The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.
You will recognize the words of Bob Dylan, from an anthem for change he wrote when I was a teenager. To many young people, the song seemed so perfectly valid. We saw a world where Bull Connor, Lester Maddox and racist goons would be unwelcome. We believed that war was an avoidable part of human nature, that poverty could be eliminated, that tomorrow would be a better day.
I’m a baby boomer who grew up relatively poor, in a home damaged by what we now recognize as post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that affected many who served in WWII.
Yet, approaching adulthood, I had real opportunity to succeed. From a public secondary school, I attended UBC and lived on campus. Tuition was relatively low—in current dollars, a little more than half of what it is today. My student housing at UBC was safe and affordable.
Males had summer employment almost guaranteed at a coastal paper mill and the work paid good union wages. For me and other young men from my hometown, post secondary education was available, almost without regard to our families’ financial capabilities. For many, student debt at graduation was zero.
People who chose to enter the workforce immediately after high school had good prospects. Trade apprenticeships and other well-paid jobs were readily available in BC’s growing economy.
After marriage, Gwen and I rented a new 650 square foot one bedroom apartment, one kilometer from Vancouver General Hospital, where she worked as an RN. Rent was $800 a month in today’s dollars. The very same unit today costs around $1,500.
At age 25, Gwen and I bought a townhome, assisted by a provincial grant to first-time buyers almost sufficient to cover the down payment. After 18 months, we moved to a detached home in North Delta that cost $240,000 in today’s currency. If you want that house now, it’s assessed at more than $900,000.
I recount the above to make the point that economic and social mobility was much easier before politicians and voters listened when the conspicuously wealthy began “urging the character-building value of privation for the poor.”
Today, British Columbia is far richer than fifty years ago but that wealth is distributed much differently. As a result, despair is widespread, homelessness grows, thousands die each year from drug abuse, more than one hundred die by homicide. Uncounted humans are wasted.
Our current provincial government is searching for answers but influential citizens in this province are more than satisfied with the status quo. Instead, as John Kenneth Galbraith said, they are searching “for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
‘Socialism for the rich’: the evils of bad economics, The Guardian Long Reads, June 2019
The economic arguments adopted by Britain and the US in the 1980s led to vastly increased inequality – and gave the false impression that this outcome was not only inevitable, but good. By Jonathan Aldred
In most rich countries, inequality is rising, and has been rising for some time. Many people believe this is a problem, but, equally, many think there’s not much we can do about it. After all, the argument goes, globalisation and new technology have created an economy in which those with highly valued skills or talents can earn huge rewards. Inequality inevitably rises. Attempting to reduce inequality via redistributive taxation is likely to fail because the global elite can easily hide their money in tax havens. Insofar as increased taxation does hit the rich, it will deter wealth creation, so we all end up poorer. In most rich countries, inequality is rising, and has been rising for some time. Many people believe this is a problem, but, equally, many think there’s not much we can do about it.
One strange thing about these arguments, whatever their merits, is how they stand in stark contrast to the economic orthodoxy that existed from roughly 1945 until 1980, which held that rising inequality was not inevitable, and that various government policies could reduce it. What’s more, these policies appear to have been successful. Inequality fell in most countries from the 1940s to the 1970s. The inequality we see today is largely due to changes since 1980.
…The idea that rising inequality is inevitable begins to look like a convenient myth, one that allows us to avoid thinking about another possibility: that through our electoral choices and decisions in daily life we have supported rising inequality, or at least acquiesced in it.
…Inequality is unlikely to fall much in the future unless our attitudes turn unequivocally against it. Among other things, we will need to accept that how much people earn in the market is often not what they deserve, and that the tax they pay is not taking from what is rightfully theirs.
…Inequality begets further inequality. As the top 1% grow richer, they have more incentive and more ability to enrich themselves further. They exert more and more influence on politics, from election-campaign funding to lobbying over particular rules and regulations.
…Warren Buffett: “Imagine there are two identical twins in the womb … And the genie says to them: ‘One of you is going to be born in the United States, and one of you is going to be born in Bangladesh. And if you wind up in Bangladesh, you will pay no taxes. What percentage of your income would you bid to be born in the United States?’ … The people who say: ‘I did it all myself’ … believe me, they’d bid more to be in the United States than in Bangladesh.”
Much of the inequality we see today in richer countries is more down to decisions made by governments than to irreversible market forces. These decisions can be changed. However, we have to want to control inequality: we must make inequality reduction a central aim of government policy and wider society.Excerpts from an article by The Guardian, adapted from Licence to be Bad: How Economics Corrupted Us by Jonathan Aldred, published by Allen Lane and available at guardianbookshop.co.uk
Why DO conservatives hate science so much?, Church and State, 2017:
…We have literally lobotomized ourselves.
And to what do we owe this gift of dumb? Right Wing fundamentalism, both religious and political. No one has taken this quote from Benjamin Franklin as seriously as the powers that be in the conservative movement:
“A nation of well informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins.”
They’ve taken it seriously all right; as a serious threat to their agenda. A well informed populace is hard to lie to. A well informed population is hard to manipulate with propaganda. A well informed population is hard to convince that economic suicide is a viable platform.
The Right has spent decades slowly eroding the foundations of intellectual America. Where once teachers were respected and scientists idolized, now they are pariahs. Teachers’ Unions are the cause of our failing schools! Educated people are elitists! Intellectuals are Socialists! Scientists are all lying to you about the environment! Except for this small handful of scientists and intellectuals that inexplicably agree with everything we paid them to say, you can trust them…
Categories: Income Inequality