Monday, December 24, 2007

One bright idea for 2008

Will Hutton, in the Observer:

"Charles Karelis [a Yale professor] argues that for too long, right and left alike have been crippled in their thinking about poverty, imagining that generosity will only create more dependency, more disincentives to work and a general fecklessness. It won't.
Unlike the rich, extra cash really matters to them and, paradoxically, that is the route to help them make rational choices not to be dependent or gamble.

Even Conservative opinion is shifting. It was at the Conservative party conference this year that, unexpectedly, Iain Duncan Smith's passionate speech against poverty won the plaudits."

First off, it's good to see arguments for wealth redistribution and someone writing in a newspaper that what is needed to reduce poverty is extra cash.

It's worth nothing, though, that what Karelis is arguing is totally obvious, and has been known for many, many years to anyone who has experience of poverty or, indeed, knows anyone who is poor. But those are not people who write books or have a newspaper column, so Will Hutton presumably hasn't been aware of what they think.

It's also a bit cheeky of Hutton to criticise the left for being 'crippled in their thinking about poverty' after years of his friends attacking lefties for clinging to the idea that redistributing wealth is a good thing. And Karelis' argument is not like that of Iain Duncan Smith, but is in fact its direct opposite, as the Quiet Man's whole argument is that tackling poverty is not about redistributing wealth but about changing the behaviour of poor people - lone parents don't need extra cash, they need to get married.

It's not that this is a particular bad article by Will Hutton (particularly in comparison with Denis MacShane's absymal effort on the page before), and Karelis' book does sound really good. But Will Hutton's articles on social policy would be a lot better if they were informed by the experience and ideas of his fellow citizens, not just books that he has read and found interesting combined with praise for politicians who he remembers as having spoken on the subject.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home