Tag Archives: Poverty

The Great Escape From Capitalism!

Tell David Cameron: Back the Robin Hood Tax at the G20

At the G20 summit this November world leaders have a chance do something good for the world, by introducing a Robin Hood Tax.

It would help stop the cuts, tackle climate change and global poverty and help control the casino banking that got us into this mess.

Lots of governments are already on board. To date, our own government has been lukewarm in public, while opposing it behind closed doors.

But cracks are beginning to show and if enough of us raise our voices now we can make a difference.

Tell David Cameron to ignore the banking lobby and take a stand at the G20 that will be admired worldwide.

Tell him to put the people before the banks.

Tell him to vote for Robin Hood.

Email the Prime Minister now

Going To Work is a project of the Trades Union Congress (TUC)

The Revolting Underclass?

[Note: A Tory perspective of much of what I am saying in this post was echoed by the Daily Telegraph Political Editor Peter Oborne, in his article, The moral decay of our society is as bad at the top as the bottom , on Saturday 13th August.

Which illustrates a broader point, i.e. to reduce everything to issues of economic interest as both classic Marxists and the free-marketeers do is to take away the individuals moral responsibility and ignore so much of the existential experience of the oppressed. Emotional experiences like humiliation and shame are as much a part of being ‘poor’ as is lack of money. Indeed, I would argue that those emotional facets of oppression are still present on a daily basis for the working middle-class who have money but no autonomy. Which is why I am attracted to the writings of socialist anarchists like Emma Goodman or Kropotkin or even Marxists like Gramsci because they do not reduce these ‘cultural’ aspects of oppression to economic interests alone. The concept of equality is first and foremost is a ‘moral’ concept, not an economic one.

Which is also why I believe so strongly that when campaigning the Left have to believe there is a ‘moral’ dimension to what they are fighting for – rather than a simple economic self-interest. Psychologically people often make amazing personal sacrifices in a cause that represents a collective ‘greater good’ rather than their own self-interest – this is the whole point of ‘patriotism’ as a concept, without it would the millions who died in WWI have collaborated so willingly in their own slaughter? Today look at those dying in Syria, or the British who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War, or the sacrifices of early trade unionists, the list is endless.]

Last night On BBC 2’s Newsnight, Kelvin McKenzie was literally raging at two young articulate black men, saying that the teenage rioters should be shot with rubber bullets. Michael Gove was practically screaming at Harriet Harman because she had the temerity to make a link between poverty and crime.

Their argument seemed to be that, “not all poor people riot or resort to crime therefore poverty cannot be the motivating factor for those who do.”

Almost any analysis of crime and poverty in the last 100 years will demonstrate a direct statistical link between crime and poverty. When unemployment and relative poverty increase, crime increases (see http://www.poverty.org.uk/summary/links.htm or http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/poverty-pushing-young-into-crime-1473256.html ).

But Gove and McKenzie seem to fear that by acknowledging reasons for the events of the last few days we are somehow making excuses. But to recognise poverty and social exclusion as factors in these riots is not to excuse individual acts of criminality, it is simply to recognise that at the margins of society as the effects of unemployment and poverty become harsher there are those who will be tempted into crime who might not have been otherwise. We are all autonomous individuals and have to take responsibility for our own actions but we are also members of communities and of society as a whole and our decision-making is socially determined to a degree most of us would not care to acknowledge (see behavioural economics). To suggest a link between two social phenomenon is not to claim a universal connection nor to suggest a direct causal link: not all teenage binge drinkers become alcoholics but a lot do; not all people made redundant have nervous breakdowns or commit suicide but some do; not all MP’s fiddled their expenses but a lot did. There is a statistical link between poverty and crime and to deny it is silly. We can argue about what the link actually means but for goodness sake lets acknowledge the facts. Continue reading