Tagged: inequality

Poor America – BBC Panorama – 13 Feb 2012

This is a ‘must see’ relatively short but shocking documentary from that wonderful institution, the BBC.

Children missing meals. Tent cities – because the homeless shelters are full. All part of the post-GFC world for a growing number of Americans.

A debate ensues between the usual kinds of suspects in the documentary. Left-liberals advocate greater government intervention, and, in the right-corner, ‘conservatives’ (who are economic libertarians) callously push for less assistance placing their faith solely in private enterprise.

Additionally, we are told that these people are ‘not really poor’. However some of them clearly are living in extreme poverty (witness people living in storm water drains). More generally, poverty is relative. Those wealthy countries with greater income disparity suffer much higher levels of social problems.

Why should it merely be a choice between greater state intervention (while ‘letting the market rip’) and just letting the market rip (with failed ‘trickle down economics’)?

As the Equality Trust has pointed out, there needs to be a combination between better distribution of income and redistribution via tax and benefits.

Orwell in the market state

A small notice that George Orwell lived here; and a security camera out the front.

Of course Orwell critiqued Stalinism in his famous novels and writings like Animal Farm and 1984. Stalinism was an authoritarian system with a centrally controlled economy. In a funny kind of way the outcome of extreme liberalism is the camera in the picture. High levels of inequality are seen as unavoidable due to economic liberalism; and we are all under surveillance to check if our lauded individual freedom endangers others, or especially (inequitably distributed) property. Individual freedom was crushed under Stalinism. Individualism is promoted under the (current) market state and the prison system fills up with those who contravene the dictum that ‘we can all do what we want, provided that we don’t harm others’.