Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Marty Warren highlights why Tim Hortons workers - and other people facing precarious and low-paying work - need union representation to ensure their interests are respected. And Christo Aivalis writes that the current discussion of minimum wage pairs fairness issues about distribution of wealth with the economic importance of shared prosperity, while Alan Freeman notes that a liveable minimum wage improves matters on both counts.

- Dani Rodrik argues that while exclusionary political populism is dangerous, some economic populism may be entirely appropriate in response to the risk of institutions which only entrench the privileged position of the wealthy. And Ian Buruma theorizes that Japan's stronger collectivist culture may be playing a part in limiting the perceived need for populist demagogues.

- Nicholas Sowels takes a look at the current state of inequality in the UK. Rachael Burford reports on the unconscionable adoption of - and hasty retreat from - a plan to explicitly segregate playgrounds based on parents' ability to contribute to fund-raising campaigns. And Dawn Foster laments the strategy of trying to hide the people who live in poverty, rather than ameliorating their lives:
It should be obvious that banning begging or criminalising rough sleeping will do little to combat homelessness. In July Oxford council considered fining rough sleepers up to £2,500 and attached notices warning of the incoming fines to the bags and belongings of homeless people. Most people in work couldn’t afford a £2,500 spot fine without a considerable impact on their day-to-day finances: someone forced to sleep in a shop doorway because they can’t afford their rent cannot possibly have the cash to hand. The fine is thus about engendering fear, rather than anything one might regard as a workable solution. When homelessness and poverty is hidden from the high street, you can pretend it no longer exists.

It seems foolish and unfathomable, but it also lends us a vision of local and national government for the next few years. With town halls finding budgets whittled down to the bone and struggling to fund the most basic services, addressing the root causes of poverty becomes an impossibility.

Street homelessness has more than doubled since 2010, when the coalition government was formed, but so, too, has the number of people in temporary accommodation and people approaching councils for help due to eviction and losing their home. But councils have few options when it comes to rehousing. Predictably, many are ending funding for domestic violence and homelessness services and hostels. With no resources to combat the causes of poverty, some councils adopt this backwards approach of criminalisation.

Threatening people with fines or legal action may temporarily move the sight of rough sleeping away from British high streets, but those people don’t evaporate, they can’t be coerced into a more acceptable lifestyle; they won’t rise up and rent a house on a whim. Without the resources and support, they will remain homeless, but under the radar, in the shadows. We will not see them, but they will still exist.
- Finally, in the wake of a series of broken promises and scandals, Michael Harris rightly questions whether Justin Trudeau's words mean anything at all. And Stephen Tweedale offers some suggestions as to what Trudeau could do if he wants to genuinely strengthen democratic engagement, rather than substituting a traveling road show for public participation.

[Update: added link.]

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