Friday, December 13, 2013

Still much the same

"Everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor or they will never be industrious," the English writer and traveler Arthur Young wrote in 1771.

That quote comes from a fascinating paper by Martin Ravallion, which traces -- from an economist's perspective -- the great shift in attitudes towards poverty over the past three centuries. For much of that time, poverty was regarded as necessary: "True, it was miserable for the poor," as The Economist commented recently. "But it also kept the economic engine humming by ensuring the availability of plentiful cheap labour." Not just cheap, but uneducated:
 "To make the Society happy and People easy under the meanest Circumstances, it is requisite that great Numbers of them should be Ignorant as well as Poor," the 18th century economist Bernard de Mandeville wrote.

One in six children in the UK still live in very poor households, according to the latest government figures.  One in five young people in its poorest areas are NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training).

 According to a Bloomberg National Poll.  64 percent of Americans say the US no longer offers everyone an equal chance to get ahead, and 68 percent say the income gap is growing. 

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