Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nick Clegg's The Liberal Moment: Chapter 7

I said my last post on this pamphlet was the penultimate one. I was wrong. Because this one is about the "The Social Crisis" and I have just discovered there is another crisis after that.

I suppose the social crisis counts a milder, Liberal Democrat version of David Cameron's broken Britain. It seems to consist in the lack of social mobility in modern Britain, which Nick characterises as a lack of "fairness".

"Fairness" always seems such a playground word, even if it does go down well with the focus groups. Nick says the concept "pierces right to the heart of everything progressives stand for", but it is hard to imagine something so wet piercing to the heart of anything.

Plus, as I have argued before, it is not that Tories don't believe in fairness; it's just that they have a different conception of it.

Anyway, Nick makes some good points about the burden of taxation the poor now bear, and the more familiar one that "a child born today in the poorest neighbourhood in Sheffield will die on average fourteen years before a child born in the most affluent neighbourhood a few miles away".

If I read that once more I shall be tempted to ask why he got himself selected for that affluent neighbourhood.

Then on to education and, inevitably, the pupil premium, though government micromanagement of schools gets a welcome kicking too.

On to health, where the same critique of Labour is offered. Then tax, where the lowest earners should be lifted out of it. And finally housing, where they key is to treat house price inflation like any other kind of inflation by taking it into account when interest rates are set.

Next time it will the security crisis and that really will be it. Except that I have just been asked to turn these jottings into a coherent article for Liberator.

See also:

And you can download the whole pamphlet from Nick Clegg's website.

1 comment:

Matthew Huntbach said...

"a child born today in the poorest neighbourhood in Sheffield will die on average fourteen years before a child born in the most affluent neighbourhood a few miles away".

It is a silly statement because we just don't know that. We don't know when people born now will die.

So perhaps Nick ought to clarify just what he means by it. If he is taking it from the average age now of death in the two neighbourhoods, this is a very different thing.

Yes, it is certainly a serious issue that poor people tend to die at a very much younger age than rich people. But that doesn't excuse a totally bogus and innumerate use of statistics.

The first thing I should like to know is whether the statistics used are just average age of death in the two neighbourhoods, or whether there's somd compensating balance to take into account age differences.

Let us give an example. Suppose there is a neighbourhood X where mostly young people live. Actually, everyone moves from there by the time they reach 50. So the average age of death in that neighbourhood will be below 50 - must be, no-one over that age lives there. Not many people die there, but there's always the odd accident etc.

OK, so now consider a neighbourhood Y which consists of all specially adapted houses for the very elderly, so only people aged 85+ live there. Average age of death in that neighbourhood will, obviously, be over 85.

So would Nick be saying "A child born today in X will die on average 40 years younger than a child born in Y"?

It may be that the figures Nick uses are more sophisticated than plain average age of death, but the fact that he uses this phrase "child born today" already tells me this isn't literally true, so obviously I'm left wondering, well, just how untrue is it? Which detracts from the serious point being made.