29 August 2007

Rhys died "because of capitalism"

Jeremy Seabrook in the Guardian on why inequality is to blame for the shooting of Rhys Jones:

Most people agree that the growing gulf between rich and poor is dangerous for society. ... Government has tried vainly to address the wealth gap, but its efforts are pitiful, compared with the extravagant rewards distributed upon its favourites by the free market.

The metaphors used by official Britain — the rising tide that lift all boats, the level playing field — are euphemistic evasions of the deeper ideology. This determines that poverty can be healed only by the creation of much more wealth; that is, economic growth in perpetuity. But this model actually makes poverty incurable: when being poor is defined as having less than 60% of average income, it will robustly survive any amount of wealth-creation.

This is technically correct. With poverty now defined in relative terms, no amount of increase in wealth, however equally spread, can eliminate it.

Concern has focused on the excluded, people taunted and tantalised constantly by goods, services and experiences available to those with money. ... under the influence of a permanently growing economy [and the influence of a relentlessly promoted egalitarian morality?] no one ever feels quite rich enough. This feeds a "need" for yet more economic expansion. But this is the very mechanism that leaves millions of people stranded on the desolate margins. And these also threaten the wellbeing of the mainstream: although the rich may live in separate areas and live in the enclosures of home, car, work and places of leisure, there are still intersections where the lives of the privileged are crossed by those they fear ... Fear of violence, mugging or personal attack is the other side of guilt ... [The 'privileged' are guilty, and have only themselves to blame?]

We are all products of the same culture of a savage individualism [the i-word, again]. Those who successfully gain the prizes congratulate themselves on their merit; the unmeritorious — the "losers" in the elegant argot of the age — are supposed to contemplate their absence of merit and to acquiesce in it fatalistically. But human beings invited constantly to consider their own expendability and lack of a function cannot be expected to yield without a struggle ['struggle' = expression of murderous impulses?] to this bleak evaluation by others of their lives.

The cult of violence is an aspect of a cult of inequality; the uneasy coexistence of people in a world over which people feel they have forfeited all control.

Governments that for the past generation have insisted upon deregulation and liberalisation have also disinterred from its shallow grave the ideology of laissez faire, in which the fate of the poor has become a kind of waste product in the universal generation of wealth.

Laissez faire? Meaning lack of government intervention with respect to medicine, nutrition, education, childcare? This seems to be a serious misreading of the data.