Polly on childcare

Ye Gods the woman can get things the wrong way around.

On one thing all agree with Liz Truss: UK childcare is crushingly expensive, costing some 27% of family income, preventing a million mothers from working. But the idea that deregulating and cutting staff ratios solves the problem is roundly debunked by an Institute for Public Policy Research report this week, challenging her claim that deregulation in the Netherlands has led to more and cheaper childcare. Dutch costs are low, as employers pay a third. Letting grandparents become paid minders caused a sudden apparent increase, at a heavy dead-weight cost. Quality fell.

Both the IPPR and Resolution Foundation urge Labour to go for universal, top-quality childcare, staffed by graduates and the highly trained, helping a million mothers back to work. It would cost £5bn. The IPPR suggests paying for it by freezing child benefit for 10 years. But why take more from struggling families when, the Resolution Foundation suggests, limiting pension tax relief to the basic rate would harvest £7bn.

Who pays for childcare doesn\’t change the total cost of childcare. And the UK does have some of the most expensive childcare in Europe with some of the least coverage. Meaning that we\’re doing something wrong. And making childcare cheaper by making it cost more just ain\’t the solution Honey. This universe just doesn\’t work that way.

Research has for decades kept proving that, by the age of three, a child\’s destiny is all but sealed by how much affection, conversation, reading and explaining they have received. Getting no love and no language relegates them to a lesser life.

I, just personally you understand, would be very careful of that statistic altogether. For if that is true then clearly and obviously one or other of the parents of the child must be actively prevented, barred, from paid employment for the first three years of the child\’s life.

Oh, and it also means that we can abolish entirely the rest of the system. If it\’s all set by age three then why bother spending elsewhere?

64 thoughts on “Polly on childcare”

  1. Polly’s answer to every problem is that everything would be fine if only University graduates were doing everything.

  2. So Much For Subtlety

    Polly says:

    Research has for decades kept proving that, by the age of three, a child’s destiny is all but sealed by how much affection, conversation, reading and explaining they have received. Getting no love and no language relegates them to a lesser life.

    Tim W says:

    I, just personally you understand, would be very careful of that statistic altogether. For if that is true then clearly and obviously one or other of the parents of the child must be actively prevented, barred, from paid employment for the first three years of the child’s life.

    It might also mean we should stop poor stupid people from having children. The age at which we can “make a difference” keeps getting pushed back further and further. It is no longer even in primary school but before then. Perhaps in five years or so the trend will be to say that it is even earlier – in the womb. And maybe at some point people will be forced to accept it is down to the genes.

    I hope not. But if we can’t do anything after the age of three, and I don’t see what we can do before the age of three, then eugenics is not far off.

    Oh, and it also means that we can abolish entirely the rest of the system. If it’s all set by age three then why bother spending elsewhere?

    Not abolish the rest of the system, but it does put the Left’s compliants about the 11 Plus in the shade. Presumably Polly’s objection is that we don’t have a 2 Plus.

  3. I was wondering about the price tag as well. She says 5bn. Assuming she means a year, it looks very low to me. There are 800,000 live births in UK. Assume 3 years (1-4) you get about 2.5m. Are you telling me you can get year round care for £2,000 a child? Especially with a 3:1 ratio? I don’t see how that can work.

  4. Dear Mr Worstall

    I wasn’t aware that the sole purpose of motherhood was to get back into employment as soon as possible so that mothers could afford to pay (or afford the taxes so the government could pay) strangers to look after their offspring, especially graduate and highly trained, certificated, licensed and CRB checked strangers.

    Call me old fashioned, but it seems to me that the best work for mothers is looking after their children. Save in rare instances, no other person would look after a child better than its own mother, since no other person has the biological connection with it.

    I dare say there are shed loads of research to disprove this quaint old idea.

