Friday, 31 August 2012

The poor in Britain (for @jearle and @woodo79)

Apparently, there are LOADS of poor people in Britain. And in order to fix that, we need to tax the rich more to feed the starving, shivering masses.

I, on the other hand, have been to and lived in places where there is actual poverty. I'm not seeing any shanty towns in the UK (and I've been to Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool AND Newcastle!)

The problem is the way that poverty is defined: "This is based on a low pay rate of 60 percent of full-time median earnings". The problem with this is that by this definition, some people will ALWAYS be poor.

As a thought exercise, imagine this scenario: some economic miracle occurs and the minimum income is £1,000,000 per annum (with current purchasing power). And I think we can all agree that if you're earning a million pounds a year in today's money, you'll be OK, right?

However, some people are doing exceptionally well, what with billionaires and stuff, and so the median income is £10,000,000 per annum. This means that using the definition that we currently use, anybody who earns less than £6,000,000 a year in today's money is a hard-done-by basket case who deserves lashings of money from those better off.

Does that make sense to you? Because it doesn't make any sense at all to me.

I'm sure that there are individual cases for poverty and other help needed to be made. But this kind of blanket, uncritical stupidity makes it harder to justify the cases that actually need it, because there is so much lazy justification of something that isn't a problem.


Jim said...

Yes, when you've seen how the truly poverty striken live, in places like the slums of Mumbai etc, then you tend to regard describing even the poorest person in the UK as being in 'poverty' as extremely tasteless hyperbole.

Jill said...

I'd be inclined to agree. But measures need to be relatively simple to be meaningful. And I'd also say that, as average conditions improve, an absolute definition of poverty should move. It's reasonable to say that someone is "poor" if their income excludes them from enjoying what "most" people in their society would regard as a reasonable standard of living. So, in the UK (particularly outside of cities), it's reasonable to say that someone is poor if they cannot afford to run a car (almost everyone has a car) or purchase a computer and pay for an internet connection (almost everyone does that), etc etc. One would hope that we have moved beyond a situation in which food, power and shelter are the *only* factors.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

A meaningless simple measure is not made any less meaningless by its simplicity.

Oldrightie said...

The poor are like taxes. Unfair, unwanted and always with us.

TDK said...

The best refutation of Relative poverty is delivered by the fact that when Czechoslovakia split into two the relative poverty in each half decline overnight. The same phenomenon would occur if Scotland were granted independence. Overnight, hundreds of thousands would be lifted out of poverty.

Simple enough!

TDK said...

Or better yet.

Robinson Crusoe and Friday live on opposite sides of the island and are unaware of each other.

On 1st September a ship is wrecked with no survivors on Friday's side of the island. He manages to recover plenty of cargo including food, clothes and luxuries.

On the same day Robinson Crusoe has a better than average day's fishing. The fool sits down to eat dinner congratulating himself on his good fortune, blithely unaware that he has become poorer.

bella gerens said...

M'kay, so did you actually write this?

I ask because the formatting, contextual style, vocabulary, and path of reasoning do not remotely resemble your usual.

The Obo I know would not consider a counterfactual based on such a nonsense postulate.

By all means, condemn the relative poverty measure, but…yeah. I just don't believe you wrote this, unless you were pissed off your face.

Anonymous said...

Well, I believe that you wrote this and it's no worse than your usual offering. This is not a literary competition. It's about ideas and this is interesting.

To add my tuppence worth I'll say this. You judge how poor/rich you are by the norms in the society that you live in so although a poor man in Hackney is a lot better off than his counterpart in Mumbai, they have no concept of each other.

If you feel poor and you're bottom of the heap in the world that you inhabit, then you are poor.