Maybe it is because I am all jizzed up (can you be non-p0rnographically jizzed?) after my recent conference in London or maybe because I just finished PD James’ Children of Men but I think the latest inequality report from the Jospeh Rowntree Foundation is rather disturbing. It is easy to get all worked up about the UK’s inequality levels and its geographical distribution and over egg the pudding so that it might shake ‘people’ (who are these ‘people’) into action like this weak example from this morning’s now-20%-more-guilt-ridden Guardian. And no, it is not because the author’s name is Tristram either!
Surprise surprise, the top 1% of the income distribution now own 24% of the wealth compared with slightly higher and lower numbers 10, 20 maybe 30 years ago. There’s one problem though: this Foundation (and yes, his dad did make lots of chocolate) has been pioneering this kind of research since the late 19th century and it believes things are as polarised now as they were when they started off formally in 1904. A few selected quotes then:
- Britain is moving back towards levels of inequality in wealth and poverty last seen more than 40 years ago.
- There is evidence of increasing polarisation, where rich and poor now live further apart. In areas of some cities over half of all households are now breadline poor.
- The general pattern is of increases in social equality during the 1970s, followed by rising inequality in the 1980s and 1990s.
- Both poor and wealthy households have become more and more geographically segregated from the rest of society.
Not wishing to rehash some questions from Monday’s posting but what kind of a society do we currently have when people can buy enriched isolation and be let drift away from a middle class? What kinds of things does it mean for a participatory democracy (did we ever have one?) when brands are more important sources of identity than what party you vote for? Why should we care if more and more people are impoverished? Oh, yea and this as the same day as infectious diseases are reported to have broken out in the still-extant camp of people off the M50 motorway. Passed by there this morning on the way back from the airport and it is thoroughly depressing to see people clambering over crash barriers just to get back to the place they called home. Remember the rain we’ve been having and how some are bitching and moaning that it’s been a lousy summer?
When people can drive toward the location with eggs and other assorted objects to throw at the people living here, what kind of a society do we have exactly? What do we want?
Sher, isn’t it great to back in the land of a hundred and ten welcomes?