Saturday, November 17, 2007

A penny earned...

The funniest development while I've been quiet has been the launch of a new website called Liberal Conspiracy. The word 'conspiracy' used ironically like that is at least as witty as it was when the first thousand right wing bloggers used it the same way, but that isn't why the website is funny. It's because the contributors apparently believe they are under represented in the contemporary media world. They really do seem to believe that. They also seem to believe that the word 'liberal' means 'one who believes in the removal of liberties from individuals'.

Self-pitying special pleading from the privileged is almost entertaining enough to be a spectator sport. Almost...

One contributor, Chris Dillow, posted there recently about unemployment. He has also posted on his own blog about this. These two posts should be read together, because then it can be seen that his argument in the first that the unemployed are not workshy because

"Of the 1.67 million officially unemployed, over 1 million have been out of work for less than six months and a further 269,000 for less than a year"
can be compared with the observation in the second that
"You might reply that work - even minimum wage work - is a stepping stone to better things, to better-paid jobs. But it ain't."
(the link suggests people who become employed at minimum-wage levels also become unemployed again rapidly), and then you'll be able to see that the underlying reality might be that the people in question are workshy, and that's why they are losing these jobs. That isn't proved by these figures, but taken in combination neither of Dillow's assertions are either. This is partial disclosure of information designed to prop up whatever argument is being made at the time.

The second of these posts touches on the poverty trap and I want to observe in passing that something I personally feel passionately - to the extent that I have gone hungry rather than sign on - the idea that a penny earned is better than a penny of charity (or indeed any other unearned penny), is not mentioned at all. It seems not even to cross the mind of the writer any more than it does those of the shifting pool of permanent or frequent claimants of state charity.

And I'll tell you something about that idea: it isn't right wing. Ask a member of the hereditary peerage. It isn't left wing: ask the contributors to Liberal Conspiracy. It is simply a question of self-respect. This self-respect can be found in every class, and is absent in every class. But it is most fiercely held as a view within the lower middle classes and the upper working classes.

And it's a damn fine thing.

1 comment:

chris said...

Of course, in both posts I was only using partial information; they're blog posts, not books for Chrissake!
But there's absolutely no inconsistency between the two facts I cite. They tell a story of lots of people moving from unemployment to low-wage work and back again. Is this because they are unable to hold down a job for long (through workhyness or uselessness)? Or is it because there's lots of job destruction in the competitive low-wage market?
I'm always amazed at how so many people are so sure they know the answer, without being able to cite convincing evidence.