Saturday, 3 November 2012

The "Loose canon" on fairness

Giles Fraser has a knack for putting across his message succinctly:

The wealth divide in Tower Hamlets is a violation of Britons' sense of fairness

A walk from Bethnal Green to Canary Wharf offers clear proof that wealth is sucked upwards and never trickles down
... During the second world war, as the East End was being blown to smithereens, there developed a strong belief that everyone was in it together. Rationing preserved a sense of togetherness, that the effects of austerity would be shared, managed together as a communal burden. This was one-nation Britain, this was the "big society". From the end of the war to the 80s, the idea that fairness was importantly linked with equality of outcome shaped the national conversation, delivering such much-loved institutions as the NHS. This was fairness.
But the Thatcherites destroyed all this. They thought the emphasis on equality was itself a moral problem, hindering enterprise. Freedom was to be the new moral watchword – which, for the right, meant the freedom for some people to get as rich as they could. The Blairites were intensely relaxed about all of this as long as the poor were themselves pulled along in the slipstream. But they weren't. The gap between rich and poor widened with every passing year and with huge social consequences.
Today in Tower Hamlets, rich men live 11 years longer than poor men. And cuts and austerity have a long way to run over the next few years. But those who caused the economy to impale itself on its own greed remain protected from the consequences of their behaviour. Unfairness needs no deeper philosophy to explain it than this.

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