by making it harder for their parents (who you do blame, yet they were also very likely to have been disadvantaged children) you are perpetuating this cycle of dysfunctional behaviour over generations. You effectively do blame the children by punishing them in this way.

    What is so good about Labour governments and why they manage to reduce crime is that they give opportunities to some of these dysfunctional families. Opportunity is the only way to break out of this cycle of poverty and poor behaviour. Although you say you don't blame these children, you punish them by punishing their parents, not only does this make their situation worse, it is punishing someone for who their parents are. This is obviously unfair.

    You try to square this circle by pointing out that people can make it to the top despite being severely disadvantaged. This is of course true, but this does not mean that the level of inequality doesn't matter, which is what you try to infer from it.

    The facts are that, social mobility has been improved by having a welfare state - think of rigid class structures in Victorian times. Look to Scandanavia, where taxation is over 50% of GDP. They also have the highest levels of social mobility.

    You do actually admit that circumstances DO affect life chances, yet you still punish people for their circumstances. I mentioned genetics because we were talking about causation of poverty and if you deny that circumstances are important then genetics is the only thing left that could be a cause.

    Moving on to your hypothetical lazy graduate. Do we not have a moral obligation in a country as wealthy as this to provide the basics of life, food and shelter?

    I believe that virtually everybody has an innate desire to work. Your solution to the lazy graduate is to remove all support from him. While this sounds attractive, it is counterproductive - you are talking costly means testing and poorhouses, deserving and undeserving poor - back to Victorian times.

    He will either (as you suggest) get a job (although the poorhouses and the US example show it is not so simple as that), or he will turn to crime (and he will end up costing you a lot more). You suggest his reason for not working is just laziness, but what really lies behind that? In reality he may decide that crime pays better than years of toil in a job he hates. Like you say, incentives matter.

    If he really is the sort of person who point blank refuses to work, then would you let him starve to death? I would suggest that this hypothetical graduate was suffering from some sort of mental illness if he was so willing to starve rather than work and it would be cheaper to provide him with a basic life and encourage him back to work. It is likely to be a temporary situation as very few prefer unemployment for long, but crime is more costly.

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  28. Neil,

    "While this sounds attractive, it is counterproductive - you are talking costly means testing and poorhouses, deserving and undeserving poor - back to Victorian times."

    Give me the Victorian times over the current nightmare any day of the week.

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  29. Neil,

    You are listening to a single thing I am saying.

    Never mind. The crucial issue here is that you want vastly to expand the welfare state.

    My point is that the Welfare state ONLY works when it is combined with a population that has an extremely strong work ethic. (It helps to be stable with very little in the way of migratory inflows or outflows, but that is a minor issue).

    The undeniable truth is that, because incentives matter and because the welfare state pays for people who do not work, the welfare state necessarily and unavoidably undermines the work ethic without which it cannot be supported.

    You are attempted to deny that this is the case by putting all sorts of other nonsense about means-testing (which I have never mentioned) and Thatcher (which is just a pure diversion of the "Look over there" persuasion) and just about anything else.

    Go and read this. You badly need to.

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  30. PG: After stumbling back to this post and finding you have left another comment. I have gone and read the article in the right-wing brussels journal that you talk about.

    They refer to Sweden's welfare state as 'rotting from within'. They provide no evidence of this and basically if living in a society with such a welfare state that has provided its citizens with such longevity and high standard of living is 'rotting' then give it me anyday.

    They talk of the imminent collapse of such a system, I think more in hope than anything else. Yes in a hostile world, social dumping and a brain drain will always be a problem for countries that decide to look after their citizens, but that is not an argument against trying to raise standards (otherwise we would still be sending our children up chimneys), it is an argument to trying to persuade countries like the US to improve their own societies not downgrade ours.

    Further inspection of the site finds this disgraceful article on so called 'muslim rapists in Oslo'. I decided to check the 'facts' on their claim that rapes in Oslo have rocketed since immigration and that rapes in Oslo are six times higher than New York. Not surprisingly I found both claims are fraudulent, so I wouldn't believe a single thing this fascist website says if I were you. The real stats are here and here, which show a fall in sexual offences per capita in Norway and that New York has much higher incidence of these offences. This despite New York hiding a lot of its rapes with low levels of recording.

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