Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?

Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Have you heard? They're middle class! Middle class I say! Let's hang the bastards!

Apparently a lot of students are middle class, and therefore (not that anyone seems to have bothered to check this) that means that a lot of the student rioters are middle class too. I might have more to say on this subject later this evening (capsule: student riots are in general a phenomenon that needs to be taken seriously when they happen; empirically they are correlated with all sorts of interesting stuff), but for the meantime this one goes in the "I mean really" file.

I've said this before (albeit in a context which made it inevitable we'd get sidetracked onto a discussion of woo in the NHS) but I'll say it again because it's important - there is nothing particularly bad and a lot potentially good about recycling some of the middle class's income back to them through the tax, benefit and public service system. Things like universal free university education tie the middle class into the system, and avoid the notorious and obvious public choice consequences of means testing - ie, that "benefits for the poor" become "poor benefits". Oddly enough, what with the economics degree and everything, I am aware that the effect of funding university tuition out of general taxation is probably regressive in its distributive consequences. But this would only be an interesting fact if paying for universities was literally the only thing that government did; people really need to be gently persuaded (in the alternative: beaten) out of trying to do distributive analysis of spending at this sort of disaggregated level.

I am, as I've said before in this space, a very typical middle class British burgher, genus "City boy", species "North London". As such, I'm wholly in favour of the enforcement of the law on common assault and on damage to property, and the prosecution of people who throw punches and break windows, in more or less whatever context. But given that the rioters are in fact going to be punished for whatever common assault and criminal damage they've committed, I'm not sure they need or deserve an additional hiding in the form of special moral and political opprobrium from me. Given that I tend to regard riots as an interesting but basically normal part of the political process when they happen overseas, it would be pretty odd and hypocritical to think of them any other way when they happen here.
22 comments this item posted by the management 11/11/2010 04:25:00 AM

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