October 7th, 2012


I Didn't Get Where I am Today

"We don't think people who have worked hard, saved up to buy a home, should be clobbered with a mansion tax," says George Osborne.

The trouble with this kind of statement is that it's stupid in so many ways that I feel exhausted before I begin to list them. I can say little or nothing that my sagacious friends list will not immediately see without my stir; and (with one or two exceptions) I know they'll agree anyway, so what's the point?

There's a number of possible approaches, I suppose. One can be sarcastic. How hard did you work for your trust fund, George? Clambering out of that birth canal must have been exhausting!

One can wax statistical. Wouldn't it be interesting to know just how good a predictor hard work is for wealth? A very poor one, is my guess. Not only do many rich people inherit their wealth, as Osborne did (and will do even more when he gets his baronetcy), but I would guess that background, contacts, luck and talent (which we may think of as inherited luck) are all at least as important. J. K. Rowling and Wayne Rooney are several hundred times richer than the average for their trades, but do they work several hundred times harder? If averagely intelligent people who went to Eton can become investment bankers and then cabinet ministers it's likely because they are patricians rather than plebeians, not because of their work rate.

One can go off at a tangent - musing for example about the use of "clobbered" in political discourse. When hard-working public sector workers are clobbered with years of real-terms pay cuts, that word seems curiously absent from the Chancellor's vocabulary. Conversely, what word might we use as the opposite of "clobbered", to describe (to pluck an example from the air) a cut in the top rate of income tax? I suggest "slobbered."

We can wonder about the psychology of the thing. Is Osborne deluded? Does he really believe that he and the other be-mansioned people he went to school with actually earned their wealth? Or is he just blowing hard on his horn for the faithful hounds of the Daily Express and their constituency?

Or we can go meta, and write a post like this one about the difficulties of writing such a post.

On the whole, probably best to leave it.