    DP

  5. The question is : why is child care so expensive?. In days gone by anyone could set up as a child minder and such child care as existed being done by relatives or Old Mother Witchy. What is really needed for child care–a kindly, responsible, maternal woman who will keep the kids entertained and see that they don’t wander off/drink detol/pull pans off the stove etc. The cost comes in govt meddling in the “how” of childminding and in promoting the state’s hate-filled fantasy world where there are millions of paedos (instead of the tiny numbers that actually exist) lurking behind every bush.

  6. “It might also mean we should stop poor stupid people from having children.”

    Rather than positive action to stop them, simply remove the incentives, and they’ll stop themselves…

  7. It’s obvious that what we should do is make children in factories and ensure that each child is conditioned and nurtured to fit neatly into their place in society. That way both of Polly Toynbee’s fears (very early years nurture and unrealistic aspirations) can be solved in one simple way.

    It would also allow the rest of us to get on and enjoy our lives to the full without worrying about anyone else.

  8. @DP ‘Call me old fashioned, but it seems to me that the best work for mothers is looking after their children. Save in rare instances, no other person would look after a child better than its own mother, since no other person has the biological connection with it.’

    +1

  9. “Both the IPPR and Resolution Foundation urge Labour to go for universal, top-quality childcare, staffed by graduates and the highly trained, helping a million mothers back to work.

    Yes, let’s help low income mothers back into work by locking them out of a profession that they have some skills in- looking after children- by reserving them for women like Polly with degrees.

  10. Call me old fashioned, but it seems to me that the best work for mothers is looking after their children. Save in rare instances, no other person would look after a child better than its own mother, since no other person has the biological connection with it.

    I dare say there are shed loads of research to disprove this quaint old idea.

    My research suggests that my children have got a father.

  11. So Much For Subtlety

    JuliaM – “Rather than positive action to stop them, simply remove the incentives, and they’ll stop themselves…”

    This would serve your purpose and it would serve my purpose, but I am not sure it would serve Polly’s purpose. As her interest is in ending all inequality. Sure, it would reduce it, but it would not end it. Prohibiting poor people from having children would be even more effective, but she is unlikely to want to do that.

    Face it, higher income, higher IQ people will just have to go on working, giving more and more of the products of their labour, to poor people with low IQs who will continue to have even more children and vote for governments who will demand even more money from the higher income groups. At some point the system will break down. See Detroit.

  12. Rather than positive action to stop them, simply remove the incentives, and they’ll stop themselves…

    So in countries without child benefit – Niger, say – the birth rate is zero?

  13. True Paul, but this is not the case – in practical terms – for one parent families. And for one parent families the large majority involve the mother being the parent that looks after the child, not the father.

  14. “So in countries without child benefit – Niger, say – the birth rate is zero?”

    No of course not. However, when there are not financial incentives to have a child, it means that people tend to have children because they want them, not because they want the state benefits that come with them. The aim is not to reduce the birth rate, but to reduce the birth rate in those that cannot afford to look after children under their current circumstances (eg being 15 and having no partner or job).

  15. Countries without child benefits have vastly higher birth rates than countries with child benefits, with virtually no exceptions.

    This doesn’t mean that it’s sensible to suggest that slashing child benefit would lead to the UK’s birth rate immediately rising to the levels seen in Niger or Bangladesh. Because correlation doesn’t imply causation.

    But it does mean that the claim that child benefit causes people to have kids is probably bollocks. Because complete absence of correlation *does* imply complete absence of causation.

  16. Sara: JuliaM plainly said that if we “simply remove the incentives”, poor people will stop having children. Please explain what logical error you think I’ve made.

    Actually, now that I check, “poor stupid people” were specified. Are you saying that in Niger the poor stupid people don’t have children but the poor smart ones make up for it?

  17. Comparing countries as different as Niger and the UK probably isn’t going to be very useful.

    People in poor countries tend to have more children because of high infant mortality rates and because children are indeed economically valuable in such countries – but because the can help out with work not because they attract state benefits. Children in poor countries tend to become contributors to the economy much sooner for many reasons.

