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The true argument against inequality Watch

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    If you want to know the real argument against inequality, watch the movie Elysium and read this George Monbiot article.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...gevity-science

    Inequality has always been an issue, but with the incredible advances in technology, we are coming to a point where an extreme unequal division of wealth simply cannot be changed. What has always held the elites back is the fact they have to rely on police and the army, who are predominantly working or lower-middle class. They cannot just completely disregard public opinion and launch a fascist coup.

    But with drones and robots and advances in software, there is absolutely no reason they should care about public opinion or the mood of the police/armed forces. They can just electronically order their drone army to put down uprisings and revolutions (a situation where the elite has no fear of the population is very dangerous to democracy).

    With the life extension technology George Monbiot talks about, we may end up with a situation where 1,000 year old gerontocrats live on luxurious, high-technology reservations and use drones to put down any uprisings by the rest of the population (living with no healthcare, employment rights, etc) trying to address this imbalance of power. If you think such an imbalance can't happen, I'd encourage you to travel to South Africa

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    Fantastic movie but based on the notion that a small elite would have a technological monopoly and thus restrict access. While I see a large division in wealth I see no reason why competing companies or people won't build their own space stations ect.. Offering access for more people.

    That article is simply a scare story.
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    (Original post by Rakas21)
    I see no reason why competing companies or people won't build their own space stations ect.
    I'm sorry but that's fanciful. It's like saying, "I see no reason why competing companies won't build their own superyachts which the average person can afford"

    Yeah, that sounds plausible
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    (Original post by Rakas21)
    While I see a large division in wealth I see no reason why competing companies or people won't build their own space stations ect.. Offering access for more people
    Btw, way to miss the point. The point isn't space stations, it's the complete divergence in access to technology and healthcare, the ability of a small elite not to have to care about the views and mood of police and armed forces (which is necessarily a break on their power), if they have large armies of drones.

    That article is simply a scare story.
    What do you mean a scare story? Are you saying that life extension discoveries haven't actually occurred?

    Do you really think unlimited life will be provided on the NHS? Your side of politics doesn't want anything on the NHS as a matter of principle, so I hardly see how you believe this will be widespread
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    For any capitalists who are skeptical about this, I'd encourage you to read this Economist (not exactly known for being a Marxist publication) article on Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century (in fact, anyone who considers themselves a serious, political person should read Capital in the 21st Century anyway).

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/butto...and-inequality

    Inequality is increasing drastically, and it is almost impossible to prevent it increasing by some purely market mechanism. Certainly, the bizarre pseudo-religious faith users like Rakas21 have in capitalism that everything will be okay because capitalism must be good, is bizarre. Capitalism is not some spiritual force, it's an impersonal system.

    It may be that the postwar period, where inequality reduced dramatically (and we probably enjoyed one of the healthiest democratic periods ever) could be an aberration, and the tendency really is to inequality.

    Read the article
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    (Original post by MostUncivilised)
    If you want to know the real argument against inequality, watch the movie Elysium and read this George Monbiot article.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...gevity-science

    Inequality has always been an issue, but with the incredible advances in technology, we are coming to a point where an extreme unequal division of wealth simply cannot be changed. What has always held the elites back is the fact they have to rely on police and the army, who are predominantly working or lower-middle class. They cannot just completely disregard public opinion and launch a fascist coup.

    But with drones and robots and advances in software, there is absolutely no reason they should care about public opinion or the mood of the police/armed forces. They can just electronically order their drone army to put down uprisings and revolutions (a situation where the elite has no fear of the population is very dangerous to democracy).

    With the life extension technology George Monbiot talks about, we may end up with a situation where 1,000 year old gerontocrats live on luxurious, high-technology reservations and use drones to put down any uprisings by the rest of the population (living with no healthcare, employment rights, etc) trying to address this imbalance of power. If you think such an imbalance can't happen, I'd encourage you to travel to South Africa

    Interesting concept, but why don't the elites just use the robots/drones/other machines to replace the human workforce all together? You wouldn't need miners, farmers, factory workers, etc, you'd just get machines to do the work for you. If the technology is that advanced then that would be possible. They could turn their reservation into a self-sustaining paradise if they really wanted to. They could just ignore the masses.
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    (Original post by SHallowvale)
    Interesting concept, but why don't the elites just use the
    robots/drones/other machines to replace the human workforce all together?
    That is actually a huge danger. It could be that with increasing technology, those who have already accumulated vast amounts of capital will simply accumulate more (like a capital black hole), and perhaps 70% of the population will lack the skills that would get them a job.

