Sunday, July 02, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Abi Wilkinson writes that we'll be far better served fighting inequality generally rather than limiting our focus to issues of social mobility:
When we talk about social mobility, we’re talking about movement between the strata of our social class system. (Generally upwards movement – nobody seems to want to discuss the fact that making room for people from poorer backwards at the top might necessitate others, born into privilege, travelling in the opposite direction.)

The ideology is meritocratic. It’s assumed that hard work and aptitude should be the only factors determining your future prospects. The goal of improving baseline living standards is framed mainly as a method of improving the opportunities of individuals born into poverty.

As long as class stratification continues to exist, though, opportunities can never be truly equal. The Time for Change report discusses the impact poverty has on children’s ability to learn but also notes that the best-paid jobs remain “deeply elitist”. Employers continue to hire in their own image, assuming that people like them will “fit in” with clients and the workplace culture. People continue to use their connections to give their children a leg up.

No amount of targeted social mobility or anti-poverty policy can truly mitigate the ability of class privilege to perpetuate through generations. And there’s a whole other moral conundrum around meritocracy that is another column in itself – about whether natural aptitude should mean you deserve a nicer life.
More mbitiously, we could try to reimagine our economic system in a way that removes or decreases the power imbalance between people in possession of capital and those who need to sell their labour to survive – while also recognising the issues of stratification within each category. The Alternative Models of Ownership report produced by the Labour party offers some ideas about how this may be achieved.

Focusing narrowly on social mobility is like affixing a fraying rope ladder between the branches of a tree, when in reality the trunk is rotting from the inside and the whole thing needs chopping down. The British Social Attitudes Survey, also released today, has found increased support for state intervention and redistribution through higher taxes. More and more of us are recognising that the current system is broken – this feels like the perfect time for a radical rethink.
- Kevin Carmichael discusses the need for Canada to address its own burgeoning inequality - as well as the danger that politicians with a short-term mindset won't see fit to bother. And the Economist takes note of the impact of high-end tax evasion in allowing the richest few to avoid making a fair contribution to the societies which allow them to succeed. 

- The Observer comments on the role governments should play in reducing the stress faced by citizens as a means of improving mental health outcomes. And Richard Friedman points out that instead, we've settled for an environment which positively breeds addictions by combining easy access to addictive goods with constant stress and anxiety.

- Finally, Romeo Saganash calls out the Libs' callousness in pushing a jingoistic celebration of a history steeped in cultural genocide.


  1. Not a fan of the Liberals, and I like Romeo, and I'm sympathetic to his concerns, but the timing is off, Canada is not the day to give this sort of leacture and the last thing the NDP needs is to look like a bunch of sanctimious jerks, people already feel the NDP are sanctimious, its one of the reasons people don't like voting NDP, and when they do they don't let NDP governments get away with what they do for other parties.

    So perhaps next time Saganash can just let people enjoy Canada Day without a resentment building guilt trip and wait wait till a more sensible time, and perhaps a way of communicating that doesn't put those who love Canada on the defensive.

    1. I'd argue that Canada Day (and especially one marked by an extra dose of high-priced triumphalism) is exactly the time when it's most important to remind people that there's more to our shared history than the contents of the Libs' PR strategy. And it should be a point of pride for the NDP to want to amplify that voice rather than silencing it.