    In the UK, I don’t doubt for a moment that there are indeed plenty of people that do have children because of all the various benefits that doing so attracts. This is not just child benefit. Having children allows for a number of different benefits.

  18. It’s obvious, to solve this argument re: provision of social services/incentive to produce children you need a test case of a country with provision of full social services but no advanced economy.
    Down here, in Spain, we are doing our best to provide one.

  19. Sara: JuliaM plainly said that if we “simply remove the incentives”, poor people will stop having children. Please explain what logical error you think I’ve made.

    You’ve assumed the only incentive is child benefit. In Niger other incentives exist, which are not related to child benefit, but were you to remove these (whatever they are) then the people of Niger would have fewer children.

  20. Reading the link from Matt’s comment at #2, I was struck by this comment from the Grand Dame of Statism herself (on failing her 11 plus):

    I was judged on that day and I was found stupid.

    And she’s been doing her best to prove them right ever since …

  21. TN: Thanks, so I have. Are you saying that poor women in the UK would indeed stop having children if there were no state benefits, or are you saying that there are other incentives here which could we could also “simply remove”?

  22. This age-three destiny business has become something of a shibboleth. I’m sure I am alone in having run wild as a kid until being incarcerated in school from the age of four – by which time, it appears, the damage had been done. Can I claim compensation from anyone?

  23. Paul B – JuliaM plainly said that if we “simply remove the incentives”, poor people will stop having children. Please explain what logical error you think I’ve made.

    Leaving aside your ridiculously pedantic reading of her comment, your logical error, rather obviously, was in conflating the situation in Niger with that in the UK.

    In Niger, there is no child benefit or free council housing, and so it cannot be that these incentivise women to have children. Something else is in play – probably the traditional third world desire to have children as a means of increasing familial income through work (of course, there are other factos, such as ignorance of and/or the lack of availability of contraception).

    It is a trivial concept in economics that if you subsidise something you get more of it. In the UK, we subsidise child bearing via the benefits system and other incentives.

    Therefore, we get more child-bearing.

    If we removed those incentives, we would get less. (I leave it to others to say whether this would be a good or a bad thing, but it is undoubtedly so.)

  24. PaulB I think what is being said is that fewer people would have children they could not afford to have, if they were not paid to do so. This seems a fairly uncontroversial claim – ie that removing a subsidy for X will see less of X.

    (The two options you offered TN are not the only two possibilities so it is quite possible he was saying neither).

  25. Paul B – Actually, now that I check, “poor stupid people” were specified. Are you saying that in Niger the poor stupid people don’t have children but the poor smart ones make up for it?

    No. I’m saying that in Niger, poor people, stupid or smart, have children because they are incentivised to do so.

    They just have different incentives than people in the UK.

    Indeed, as in most developing economies, in Niger the children are an incentive *in themselves*.

    What we are doing in the UK is, at vast expense, turning children into incentives.

    In Niger, they help to support the family through work.

    Here they are tickets to benefits and property that would not be forthcoming if they did not exist.

  26. “This age-three destiny business has become something of a shibboleth.”

    When Polly says “Research has for decades kept proving that, by the age of three, a child’s destiny is all but sealed..” according to the very helpful factcheckingpollyanna link above, she’s quoting herself in 2004, quoting research done in 1970. So that’s from a world before the educational changes that’ve been introduced since, to remedy the situation the research is describing.

  27. Maybe, just maybe, if you find it too expensive to pay other people to look after your children, you should try looking after them yourself?

    Radical, I know, but sometimes that’s required.

  28. Andrew, I would agree with you if the cost of childcare came about because it is an inherently expensive service to provide. However, where much of the cost is caused by government interference, then it seems reasonable to look at if there is anything the government could stop doing in order to bring the cost down.

  29. “Who pays for childcare doesn’t change the total cost of childcare”

    Err, no. Milton Friedman’s three types of spending applies here as elsewhere. If the gvt pays, costs will go up and up and up.

