Tuesday, August 09, 2011

"Bang ‘em up" but don’t throw away the key of income equality

 I’ve always thought that this New Labour slogan “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" makes perfect sense. So first things first.  The relatively tiny number of ignorant, selfish, no marks, who have been thieving, threatening and burning, deserve everything that is coming to them.

500 have been nicked in London alone and rest assured that in the coming weeks and months many more will find their front doors being smashed in at dawn by Police armed with arrest warrants. They will also find that the Courts (e.g. Bradford riots) consider such crimes have a “substantial aggravating feature" and they will face exemplary sentences. I’m also sure social landlords will be serving eviction notices on those found guilty of trashing their own communities (or their parents who are responsible for their behaviour). Despite the ample evidence to the contrary, these criminals have free will and are responsible for their own behaviour and must face its consequences. They also know they have done wrong.  

Now the more difficult stuff. “Tough on the causes of crime”. Why have these British citizens, overwhelmingly brought up and educated in this land, decided to act in such a way? Why are they so disconnected with mainstream society? Why the materialistic greed and lust for tacky Primark clothing and cheap Argus electronics? Why don’t other European countries very similar to us in so many other ways, have these such problems? Why the degree of violence and wanton destruction?

I am not going to play the Party political game. While I don’t for a moment think that the Bankers recession and the unnecessary Government cuts haven’t contributed to all this, I think the problem is deeper and wider.  Why us? Is there something wrong with our society?

Maybe this helps explain - why is it that societies that are more unequal statistically have more crime, more violence, more people in prison, more murders, more drug addiction problems, more mental heath illness, more teenage births, less social mobility, less trust and less community spirit.  Is income inequality, the gap between the rich and the poor a major reason for our riots? Please note that I do not simply equate poverty with crime. The vast majority of all people in London who happen to live in deprived neighbourhoods are deeply ashamed of the behaviour of the criminal few. But could income equality  help explain the last few days?  I'm not that interested in blame, I'm more interested in exploring solutions.

Is it only a coincidence that in the UK (and especially London) we have suffered such disturbstances while at the same time we experience such a huge (and growing) disparity in income inequality?  

Check out “The Spirit Level: Why Equality is better for everyone” for some possible answers.

To change things and be really tough on crime and for a possible better quality of life for all, I think we need to look at the evidence of what happens if you have such a gulf between rich and the poor - then act.  

31 comments:

The Only Guardianista in Town said...

I was all set to comment about the Spirit Level at the end of this, only to see that you'd rather beaten me to it!

Good post, and you're definitely right that inequality is the root of such problems, though New Labour too must take their fair share of the blame for that, too. However, sometimes I wonder if British society just lacks a real drive for the kind of major reform necessary for true income equality, that people know it's a nice idea but actually on the whole lack interest in the issue. The reason, I believe, for equality in Scandanavian countries is largely because of fantastic welfare provisions; the kind which would lead to endless demonisation in the right wing press, and actually lead to outrage from both the conservative middle and upper classes, due to probable tax rises, but also from many among the working class, responding to the perceived injustice and laziness of neighbours receiving stronger welfare provisions.

On the other hand, I suppose such objections would most likely also eventually die out were the drive for greater equality to be successful. Surely such dissatisfaction would be lessened if no one was left behind as they are now...

Either way, regarding another of the issues raised by that book, I'd love to hear Ed trying to promote employee-run businesses like John Lewis and trying to incentivise more businesses to run along the same lines.

John Gray said...

John - Being an outsider and only going by the pictures and videos that we have access to over here in the U.S., these thugs don't look all that "downtrodden" (they seem to have all the latest fashions and name brands) and, I would bet that the people hurt most by their thuggery is actually the poor and working classes. Stay safe, my friend!

The Only Guardianista in Town said...

John II- It's absolutely the case that a lot of the rioters are downtrodden & abandoned by the state, whatever their taste in clothes. A lot of the comments they made, regarding their treatment by the police, seems to indicate that.

The Spirit Level also explicitly puts the root of the problems down to inequality, not just poverty, and relates such problems to the effect of a class hierachy and making people feel downtrodden or inferior.

Anonymous said...

Councillor Gray
What are you doing to ensure there is income equality across Newham Council? (employees and elected members)

John Gray said...

Guardianista - Just going on my perception. My perception is that the rioters are opportunistic more than idealistic. I know that perception is not always reality. Like I said, I'm an outsider. I guess I'm just trying to understand the whole situation, as an outsider.

John Gray said...

Hi TOGIT
Yes, inequality must be the root. There are of course other factors and there is still a weakness in the argument about exactly why and how inequality is bad for everyone (rich and poor). But the empirical proof is overwhelming.

The bitter, corrosive, burning long term impact of being poor and down ridden in a culture of plenty must mean something, it must damage individuals and our society. That is my best guess but we need facts and figures to back such assumptions up.

We have most importantly got to win the argument to get a Labour government elected that will then implement such measures. Not sure how to be honest. Need to win the wider argument in society not just within the Party.

Hi long lost Cousin John
Thank you for your kind comments on my blog. "Touch wood" (I know you like that expression) we are fine in Forest Gate, London and so far, I have not met anyone who has been directly affected by the "disturbances". I went right across the City today into South West London and didn’t see or hear of any problems at all. It has of course been pretty horrible in places but it has been localised. London is a big place and the vast majority of people haven't experienced anything either.

