Monday 30 April 2012

Is hating the rich so much new or a reaction to recession?

Everything I read or see at the moment has people going on about hating rich people, even churchmen who should know better. In a capitalist economy this is to be expected to some extent as different outcomes are a feature of the system, but certainly things have accelerated in the past few years in the UK.

A few drivers I can see are:

1) Huge increase in state spending has left much of the populace dependent on state handouts, with recession and the huge debt run up, these must fall and to counter this the cry goes up of soak the rich to prevent this.

2) During a difficult recession many people are struggling and unsurprisingly become more envious of those who have more - also as jobs are more scarce the chances of someone improving their own fortunes becomes smaller, perhaps making them more bitter about those who have.

3) The opposition Labour party in the UK have no alternative political offer to the governing Coalition. As such they are the ultimate political opportunists. With no policy differentiation, they are instead going for ad hominem attacks and have stuck on calling the Government 'posh boys.' Ever since Tony Blair left office the Left Wing of the Labour Party has increased its class based rhetoric.

4) There is also a confusion bourne of immigration. The new Sunday Times rich list clearly shows that most of the very rich are foreigners who have come to live in London - not British people made good on the backs of the workers. It is a different form of immigration compared to that which has held down unskilled wages, but an impact of the choice made by the last Government to encourage rapid population change in the UK.

I think all of the above are the key factors - have I missed any? One is a macro state issue, the second a result of economic changes, the third political and the fourth a combination of political/government regulations. I can't really tell which is the dominant one, although 1) and 3) seem to drive the behaviour in the media.

It is worrying though, the constant whine about people who succeed will either make people not want to do it, or drive those who do to live elsewhere. The usual retort is that people don't leave and this is bluster, but one look at the migration statistics shows that 143,000 British citizens emigrated in 2011, a 12% increase on 2010 - the trend is up from a collapse in emigration during the financial crash. With only 1% of taxpayers contributing 25% of income tax, this is the equivalent to 260,000 people - so not many have to leave to make a real dent in the Government's income.

Where I am seeking more information is how different things feel now to say the 1980's or 1970's - I was only a child then and have no real feel for how much the rhetoric was for hating the rich. Certainly it feels to me as if things are headed back this way, but will this fad pass with the recession?


Steven_L said...

You've missed the 'rewards for failure' and 'above the law' factors that really cheese folk off when it comes to bankers, bureaucrats and politicians.

Timbo614 said...

@CU "In a capitalist economy this is to be expected"

Only some of us are living in a capitalist economy. Banks and large financial firms are not. They can't fail, they have access to a bottomless pit of fiat, so they are not capitalists. That's how some of them got to be so rich, which is fundamentally wrong and the reason they are hated, we are paying for their dubiously earned fortunes!

Nick Drew said...

well *ahem* I do remember the 70's, there were some fairly determined efforts to generate yer actual class war, plenty of real, live, constantly-feuding Trots on the streets (and some excellent Trot publications); things were occasionally pretty violent in them days, Red Robbo et al up to and including the Angry Brigade (+ of course IRA)

hard to believe really, after so many years of calm since the rather short-lived Poll Tax riots: I have had to describe it to my kids & I am not sure they quite get it

but rather than the intended effect, of course it seriously alienated the middle class and drove them into the same camp as 'The Rich' & gave Thatch her 3 victories

after the first couple of Thatcher years the 80's of course became Miners' Strike + Loadsamoney, neither of which really focused on hating the rich per se

roym said...

A very thought provoking piece to kick off the week.

Two points of order if I may.
1) Didnt the posh boy epithet come from Nadine Dorries?

2) Opportunism is endemic to British politics sadly. Broken Britain anyone?

Im not convinced regular people 'hate the rich'. Seems a bit catch all to me. Plenty of admiration for the likes of Branson, Dyson and similar. Rather what gets peoples' collective goat is the one way bet many CEOs get. Fred Goodwin we know all about. Another prime case is David Brennan, now being eased out by astrazeneca. Astronomical salary, incredible pension. to what end? the share price has stagnated, the drug pipeline is dangerously empty, and job losses in the tens of thousands.
It seems to me that our attention would be better served rejected this perverse corporatist state we currently have.