    Those who own the massive server farms (the tech billionaires, and so on), those who own the massive automated factories and automated robot distribution systems, will simply enjoy ever-accumulating wealth, while those of us who are surplus to requirements will be worthless.

    People don't consider that capitalist competition theories (which is actually a pseudo-religious faith, crony capitalism is capitalism) don't take into account that this future elite may well simply ignore the majority of the population and sell services and goods to each other.

    Say you have a situation where it is incredibly resource intensive to apply medical treatments that allow someone to live forever. Say you need a massive server farm tended by drones, huge amounts of electricity and rare materials mined by droids, to apply this life extension technology to just one person. The billionaire elites would simply sell this to each other, the average person wouldn't even get a look in to immortality

    And say it takes, to apply a 100 year life extension, as much resources and energy as it would to allow 10 poor people to live 70 year lives. Do you really think the megarich would choose the poor over their own immortality?

    You wouldn't need miners, farmers, factory workers, etc, you'd just get machines to do the work for you. If the technology is that advanced then that would be possible. They could turn their reservation into a self-sustaining paradise if they really wanted to. They could just ignore the masses.
    That is a huge danger. I think increasing automation could be something that results in the obsolescence of your average person. And super-rich being like they are, they will say, "We don't want to pay for universal healthcare and education and welfare for the 70% of people who aren't working".

    So they will pay their corrupted politicians to shut off the spigot of money to the welfare state, and if the people rise up, they will use the drones and robots to put down the rising. They don't need to worry about police or military not following orders to shoot fellow citizens.

    It's true that in the past, automation was perceived as a threat to the average worker, but turned out to be a boon for society. Society got fairer and more equal as people moved out of the fields and into the factories. But the current trend is undeniable; in terms of inequality, the trend is to the levels of inequality we saw pre-industrial revolution
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    (Original post by MostUncivilised)
    If you want to know the real argument against inequality, watch the movie Elysium and read this George Monbiot article.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...gevity-science

    Inequality has always been an issue, but with the incredible advances in technology, we are coming to a point where an extreme unequal division of wealth simply cannot be changed. What has always held the elites back is the fact they have to rely on police and the army, who are predominantly working or lower-middle class. They cannot just completely disregard public opinion and launch a fascist coup.

    But with drones and robots and advances in software, there is absolutely no reason they should care about public opinion or the mood of the police/armed forces. They can just electronically order their drone army to put down uprisings and revolutions (a situation where the elite has no fear of the population is very dangerous to democracy).

    With the life extension technology George Monbiot talks about, we may end up with a situation where 1,000 year old gerontocrats live on luxurious, high-technology reservations and use drones to put down any uprisings by the rest of the population (living with no healthcare, employment rights, etc) trying to address this imbalance of power. If you think such an imbalance can't happen, I'd encourage you to travel to South Africa

    Don't really see the difference between drones and tanks/APCs/etc. For both, the few with access to the technology are able to defeat many, many more who do not have access to the technology.

    And since tanks etc. haven't led to the diminishment of democracy yet, I find the argument that drones will to be pretty far-fetched.

    Also, if we're going to approach this dispassionately, we should look at the history of technology and whether it has a) remained the sole purview of the elite and b) whether it has actually fostered increased inequality.

    For a) the answer is emphatically no. Technology has a consistent track record of starting out only being available to the wealthy, but quickly moving to the point of mass market availability. This is true for cars, TVs, mobiles, internet, microwaves, washing machines - you name it.

    For b), the answer is not as clear. However, it is my contention that even if technology increases inequality, it doesn't increase social immobility. The fact is that 50 years ago the difference in educational resources that a kid from Eton and a kid from a comprehensive was absolutely enormous; nowadays, with the advent of the internet, Wikipedia, free online lectures from universities etc, the gap is much reduced.
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    (Original post by ClickItBack)
    Don't really see the difference between drones and tanks/APCs/etc. For both, the few with access to the technology are able to defeat many, many more who do not have access to the technology.
    There's a great quote (I don't know who said it originally, but I heard Christopher Hitchens repeat it) that the fundamental flaw in a tank's design is the tank driver. If he is unwilling to follow orders, then the tank won't run.

