Class war quiz


5:00 pm - December 9th 2009

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By Andrew R

Looks like the battlelines are being drawn. If you’re not sure which side of the barricades you belong on, a short fill-in-the-blanks quiz based on the latest Mel Philips piece should help you decide. Simply replace the blank with one of the following: A – Working; B – Upper; C – Middle:

It is the ________ class whose children are discriminated against by the rigging of university admissions against candidates from high-achieving schools.

It is _______-class aspirations for their children which have been attacked by the war of attrition waged against grammar and independent schools.

It is the _______ class whose ethic of professionalism – whether in medicine, education, the law or other disciplines – has been under sustained attack by government interference in order to snuff out the independence of mind and spirit which is one of the principal sources of ________-class robustness.

How you scored:
Mostly As – don’t take the piss.

Mostly Bs – well done, comrade. You gut the last banker, I’ll hang the last Master of Fox Hounds.

Mostly Cs – Bad luck. If you can’t already smoke a cigarette blindfold, I’d start getting some practice in.

That anyone, even Melanie Philips, can suggest with a straight face that doctors and lawyers who can afford either to pay the fees for or live in the cachement area of a high performing school are somehow “middle” class is a joke.

Here’s the bottom-line: if your personal income is over £50K, you are not only one of the top 10% of earners in the UK, but you are quite comfortably one of the richest tenth of one percent of people who have ever been born.* Anywhere, ever.

If your response to being in this situation is to get resentful that people worse off than you are getting government support for e.g. childcare while you miss out on tax-breaks on your second home, then you are whining in a rather unattractive fashion.

If you think that you or your financial situation are in any way a priority for government, you’re either phenomenally ignorant about your good fortune, or you’re pathetic. Good news! You’re well-off, and you’re going to stay well-off. Even if you have put your child into a state school, or only pay half the deposit on his first home, you’re still going to be sitting pretty damn pretty. So don’t keep sticking your hand out.

*Probably. Don’t be fooled into thinking I’m making that statement on the basis of rigorous economic and demographic analysis.

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Reader comments


You do realise that not all lawyers or doctors earn over 50K don’t you?

2. Arthur Seaton

While I sympathise with your stance, Mad Mel is more right than you think, for absolutely the wrong reasons. You misunderstand what “middle class” means. It does not mean middling, average. Middle-class means Borgious, that’s the Marxist definition – employers, upper professionals. The ruling class is the upper middle class, the business owning and upper managerials. “Upper class” is the aristocracy and gentry, interbreeding with our ruling class, but essentially irrelevant. We are ruled by the richer part of the middle class. Fooling people into believing the mainifest untruth that “most people are middle class” is the cleverest con the Right ever played, Thacther and Regan managed it better than anyone, and we have been reaping the fetid whirlwind ever since.

So when scum like Mel scream about “the middle-class are being mugged” when provate schooling / privat emedicine /properties over £1m etc etc are taxed the correct response is “Yes indeed, lets have some more of that!”

Arthur Seaton,

Are you, by any chance, related to Jessie?

I was mostly Cs – although my definition of middle is not the same as the consenseus view on LC, (where anyone on more than £25k pa is “rich” despite the fact that many on benefits get £30k +)
I’d dispute that we have an “upper class” in significant numbers. A defining feature of the upper class is that they inherit wealth, generally in the form of significant land and property rights, by definition they don’t they don’t work for their money.
Bankers do go to work and are technically (upper) middle class, in the sense that they service the wealth of the capitalist class, which is a classic feature of the traditional middle class professional.
I agree with 2, a lot of people appear to believe that having a degree, a white collar job, a mortage and taking a couple of holidays a year makes them middle class. It does not. They are suffering from what Marx would have called false conciousness

Exercises like this are pretty meaningless once we recognise the absence of a popular consensus defining class and because there is often a divergence between so-called “objective” and “subjective” class assignments.

On my first visit to Japan in the early 1980s, I noted reports of (the very popular) social surveys in which the great majority of the Japanese deemed themselves to be middle class. I doubt that a similar result would turn up here in social surveys but that only goes to show that just what constitutes class greatly depends on the eye of the beholder.

Marx defined the working-class (proletarian) as those who sold their labour, and did not receive the fruits of that labour (unlike, for example, a self-employed person)
Society is now far more complex, we now have relatively poor people, living in social housing and owning shares, there are cases of members of the aristocracy living in social housing and receiving welfare benefits.
I do agree with AS@2;- the biggest psychological con trick was the Thatcher government convincing everyone that they were middle-class.

“Don’t be fooled into thinking I’m making that statement on the basis of rigorous economic and demographic analysis.”

We didn’t.

Doesn’t “upper-class” have a specific meaning relating to titles and land and such and such?

Hey this ‘class war’ stuff is pretty terrible, eh? Surely attacking someone because of their class is pretty evil? Yes, the terms ‘spiteful’ and ‘petty’ some up the position of the Left

Why can’t we forget all the frightful stigmatisation of a class of people just because of their income, accents and job title? Let us go back to what British politics should be about.

