BBC fails to invite relevant experts to discuss low social mobility
I was pleased to hear the UK’s low social mobility discussed on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme this morning, but annoyed that the people involved did not include either of the experts on this subject, Professor Richard Wilkinson and Professor Kate Pickett (authors of The Spirit Level). As they make clear on their Equality Trust website, one cannot improve social mobility without tackling income inequality – there is no such thing as equality of opportunity without equality of income! (More info here.)
Extreme wealth a major problem
If one adds the above to the fact that the wealthy tend to consume far more of the planet’s resources than is sustainable and that, given our debt-based monetary system (there is more debt in the system than money), which implies that the extreme wealth of some is inevitably associated with the poverty of others (see the Positive Money website for a clear explanation of one aspect of this), then the only conclusion is that high incomes must be reduced if we are to increase social mobility. The alternative is to accept the whole panoply of health and social ills associated with inequality.
Law of Attraction is naive, because extreme wealth of some inevitably causes poverty for others
I am aware that this may upset those who believe in “The Law of Attraction” and various get-rich-quick philosophies, which counsel that one should admire the wealthy, but this is not a question of envying, disliking or despising them. It is simply a matter of not aspiring to extreme wealth oneself (no guarantee of happiness anyway) and looking objectively at the evidence. Yes, the extreme wealth of some is directly related to the poverty of others, and yes, unequal societies are riddled with social and health problems. Put differently, material aspiration (beyond a certain level), vaunted by our mainstream political parties (in the thrall of the super-rich), is morally questionable.
How to eliminate excessive income?
So how can the income of the wealthy be reduced? There is more than one route to this, but redistributive taxation (which includes closing tax loopholes and shutting down tax havens) is a major option, as is having more equal income in the first place (the route followed by Japan). With regard to the latter point, it is surely within the remit of governments to set maximum pay ratios in public services and to introduce procurement legislation to ensure that any goods or services procured from private companies only source them from companies with reasonable pay structures.
Better than nothing, and a step with which even the most ardent free-market capitalist surely must agree, would be to ensure that CEO pay is at least related to performance. This is not the case at the moment, as explained by David Erdal in his book on employee-owned companies, Beyond the Corporation, Humanity Working, and as demonstrated by recent research. A fascinating topic also discussed by David Erdal in his book is that of the history of the employment contract. Here is an extract from my review of his book:
Erdal cites David Ellerman’s critique of [the employment contract], stating that autonomy is inalienable and the contract is a fraud because it has the effect of depriving the employee of the right to participate in the product of his or her work, yet ‘if the product of the employment is a crime, then the employee is responsible for that product, that crime. […] It is only when Mr Jackal creates something valuable that we switch to the fiction that he is not a partner, that as a hired hand he has no responsibility, and so no ownership of the product he creates.’ The trouble is that nobody believes this. Erdal says: because it is normal, it is not seen as a problem!
Erdal also writes of the rotten roots of our legal system and the land ownership structure, rigged by the wealthy (a topic also beloved of Lesley Riddoch, Andy Wightman and Antonia Swinson). Widespread awareness of historic and ongoing injustice of this nature can surely only help further equality! Debout, les damnés de la terre…!
Of course, David Erdal’s main contention is that employee-owned companies are better for everyone (see this fascinating account of three towns in Italy), and they certainly have lower pay differentials, so I suggest that where you have a choice you support these businesses rather than public limited ones!
- I am intensely uncomfortable with people getting filthy rich, because this harms us all.
- There is abundant evidence refuting the naive, society- and planet-destroying notion of mainstream politicians (and the wealthy who pull their strings) that one can have a better society and more equality of opportunity without a more equal distribution of wealth.
- The unequal distribution of wealth is, to a large extent, caused and perpetuated by a legal and political system that offends natural justice.
- There are several mechanisms for making things better. Take action in some way. (Change your bank, for example. Browse my blog and you will probably find some idea that takes your fancy, but please don’t be passive!)
- Please, BBC, the next time you broadcast a discussion on the issue of social mobility, invite people who know what’s what!