Danny Dorling: stop listening to this man.

At close to £21 an hour, which translates to an annual salary of just over £40,000, you are bang in the middle of the best rewarded fifth of all employees. You earn getting on to twice the national average. In short, you are, in relative terms, rich.

No, you\’re not.

You have a relatively high income, yes. But that is not the same as rich. For rich refers to wealth, a stock, not to income, which is a flow. And that sort of intellectual sloppiness does not bode well for someone trying to give an analysis of how this all happened.

For much of the 20th century, the income gap in Britain narrowed steadily as we gradually became a more equal society. In 1918 the richest 1% of earners was rewarded with 19% of all income, receiving about 19 times more than the average earner. By 1935 the top 1%\’s share of income had fallen to 14%; by 1950, 12%; by 1960, 9%; by 1970, 7%; and by 1980, 6% (and only 4% after taxes).

This was all achieved without stipulating a ratio from top to bottom – but it was much lower than 20:1. And, in fact this process towards a more equal society seemed inexorable, an almost natural consequence of an advanced democracy. During these years – the three decades or so after the end of the second world war – this trend was part of the political consensus.

However, in the late 1970s a few of us got greedy; the rest of us failed to stop the greedy, and they spread their ideas around (if not their money).

You what? We\’re to take seriously the argument that there was some outbreak of greed? What is this man smoking? It\’s all come about as a result of the destruction of self restaint or something?

It\’s not unusual to look for economic causes for economic changes. Rather than, you know, moral ones.

That the turning point in inequality came as globalisation returned – almost to the moment in fact -and that this rise in inequality happened in all of the industrialised nations at the same time might give some people pause for thought.

Although not, apparently, Danny Dorling. Which is probably why we shouldn\’t be listening to him on the subject.

Oh, and he elides between CEO salaries and CEO total income after bonuses and share vestments. Man\’s just not being honest.

20 comments on “Danny Dorling: stop listening to this man.

  1. They want to institute a cap of thirty quid an hour over on CiF. Hmm. That’s a tenth my current income – I’m in a sought-after field. So what stops me moving to New York or Sydney? I could work in plenty of places if I am happy to work for a fraction of my current income, and some of them are sunny, like Tonga.

  2. “It’s all come about as a result of the destruction of self restaint or something?”

    Mmm, but the man might well be onto something there. Would you really try to argue that there HASN’T been a lack of self-restraint over the last 20-30 years?

  3. @Julia, I don’t think the argument is about whether the has been a lack of self restraint, but rather whether this is something that has only come about in the last 20-30 years, or whether this is part of being human. (The Romans for example seemed to excel in a lack of self restraint).

  4. What an idiot. Equality expert? WTF? As you point out, wealth is about assets, not income. If he doesn’t get that then he should simply shut up.

    But I agree with the ‘lack of self-restraint’ exhibited of late and boardroom greed is a real problem, to the extent that really quite mediocre people find themselves in the right place at the right time and hold investors to ransom. It is little more than an attempt to create new money to drive out the old.

  5. Could agree with the ‘self restraint’ argument if it hadn’t been such a big thing with the left; that ‘self restraint’ in everything else was repressive. Did they think that only the chattering classes were listening?

    Bit like endlessly preaching ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ then getting all peevish when you find out the guy next door is screwing your wife.

  6. Speaking from experience at £40k p.a. you would not be able to leave in the sort of house single mums get given for free in many parts of London.

  7. “However, in the late 1970s a few of us got greedy…”. I don’t think this notion is entirely vacuous. I’d be astonished if there weren’t many people who witnessed the unions’ antics in the 70s and thought “Two of us can behave like that, chum”.

  8. Is this a cap on paid employment or income from any source? Cos if the former, I reckon big cigar smoking capitalists all over the country would be rubbing their hands together with glee.

    Lets apply this wage cap to a well known industry that pays (very) high wages – football. Under the new wage cap, the highest you could pay a footballer would be £30/hour or about £58K/year. But football generates massive revenues, in the billions. So who is going to get this money? Not the workers, as they are forbidden by law. So the football clubs would be making mega bucks, thereby increasing their share values many fold, and paying out massive dividends. Of course the best players would leave for abroad, but I bet plenty of people would pay to see Man U and Liverpool, even if their teams were denuded of international, or even national, talent. Team loyalty dies hard.