But it has been a shock.

Regards to your Mrs and your girls.

TOGIT
Good points! but I don't buy the Police are to blame argument in any significant way. Local kids I speak to want to be searched (with respect) by the Police for weapons. They want more aggressive armed stop and search of suspected gunmen under operation Trident. They know that if this did not happen more of them would die.

Hi anon 20:11
Yes, there are things that Newham Council have, can and will do (free school meals, living wage for staff, supporting people into work etc) but frankly we need to have a national Labour Government in power to really bring about real change.

Anonymous said...

What are YOU doing to ensure there is income equality between All council staff.and members allowances? Answer the question.

Anonymous said...

So the Government of Millionaires (and Bullingdon club fame) can talk to the tliban but not inner city Youth in London

John Gray said...

Hi Anon 23.08

I have answered.

Hi Anon 00.16

Nor will they rethink the 16,000 reduction in Police numbers.

Anonymous said...

You didn't answer my question. You're just a posturing excuse of a social democrat who refuses to acknowledge your own hypocrisy.

John Gray said...

Hi anon 10.55

I’m not sure which weirdo Heinz 57 sect or cult you belong to - but thank you for your considered contribution to the debate on this important issue!

Love and kisses as always

LOL

Anonymous said...

Labour Party. You just can't see it. You pass youraelf off as the voice of reason and a champion of the Labour movement while colluding with a council leader running a Tory agenda.

The Only Guardianista in Town said...

Considering you seem to have a serious axe to grind, Anonymous, wouldn't it make more sense to raise your issues personally and publicly with the council, rather than anonymously trolling on a blog? I hardly think this is the most effective way to get people to take your view seriously.

John Gray said...

Hi TOGIT

agreed but these anon(ers) are just weirdo cultists who have no real politics and just get off via meaningless trolling.

Anonymous said...

Guardianista
As I work for the Council, I'll ignore your advice if you don't mind. And why does anonymity negate the seriousness of a point of view?

Anonymous said...

Councillor Gray

The Labour Party is a weirdo cult? You must be aware that a number of council staff read your blog. You do yourself no favours with you self important diatribes.

The Only Guardianista in Town said...

Crikey. I think I've strayed well out of my depth, here!

I do think if you have a genuine issue, however, Anonymous, that to take it up with a colleague without actually quite daring to do so face to face does weaken your case considerably.

John Gray said...

Hi anon 22.54 and 10.55

As you are aware I was referring to you as a weirdo Heinz 57 cultist not our wonderful Labour Party.

I am 100% sure that the vast majority of local government members will share my view of your ultra weirdo extremist politics.
But perhaps we are all wrong and one day we rally to the cause

... yeah...

Anonymous said...

Guardianista, Councillor Gray is one of my employers, he is not my colleague.
Councillor Gray, why is it extremist to ask you what have you done to promote income equality on the council? Especialy as a number of low paid staff are being laid off and a number of your councillor colleagues are taking home more than £40,000 of public funds per year.

Anonymous said...

john, regarding the anon comments its typical of the trots (or is he a Nazi?) to abuse a serious issue to try and score points. Toytown revolutionaires all of them, reformism rules!

Anonymous said...

i work for the council and rather than quibbling over councillor allowances i am more worried about kids smashing up my high street. what bothers me about income inequality is that many of those kids mums clean the offices of multi-millionaires who pay less in tax than the cleaners!

is there some connection?

Anonymous said...

I'm a Labour Party member, does that make me a Nazi? As for abusing a serious issue, what's so wrong about pointing out councillor Gray's hypocrisy?

Council worker, I'm just as concerned about youth running wild but I'm also worried about keeping my job ; something councillor Gray has some influence over. Tell me, how safe is your job and your original terms and conditions?

Anonymous said...

a labour party member who attacks people as social democratic? i thought the Party threw out all you trots out years ago? looks like they missed you so far.

go off and join the forgotten brigades comrade you are not wanted in the party.

I think you better compare what is happening to council workers under Tory boroughs such as Southampton and thank your lucky stars you work for a labour council

Anonymous said...

Selective commenting I see. I called councillor Gray an excuse of a social democrat - he's aTory just as much as the Mayor of Newham who is implementing a Tory agenda.

Anonymous said...

i must admit that i wonder why the trot remains in the labour party even though s/he thinks they are all hypocritics and tories?

who cares I suppose? subs fodder.

Anonymous said...

Another common theme on this blog, if you don't like what someone says call them a trot/nazi/tory and totally ignore the point made.

John Gray said...

the only people who despise social democracy are marxists or fascists. so if anonymous is not a fascist and in the labour party he or she must be one of the small number of trotskyites still left. what evidence is there that john is a tory then?

Anonymous said...

Where does the despising of social democrats come into this? I referred to councillor Gray as an excuse of a social democrat! That Gray sits on a council lead by a pseudo tory without raising one question about the mayor of Newham's policy choices does give the impression that he has some sympathy with tory politics.

Intresting to see councillor Gray referring to himself in the third person.

John Gray said...

Hi anon

I think you better read your other comments.

Evidence please not more Newham rubbish opposition anon comments.

Damien McKee said...

What's your view on the news that ther appears to be a rift in the coalition over how to respond to the riots?

John Gray said...

Hi Damien

Not sure there is much of a real rift. The Lib Dems know that they have no choice but to support the Tories no matter what.