    But if a general gives an order to a drone tank, there won't be any situation where the drone refuses to follow orders. Drones are a gamechanger in terms of putting down uprisings and revolutions.

    For a) the answer is emphatically no. Technology has a consistent track record of starting out only being available to the wealthy, but quickly moving to the point of mass market availability. This is true for cars, TVs, mobiles, internet, microwaves, washing machines - you name it.
    I agree that in the past, technological advances spread out and were good for the working masses. But as much recent scholarship makes clear (have you read Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century), inequality is increasing as growth slows down.

    It seems increasingly clear that the postwar period of equality was probably a historical aberration.

    a kid from Eton and a kid from a comprehensive was absolutely enormous; nowadays, with the advent of the internet, Wikipedia, free online lectures from universities etc, the gap is much reduced.
    All the free online education is pretty worthless if you have to work a minimum wage job 60 hours a week. Furthermore, all the self-education and autodidactism means nothing if you don't have that degree certificate from Harvard or Cambridge. Do you think you can walk into Goldman Sachs and say, "Well, I don't have a degree from a top university, but I've done a lot of online study". How do you think that will go down?
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    (Original post by MostUncivilised)
    There's a great quote (I don't know who said it originally, but I heard Christopher Hitchens repeat it) that the fundamental flaw in a tank's design is the tank driver. If he is unwilling to follow orders, then the tank won't run.
    But if a general gives an order to a drone tank, there won't be any situation where the drone refuses to follow orders. Drones are a gamechanger in terms of putting down uprisings and revolutions.
    Rarely is ensuring the military actually carry out orders a problem, based on the number of military-backed dictatorships that flourished in the 20th century. And aren't drones controlled by a human operator most of the time? If not, I'll concede that there's a smidgen more risk of their use leading to a diminishment of democracy - but it's a very small corner case, imo.

    I agree that in the past, technological advances spread out and were good for the working masses. But as much recent scholarship makes clear (have you read Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century), inequality is increasing as growth slows down.

    It seems increasingly clear that the postwar period of equality was probably a historical aberration.
    I haven't read Piketty, but I've read a lot about his work. There's lately been a great deal of dirt found on his methodology and statistics. Have a look at http://blogs.ft.com/money-supply/201...-21st-century/ this for example. In summary: "Prof Piketty, 43, provides detailed sourcing for his estimates of wealth inequality in Europe and the US over the past 200 years. In his spreadsheets, however, there are transcription errors from the original sources and incorrect formulas. It also appears that some of the data are cherry-picked or constructed without an original source. For example, once the FT cleaned up and simplified the data, the European numbers do not show any tendency towards rising wealth inequality after 1970. An independent specialist in measuring inequality shared the FT’s concerns."

    Also, even if inequality has increased, it's not necessarily because of technology. Even Piketty doesn't ascribe it to that; he rather ascribes it to the idea that the rate of return on capital generally exceeds the rate of growth of economies (again, using his sometimes flawed figures/analysis).

    All the free online education is pretty worthless if you have to work a minimum wage job 60 hours a week. Furthermore, all the self-education and autodidactism means nothing if you don't have that degree certificate from Harvard or Cambridge. Do you think you can walk into Goldman Sachs and say, "Well, I don't have a degree from a top university, but I've done a lot of online study". How do you think that will go down?
    The point is that the bright kid from the comprehensive now has a far better chance of getting into Harvard/Cambridge than 50 years ago.

    Also I think higher education is set for a total revamp in the next couple of decades with the legitimisation of online courses, thus leading to far more social mobility, but that's a discussion for a different thread.
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    (Original post by ClickItBack)
    Rarely is ensuring the military actually carry out orders a problem, based on the number of military-backed dictatorships that flourished in the 20th century. And aren't drones controlled by a human operator most of the time?
    This is actually one of the most salient points. Drones are controlled by human operators now, they need a human operator to fly them and pull the trigger. But this is merely a technological limitation of 2014. The point is that in the future, swarms of drones will be able to use advanced software to generate their own orders.

