A guest of www.faxfn.org

Guardian readers rob the poor

This website section has been set up to help the educated and worthy Guardian readers tune up their moral fibre. Presumptuous perhaps, but, in poking our fingers at the do-gooders we may do a bit of introspection ourselves.

Guardian readers - the stereotype

Our stereotype of Guardian readers1 is of well-educated, caring, middle-class people working in education or a caring profession or possibly the arts. They are likely to have a strong morality and unlikely to commit a crime or do anything actively nasty.

The moral elite?

They would like to think of themselves as the moral elite. In fact, most of us can get that slight swell of self-righteous pride by just spreading a copy of the Guardian over a big table with a large cup of Arabica coffee and some French croissants.

But to become a Centre of Moral Excellence (CME) the Guardian and its readers must face up to the fact that they are, in general, extremely lucky to be given so many advantages in an unfair society. In their privileged positions they should do more than bleat about the underprivileged - they should quantify their own privilege and apologise for it every day.

Two Guardian gravy trains.

Two topics of great importance to our steriotype Guardian readership 1is the environment and education. Guardian readers are likely to defend both the green belt and higher education /student grants. They see these as protecting the environment and providing a route upwards for the underclasses.. But it can be seen from the two excerpts from www.faxfn.org that

  • The green belt is a way of increasing the asset value of Guardian readers homes2
  • The affluent classes are taking an increasing proportion of higher education 3

(Note1: More investigation of faxfn's Guardian reader steriotype in due course.)

(Note2: Very roughly, the value of houses in the UK is £2000bn, twice GDP which is about £1000bn. In 2002 house prices went up over 20%, earmarking an amount approximately equal to 40% of GDP for affluent houseowners . Being middle class and with an average age in the fourties, most Guardian readers will have done very well at the expense of the poor and the young )

(Note3: "The fight against university fees isn't a major campaign for equal opportunity - quite the contrary. The poor don't go to university. The children of the middle classes do." - Alison Wolf, see below)

Contributions from faxfn.org

York NIMBYs steal from the poor and destroy the Planet
Who's afraid of Alison Wolf?
House prices and the end of the world



20aug02a: Geoff Beacon: York NIMBYs steal from the poor and destroy the Planet

If the world were populated by York people we'd need three Earth's

A recent report compiled by John Barratt of the Stockholm Institute for Planet York says that an average York resident has an individual green footprint of 6.91 hectares. This report gives a "fair earthshare" footprint as 2.1 hectares so if everybody on Earth lived as the residents of York, we would need three planets like Earth.

(An individual's green footprint is the area of the Earth required to grow food, absorb waste and provide raw materials for consumption. One of the largest elements in the green footprints of the affluent world is the area of land required to absorb greenhouse gasses, particularly Carbon Dioxide from energy generated for heating and cooling buildings, transport and manufacturing products for consumption. See Pippa Langford on www.faxfn.org)

The rich need more - the poor need less

Planet York's brochure for the launch of this green footprint report shows that some individuals have bigger footprints than others. Some people are the sort that could fit on one planet Earth, others would require five or more planet Earths.

There is, of course, an obvious connection between affluence and consumption so, in general, the rich and affluent are the more polluting.

The Green Belt gives to the affluent and powerful

Property prices are rising in York at over one thousand million pounds a year. This value gives those, who already have their feet on the ladder, an enormous store of wealth, which sooner or later they will spend. Most of this is directly attributable to the manipulation of the market in planning permission by Green Belt policy.

The obvious backers of Green Belt policy are the NIMBYs who gain so much wealth through their houses and some pleasure in driving their cars through the Green Belt. But there are more powerful and well organised interests that benefit from the allocation of planning permission: land owners, property developers and, of course, the University.

Regulating the price. Distributing the spoils

It may not be York Council's intention, but the slow release of planning permission regulates the price of development land more effectively than OPEC regulates the price of oil. The small amounts released keep the value of the NIMBYs' assets rising. This strategy also hands enormous benefits to those organised enough to understand the system or lucky enough to be able to mask commercial development under the guise of education.

Planning and pollution

It is, of course, one of the objectives of our current planning system to regulate development in order to reduce pollution. Indeed, the Green Belt policy itself is thought of as a "green" policy. But it is clear that this is not the case because it gives wealth to people so that they can increase their consumption and so increase their pollution and green footprint.

A recent "Analysis" program on Radio 4, "Home Economics" made part of the link:

Andrew Henley, Professor of economics, Aberystwyth University said "There is now this phenomenom of housing equity withdrawal that people, ... may well be withdrawing equity to spend on other things. That may typically be to buy new consumer durables - carpets, curtains, furniture - for the next house... Some of it goes into overseas holidays and new cars."

Martin Ellis, Group chief economist, Halifax Building Society said "People have extracted a record amount from the housing equity and that amount is at 18 billion pounds in the first 3 months of this year. That is the highest amount ever and itís one of the reasons why consumer spending is so buoyant at the moment."