  30. Sara: well yes, I agree about incentives. Any time the government offers benefits to alleviate financial distress, it makes people less unwilling to incur such distress. The question is one of balance between the direct humanitarian effect of the benefit, and its indirect tendency of it to make things worse. In striking this balance, we need to know how important this incentive effect is.

    So it’s not pedantic of me to question JuliaM’s implication that the incentive effect is very large, it’s going to the heart of the question.

    Try applying the arguments to another benefit. We offer considerable state support to tetraplegics. That provides an incentive for people to engage in dangerous sports. Should we therefore remove the state support?

  31. Many would say that becoming a tetraplegic is a disincentive in and of itself in a way that having a child is not.

  32. Its very simple: having a child unlocks the key to the benefits system. Be a single unemployed woman, and life is pretty grim on benefits. Get yourself up the duff and suddenly a whole different vista of cash payments and housing options are on the table. I have a female friend, who works exceedingly hard (getting up at 5am most mornings working in a racing stable) in order to pay her rent, council tax, petrol to get herself to work (an increasingly expensive part of living nowadays), utility bills, food etc. She often is counting the pennies to the end of the month. She cannot afford to go out at all. She worked out that if she had a child, as a single mother, she would be no worse off, possible better off, and of course she wouldn’t have to get up at 5am to work (and pay taxes) in order to live.

    I think that’s a fairly big stonking incentive to have kids IMO.

  33. ” We offer considerable state support to tetraplegics. That provides an incentive for people to engage in dangerous sports. Should we therefore remove the state support?”
    Very good example Paul. By socialising the consequences of dangerous sports we do indeed remove one of the disincentives to taking part in them.
    “Should we therefore remove the state support?”
    Why not? In most other fields, the risk factor is part of the price of engaging in the activity. High performance cars attract high insurance premiums. Employers in dangerous occupations suffer high liability insurance. It’s sport that’s one of the exceptions.

  34. Paul B

    I was once a very firm believer in the benefits system – ironically, on the humanitarian grounds you mention.

    I suppose the real question here is whether giving people money (and the old Daily Mail favourite, a flat) actually IS humanitarian?

    In the short term and for short periods, I would accept that it is.

    In the long term, I think it creates many problems indeed.

    This is probably a fault line between us.

    I don’t know what you do, or where you live, and you may obviously have a lot of experience of people in this milieu.

    For myself, I have spent the last 20 years of my working life with people on benefits.

    Generalisation is dangerous, I know, but I have met many hundreds of women who have had multiple children by multiple men, who subsist on benefits.

    Some of them will happily concede, if you are the right person, that they only had the children in the first place to get the benefits. Others are happy to say it was a major factor (‘I’d have had an abortion but…’

    Now, of course, they are trapped.

    The children are almost always relatively unloved; they are under nourished; they do not do well at school. Not all of this is due to their mothers’ position, but much of it is; it is much easier to raise one or two children with their father, than five children by different men with no permanent male help.

    The men are generally either violent, amoral thugs, or hopeless, idle and feckless. The one thing the unites all of them, I would say, is their utter selfishness.

    As you say: ‘In striking this balance, we need to know how important this incentive effect is.’

    I would say it is very large indeed. I have come to believe that it is the benefits system which has produced this. It was probably always latent – human nature is slow to change, I suspect – but the welfare state enables it. I am not equipped to design a means of testing the effect. I’m not even sure if it is testable.

    ‘So it’s not pedantic of me to question JuliaM’s implication that the incentive effect is very large, it’s going to the heart of the question.’

    Sorry, I thought you were impishly suggesting the effect was total ie that she seriously meant it would lead to a zero birth rate.

    ‘Try applying the arguments to another benefit. We offer considerable state support to tetraplegics. That provides an incentive for people to engage in dangerous sports. Should we therefore remove the state support?’

    I suspect the incentive effect is weaker there – most people engaging in dangerous sports, I think, do not do so ‘because if I break my back I will be given a motorised wheelchair’. But it’s an interesting point.

