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Inequality Policy Working Group

How should the Lib Dems attempt to tackle the problem of socio-economic inequality? We are working on new areas of policy for the Birmingham Federal Conference in September.

Members: 30
Latest Activity: Oct 20, 2013

Consultation Paper

 

This is our Consultation Paper: Inequality%20Consultation%20Paper.pdf - please let us know your thoughts and share it with interested parties.

 

There is a shorter summary of key areas of our enquiry here: Consultation%20Paper%20summary.pdf

Discussion Forum

Redistribution of wealth 6 Replies

Using the tax system to redistribute wealth is totally the wrong way to try and create economic justice.The tax system should be used solely as a way of using privately generated income and wealth to…Continue

Started by Robert Ivor Wootton. Last reply by Matthew Bleasdale Apr 28, 2012.

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Comment by Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera on September 8, 2011 at 18:34

Dear comrade Tony, 

 

Now, you have won me over totally.

 

I will catch up with you upon your return.

 

Yours

 

Ruwan

Comment by Tony Vickers on September 8, 2011 at 16:20

All fine - but what kind of taxes should fund these services? The ones we have been using all make productive enterprise much more expensive. No economy can survive 'taking in its own washing' or consuming, i.e. where is the export-led economic growth to come from? We cannot compete with the BRICs - not even on high-skilled jobs. I'm in India as I write this and NRIs (non resident Indians) from North America and Europe arew flocking back to excellent jobs in state-of-art software firms etc.

The only way out for the Rich West, to fund the services which I agree are needed to MAINTAIN - but cannot re-create - a more equal society (such as I grew up in, in the 60s) is to shift taxes MASSIVELY off wealth creation and onto Resource Rents, such as location value of sites.

We cannot "deal with inequality" here and now by sticking with the "model" we have (tax funded education, health etc), unless we first deal with our false model of where wealth comes from. Vince, Chris, Nick all understand that (its why they are involved with ALTER). And yes they/we are Economic Liberals - but that doesn't mean we are not ALSO Social Liberals! Economics should only exist in order to create and maintain a "Good Society" (b***er the Big Society, it's no more than hot air) and a Liberal society, such as we describe in our Party's preamble, can only happen if we fix economics first.

Joseph Rowntree said, in the Memorandum which set up the charitable foundation that is so good at tackling the symptoms of inequality, something like: "For every hundred good men who give money to the poor, we need just one to give the same as them to tackle the causes of poverty". He MEANT his endowment to deal with those causes. He was a great fan of Henry George (as am I) but it is all too easy to run a democracy on sticking plaster and fire engines - far harder to create an intrinsincally safe, fair and equal one.

So what I meant to say was that money and effort spent tackling causes of ills in society (and this is the Mother of all ills!) is money far better spent than what is happening now - spending our childrens' inheritance on keeping a leaky ship of state afloat with patched-up welfare systems.

There are Big Fish who will do all they can to stop this kind of change - and some of them are running organisations which are pillars of the Welfare State but who would be out of a job if change was undertaken.

Comment by Paul Catherall on September 8, 2011 at 11:58

I think we already have a model for dealing with inequality, it was created by Liberals in the 1900s, and developed in the 50s by Labour governments, it concerns the core tax funded systems in health and education, run to robust, accountable standards which provide the nurturing and support mechanisms for wider society to flourish. Theses systems were not party-political but were adapted and expanded by all the major parties, in line with the expectation of electoral voters.

So let's stop right here, before we begin any complex debate about inequality, there is really no point discussing this if we are dismissing the disestablishment of statutory curriculum led education, further and higher education funding, a straightforward NHS managed nationally and run at cost, and other emergent systems such as the national childcare framework surestart, civic libraries and information centres, youth employment services, health protection & health screening programes and a myriad of other areas facing the chop.

The dissafection of the youth and difficulties of older people, students and working families are all worsened by the loss of the above basic infrasturcture, as successive neoliberal governments, from Blair to Cameron, gradually disestablish this infrastucture over time, until we are accustomed and normalized to the US approach of a non- or minimal infrastucture system.

We are also not at the stage of more developed societies such as those in Sweden where liberalization of services is possible due to increasing levels of ppropserity, the wider prosperity of our society is moving backwards with increasingly unaffordable living costs, shrinking wages and a shrinking employment sector. Unlike many of the asian countries, which adopted a pragmatic approach to state industries and investment, our own governments reject interventionism, even down to penalising the Universities, drivers of educational-industrial liasion and research.