    A good example is "signature strikes" which the US does against Islamist terrorists. You have banks of supercomputers that surveill Islamist websites and forums, instant messaging and phone calls. When a person (who the US may not even know their real name) clocks up a certain number of points, they cross the threshold of surveilled threat to dead man.

    A drone is launched from an airbase in Yemen somewhere. At the moment, they are developing the software to allow the drone strike component to be completely automated. They might lock on his mobile phone signal, or even his dna (based on micro-drones... you should head to the DARPA website to see some of the incredible technology they are developing).

    A swarm of microdrones merely received the order from the general, and they take out the target with no intervetion from human operators. They certainly don't need a human operator to fly them in this future scenario.

    I think the fundamental point here is that the rise of computing and intelligent software, and robotics, presages a qualitative shift in terms of the value of human labour. We're not simply talking about workers in the fields being replaced by workers in factories as happened in the industrial revolution and the 20th century, we're talking about workers being replaced by machines.

    And machines, in terms of scalability, require far fewer humans to manage and supervise them, particularly with advances in heuristic software and AI. There are entire factories that are now automated, and only require humans to oversee the overall enterprise, and to fix the machines (and in future, you will probably have machines that can fix machines).

    When you have that kind of situation, you essentially have a situation where the owner of the capital (the factory) can just sit back and watch their money accumulate indefinitely, with little need for humans. The workers are put out of a job, while the owner sits back and watches his bank account increase indefinitely

    Also, even if inequality has increased, it's not necessarily because of technology. Even Piketty doesn't ascribe it to that; he rather ascribes it to the idea that the rate of return on capital generally exceeds the rate of growth of economies (again, using his sometimes flawed figures/analysis).
    I completely agree that decreasing growth rates, and capital returns exceeding growth rates, being the culprit, not technology per se. But it is clear that technology and our present level and style of development is inextricable from this state of affairs.

    The point is that the bright kid from the comprehensive now has a far better chance of getting into Harvard/Cambridge than 50 years ago.
    Do you have evidence for that proposition? 50 years ago there were grammar schools. In fact, I've heard quite a few grammar school boys who have made it to the top levels of finance or the bar say they feel things are going backwards in terms of social mobility.

    In fact, there is plenty of scholarship demonstrating that social mobility was far better in the 1970s than it is now. The United States is a prime example of this state of affairs, it is undeniable that in the US, social mobility is far less than it was in the 1970s. Wages are less than they were (in fact, there are many working class jobs that pay the same amount, in quantitative dollars, not inflation-adjusted dollars, than they earned in the 70s)
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    (Original post by MostUncivilised)
    This is actually one of the most salient points. Drones are controlled by human operators now, they need a human operator to fly them and pull the trigger. But this is merely a technological limitation of 2014. The point is that in the future, swarms of drones will be able to use advanced software to generate their own orders.

    A good example is "signature strikes" which the US does against Islamist terrorists. You have banks of supercomputers that surveill Islamist websites and forums, instant messaging and phone calls. When a person (who the US may not even know their real name) clocks up a certain number of points, they cross the threshold of surveilled threat to dead man.

    A drone is launched from an airbase in Yemen somewhere. At the moment, they are developing the software to allow the drone strike component to be completely automated. They might lock on his mobile phone signal, or even his dna (based on micro-drones... you should head to the DARPA website to see some of the incredible technology they are developing).

    A swarm of microdrones merely received the order from the general, and they take out the target with no intervetion from human operators. They certainly don't need a human operator to fly them in this future scenario.

    I think the fundamental point here is that the rise of computing and intelligent software, and robotics, presages a qualitative shift in terms of the value of human labour. We're not simply talking about workers in the fields being replaced by workers in factories as happened in the industrial revolution and the 20th century, we're talking about workers being replaced by machines.

    And machines, in terms of scalability, require far fewer humans to manage and supervise them, particularly with advances in heuristic software and AI
    Fair enough. I will grant that there is more risk of abuse and oppression with drone technology. I still think the likelihood of it being utilised to do so by the government/elite is small.

    Do you have evidence for that proposition? 50 years ago there were grammar schools. In fact, I've heard quite a few grammar school boys who have made it to the top levels of finance or the bar say they feel things are going backwards in terms of social mobility.

    In fact, there is plenty of scholarship demonstrating that social mobility was far better in the 1970s than it is now.
    Page 2 of this report.