Barnacle Bill said...

Or is it a case of our political elite re-directing the flak onto the "rich people"?

I don't hate the rich per se, I'll willing doff my cap to them and wish them well.

What I hate with a vengance is the politicos, people who have destroyed my country for petty party politics.
Who gorge on the teat of public largesse, whilst trying to con us we're all in it together.
Who by their stupidity and weakness allowed the creation of the too big to fail banks.

Now that's what I've got my sights on!

Timbo614 said...

Self made men/women is different, with bankers people can't point at a vacuum cleaner or a red painted plane and SEE how they did it. I too have respect for such people but I'm afraid that my respect dwindles to the level of native cunning / foxes in charge of hen houses for bankers and financial vultures.

Electro-Kevin said...

If the hatred is at the rich then I think it's misdirected.

Most of those who have got rich have done so playing the cards which they were dealt.

The hatred should be directed at the ruling upper-middle-class who wrecked our education system, justice system, social system, banking system, welfare etc and enabled and encouraged the sale of key industries because - deep down - they had such disregard for their own country.

They were careful to spare themselves and their offspring the worst effects though.

They are the ones now lining up 'the rich' for all of the blame.

Bill Quango MP said...

watching that 70's program on BBC, there was an interesting speech from Joe Gormley of the miners.

He didn't want to soak the rich. He wanted to make his members , not exactly rich, but very comfortably off.

It was aspiration that drove the miners to strike. They weren't promised an end to class war. They were promised an opportunity to join the middle classes.

Trouble was their success at this pushed the teetering economy into an inflation death spiral, and the miners priced themselves out of work altogether.

Jan said...

Another contributing factor is the paying of salaries to politicians. Contentious I know but in the 70s people went into politics because they genuinely wanted to change things not as a "career option" with a (ahem) relatively easy way to earn 60K+ plus expenses which in anyone's book is a lot of cash (sorry Bill). I don't know how else politicians are to be paid as we don't want a return to it just as a rich man's game.

One of the results has been a divide into the haves and have-nots with MPs, the rich (bankers,CEOs,lawyers,doctors etc etc and all the wannabe middle class professionals) on the one hand (who will do anything to climb the greasy pole) and those who want to do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay.

I contend that it all started with payment for MPs which distorts values. No-one begrudges those who worked hard to gain their riches ie the Bransons and Sugars of this world.

Inherited wealth is another issue though.

Jim said...

What Barnacle Bill and EK said. The political classes (and I include the media in that) are using the 'rich' as a smokescreen for the utter failure of State. The last thing they want is for people to realise the politicians and those who support the Big State have completely f*cked this country over, inside 20 years.

So the scapegoat is ritually produced. You know something is up when a nominally Tory Chancellor starts banging on about morally unacceptable tax avoidance. They are sh!t scared that they are going to end up thrown out of office on their ears (or end up lamp posts in a worse case scenario) so someone else has to take the blame. In the 30s it was the Jews, now its the bankers. Anyone to take the heat off those really responsible.

Anonymous said...

Most of the rich haven't succeeded at anything. They have merely inherited, often oging to great lengths to ensure their inheritance doesn't get into the hands of the tax man.

Even those that find themselves at the top of major companies have been born with a silver spoon in their mouths.

All I ask for is some fairness for my children. If they have the talent to run a major company they should get the opportunity. As I see it, what people have realised is those that are running UKPLC are chinless wonders from the public school system caught wearing the emperor's new clothes.

Timbo614 said...


"Inherited wealth is another issue though."

How much wealth? A feature or promise or even premise of the late 70's early 80#s was that we would all become property owners compliments of Thatcher's Policies and pass this onto our children/grandchildren so that they did not have to slave so hard to get started (well is was a premise of mine!). Since the end of that era the entire financial machine and tax laws, old people's care etc have conspired to remove that little piece of wealth that we were supposed to accumulate and pass on to make life as a prole easier!