    So its a policy designed to reduce the amount of money paid to labour, and increase the returns for capital. Great news for all us evil capitalists!

  9. It is not the job of a newspaper columnist to inform or challenge his readers. The columnist’s job is to tell the newspaper’s target audience what they want to hear, because people are much more likely to buy a product if it makes them feel good about themselves.

    That means flattering the readers (e.g. “the rest of us failed to stop the greedy”) and appealing to their prejudices. So the fact that Guardian columnists often write such rubbish isn’t just a problem with individual hacks or even with the Guardian itself. It’s a structural problem in the newspaper industry.

    It can’t be solved by taking newspapers into public ownership or requiring them to be run as non-profit organisations. Some hacks would still pander to their audience because they wanted to be popular. Editors and owners would still look at market share as a measure of their influence. Any journalists who did stop worrying about what the audience wanted would become complacent and lazy.

    The only real antidote is to have a very open media environment in which it is no longer possible for a few outlets to dominate political debate. The internet has made the development of such an environment possible. But for a large part of the 20th century political debate was dominated by the second-rate thoughts of a tiny media class, and in retrospect that was very harmful.

  10. Andrew Zalotocky // Nov 28, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Thought the Graun was a non-profit organisation.

    Apart from that A f*****g men.

  11. The Guardian Rich List:

    Junior Doctor
    Police Sergeant
    Fire Station Chief
    BBC Cameraman
    Primary School Head
    etc.

    Greedy bastards, every one of them.

  12. Extend the 30-quid/hr. limit to politicians and see what happens. I imagine that stimulus would evoke a collective, “Erm, well then! Nevermind!”

  13. What he’s trying to say in massive subtitles here is “it’s all FATCHA’S fault” – when people quack on about some kind of societal shift in the late 70s/early 80s it’s always an attempt to blame Thatcher’s market reforms for unleashing some enormous plague of greed.

    However, it’s also exactly the time that the selfish baby boomer arseholes got into positions of power and started hogging all the goodies; individualism didn’t start with the Tories but with the soixante-huitards and their egocentric “we are owed the world and owe respect to no-one” cobblers

  14. AZ

    “The columnist’s job is to tell the newspaper’s target audience what they want to hear”

    I tend to agree but I am mystified as to why the Telegraph employs dildos like Louise Gray and Geoffrey Lean (to churn out press release after press release from warmist propaganda factories) and Mary Riddell (to inform Telegraph readers what the Guardian is purveying that day).

    Although the Telegraph blog comments on the output of the above indicate that, by and large, the readership is highly unappreciative of these journalists’ efforts, the Barclay brothers still appear happy to keep said journalists employed. It appears that the Barclays’ attitude mirrors Dave’s treatment of his core vote ie “if they don’t like the Telegraph, where else do these readers go?” Actually they’ll just stop coughing up. Accordingly, as Dave’s core vote melts away so, I suspect, will the core readership of the Telegraph – and for similar reasons.

  15. Umbongo: no, what you’re doing there is confusing “the nutters who comment on blogs” (yes, the irony, it kills me) with “the people who read the paper”.

    In real life, there are plenty of Telegraph readers who aren’t AGW denialists, and/or who do subscribe to Riddell’s nannyish social agenda. The Barclays run those pieces because their research indicates that the readers are interested in them, not because of some bizarre left-wing conspiracy.

  16. You mean john b that there are lots of committed fanatic climate gaia worshippers who deny that climate ever changes (the real deniers), and who want to kill millions of people to justify their beliefs ? And they read the Telegraph ? Are you one of those would-be mass murders too ?

  17. Yes. That’s exactly what I mean.

    I could have meant “the Telegraph is read by many ageing upper-and-middle-middle-class types who are centre-right in party politics, but basically subscribe to the scientific consensus on AGW and the chattering-classes consensus on nanny statery – especially among its female readers, who tend to be less ideological than its male readers”.

    But I didn’t. I meant that the Barclay brothers sit next to me and George Monbiot at every monthly “how can we kill millions of people and get away with it, mwahahaha” meeting, and that we use encrypted messages in the Telegraph as a way of communicating to our brethren.

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