Baroness Ruth Lister went to Hong Kong. And was outraged at the inequality she found there.
One of the tenants I met was an unemployed man, aged 54, who looked considerably older. He had lived there for three years. Because he was single and below pension age he had no priority on the extremely long waiting list for public housing yet employers considered him too old to employ. Not surprisingly he had been in and out of hospital with health problems. Physical and mental health problems are common among residents of such dwellings. In total about 10,000 people are living in such accommodation. The community organisers who took me round told me that they had not shown me the worst examples of sub-divided accommodation, where units are piled on top of each other, as they were afraid I’d find them too shocking.
While Hong Kong might be many miles from the UK, the housing conditions I saw exemplify the pernicious impact of inequality. Private landlords will be making huge profits on the backs of living conditions that blight the lives of thousands of human beings. The state is failing in its responsibility to protect their human rights. The residents I met hang on to their human dignity in the most appalling circumstances but it is a crime that, for years at a time, they are forced to endure conditions not fit for human beings.
I’ll admit that I’d not enjoy living in such conditions. Despite my having come close at times.
However, let us now actually examine the claim. We’ve Hong Kong, that symbol and symptom of capitalist excess, of laissez faire run riot, of, in fact, everything that is wrong with just letting the market do its work.
Hmm. Gini of 43.4 according to the World Bank. Yup, that is quite high.
And, err, China? By the same measurement, 42.5. Given the accuracy of these things I’d not pay too much attention to the difference there. Around and about the same as a rough rule of thumb.
Hmm, but, erm, what’s the income level that they’re being unequal around?
Hong Kong, GDP per capita, $50k give or take $10.
So, roughly the same level of inequality, but around a much higher (or lower) anchor point. Which would you rather live in? Myself, I have to admit, I’d rather be in the one where the poor, even the destitute, do get a bed and three squares. Might be a cramped bed and nutritious but not very interesting squares but that’s better than starving in a paddy field somewhere.
Oh. One other thing. China was run, claimed to be run at least, for decades on the grounds of fairness, equality, everyone being cared for by the State. Indeed, when China was still being run that way GDP per capita (around 1978) was still at $1,000. The level of England in AD 1,600.
Hong Kong on a very vicious version of dog eat dog capitalism. And in 1945 had a GDP per capita equal to that of China.
And which has done better by its population? Yea, even unto the poor and destitute?
You, Baroness Lister, can kiss my hairy freckled arse. Fuck off you sad old trout and trouble us no more. For if you want to make the poor rich then you’ve got to follow the only plan we’ve ever had that makes the poor rich. That let the market rip thing.
Rather than, you know, allow sociology professors to tell us how to do it.
Just as an aside, don’t you think this Wikipedia entry breaches all the rules on being self-authored?
And, finally, apparently one of her publications is:
Gendering Citizenship in Western Europe, 2007
What? I’ve no idea whether she’s a widow or not but suttee is becoming more attractive by the moment.