by Theodore Dalrymple (November 2009)
Recently I was in public discussion on the question of poverty in Britain and how to overcome it. The poverty is relative, of course, not real destitution; but there is nonetheless no doubt as to its squalor.
Among the panel on which I appeared was a very pleasant member of the Fabian Society, that is to say the society whose goal was to achieve socialism in Britain gradually and by reformist means (it was named after the Roman general, Quintus Fabius Maximus, who wore Hannibal down by attrition rather than by pitched battle). more>>>
Believe it or not, resentment can also be triggered by the sudden realization that “the market” has often rewarded lavishly strands of anti-social behavior – and I am not talking about the hapless inhabitants of subsidized housing in any country. This awareness can undermine a bit some people’s faith individual agency and the existence of a larger moral order, too. In fact, there are a few contemporary intellectuals who do wish simpler lives for their own – and other people’s – kids, without being outright blank-slate Stalinists. They are referred to, sometimes, pejoratively, as “communitarians.” Christopher Lasch comes to mind. He shared many of TD’s laments, minus the amusing fantasy that the impending collapse of Western civilization stems from one form of obscurantist propaganda or another.
As an admirer of TD's writing, it's depressing that his entire argument relies on the excluded middle. There IS something unjust and avoidable about inheritance AND we tax people to run governments AND there would be a host of practical things wrong with taxing estates at 100%. So we tax their estates at less than 100%, and that enables us to tax the incomes and consumption of the living less.
Still I guess that wouldn't be as entertaining - and as vacuous exercise in letting off a bit of steam.
I simply agree with the author. Truly, life is one heck of a roller coaster ride. Being born rich or poor is not in our hands but staying poor or getting bankrupt is in our control. We can never deny the fact that the rich has lesser burdens in their hands especially when it comes to financial aspects. However, the less fortunate, ones has piles of due liabilities in their hands. Usually they depend merely on <a rev="vote for" title="Secured Loan, Your Answer to Unwanted Debt" href="http://personalmoneystore.com/moneyblog/debt-consolidation-easy-steps/ ">debt consolidation</a> just to compensate debts. Moreover, It's us who is responsible in uplifting our lives and not other.
The argument for equality trumpeted by the Left reminds me of the summing-up made by Darwin in chapter 10 of his Voyage of the Beagle : "The perfect equality among the individuals composing the Fuegian tribes, must for a long time retard their civilization. As we see those animals, whose instinct compels them to live in society and obey a chief, are most capable of improvement, so it is with the races of mankind. Whether we look at it as a cause or a consequence, the more civilized always have the most artificial governments."
The opposite of equality in social and political structure is hierarchy. But hierarchy itself seems to be a principle of nature.
You're right. I corrected the offending copy for Dr. Dalrymple.
--the (obviously not up to snuff) editor
Dear Mr Dalrymple
I love your essays. Indeed I read them with such care that I believe that I may have picked up a logical error. I may be wrong, but what a triumph if I am right. In the sentence below, the logic seems to be reversed in the middle.
"Nevertheless, few of us would prefer to live among ugliness rather than beauty, in squalor rather than cleanliness, with good food rather than bad, with easy access to culture rather than hard, and so forth."
My dear Dr. Dalrymple,
Why do you boggle so in your closing paragraph? Ensuring that future generations inherit debt is merely one way of remedying the inequality among the generations which you describe so beautifully earlier in your article.
Put simply, our descendants will live longer than we, enjoying certain inherited benefits which we did not. ...Our living high on the hog in the present time and bequeathing them financial chaos is a means of redressing this inequity. Why, after all, should social justice remain confined to only three of the known dimensions?
Perhaps you believe it mere political expediency that the architects of our Welfare State have so closely followed the Ponzi model. Nothing could be further from the truth. ...Indeed, to have done otherwise would have been to inflict upon ourselves a gross social injustice.
Anyway, I trust I have removed some misconceptions regarding the thinking behind current policy: I hope I'm not being too forward in requesting that you take the time to similarly enlighten your friends. There is altogether too much heat and far too little light from no doubt well-meaning but --- sadly --- misinformed conservatives.
P.S. I wouldn't be so certain that "the differential endowments of nature" are not amenable to human intervention. For many years, my scalpel and I have been engaged in a little Fabianism of our own. And I'm looking forward to meeting you again, Dr. Dalrymple. ...Particularly since learning that you do not suspect others of feeling the "brief spark" you describe...
Another beautifully written, well thought out and reasoned stance. I have followed the good doctor's writings for many years now and have always been impressed by his ability to tell the truth as he see's it - and with which I often agree. He always employs measure and intelligence, and I always learn something. Always. The New English Review is lucky to have him and we are lucky to have the English Review
Another argument against abolition would be that it doesn’t create a ‘level playing field’ at all. It creates an inequality between those whose parents die at an early age and those that have the benefit their parents living long and prosperous lives.
Abolish parenting! ( or tax it)