Do we have to put up with this damned idiocy?

Our social status also shapes how fair we think the world is. The higher we rank income-wise, the fairer we think inequality is. And our views shift with our social position. Moving down the income ladder, or losing your job, makes you recognise inequality as less fair.

Crippled JC on a goddam pogo stick.

Seriously, why do we have to put up with this sort of idiocy? What sort of damn fool equates class and income in Britain of all countries?

27 thoughts on “Do we have to put up with this damned idiocy?”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    So people think the system is fair when they succeed and unfair when they do not? Big deal. Who would expect otherwise?

    Sounds like a good reason to ignore people who complain.

  2. SMFS, that’s always been basically my position.

    If the Greens have to labour under the lash to provide all the goodies I want, I’d agree that I wasn’t really that bothered about their doctrine. It’s the fact that they want me to labour under the lash to produce all the goodies they want that has long since convinced me that their approach is pure bullshit.

  3. This is from the designer of the “Edstone”. So daft though it may be, it is a long way from demonstrating just how stupid somebody once described as “terrifyingly bright” can be in practice.

  4. Dunno. Why are the people who shriek the loudest about various and ever more ludicrous forms of alleged “inequality” posh and/or rich? Not many working class people writing for the Guardian or in the Labour shadow cabinet.

    Of course, another few months of BloJo and his lockdowns and we’ll all be equally miserable and unemployed.

  5. For a moment there I thought this was about the new lockdown.
    The new variant covid can only be more infectious than old covid if it doesn’t prevent people from being up and about. So it will be less deadly than an already not-very-deadly disease.
    I predict that nearly no one will die of it.
    This is the classic trajectory of viral epidemics. Yet we’re told it’s “unprecedented” as if we were born yesterday.

  6. @philip

    I haven’t looked at the data on why they think the new variant is more transmissible and it wouldn’t surprise me if the variant was largely being used as political cover to justify a clampdown that medical leaders had been calling for for some time.

    What you’re saying is actually wrong in principle though. I think you’re referring to the idea that a “successful” virus benefits from getting better at transmission while causing less harm to the host (partly, as you note, because the more socially active the host remains, the better the odds of transmission are). But not all viral pandemics follow this trajectory. HIV is still a nasty bugger for example. Moreover I think you’ve got it the wrong way round here – you seem to be reasoning “less harmful variants of the virus are more transmissible, so the fact this one is more transmissible means it will be less harmful”. But unfortunately there are plenty of other ways a virus can become more transmissible. It can just get better, mechanically, at binding to cells of a potential new host, for example. The current scientific advice reaching the government is basically “neither more nor less harmful, but better at transmission”.

    So “The new variant covid can only be more infectious than old covid if it doesn’t prevent people from being up and about” – well yes, but previous versions of the virus didn’t stop people getting out and about either, especially in early stages of infection, which is precisely why the virus has been such a pain in the neck. It’s not nasty enough to stop you spreading it, but just nasty enough that the relatively few people who become seriously ill are enough (given the spread) to trouble health care capacity limits.

    “So it will be less deadly than an already not-very-deadly disease.” – this conclusion is the faulty bit. Even speaking just purely logically, there’s nothing to stop the new variant just being the same level of deadly, so that bit is like for like, but better at the business of hopping from person to person, so that overall it is more transmissible than the previous version.

    “I predict that nearly no one will die of it.” When the scientific advisors say they think it’s no more or less deadly than before, they have the advantage of being able to look at health outcomes of patients they know had the different variants. If however you’re right and they’re wrong, then you just need to look at places like London where the vast majority of infections are now believed to be the new variant. The death rates there ought to indicate quite clearly if you’re right but the current evidence doesn’t seem to be in your favour.

    The general impression I have from people who know their stuff is that coronaviruses mutate so slowly (compared to eg flu) that they believed the epidemic is likely to be done and dusted, particularly if its endpoint is brought forward by mass vaccination, before any really significant changes to the virus occurred. They didn’t expect the virus to mutate away into harmlessness within that timescale (which seems to be Philip’s idea) nor something super nasty to emerge that might cause a more existential threat or keep hopping around in a way that prevents our immune memory (and vaccinations) from ultimately defeating it. Perhaps this one will turn out to be significant, dunno, but I’m pretty sanguine. If it is the case that it knocks the R up by 0.4 without changing the proportion of infected who get seriously ill, that’s going to be really bad in terms of the “R budgets” the government are playing with – likely means substantially harsher restrictions for longer. But in the UK at least, the majority of risk groups should be effectively vaccinated within the next few months and they account for the vast preponderance of both deaths and health care demand, the latter being key to getting restrictions lifted. So provided the vaccinations still work, and again that seems to be the expectation for now, we are looking at a couple of months of a nasty economic hit and corresponding reduction in our liberties. Unpleasant but the incremental effect of the new strain seems likely to be relatively small compared to what’s been taken away already, and tighter restrictions were likely coming our way even without this strain, so only a portion of the change can be attributed to it.

  7. ‘The one thing that upsets EVERYONE is big earnings gaps between people working in the same sector’

    Not me, Tina.

