27 April 2006

Become an insider by ..er..screwing everyone else

Many insiders work in the public sector: many who do not still enjoy the benefits of secure jobs, generous social welfare and high levels of public services. These armies of the privileged will not vote to give these privileges up[.] John Kay
John Kay takes a more sanguine view of the privileges than I do, and his case is well argued. He says that 'Europe’s economic problems are real, intractable and not very serious' and that most people who protest against, for example, the recent proposed French employment rules, were hoping to become insiders:
The victims are those who can never hope to become insiders – immigrant minorities, unemployed young people in sink housing estates.
Where I think I differ from John Kay is that I believe the privileges he refers to enlarge the number of outsiders and widen the gap between them and the insiders. Farm subsidies and barriers to agricultural imports, for instance, make food more expensive for everyone, but for the poor disporportionately. The same defence of privileges has contributed to rising house prices, and expanding the number of people who cannot expect to own their own homes, however hard they work. And while Kay may be right in that Europe's economic problems are not very serious that doesn't tell us very much. My previous post referred to the difference between economic success and social well being, which is to a great extent becoming a divergence. I also question whether in fact there is a majority of insiders in the affluent west. Insiders would feel some sense of coherence, not the alienation and pervasive anxiety that seem to be characteristic of our western lifestyle. We would feel more committed to the societies in which we live and engage more in the political process. We may all want to be insiders, but it's hardly a feature of a successful society if we the main route to becoming an insider is by screwing the government and everyone else.

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