Monday, August 29, 2011

Riots in London - lessons

Excellent item in The New Republic which analyses the response to the London riots.

The debate thus far is neatly summarised by a quote from Tony Blair "The left says they’re victims of social deprivation, the right says they need to take personal responsibility for their actions, both just miss the point."

The author, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, goes on to note that Blair then misses it as well.

After cataloguing the responses of both left and right, including some of the more extreme Tory versions, Wheatcroft offers the words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.

The implied critique - having detailed how much of the childhood of the rioters was spent under Labour rule - is that in all its years in power Labour did nothing to change the culture of British society.

The embrace by social democrats of "market capitalism" has resulted in them failing to recognise that the core tenet - efficiency - is anti-equity. And equity still resonates.

Take the results of a survey reported today. The survey finds Australians believe that richest 20% have 40% of the wealth, but believe they should only have 24 percent.

The actual extent of inequality is far higher - the wealthiest 20% have 60% of the wealth. The survey found that the wealthiest and the poorest were those with the least understanding of how the actual distribution looks.

The relationship between the actual, estimated and ideal wealth distribution is best shown using the Lorenz curve that graphs cumulative wealth against cumulative population. As a service to my readers I include it below.

The lesson from the two stories. Social democrats (what Americans call "liberal" and I prefer to call "democratic socialists") who want to promote greater equity, both because it is "right" and because it will reduce other societal issues, need to first explain the extent of dis-equity in our community.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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