Laissz faire might be the mantra of LibDems but it is a failed mantra at the root of the US and latin American socio-economic collapses of the 70s.

Investment, enterprise and meritocracy should be the new mantra of progressive politics in the UK as the driver for equality and social justice, but it seems our current political establishment, with its oft vaunted enterprise credentials is doing just the opposite, failing even to release business funds via the banks or regulate tax better to stimulate spending and growth.

Comment by Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera on September 8, 2011 at 11:34

“In order to address inequality, we have to first understand how it arises”

 

As someone with a criminology background, I could not agree more with this statement, but naturally being one of the LibDem “frustrated socialists”, I do not necessarily agree that resolving inequality will be found only by “how our society treats wealth” and its distribution.  Perhaps Tony is a "frustrated Marxist"?

 

Marx himself would support Tony’s viewpoint, and that the socialism of his day did not deal with economic issues. Marx proposed that his ‘new’ economic system, which called for redistribution of wealth, was more equitable. These are points that we can all mull over whilst sitting back in front of a log fire during a cold winters afternoon sipping whatever takes ones fancy, but I am more interested at this moment in the ‘cold light of day’.

 

I disagree though wholeheartedly with the statement “So why deal with the symptoms when we have yet to tackle the cause? Isn't that a waste of precious resources?” 

 

Why cannot we deal with both the causes and the symptoms at the same time?  Yes, I would agree that dealing merely the symptoms, will not eradicate injustice, but neither will dealing only with the causes eradicate the very real suffering that is being experienced in society today.

 

Those suffering, or the potential victims today need the protection of legislation, hence I believe that we should to be constantly vigilante, and put in place checking mechanisms that will assist in eventually changing our culture as well as the environment to be equitable.  

 

I feel that the LibDems not being explicit about what our aims and objections, leaves our words open to misinterpretation by our current ‘bedfellows’, in the Coalition (as well as others), who frankly have little, if any credibility when it comes to trying to resolve the ‘ills of society’.  

 

It is for these reasons that I prefer to outline exactly what are the minimum standards required, rather than expect people know.  Undertaking an equality impact assessment (another process that the Tories seem to believe is merely ‘PC’ interference), is one way to make sure that people are made aware of potential injustice, and are expected to negate these fears by their subsequent actions.

 

I am more than happy to continue the Marx v Socialist debate in front of the fire!

Comment by Tony Vickers on September 8, 2011 at 4:49

In order to address inequality, we have to first understand how it arises. Whilst I understand Ruwan's concerns about Inclusion, I feel that the paper (and the policies it proposes) must stick to the economic analysis. The disadvantages that those groups listed in the Equality Act suffer will need addressing whatever policies are adopted - and our Party has worked out how.

But apart from these groups, there is a far greater injustice we must tackle which is ALL about how our society treats wealth: who creates it, who gets to have it and how it is spread around.

Economic theory tells us that only Capital and Labour create wealth. To do so, they need Land (not 'terra firma' but Nature in all its forms). But those who happen to have rights to Land will INEVITABLY take ALL the surplus wealth that the rest of us create - through the mechanism of economic rent and without lifting a finger - UNLESS Government acts to prevent this.

This is classic Liberalism. Socialists abandoned the idea - if they accept it, then they are no longer socialists! Like Neo-liberals (but for different reasons) they conflated Land with Capital, so that 'property' fails now (in common parlance) to separate 'building' from 'site'.

It is therefore very pleasing to see this paper put tax reform at the heart of our policies to tackle Inequality. I hate the term 'land value taxation' but we seem stuck with it. To put the policy in context, perhaps we need to see it part of an entirely different (but in former times natural) way of looking at Humankind's relations with Nature: Stewardship. As Julian Pratt puts it: "Private property without private ownership". Come and hear him discuss this with David Hall-Matthews at ALTER's fringe on Sunday at Birmingham.

See www.stewardship.ac and www.libdemsalter.org.uk.  ALTER has the contacts worldwide with those who can help us put Stewardship at the heart of a Liberal (Democrat) revival - making us distinctive from the Tories and attractive to frustrated socialists, like Ruwan!