    I do agree with bringing back grammar schools, though.
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    (Original post by ClickItBack)
    Fair enough. I will grant that there is more risk of abuse and oppression with drone technology. I still think the likelihood of it being utilised to do so by the government/elite is small.
    I think the issue is that no-one knows what the future holds.

    I am not calling for a Marxist revolution, my parents and family are pretty well off (my parents have in the low 8 figures Australian dollars in assets, my grandmother has around the same). I am not calling for guillotines and a dreary communist order. That would obviously harm my own family, and I don't think there's anything wrong with being modestly wealthy.

    But I am genuinely afraid of this possible future, I know that even with my family's wealth I won't fall into the megarich category of people who would live on these high-technology, gated reservations protected by drones (I fear a kind of futuristic South Africa).

    I genuinely hope that this doesn't happen, but I think that the future is always more incredible and more frightening than we could imagine. In the 1960s, they thought people would have robot servants and live on the moon. That almost seems pathetically childish now, while we don't live on the moon and have robot servants, the technology we do have (the internet, smartphones, genome scanning, MRIs) is so much more incredible than that vision.

    It seems clear that after an incredible period of decreasing inequality (the postwar period, where we had high levels of equality, and very high levels of political engagement), we are now going backwards in terms of equality and democratic engagement.

    I accept that our mixed market system has provided great advances, but I fear that people who believe in free markets have an almost pseudo-religious belief that market competition will always overcome such dangers as I have outlined. In fact, the future is so qualitatively different to the present, I don't think one can be so complacent. I think we need to be ever vigilant, and I do genuinely believe we need to take a hard look at increasing inequality.

    I don't want to get rid of all competition between individuals, I don't want to do away with reward for hard work and talent. But I also do not want to see the rich getting ever richer, reaching a kind of financial escape velocity where they leave everything and everyone behind. There is genuinely an issue with when you have a situation where the superwealthy start to detach themselves from human society, where they have no genuine stake in the society in which the rest of us live.

    Even in feudal times, the feudal lords lived in close proximity to their serfs, and they had a similar biological situation. What we face now is the possibility that the spatialization of class will result in the megawealthy detaching themselves from society completely in a geographical sense, and almost constituing a new race in terms of their life expectancy
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    For once, the Guardian isn't writing absolute bull****.

    This is a realistic possibility.
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    With regards to post 13 its worth bearing in mind that such a geographical segmentation and disaster scenario would likely not be global. As we see in China today and other nations through history, a lack of respect for patent law can lead to reverse engineering allowing many more people to join this elite.
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    Are you talking about how South Africa is today?
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    (Original post by MostUncivilised)
    This is actually one of the most salient points. Drones are controlled by human operators now, they need a human operator to fly them and pull the trigger. But this is merely a technological limitation of 2014. The point is that in the future, swarms of drones will be able to use advanced software to generate their own orders.

    A good example is "signature strikes" which the US does against Islamist terrorists. You have banks of supercomputers that surveill Islamist websites and forums, instant messaging and phone calls. When a person (who the US may not even know their real name) clocks up a certain number of points, they cross the threshold of surveilled threat to dead man.

    A drone is launched from an airbase in Yemen somewhere. At the moment, they are developing the software to allow the drone strike component to be completely automated. They might lock on his mobile phone signal, or even his dna (based on micro-drones... you should head to the DARPA website to see some of the incredible technology they are developing).

    A swarm of microdrones merely received the order from the general, and they take out the target with no intervetion from human operators. They certainly don't need a human operator to fly them in this future scenario.

    I think the fundamental point here is that the rise of computing and intelligent software, and robotics, presages a qualitative shift in terms of the value of human labour. We're not simply talking about workers in the fields being replaced by workers in factories as happened in the industrial revolution and the 20th century, we're talking about workers being replaced by machines.

    And machines, in terms of scalability, require far fewer humans to manage and supervise them, particularly with advances in heuristic software and AI. There are entire factories that are now automated, and only require humans to oversee the overall enterprise, and to fix the machines (and in future, you will probably have machines that can fix machines).