    I’m not saying there should be no support for single mothers, or anyone else; I’m saying that the support helps to create the problem, and that – unlike in the case of the tetraplegic – there is another very directly involved person at the heart of the issue – the child. (I appreciate the that parents can become tetraplegics but I’m sure you will see the distinction.)

  35. If we need graduates to look after children, what do we do about non-graduate parents?
    Since Polly never finished her degree, and is hence not a graduate, presumably she had someone else who had finished their degree look after her children?
    Personally I fail to see why an English degree is necessary to teach an infant letters, and can see no relevance to teaching them to count (vice versa for a maths degree of course). What possible use it will be in keeping kids out of trouble and mopping up I can’t imagine.
    Once upon a time well educated people paid less educated ones to keep their children safe whilst they themselves put their education to use. The less educated teamed up and took turns looking after each others children.
    We seem to be moving to a world where well educated people are paid to childmind, and are paid for by the childless. Given the demand for childminding we end up with graduates being paid out of the surplus from a shop assistant’s wages.

  36. @paulB
    becoming tetraplegic is by and of itself physically painful, conceiving a child is the reverse.
    Injuring yourself is against human instinct, the desire to have children is instinctively strong.
    Persuading people to take more risks will therefore require a much stronger incentive than persuading them to have children.

  37. @PaulB and all his critics
    Individuals are individuals. Consequently they react in different ways to the same set of incentives. So changing the benefit system to eliminate an incentive to become a single mother is virtually certain to lead to a reduction in the number who choose to become single mothers but at the same time will impose a degree of hardship to (or reduce the comfortable standard of living of) those who are single mothers (not always by choice).
    There is a trade-off between advantages and disadvantages for any plausible political policy.

  38. @ Sara
    You seem exceptionally unfortunate in your selection of female acquaintances. I have known a substantial number of step-fathers (and a smaller number of step-mothers – my work and leisure environments both have a majority of males over females whereas my wife’s are overwhelmingly female) who have/do treat(ed) their stepchildren as their own. One of my friends wanted, when her mother left her stepfather to become (again) a single parent, to go with her stepfather but her mother was prepared to use the courts to prevent her.
    You say that “The children are almost always relatively unloved; they are under nourished; they do not do well at school.” and yet you say of the men, most of whom you have never met “The one thing the unites all of them, I would say, is their utter selfishness.” Just *who* has chosen to go onto benefits rather than working like Jim’s friend?

  39. But why take more from struggling families when, the Resolution Foundation suggests, limiting pension tax relief to the basic rate would harvest £7bn.

    Fucking helski, they really do believe that money grows on trees!

  40. “Sara // Oct 19, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Paul B

    I was once a very firm believer in the benefits system – ironically, on the humanitarian grounds you mention.”
    So was I.
    Until I realised that single mums I know (who had chosen to become single mums) live in nicer houses than I can afford.
    After a couple of years of that (I know but I used to read the Guardian) – I thought that the system should change!

  41. “john77 // Oct 19, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    @PaulB and all his critics
    Individuals are individuals. Consequently they react in different ways to the same set of incentives. So changing the benefit system to eliminate an incentive to become a single mother is virtually certain to lead to a reduction in the number who choose to become single mothers but at the same time will impose a degree of hardship to (or reduce the comfortable standard of living of) those who are single mothers (not always by choice).”
    No neccessarily those who are not single mums by choice will probably be able to get help from Charity.
    And of course society would benefit from having lower taxes which would have multiple other benefits!

  42. Injuring yourself is against human instinct, the desire to have children is instinctively strong.

    I think that’s where I came in.

    For the most part, poor people are like rich people but without the money.

  43. @ David
    I wish that you were right but most such charities have been totally devastated by inflation. A few were bequeathed land and told to use the rental income for their charitable purposes but any that were donated money have seen its value reduce by more than 90% while the population has more than doubled.

