George Walford: Would Equality Help?

The NEW STATESMAN & SOCIETY of 14 October, in its editorial, describes the consequences of Mr. Nigel Lawson’s current policy as “alarming.” This is the trouble:

Sociologists (not that anyone listens to them nowadays) have long been predicting the emergence in Britain of a “two-thirds one third” society. It is one in which a majority enjoy, though unequally, a security and affluence founded more and more on private provision of goods and services, and live increasingly in geographical as well as social isolation from the residual 25-35 per cent of the population. This remainder, overwhelmingly urban, disproportionately black and female, weighted towards both the adolescent and the aged, will form an underclass… There is also a growing fear of the consequences in crime, violence and disorder if something – something more daring than either more police or more parent governors – isn’t done. Greater equality is not just an objective for socialists; it’s the only real cure for the decline in social cohesion which worried Brighton this week. [The reference is to the Tory Conference, ed.]

Not long ago we were being told that only a minority enjoyed security and affluence; the (A)SPGB used to put it at 10 per cent Now two-thirds are said to enjoy it. If this movement, from a “one-tenth nine-tenths” to a “two-thirds one-third” society, brings only “growing fear of the consequences in crime, violence and disorder”, what grounds are there for believing that further movement towards (or even to) a “ten-tenths no-tenths” society, a completely egalitarian one, will produce any different effect?

The editors of the NS&S are likely to have more success in persuading the unconverted that an increase in social equality will reduce crime, violence, disorder, poverty, fear and the need for policing, if they can show that the progress in that direction said to have been already made has tended to produce these results.

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The basement caught fire, but it was all right because the roof was leaking (Eddie Shah, reported 17 the Sunday Times).

Of the people questioned in a recent Mori poll 12% believed Ian Paisley to be a Catholic.

from Ideological Commentary 36, November 1988.