So I ask again: How much wealth should be allowed to be passed on? Who is going to set the limit?

Anonymous said...

CU, there quite a few very large companies who seem to be wanting handouts and subsidies and begging for government contracts, not just those on S.S. or whatever it is called now. How much do the rail companies get in total subsidies as a starter, obviously they would increase their fares if the subsidies were removed but again there would be fewer passengers.

hovis said...

As the commenst show there is alot of anger though the direction of it to the "rich" is misdirected and it would seem to the man in the street ricj "is more than I've currently got". However I think the angers tems from what is seen as aloaded system - corporatism, cronyism in the public sector and corporations with luttel differnecbetween them while the 'little man' is gouged.

This will be a theme that will run as the economy stagnates further - and to defend all of this as capitalism is a little off the mark. However such calls will not be wasted by those with power tio extend their gasp reach and influence.

Anonymous said...

I agree with BB - Govt is pushing blame on to rich. Why? because HMG don't want you to know there is practically nothing they can do about our economy.

The poor are going to stay that way and more will join them. The middle class will desperately hang on to their jobs if lucky. For those at the top outsourcing and overseas investment will continue to be profitable and international companies will locate wherever the wages and aggravation are lowest.

Think the Regency era with no Victorian era to look forward to.

CityUnslicker said...

Nice comments all and plenty for me to ponder on.

Yes the bankers who wrecked the country, true there is anger at them - but they hardly did this all by themselves - not that the politicians want to go down that route.

maybe we will get as bad as the 70's - surely we had corporatism then though, are things really worse today than in th past...I doubt it some how - the perception is though?

Lord Blagger said...

They (banks) can't fail,


Yes they can. It's just that the numpties choose to bail them out.

Govt is pushing blame on to rich. Why? because HMG don't want you to know there is practically nothing they can do about our economy.

Correct. It's the Paul Daniels approach. It's also the Nazi approach. Blame someone, anyone, other than yourself for your errors.

Remember, If I ask you for a million and you hand it over, who is the idiot. Me for asking or you for handing over the dosh.

If you change the word rich, or banker to Jew, notice what the sentiment is coming out of Westminster.

Lord Blagger said...

bankers people can't point at a vacuum cleaner or a red painted plane and SEE how they did it.


Of course you can. Give up all your banking services, and see how well you get on.

No ATMs, no bank account, no mortgage, back to paper share certs, and I'm not sure who will sell you those 'off line'

Sebastian Weetabix said...

This is really nothing like the seventies, which sadly I remember far too well. For one thing, the lights kept going out; for another, many (most?) houses still didn't have proper central heating and relied on coal and it was so cold in the winter... insulation is the best invention of the 20th century IMHO. It also seemed like there would be serious fighting in the streets any minute, what with the angry pink menace of the Trots, the sheer nastiness of the National Front and a counter-coup from right wing nut jobs like General Sir Walter Walker waiting in the wings. Apart from that it really did feel like Communism was on the rise and the Red Army would come anytime. Most of all there was a general air of decline and a feeling that there wasn't anything to be done about it, that our day in the sun was finished. One other thing sticks in my mind when I compare then with now; our politicians and newspapers are now so fundamentally juvenile and unserious it is depressing. Who the fuck cares if Tweedledum MP (aged 29) is ahead of Tweedleturd MP (aged 30) in the race to be 3rd assistant bag carrier to a drongo with no power but to implement the latest mad directive from Brussels? Back then you felt like casting a vote made a difference. Now it feels like a complete waste of time.