  44. Apologies to Tim and all – I got distracted.
    Since we do not have university degrees in childminding, why does Polly think that there is any benefit in employing graduates? Do I detect a hint of snobbery? Or is this inverse snobbery – graduates needed for childminding while non-graduates can do “more valuable” jobs like writing tripe for the Grauniad?

  45. Why must it be the state that provides the backup to those who are in hard times. Charity and family can provide it. In fact they did provide it until the state took over in the belief that it could to a better job – NOT!

  46. John77 – ‘You seem exceptionally unfortunate in your selection of female acquaintances.’

    They’re not acquaintances John, they’re people I work with in a certain way. It is a sample and anecdotal, I get that, but I’ve done 21 years now, first in Liverpool and for the last 16 in Hackney, Haringey and not Tottenham. I’ve seen things that would make your eyes bleed.

  47. So Much for Subtlety

    bloke in spain – “she’s quoting herself in 2004, quoting research done in 1970. So that’s from a world before the educational changes that’ve been introduced since, to remedy the situation the research is describing.”

    I would struggle to think of a single thing that has been done since 1970 to make learning better for anyone except the officials of the Teachers’ Union. What educational changes have they introduced to remedy the situation? You mean abolishing teaching more or less altogether? As what a child does not get at home, they are not going to find in a school these days.

  48. @Sara
    I am so old that I had to learn how to use English at school (as well as my tables): if you care to look up “acquaint” and “acquaintance” in the OED you might find that I was using the word correctly in a non-judgemental fashion.
    You have no idea what would make my eyes bleed. When I started school the boys wore shorts (many of them patched) because knees healed cheaper than torn trousers; I’ve worked in Albania where bank managers got paid less than single mothers (and even single women without children) on benefits in the UK or USA, so *you* probably can’t understand the incomes of the really poor; I’ve seen one-year-old council flats that were slums and Victorian back-to-backs with outside toilets where you could safely eat your meal off the floor – except that it would have given the housewife a heart attack; admittedly I’ve never seen a “Baby P” or “Victoria Climbie” case because where I grew up that sort of thing was taboo and any decent guy would have flattened the male perpetrator and struggled past the female perpetrator to take the kid to hospital but having grown up in the aftermath of Belsen and Auschwitz, seen what stalinists did to Ethiopia, Mao, Pol Pot, to a lesser extent the Viet Cong (the Daily Worker told us a lot about their exemplary treatment of civilians that made Agent Orange look civilised), Congo, Sudan etc, I suffer from mental callouses and just try to help those trying to make things better rather than crying.
    My point was that, having talked to the single mothers and hardly any of the fathers, you were categorising *all* the fathers as being utterly selfish: that is just as bigoted as those who suggest all single mothers are trying to free-ride the benefits system. It is also WRONG. My own anecdata does do not prove anything about a *majority* of missing fathers, but it does prove that your comment about “all of them” is utterly false. All you *can* say is that your biased sample complains, often without evidence, about the selfishness of the men who have fathered their children whom they themselves neglect. I agree that the fact that they are single mothers is a prima facie case that many of the fathers are selfish and/or idle and/or feckless (NB idle and feckless are not pseudonyms) – or that they are violent (NB violence has quite a small overlap with the other categories of complaint), but your postulate that none of the fathers have died or been deserted or been dumped for a new lover while working away to support the family or driven away by the female’s violence sounds like the sort of “feminist” propaganda for which other feminists deny responsibility.

  49. So Much for Subtlety

    PaulB – “For the most part, poor people are like rich people but without the money.”

    Actually that is not true. We can see that in any number of ways the poor and the middle class behave. Sure, the poor are a lot like that part of the wealthy who did not come out of the middle class – the Royals for instance are just trailer park trash with a lot of money. But they are not like the middle class in many respects.

    That is why poor people are poor and middle class people are middle class. Or more important for this discussion, why mobility is slowing and the children of the poor are poor and the children of the middle class are not. Behaviour matters and if your parents don’t teach you how to succeed no one else will.