Let us use the Mail/Express/Murchoch’s stable to kick seven shades of shit out of the chavs, single mothers, the unemployed, the sick and immigrants and leave this pernicious ‘class war’ behind and attack those people who deserve it. Lets destroy their working conditions and value of their labour as well as their jobs, then call them ‘feckless’ when there are too few jobs to go round.

The fucking Tory scum have a cheek, with their advanced ‘victim hood’ status.

@ 7 Yes it does. The aristocracy went into sharp decline in the aftermath of the 1914-18 war and decline of empire. In their modern guise they are often asset rich but cash poor, living in huge estates but relying on coach loads of pensioners to pay the bills.

“You’re well-off, and you’re going to stay well-off”

Lets say I earn over 50k (I don’t, but a man can dream). Why does the government feel the need to spend my money on my behalf? I’ll more than likely spend it if I’m allowed to keep it – that or I’ll put it in the bank from where it can be lent to small businesses. It just happens that instead of it being spent on something productive (a local tradesman, for instance) it gets spent on racial awareness officers and outreach workers, and all manner of non-jobs – all the while the local tradesman is out of work and on the dole.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing for low taxes just for the rich – I’m arguing for low taxes for all (some form of flat tax would be best).

Mark M @ 11

“just happens that instead of it being spent on something productive (a local tradesman, for instance) it gets spent on racial awareness officers and outreach workers, and all manner of non-jobs – all the while the local tradesman is out of work and on the dole.”

Surely the outreach worker spends the money on ‘something productive’ anyway? I mean, whenever we hear about taxpayer’s money being ‘wasted’ it is rarely ‘wasted’ as such, because it goes into the economy anyway. It is not a though the money gets thrown in a skip and burned, or anything, does it.*

*If millions of people just burned money, what would happen to the value of money, BTW?

Have to agree with 8, this is all extremely petty and benefits no-one that isn’t already entrenched in their political views.

13. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

@10

Because the market massively underprices or even discounts negative externalities, if it didn’t there’d be no need for ‘race relations officers’ and the mail would cost £5 a copy.

One of the consequences of not talking about class in politics for the last 20 years is that most people have pretty much zero idea what any of it actually means. This article is a just another example of that political illiteracy.

What it comes down to is two simple questions:

1. do you make most of your income by selling your time in the labour market?

2. in the terms used by standard modern economics, is your labour best considered a positional good, a luxury good, a commodity, or an inferior good?

If the job you do happens to function such that you are a replaceable commodity, a free labour market will do entirely mathematically predictable things to your income, which you probably won’t enjoy. On the other hand, if, like a defensive midfielder or investment banker, what matters is not how fast you can run but whether you can run faster than the other guy, then congratulations, you are a positional good. Your income will trend upwards indefinitely (unless the whole system collapses because not even Russian oligarchs can afford to pay your wage bill).

If you are the first guy, you are going to have very different preferences for how society should be organised than the second. That’s class politics: it’s all about how your income and status would be affected under hypothetical political changes.

As such, it has little to do with what your income currently is, and nothing to do with your accent or what type of shirt you wear.

@14: If you are the first guy, you are going to have very different preferences for how society should be organised than the second.

Why? This assumes exactly the point I’m challenging: that “whatever’s best for me” is the right way for any given individual to try to organise society. Maybe people need to consider whether their personal economic interests should really be a priority for government.

But of course, people are asked to consider this all the time. As of yesterday, all workers earning more than £20K are being asked to consider that paying more NI is a sacrifice worth making. Public sector workers are being asked to consider that their taking a real terms pay cut may just be the right thing for all of us. By sharp contrast, however, I don’t see people whose big economic concern is paying private school fees being asked to consider anything like the same level of sacrifice for the greater good.

And yet, somehow, the Tories and their hangers-on are getting in a hissy-fit about class war.

Maybe people need to consider whether their personal economic interests should really be a priority for government.

Maybe they should, I doubt they will in any large numbers.

The clear interests of the vast majority are to take on the bankers and smash them the way Thatcher smashed the miners. The UK economy cannot support their bloated salaries and fees in much the same way Portsmouth can’t afford to buy Ronaldinho…

“Here’s the bottom-line: if your personal income is over £50K, you are not only one of the top 10% of earners in the UK, but you are quite comfortably one of the richest tenth of one percent of people who have ever been born.* Anywhere, ever.”

Sure. (well, 0.7% of those currently extant actually)

http://www.globalrichlist.com/index.php

And if your income is £5,000 a year (just about the minimum that you can have given the benefits system) then you’re in the top 15% of all the people who have ever lived.

Good thing this capitalism shtick, innit? We’re all vastly, humoungously, richer than those who do not live (or did not live) in a country that’s been using the system for a couple of hundred years.

Consider someone from a poor family has grown up and now makes £50K/year at the peak of their career. They have 2 kids and the 50K is the sole income for the family. The children would be foolish to assume any kind of significant assistance for a first home much less an inheritance.

And where does the tax money go? More CC cameras, more prisons, more soldiers in Afghanistan, more expense accounts for politicians. More ‘bailouts’ for bankers.


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