The one bright spot from my point of view was that with MIRAS & inflation my house purchase was ludicrously lucrative. Of course now I am saver I feel differently about inflation...

andrew said...

i was at college during the 80s miners strike and so cannot comment directly about those times. i can provide some background colour
my family bought a house in one of the nicest roads in a london suburb in the early 70s. at that time the neibhours formed a fairly wide range of society. we had the fishmonger, the local estate agent, a couple of the more successful market traders, some solicitors and a couple of record company execs.
when we sold up in the late 90s it was almost entirely city workers and property developers.
People do not live next to each other anymore and this does lead to a sense that we are not all in it together.
The other story i can offer is from some conversations that my ex boss used to have with his contemporaries about the 70s. they all owned houses with big gardens and at that time they rally thought that the country was really falling apart to the extent that they were stocking up on candles and dug up every inch of land and planted veg.
my memories of the times were that the country was a lot more grubby, violent, intolerant, and poorer, but in other ways the greater social cohesion allowed for a greater sense of shared public space wheras today the bias seems to be towards trying to privatise or segregate public spaces and experiences

Timbo614 said...

@SW - you missed out on other depressing thing that has now (almost) vanished: <a href='"> Warnings</a>
<a href=""> Protect and survive"</a>
Made me laugh back then. Now they look sooo naive it's almost unbelievable.

Timbo614 said...

hmm links not allowed now?

Anonymous said...

A couple of depressing decades, but before the traitorous Labour Party completely ruined it, we did have an excellent education system which gave ordinary kids from any part of the scale a fair chance to do well in life.

Regrettably since about the early 1970s a whole generation or two have been seriously betrayed by the politicians.

Anonymous said...

One other thing to remember is that anyone with any kind of talent was taxed at 80% on their income. So they all got up and left. Frankly the UK didn't have much to be proud of in those days. No famous people, the IMF called in, strikes every 5 minutes, reds under the bed and everywhere else. Couldn't afford to go out of an evening - even the cinemas were all closing down or showing adult movies only. Kids glue sniffing. Football hooligans every other weekend in town, nobody really doing anything about it. Pubs and fish&chips was basically all there was, and that was a real treat. Sunday roast on a Wednesday cooked for you at the local Toby cavery - we never dreamed of such luxury back then! We had food shortages regularly as we didn't over-produce in the good times so specific food items might be in short supply if the weather turned bad. How times have changed! How easily we forget!

It's funny how many people like to claim that Thatcher's days were the era of greed and selfishness, but as I recall the 70s was really the era of greed. People clicking on to the boom in the 60s and trying to grab everything they could at other's expense led to disaster in the 70s.

We were friendly with our neighbours back then because we had to be. No proper public transport and most of us didn't have cars to visit our real mates elsewhere. Your neighbours were the people who worked at the same mega-factory, so you knew them anyway. They'd still screw you over if they thought you put your shed too close to their property or they didn't feel the need to return your lawnmower in a hurry. Most ordinary people lived in state housing with long waiting lists so you took the first house you could next to some psycho that had a thing for little girls and had just been let out of prison.

When you remember what that bad-ass bitch Thatcher was up against you realsie what a stellar job she did. She ought to be made a friggin saint. Single-handedly pulled the nation out of the fires of hell just at the last minute. Those that claim otherwise are traiterous Moscow-loving Trots and their idiot followers that should be shot for treason. Make a note of their names.

James Higham said...

The new Sunday Times rich list clearly shows that most of the very rich are foreigners who have come to live in London - not British people made good on the backs of the workers. It is a different form of immigration compared to that which has held down unskilled wages, but an impact of the choice made by the last Government to encourage rapid population change in the UK.

Very much so and the Russian variety of that rich list contains shady people the Russians would very much like to get their hands on.

Anonymous said...

"The new Sunday Times rich list clearly shows that most of the very rich are foreigners"

Which is actually just a lot of the people the Sunday Times happens to know are rich, as if most rich Brits went about publicising their wealth for the tax man and everyone else to see.

Wake up. The Sunday Times rich list is a put up job to make us all believe that the rich are either hard working entrepreneurs or foreigners investing in Britain. The reality is that most of the rich are trustafarians and don't feature on the list at all. Hundreds of years of inheritance from the country that hasn't had an invasion or revolution for a millenium.

phil5 said...

Lord Bagger, the banks have not been dis-intermediated yet a la Amazon, but it's coming - see and others. The existing clearing banks have a large problem with old creakingIT systems, akin to the Britain's problems with old factories after WW2 when Germany to take advantage of starting afresh.