26 May 2012

Social Mobility. A Good Idea?

Of course, the idea that someone can improve their lot through hard work and aspiration is admirable. And this plays into a sense of fairness and justice that we can all ascribe to.

The question is; would a free flowing social mobility (if it ever existed) excuse massive inequality and real grinding poverty at the bottom end? Would it really be desirable to have people flitting up and down vast chasms of wealth and status?

In a country where the wealthiest 10% have over half the wealth and the poorest 10% just 1%, even if it was possible, would it make us all happier and more secure to know that all of us could move so quickly between luxury and poverty.

Of course, this is not what Cameron and Clegg have in mind anyway. They never mention that social mobility is just about changing places - (as many fall as rise), and not about eliminating poverty in the first place. It is all just a smokescreen to avoid the real issue of poverty.

Thankfully, Ed Miliband has quickly gone on record that reducing inequality should be the real priority, as social mobility not surprisingly is greater in countries that are more equal. This I believe, is one thing his brother David would have hesitated over, even if he said it at all.

The core support for the Tories are not people who believe in rewarding hard work, but people who believe in defending existing wealth at the top end. This is why they attack wealth taxes on inheritance, land and speculation. All areas where profit is made from either sitting on your backsides or anti-social activity that is non productive.

Those people who support the Tories who genuinely believe in a meritocracy (Tim Montgomerie?) are destined to be severely disappointed.

As I have mentioned before, we have to make a decision as a civilised society as to how we treat not just those unfairly at the bottom of the heap, but those who genuinely (and not just the obviously disabled) cannot rise upwards. We can either guarantee them an unconditional decent standard of living or continue to grind them into the dirt.

To carry on with the victorian notion of 'undeserving poor' is self defeating and will only increase their numbers. Treat people with dignity and most will respond. Even the rich will benefit from a society where they can relinquish fear of both poverty and the poor.

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