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Child Benefit, Sir Philip Green, Tuition Fees and all that

October 12, 2010

The only thing everybody is now talking about is government spending and how to reduce it. As the torch is shining into more and more areas and on those who will be affected – mothers, students, benefit seekers, public sectors workers and so on- we hear the inevitable  OUCH NOT ME ! as if until now nobody actually understood that government has to save billions of pounds.

The word “fair” resonates with most people and therefore politcians have used the word “fair” a lot over the past months in the hope to find a common demoninator for the impending spending cuts.

To come to a proper understanding of what  fair means and for politicians to act properly on fairness rather than succumbing to those who shout loudest, people have to start looking at themselves in the context of the bigger picture.  State and a society is a ‘give and take’;  it is not about what the state owes me, but also what contributions can I make.  If I understand David Cameron correctly his ‘Big Society’ is based on that principle.

I share peoples’ frustration about improper benefit claims, but what really makes my blood boil is tax evasion from the better off.  We should take no lesson from Sir Philip Green, however clever his advice might be, since we heard the news that his wife pays taxes in another country. Why? To avoid her “fair” contribution in this country, I assume.  As  long as tax dodging is so easily acceptable  I have little hope for the Big Society.

By the way I don’t just  have a go at the super rich.  I suspect there is a bit of a Lady Green in all of us belonging to the ‘squeezed middle’.

The sad consequence of affluence and wealth is that it has made us less not more cohesive. And it hasn’t made us happier either, as an international study on Health and Well-being concluded. Beyond a certain level of affluence our happiness doesn’t significantly increase.  In countries with big  gaps between rich and poor,  people are generally unhappier and not just the poor but the rich as well.

I have heard some people bemoaning the loss of community spirit and cohesion saying ‘we need a war to bring it back’.  I hope the impending spending review won’t end up in a war, but maybe in some strange way this crisis is good for us.  It might force us  to rethink our attitudes towards state and society,  our understanding of fairness and how we all contribute  towards a fairer society.

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