If anyone does know of any economist (or anyone) who has done any studies on the demographics of pollution please let us know. But the main point is, of course, obvious: House owners pollute more as their assets inflate. We fly away to our holiday in the sun. We consume more fruit and vegetables flown halway round the world and we buy bigger cars.

Stealing from the young and the poor.

The rise in house (or planning permission) values has established an enormous transfer of wealth to householders from those that buy their houses in the future.

Additionally, with the increase of "buy to let", property owners are now benefiting from increases in the value of the "houses with land and planning permission". It is, of course, the value of the planning permission that is rising. The benefit is in the form of increased rental values, at the expense of people in the rented sector.

The ones that loose out are typically the young and the poor and increasingly the not-so-poor as a recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has highlighted ("Land for Housing: Current Practice and Future Options", March 2002, James Barlow).

15jan03a: Faxfn: Who's afraid of Alison Wolf?

In 1999, Faxfn used a considerable proportion if its tiny budget to buy copies of Ronald Dore's "The Diploma Disease: education, qualifications and development" for every member of the House of Commons Education and Employment Select Committee. We had heard that some of them had never even heard of Ronald Dore. Sad to say none of them thanked us or even replied. But there was some evidence that a few of them (or their researchers) looked up the site. ( see our Credentialism and the Diploma Disease section)

Once again, it has come to our notice that some current members of the committee may be in a similar state of ignorance. So we will try once again to correct the situation. This time we want to make sure that the committee is aware of Alisons Wolf's recent book. At that time we quoted her when she was roughing up the civil servants responsible for the NVQ reforms.

The reforms slid into something reminiscent of the 'Cargo Cults' of Polynesia. Just as worshipping replicas of planes was thought, by cult adherents, to bring the showering of gifts from the sky, so it became an article of faith that awarding enough vocational certificates would somehow transform the nature of the UK economy.

- Alison Wolf (p39 "Growth stocks and lemons: Diplomas in the English market-place", Assessment in Education: principles, policies and practice. Voume 4 Number 1 January 1997, Carfax)
We are delighted to find that she uses a similar quote in her new book ("Does education matter?", Penguin 2002, ISBN 0-14-028660-8)

At Faxfn, we are closely examining our budget to see if it will stretch to sending copies of the book to members of the current committee. In the meantime we give a few short quotes from it:

the countries which have done most to increase the education levels of their population have, on average, grown less fast than have devoted fewer resources to education.
The evidence on skills suggests that employers in the brave new 'knowledge economy' are after those traditional academic skills that schools have always tried to promote. The ability to read and comprehend, write fluently and correctly, and do mathematics ... It isn't obvious why this means pouring extra resourcesinto more years of education rather than maintaining quality in the places that already teach the skills.
The fight against university fees isn't a major campaign for equal opportunity - quite the contrary. The poor don't go to university. The children of the middle classes do.
...what is the alternative? [to give those at the bottom of the heap a slightly more equal chance at things] ... It is simply to subsidise jobs.
The most eminent and eloquent proponent of wage subsidies for the low-paid is the American economist Edmund Phelps.

Those of you that have read some of the other sections will understand why we think this is an important work. During 2003 Faxfn will do its best to make sure our politicians are aware of it. (We hope to be able to report better success than we had with Ronald Dore's work in 1999). However, this does not mean that Faxfn will be completely uncritical. For example, we have potential contributors who will probably reject her assumption that universities have good records for innovation.

21apr03b: The Daily Mail: House prices and the end of the world

The Daily Mail has two stories today

  • THE GOOD NEWS: House prices to double by 2020
  • THE BAD NEWS:If the Earth is't turned into grey goo first, that is.

The Good News - for most readers of the Daily Mail

The Good News refers to a recent report by the Centre for Economic and Business Research.The Mail reports CEBR as saying that millions of home owners could earn a 'second income' from remortgaging their property. The Mail also reports that "analysts" already estimate that £15 out of every £100 spent now comes from equity withdrawal. (This is not surprising considering that, during 2002, the national total of house price rises was equal to roughly 40% of GDP.)

Of course, the Good News is good news for most readers of the Daily Mail, who already own their own houses. They report CEBR's Mark Pagnall as saying.

"Because we fail to build houses fast enough to meet rising demand we can expect a return to relatively-high rates of house price inflation when consumers' confidence and the economy picks up.

... and for most readers of the Guardian

Our readers may like to look at these faxfn review websites:

These are concerned with the unfairness in the planning system which rewards the older, home-owning middle classes with these vast amounts of wealth at the expense of the poor and the young.

The Bad News - for us all

The Bad News refers to a forthcoming book by the Astronomer Royal, Professor Sir Michael Rees, "Our Final Century" in which he gives mankind only a 50-50 chance of surviving this century.

His list of worries include:

  • Nuclear megaterrorism
  • Supervolcanoes
  • Nanotechnology
  • Asteroids
  • Scientific experiments
  • Climate change

But who gives a damn? That's what's worrying.