    49 SadButMadLad – “Why must it be the state that provides the backup to those who are in hard times. Charity and family can provide it. In fact they did provide it until the state took over in the belief that it could to a better job – NOT!”

    I have no problems with the State providing for hard times. But the sine qua non must be that the poor are better off after people like Polly try to help them than before. That there is not just a short term but a long term benefit. Now that is clearly not the case in the UK any more if it ever was.

    And the system is not sustainable.

    So the issue is not who should be providing the charity. The issue is how do we fix it so that people who need charity are better off and will not need it as soon as possible.

  50. “….no other person would look after a child better than its own mother, since no other person has the biological connection with it.”

    Various other people have commented on the scientific inaccuracy of that statement, so I won’t. However, may I gently remind the commenter that fathers can look after children just as well as mothers can?

    More importantly, though, I think the commenter has completely misunderstood Polly. Polly and her kind DON’T believe that the best carers for under-threes are their parents. They believe that the best carers are experts in child development. That’s why she wants an increase in childcare staffed by university graduates. Send the unqualified, untrained mothers (or fathers) back to work so that their children can be properly looked after by highly trained, qualified staff.

  51. @ Frances
    But she wants them to be looked after by university graduates (in what – astrophysics. mediaeval French literature, mechanical engineering, palaeontology …?)

  52. So Much for Subtlety

    Frances Coppola – “Polly and her kind DON’T believe that the best carers for under-threes are their parents.”

    She really does believe this doesn’t she? Did you ever see such contempt for the working class from the sanctimonious middle class? Not since the Rectors’ wives had to go around lecturing the poor on good housekeeping etc etc. She really is an old fashioned sort of Tory – and not the good sort.

    Still I would get more worked up about this except for the small fact that she has a point. Not about the poor generally, but Tony Blair introduced an utterly Orwellian scheme where poor mothers were placed in “secure housing” and brow beaten into better mothering by the State. It seems to have worked but I don’t know there are good figures. Some of the underclass really do seem to need it. Sad as it is to say.

    The welfare state has produced women unable to do what any feral cat can do – reproduce successfully.

    56 Martin Davies – “I can find her some male war studies graduates. Maternal instincts of a howitzer perhaps…”

    Alas for some that would be an improvement.

  53. Pingback: Why Polly is so strange over child care

  54. John77

    ‘@Sara You have no idea what would make my eyes bleed.’

    Since you are clearly something of an elderly pedant, I suppose I bought to point out that I was using the phrase metaphorically – the nothing that you see can make your eyes *bleed*. It was a *figure of speech*, containing some fairly obvious latitude.

    Men of the world such as yourself have obviously see horrors the like of which the rest of us can only imagine.

    But, off the top of my head, in the last couple of years: a boy of two who had had cigarettes stubbed out on his by his coke-addict mother; a boy of three who had been repeatedly raped by his mother’s new partner and had to have his colon removed; routinely, kids who are being beaten, starved, sexually abused. One girl who was not allowed to leave her bedroom except (oddly) to go to school – the windows of which bedroom had been covered with newspaper and taped shut.

    OK, it didn’t *literally* make my eyes bleed either. Maybe you’d shrug it off.

    ‘I’ve worked in Albania where bank managers got paid less than single mothers (and even single women without children) on benefits in the UK or USA, so *you* probably can’t understand the incomes of the really poor’

    Kudos. I could see your Albania and raise you Burundi, where I took a six month sabbatical in 2008, but that would be puerile.

    ‘admittedly I’ve never seen a “Baby P” or “Victoria Climbie” case’

    Those are my speciality, unfortunately.

    ‘because where I grew up that sort of thing was taboo and any decent guy would have flattened the male perpetrator’

    Right. And you don’t see that this is the whole point: you grew up decades ago, things are different now. Apart from anything else, you would probably be arrested if you ‘flattened the male perpetrator’ – if you weren’t stabbed or shot. Of course, you could report the matter to us, but you’d certainly have to move out of the area, or risk being burned out.