    ‘As a society, we’ve become much more worried about inequality.’

    Cultural Marxists have gotten some traction with this latest meme. As a society, no one cares. Just because they can get it in the Guardian and BBC doesn’t make it real.

  8. Inequality is a modern day abstraction to replace that other, poverty, and as a camouflage word for envy, spite and greed.

    Personally, I have never seen rank position as fair or unfair, but an accident of birth, and lower social rank (which used to be Working Class) as an incentive to do more to earn more.

    ‘Fair’ is not being pestered by other people’s abstractions, and their corrosive desire to get their grubby hands on what I earned.

  9. Dennis: Oppressor, Warmonger, Capitalist and Consumer of Petroleum Products

    Our social status also shapes how fair we think the world is. The higher we rank income-wise, the fairer we think inequality is. And our views shift with our social position. Moving down the income ladder, or losing your job, makes you recognise inequality as less fair.

    This is complete bullshit… And it’s self-serving bullshit at that.

  10. The Guardian regards higher income taxes and capital gains taxes as Pigou taxes, intended to discourage the effort to earn more or make the investments that might yield capital gains. We are constantly asking, doesn’t the left realize that people respond to incentives and if you take away the incentives they’ll do less, and so we assume they are naive or maybe stupid and just need educating. Once you’ve accepted that they do understand this but what they want is a poorer society, then you have to acknowledge that they do know how to achieve it.

  11. @MBE
    I stand partially corrected.
    I have no medical qualifications so my opinions come from a study of history, not histology.
    We are not in the third wave, we are in the second. (The “second” wave hit those who had been sequestered in the first.)
    I note that smallpox was already in retreat before Jenner’s vaccine was invented, let alone widely practised. Some medical historians put herd immunity for smallpox as low as 20%. The pattern of declining virulence is repeated throughout history, vide the Justinian, Antonine plagues, the Black Death and subsequent epidemics up to 1665, etc. There is an even nastier coronavirus, MERS, but it burns itself out very quickly and is no longer much of a threat even in the Middle East (the ME bit of MERS).
    Why does this happen?
    I think because a mutation that makes the virus less malignant will also allow greater transmissibility, because the host not only remains in society but carries it around for longer. (Our immunological defences are parsimonious.)
    To postulate a virus that mutates in two coincident ways, increasing infectiousness and increasing malignancy requires two steps, which is inherently less likely than one mutation step.
    Sure it could happen. It’s just never happened before in recorded history.
    So that, in a nutshell is why I call bullshit on the new panic.
    I note that SAGE has not a single medical historian on the committee. It is populated by a cabal of limited expertise, which leads to an easy consensus which is quite likely. to be wrong, wrong, wrong. The government listens exclusively to this choir of yes men and has surrendered its decision making to a bunch of medical bureaucrats, when public health measures are by definition a matter of public politics.

    As an aside, I note that mass PCR testing seems to reveal that about 1% of the population is carrying the virus. Assuming the virus is detectable in symptomatic patients for about a week before you shake it off and a fortnight for asymptomatic patients, over the course of about 48 weeks of the pandemic about 35% of the population will have been exposed and are now presumed to be immune. Add in the estimated 30% who have pre-existing T-cell immunity, and a few % with antibodies to closely related viruses, Cov-SARS-1 for example, and we must already be close to herd immunity.
    Assuming the PCR test isn’t a crock of shit, of course.

  12. @philip

    Worth distinguishing between bacterial plagues and viral epidemics. And even viruses can behave very differently – flu viruses have a kind of “mix and match” capacity for reassortment for example.

    The “burning out” of SARS and MERS doesn’t seem to be due to either herd immunity or your favoured theory of it mutating into a less harmful form. If the former were true, there’d be some evidence (serological or whatever) of reasonably widespread infection, but there only seem to have been a few thousand cases of SARS even in Taiwan, which was relatively badly affected. If the latter, we would have detected whatever milder variant replaced SARS. In fact epidemiologists tend to be a bit cautious about saying SARS “burned out” as if its vanishing was a natural phenomenon, something inherent to the the disease. It just wasn’t transmissible enough to become the big pandemic initially feared, but what saw it off was the public health measures – particularly very strict isolation of cases – that cut down transmission so severely that it could no longer propagate. If you can keep R below 1 across all sections of your population, you can eventually get rid of the virus altogether, albeit with some risks such as it disappearing into animal reservoirs and potentially reemerging again. Getting rid of SARS this way was tough but possible, getting rid of COVID-19 – which has a much higher basic reproduction number – was probably never a serious proposition, at least globally (for small populations on isolated islands it’s costly but possible). Sadly this means most of what follows from your “I think because” is speculative and out of line with the scientific mainstream. MERS outbreaks when they occur are still very nasty indeed but also still not very transmissible for example, mostly arising from superspreading events but not producing sustained community transmission. Like ebola, unfortunately, there’s an animal reservoir, so this is going to be another one that’s a pain to get rid of.

