We all know that living on a low income is a daily challenge.
It’s not just about carefully planning the week’s spending—and deciding what things to do without—but it is a balancing act to deal with unexpected expenses: a medical emergency, a debt to be repaid or an extra cost for a child’s school trip.
And there is no point at which someone waves a magic wand and says here’s money that will clear your debts and allow you to patch up the fabric of your life. Most people won’t inherit money or be given a lump sum when they reach retirement age. Continue reading →
Over the festive period, spare a thought for the 1% lowest earners in the UK. Read on if you care…
The Conservatives won a narrow majority in May 2015. The result shocked a London based commentariat. This was hardly surprising as the Capital swung to Labour and London remains where life’s winners congregate, a place from where losers must be expelled. It was life’s losers who did not turn out to vote for the main alternative on offer, a watered-down version of Conservative austerity being sold to them by Ed Miliband. We were then told that the Labour Party did not appeal enough to those who were aspirational and wanted more, including people who wanted more largely irrespective of who had to have less. But perhaps fear and fantasy greatly appealed too, an eighth of the English electorate voted for the UK Independence party (UKIP).
In Scotland all but three of the constituencies fell to the Scottish National Party (SNP) which now represented as wide a cross-section of society as it is possible to imagine. The former Royal Bank of Scotland oil economist, Alex Salmond became Continue reading →
Below is the text of the talk I just gave at the Policy & Politics conference in Bristol (England). As you can see, I was very conscious of the audience, which I was not quite sure I had a handle on, but which turned out, I think, to be a group of people who think a lot about government and policy, but do so very critically and intelligently. So my message, that we need to get serious about thinking democracy without the State, was in a sense a message “from beyond,” but one they were able to hear and engage with, even if they did not fully accept it. Also important to know is that the theme of the conference was “Democracy, Inequality, and Power.”
[The paragraphs in brackets were part of the talk, but they were offered as asides. Those with a “***SKIP***” tag were in fact left out.]
DEMOCRACY AGAINST, BEYOND, AND WITHOUT THE STATE
When you find yourself on a list of plenary speakers like this one, in which all the others have really deep track records of academic achievement, you ask yourself what the heck you are doing here and what you can contribute. I don’t have their record, I am not a social scientist, I don’t study inequality, I am not even British.
I guess what I am issomeone who has thought about and written some on democracy, on the idea and practices of democracy. So I thought what I would do today is offer a contribution along those lines. What I plan to do, we’ll see how it goes, is to introduce into the conference what I anticipate will be a minor current of thought. Continue reading →
Based on his plenary session at the 2015 Policy & Politics conference on why social inequalities persist, Danny Dorling talked to Policy & Politics about the persistence of growing inequalities in the UK. Drawing on multiple sources of evidence, he suggests causal links with depleting mental health in the young, the increased use of anti-depressent drugs, and high rates of infant deaths than in similar affluent countries, sketching a narrative of the insidious potential social consequences for our society in a hundred years’ time…
Listen to his compelling call to action and the consequences of ignoring it…
by Tessa Coombes, guest blogger for P&P conference 2015
The second day of the conference started with an excellent presentation from Prof. Kate Pickett, from the University of York. Kate co-authored the influential book “The Spirit Level” which provided evidence to illustrate how almost everything is affected not by how wealthy a society is but how equal it is. The book was written at a time when inequality was not being discussed, and even now, whilst it is indeed the subject of much more debate on an international stage, it is still only rhetoric, and we are still waiting for this to translate into real action.
There are some shocking statistics that illustrate the level of the challenge we face across the globe, such as the one used by Oxfam – the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as 3.5 billion of the poorest people – illustrating a truly grotesque level of inequality. But, as Kate pointed out, we need to remember that these are not just meaningless, abstract numbers, they represent real human suffering and have real impacts. Continue reading →
by Tessa Coombes, guest blogger for P&P Conference 2015.