    When you have that kind of situation, you essentially have a situation where the owner of the capital (the factory) can just sit back and watch their money accumulate indefinitely, with little need for humans. The workers are put out of a job, while the owner sits back and watches his bank account increase indefinitely



    I completely agree that decreasing growth rates, and capital returns exceeding growth rates, being the culprit, not technology per se. But it is clear that technology and our present level and style of development is inextricable from this state of affairs.



    Do you have evidence for that proposition? 50 years ago there were grammar schools. In fact, I've heard quite a few grammar school boys who have made it to the top levels of finance or the bar say they feel things are going backwards in terms of social mobility.

    In fact, there is plenty of scholarship demonstrating that social mobility was far better in the 1970s than it is now. The United States is a prime example of this state of affairs, it is undeniable that in the US, social mobility is far less than it was in the 1970s. Wages are less than they were (in fact, there are many working class jobs that pay the same amount, in quantitative dollars, not inflation-adjusted dollars, than they earned in the 70s)
    Ignoring the fact that falling wages in real terms are not the case for every income percentile even in the US (something the media forgets is that wages have still risen for a significant percentage of the labour force), this situation is not entirely replicated in each developed country. Until about 2004 all UK income groups saw Increases.

    One can argue that an underclass may be developing/lagging behind but this unusual economic period aside, real wages have still increased and likely will do again. I'm not sure the majority will be so unlucky.
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    (Original post by Rakas21)
    Ignoring the fact that falling wages in real terms are not the case for every income percentile even in the US (something the media forgets is that wages have still risen for a significant percentage of the labour force)
    Rising wages are pretty meaningless if they are falling in relative and inflationary terms.

    this situation is not entirely replicated in each developed country. Until about 2004 all UK income groups saw Increases.
    Again, income rises can be rendered meaningless if they are a fall in real terms, or a fall in relative terms.

    Are you seriously denying that inequality has increased markedly since the 1980s? After a period of increasingly equality in the postwar period, we have gone backwards in recent decades. That is undeniable

    To be honest, your political ideology would say that there is nothing wrong even with the most extreme inequality, you fundamentally believe in a free-market and as little government intervention as possible. If this results in Ancient Egyptian levels of inequality, in your opinion this would be fine because that is the determination of the market and whatever the market outcome is, it must be right and moral because market outcomes are always right and moral in your ideology

    One can argue that an underclass may be developing/lagging behind but this unusual economic period aside, real wages have still increased and likely will do again. I'm not sure the majority will be so unlucky.
    What do you mean "likely will do again"? Where is your evidence for that?

    For you, this is an article of religious faith. The fact is that the postwar period was a marvellous period of equality, both political (with very high rates of voting participation) and economic in terms of wages, in terms of the ability of the average factory worker to afford a nice house and car on *one* income (with his wife staying at home). These days, that is a middle-class luxury, whereas it used to be a working class expectation

    But the evidence is fairly clear; that postwar period was an aberration, and we are returning to the norm of profound inequality that has existed throughout most of human history prior to the 20th century
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    (Original post by ClickItBack)
    X.
    Even people who are pillars of the establishment think inequality has gotten out of control.

    Last night I had supper with some family friends, and one of the guests was a lawyer and son of a former Conservative MP and now peer of the realm. He said up until around 2005 he was a committed Tory, but in recent years inequality has become so obvious, so out of control, that he will be voting Labour at the next election, that Ed Miliband represents the closest thing to One Nation conservatism of the postwar era, a kind of MacMillan approach to economics

    I can entirely understand that, I come from a similar background (political, not megarich but financially comfortable), and people from our background realise the level of inequality is untenable. Things simply cannot go in if we are to retain legitimacy of our democratic system
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    (Original post by MostUncivilised)
    Even people who are pillars of the establishment think inequality has gotten out of control.

    Last night I had supper with some family friends, and one of the guests was a lawyer and son of a former Conservative MP and now peer of the realm. He said up until around 2005 he was a committed Tory, but in recent years inequality has become so obvious, so out of control, that he will be voting Labour at the next election.

    I can entirely understand that, I come from a similar background (political, not megarich but financially comfortable), and people from our background realise the level of inequality is untenable
    You do know that South Africa is what it is today because the fall of apartheid and socialists and communists taking over the country right? It and Zimbabwe used to be the best country in the Subsahara didn't they? What happened? It certainly wasn't capitalism or yt's fault
 
 
 
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