As for welfare reform, the need for a Welfare State is very largely a result of our failure to address the fundamental cause of Inequality, as described above. So why deal with the symptoms when we have yet to tackle the cause? Isn't that a waste of precious resources? 

Comment by Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera on February 23, 2011 at 2:03
Last night I witnessed in Reading, the Borough Council ConDem coalition railroad through their buget meeting severe cuts to the voluntary sector. As of April 2011, the Reading Council for Racial Equality will lose it's core funding, although other non BME advocacy organisations have retained their funding.

The ConDem Members have shown little regard for due process and the rule of law in coming to this decision. No impact assessments, no consltation and no sign of openess and transparency. This is why we need to be explicit with regard to what we mean about inequality.

For many years the LibDems have talked a lot about equality and fairness, now that we have influence over the government we need to be seen to "walk the talk".

Last night, I was not proud of the majority of our brothers and sisters from he Reading LibDems, who seem to have only learnt the art of childish jeering and heckling.
Comment by Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera on February 22, 2011 at 10:34

Cameronism equals a return to a society being run by a political and social elite which may suit the aspirations of even some towards the right of the LibDems, but will not find favour with the vast majority of people once they realise that they are not members of this club.

 

If the LibDems allow Cameron and his peers to destroy the hard won rights for human rights, equality and fairness, then I fear that the public will not only blame the Tories, but also those that they perceive stood by and watched.

 

I believe that the LibDems need to swiftly make the public aware that it is still the party with a commitment to the development of an equitable society, where intolerance is not acceptable.  To convince the public of this, and specifically the most vulnerable, it necessary to see action, as opposed to rhetoric.

 

I would commend the leadership of the LibDems to stand and be counted.  It may cost us some votes in the short term, but the party may well win back some of the members who are presently disillusioned, and will seek solace in the Labour Party.

Comment by Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera on February 19, 2011 at 0:32
I fear that the party is too closely aligned at he moment to th Tories for it not to be tarnished with th same brush. Cameron is continun h erosion of civil rights, and members of his party desires to get rid of the Human Rights and Equality Acts.

Camerons expressed views on multi-culturalism were simplistic, and will merely fuel 'The Mail' and 'The Express' readerships hostility to all things different.

We Lib Dem's need to be able to divorce ourselves from Cameronism fast, before we too are seen as the problem and not the cure.
Comment by rory domm on February 13, 2011 at 17:30

Hi, I thought this was an interesting paper about a theme that libdems have placed at the heart of their narrative for government. So, this paper deserves widespread debate and attention.

 

While this is a consultation paper I feet that the readers could receive a little more guidance in the choices before them. For instance, it would have made sense to me to include more raw data on trends/patterns of inequality and in this way identify the biggest challenges. There is a huge range of sociological research out there that could be of assistance e.g. check out anthony heath's body of research (http://www.sociology.ox.ac.uk/index.php/details/104-a-conference-to...)

 

My feeling is that the most acute inequalities are to do with - early educational attainment and socioeconomic status (nothing changed under labour), inter-generational inequality, esp. for first time buyers (disaster under labour), income inequality (worsened under labour).

 

As it affects more personally, on FTBs I am disappointed with how lamely this issue has been treated by the coalition. The land tax identified in the consultation paper seems like the only solution, but I question the 'radical' qualifier in the text. I would rather replace it with 'fair' or 'effective'...

Comment by Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera on February 6, 2011 at 19:02

Hi David,

 

I now understand the rationale for the lack of the inclusion, but I would support the stance that the issues are as you put it inseparable.

 

Critics will only pick up on the exclusion, and may make mileage from this.  The community cohesion research that I was involved with for ACPO and the Home Office following the 2001 'Northern' disorders, highlighted socio-ecoomic problems as one of the major factors, and a catalysts for many other issues, including the growth of intolerance and racism.

 

Is there an opportunity to include the wider issues, as highlighted by the 'Protected Characteristics'? for I believe that this would give people something that they can then identify with.

 

Undertaking an equality impact assessment with regard to this consultation paper may well assist as well.

 

Please read my concerns as developmental as they are not meant to be anything else.  From a personal perspective 'Liberal Alan' has actually in my opinion answered the question of how to combat inequality in one word "Socialism".  I joined the Liberal Democrats exactly because they offered the most social minded and 'socialist' perspective, so I do not believe that we should be afraid to explicitly say what we mean.

 

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