    ‘My point was that, having talked to the single mothers and hardly any of the fathers, you were categorising *all* the fathers as being utterly selfish:’

    Perhaps you can point to where I said I don’t talk to the fathers? That aside, the ones I have met – none of whom *you* have met – have all been selfish. How else would you categorise a man who abandons his children?

    ‘All you *can* say is that your biased sample complains, often without evidence, about the selfishness of the men’

    Do you dress up as Batman in your spare time and stand on Buckingham palace? It’s my view that they’re selfish. I can’t remember the last time I heard any of the women I’ve encountered use that word. They prefer ‘bastard, or ‘shithead’.

    I perhaps didn’t make clear, but my line of work brings me into contact with the men, as well, and I’m just as familiar with their side of the story. I think the women are just as selfish, generally.

    Re the men, no evidence? Abandoning your kids for a life in the bookies, the pub and the crackhouse is pretty clear to me.

  55. @PaulB ‘For the most part, poor people are like rich people but without the money.’

    Tripe. Not all but many of the Western poor are poor because of their choices and behaviour.

    Let’s assume ‘average’ means something.

    If you gave the average middle class family – still, just about, a couple with kids – a million pounds, the first thing they’d do is buy a nicer house in a better area. Next would be school fees. After than, holidays, bigger telly, iPads etc.

    If you gave the average poor family – the average being a woman, her kids and possibly their non-biological father – a million quid, they would spunk it up the wall in short order on booze, bling and tellies.

    It’s just the way it is.

    Equally obviously, recognising it means death to socialist ideas of redistribution.

  56. Interested: I give you Michael Carroll, self styled ‘King of the Chavs’, winner of just under £10m on the lottery in 2002, now on Jobseekers allowance.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Carroll_(lottery_winner)

    I have always said that if all wealth was redistributed so everyone had exactly equal on Day 1, in the absence of any State intervention, within 10 years the distribution would be as unequal as now.

  57. So Much For Subtlety

    Sara – “I can’t remember the last time I heard any of the women I’ve encountered use that word. They prefer ‘bastard, or ‘shithead’.”

    Well in all fairness they aren’t going to say they took the children of a perfectly decent husband and father and never let them see him again are they? In short, they would say that wouldn’t they? Next time ask them why the f**k they married (shacked up with, or whatever) such a total ar$ehole and see their response.

    “Abandoning your kids for a life in the bookies, the pub and the crackhouse is pretty clear to me.”

    Sure, but somehow I think a large part of this argument could be avoided if both sides just accepted that while a large part of the underclass may be feckless and stupid and terrible Fathers, actually in reality there are also decent men who have had their children taken away by bitter and vindictive ex-wives through no real fault of their own. It does happen.

    61Jim – “I have always said that if all wealth was redistributed so everyone had exactly equal on Day 1, in the absence of any State intervention, within 10 years the distribution would be as unequal as now.”

    I think we have done this experiment before – in 1919 the Soviet peasants spontaneously took and redistributed all the farmland. Equally more or less. A few years later, Stalin had all the Kulaks (ie those who worked hard or were just plain lucky … up to that point) deported to Siberia where they were worked to death.

    The question is whether society as a whole would be the same. I mean, the same people in the same positions. Having met some of our upper class rulers, I doubt many Ho0ray Henries would be doing as well if they were suddenly on the same level as ASBO Andy. Some of them, no doubt, but not many. But what about Sensible Stephen and Reliable Robert? I think if we re-distributed wealth evenly, our Middle Class would be middle class still and in a few years, the sons of doctors would be at medical school. So change at the top and at the bottom but not a lot inbetween.

  58. @PaulB ‘I suggest that the availability heuristic is clouding people’s judgment of this issue.’

    I dunno. Maybe spend some time on a few council estates, see if it’s all some fallacy of the mind.

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