Thursday, February 15, 2007



The cost of capitalism II

In the UK, people are similarly shocked by their placement at the bottom of Unicef's child-wellbeing league table. But they're not afraid to point the finger where it belongs, with many commenters attributing it directly to the UK's "dog eat dog" society. Neal Lawson, of left-wing group Compass, goes further and says clearly that emulating the US has led to poverty:

"The reason our children's lives are the worst is because we emulate the USA. We copy their labour market flexibility, love of the free market, their worship of business leaders. At the top are the nations prepared to tax, regulate and create the conditions for a strong society, so get the best of all worlds".

Meanwhile, Tony Blair is planning to force solo mothers to work once their children turn three. I'm sure that will help.

6 comments:

Very interesting comment. However, I think I would call it strong neo-liberalism rather than capitalism. All the coutntries noted are capitalist in one form or another, after all.

While there are conceptual arguments on negative social effects from neo-liberalism, the evidence has previously been a bit wanting. What there is can typically be ascribed to other causes, such as dislocation through immigration, urban decay or racism. So I find your point really quite intriguing.

Posted by kiwi_donkey : 2/15/2007 06:18:00 PM

Or the report is one of the classic UN pulling together data from different sources based on different years to draw up conclusions that the author already decided on before seeing the stats. I've seen it in fields I've worked in, many countries supply data that others don't have, some have data years out of date - so it gets used.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article1386888.ece points out the author may have his own baggage, of course the Times is not without it too, but as usual this debate is not informed by this report. Those for whom it suits their agenda will either denounce it completely or point fingers because of it.

The truth is better told as to whether things are getting better in particular countries, and that is what is very unclear. Child poverty in the UK is definitely on the decline, but violence is not for example.

On top of that, few comment that there may be bigger underlying cultural causes. Non english (as the first/only language) speaking countries tend to have far more intact families, disciplined children and more intimate/connected societies. Why? Is it language identity? Is it better in Western countries that suffered several years until Nazi/communist occupation, because there is more respect and appreciation for what they NOW have? I simply don't know - but it is clear it has nothing to do with GDP.

Posted by libertyscott : 2/16/2007 12:00:00 AM

I blame the English language, children who speak it are more likely to be stupid/ to die/ to be unloved/ and to be neglected, whereas adults who speak it are significantly more likely to have heart disease.

On a serious note, I would love to see the table alongside a table of social spending as a percentage of GDP, I think there would be greater correlation than any vague "free market" comparison.

Posted by james cairney : 2/16/2007 10:40:00 AM

It's a comparsion between countries, not between time periods.

And what are the stats in a socalist paradise such as a Communist society such as North Korea, or China?

Posted by Anonymous : 2/16/2007 11:52:00 AM

There has been a recognition in comparative poltical economic research since at least the 1980s that there are several family groups of national capitalism. The UNICEF report reinforces other research that shows that those with what used to be called "British liberty" almost catagorically do more poorly than particuarly the Social Democratic family. The exception among the Anglophones - Canada - seemingly proves the rule, with it having an alternative political culture firmly embedded in its political process.

Language is not the issue as such - rather it is institutions of practices and language. Particuarly, it would seem that increased democratisation of public decision making processes delivers the goods better than liberty.

Posted by Marcus Neiman : 2/16/2007 01:27:00 PM

I think you will find it is, in part, related to number of children
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_territories_by_fertility_rate
(for obvious reasons)

and
number of immigrants
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_immigrant_population
(no I don't have a problem with immigrants just saying it will be a factor)

and of course PPP income of the poorest 10% or so

and loosely related to population density
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population_density
(denser populations, eg singapore, are easier to handle)

and probably this
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_beer_consumption_per_capita
(for obvious reasons)

I'm also inclined to think cold countries will be better off.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/17/2007 12:02:00 PM