The second plenary session of the Policy and Politics Annual Conference was delivered by Prof. Danny Dorling, who provided a shocking and somewhat scary analysis of the increasing levels of inequality in the UK. The big question for us all to consider is why there is no consistent challenge to this situation and why we appear to accept the disparities that exist. Why is it acceptable and why would anyone think inequalities are a good thing?
One answer to the question is that we don’t actually realise how unequal we are as a society. But a quick look through some of the statistics soon provides the evidence we need. Danny took us through graph after graph that more than adequately demonstrated just how big the problem is and that it is increasing. One example to illustrate the point, in 2010 the best off tenth of the population in the UK were nearly 14 times better off than the worst off tenth. By 2015 this had grown to more than 17 times better off, and if the trend continues on a similar course in less than 20 years the best off will have over 24 times as much disposable income as the worst off. The problem is that the change is gradual, we don’t notice it so much and we get Continue reading →
The relationship between policy expertise and policy outcomes and the role that ‘politics’ plays has inspired a rich and varied literature – with academics, journalists and pro-transparency campaigners making important and thought-provoking contributions. They tackle questions of influence and power, discuss the ‘red lines’ between legitimate exchanges and undue influence and critique the diminishing part which academic scholars play in political discourse. In short: the role of policy experts and their activities in a complex world is considered by many worth thorough and critically-minded scrutiny.
The near-collapse of the global financial system and the ‘Great Recession’ set in motion, in many western countries, a number of policy changes Continue reading →
In this article Andrew Sayerrevives some concepts – ‘unearned income’, ‘rentiers’, ‘functionless investors’, and ‘improperty’ – to explain why the very rich are unjust and dysfunctional. We need to challenge the myth that the rich are specially-talented wealth creators, he argues. This article is reposted from the British Politics and Policy Blog.
In light of the news that the richest 80 people in the world have as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population, all 3.5 billion of them, and at the time of the plutocrats’ World Economic Forum in Davos, many people are talking about the extraordinary concentration of wealth at the top.
Here in the UK, the combined wealth of the richest 1,000 people is £519 billion (up from $450 billion in 2013). That’s over 4 times the size of the annual NHS budget (£127 billion), 12 times the size of the education bill (£42 billion), and 9 times the size of the welfare bill (£58 billion). We might well ask which of these figures can’t we afford? Given the tendency of the rich to portray themselves as specially-talented wealth creators we have to ask whether these inequalities are justified. In my new book Why We Can’t Afford the Rich, I argue they are unjust and dysfunctional. Continue reading →
In a recent announcement about cutting youth unemployment benefits, Ed Miliband taps into prevailing public opinion by insisting that those on benefits must work to acquire skills in order to deserve them. The way he speaks of those who claim benefits is completely in tune with those who demonise the poor, with sound bites such as ‘Labour… will get young people to sign up for training, not sign on for benefits’.[i]
This prevailing belief is in stark contrast to two key trends over the last few decades, argues Peter Taylor-Gooby, Professor of Social Policy at the University of Kent in a paper to be published in Policy & Politics. He explains: “The first is that about three-fifths of people below the poverty line live in households where there is at least one full-time earner. Much working-age poverty is a problem of low wages, not of unemployment and ‘spongers’. Secondly, spending in other areas of the welfare state such as health care, pensions and education has grown very much faster than the benefits directed at the poor, unemployment benefit and social housing. Spending on the poor is unimportant as a cause of current public spending problems.” Continue reading →
Paul Copeland, Queen Mary University of London, and Mary Daly, University of Oxford offer a critical analysis of EU social policy in their article available in the latest issue of Policy & Politics.
Having written about EU social policy for over a decade, our view is that the EU currently is going nowhere in its social policies to combat poverty and social exclusion. Such policies are in themselves ambitious and also novel in an EU context – centring on the 2010 target within the EU’s Europe 2020 reform programme, the EU aims to reduce the numbers living in poverty and social exclusion by 20 million by 2020. While this broke new ground when it was agreed we remain skeptical in terms of the ability of the EU to make progress and achieve substantive positive outcomes on poverty. In our paper we construct a framework to analyse the significance of a policy area within a governance architecture, such as Europe 2020. Continue reading →