    Another thing your reply seems to be missing is an understanding of the difference between endemic and epidemic disease. I presume by the 1%ish prevalence of Covid in PCR tests you’re referring to the ONS data series, which is one of the highest quality pieces of evidence we have. But if that had been a constant one percent we would be talking about an endemic not epidemic disease – just look at the data series for goodness sake!!! It spent months under 0.1%, you can’t extrapolate as if it was 1% the whole time! There are some epidemiologists working on Covid I chat to occasionally, and they’re pretty confident that the thing that takes us over the herd immunity threshold is going to be vaccination over the next few months rather than the natural progression of the epidemic – they reckon it hasn’t been infecting people fast enough to build up enough population immunity, and reckon there’s uncertainty about some aspects of how immune response will play into the long-term dynamics. Specifically: pre-existing immunity against other coronaviruses, which you mentioned and indeed make some very optimistic assumptions about, but I think the current evidence base isn’t so strong on (certainly nobody has shown 30% of the population cannot contract COVID-19 due to it, that takes a couple of leaps), and also the issue of immune waning which has a potential for a pessimistic downside – the good news is there seems some hope vaccines may give better longer term protection than infection would.

  13. “Why are the people who shriek the loudest about various and ever more ludicrous forms of alleged “inequality” posh and/or rich? ”

    This excellent article explains why:

    https://unherd.com/2020/12/how-race-politics-liberated-the-elites/

    Basically if you can denigrate society as a whole as fundamentally racist/sexist/bigoted/immoral you free yourself from owing it anything. This is of vital importance to the elites – they can cut themselves free of all their responsibilities to those in wider society because they have declared wider society to be of no value (indeed negative value) and in need of destruction. Ergo their privileged position in society need not be questioned. The wealthy and the privileged elites NEED to denigrate society as a whole in order to square the circle between their declared desire for equality etc, and their own privileged place in society. You don’t need to owe a rotten society anything, so you by declaring society rotten are free to keep everything you have.

  14. Losers are resentful. Who would ever have imagined that?

    MBE: tl;dr If you can’t make your point in a paragraph, consider having your own blog. Your essays are long-winded.

  15. No, resentful people are losers.

    Lots of hard-working people on little money are quite satisfied. They have enough to live on, and in the West enjoy some luxuries on top. They have family they love and friends they enjoy.

    Others resent not being the top dog. Even if they earn millions they’ll resent someone else’s game, fortune etc. They don’t have many friends, only people selected to be useful.

    The elite is full of resentful people. Journalists who want to be famous writers. Politicians who want to lead their party. Academics who want to be famous. They feel inequality every day, and it is part of what drives them.

    The simply don’t understand a world where earning money is a tool to enjoying life. And where you can have less than others and think it is enough.

  16. @Chester

    Yeah, think there’s a lot in that. Don’t think the protesters in the Occupy tents were from thoroughbred proletarian backgrounds. And the 2019 general election results would have looked very different if there were large class or income differences in desirability of a Corbynite redistributive programme, wouldn’t have had Johnson’s lot faring better among lower income voters if that were true.

    @Jim

    Saw that article myself and thought its central premise is very powerful. I am not sure if that’s the reason why people argue like they do, but it does capture some of the useful consequences of them doing so. That it allows them to “stand outside” the system that supports them, or at least, allows them to perceive themselves as doing so. A handy trick if you can pull it off.

    @philip

    The minutes about the new variant have been published at https://khub.net/documents/135939561/338928724/SARS-CoV-2+variant+under+investigation%2C+meeting+minutes.pdf/962e866b-161f-2fd5-1030-32b6ab467896?t=1608470511452 which is worth a read but very short. Seems a lot of the supporting evidence is only coming along next week (the kind of studies they’re talking about take time so that’s understandable) so hopefully a fuller picture then. Of what’s in there, the R number being raised by 0.4-0.9 is the thing that’s driving the biggest immediate policy implications (though I’m not sure how much confidence they have in that already rather imprecise estimate – anything correlation based but where London is in your exceptional group immediately sounds a bit iffy to me, as it may be hard to pick apart London-specific effects from variant-specific ones, but it seems increased transmissibility was also supported in the lab studies so the effect is likely greater than zero) but the evidence of reinfection caused by the new variant is also a bugger from the immune-waning/herd immunity point of view.

  17. Chester D
    It all depends on your definition of ‘loser’ and of success. If you see yourself as a loser, then you’ll be resentful – whether you got to be (just) deputy CEO or whether you feel you never achieved your full potential because of capitalism/lack of privilege/the system, etc. Losers are people with unrealistic expectations relative to their abilities and circumstances. All losers are resentful; not all resentful people are losers.

  18. @ BME
    Thanks. I don’t mind the tl:dr.
    All the same, this stinks like a barrel of last year’s herrings.
    How can they know Ro when a “new” variant has allegedly just appeared? Crystal balls?
    Obviously you must be right that in the epidemic phase the % infected must le less than 1%, otherwise we’d be close to herd immunity and we could reopen society. The difference between epidemic and endemic, and when that happened, we could argue over all night.

    Unherd article very interesting, but I think Jim made it clearer and in fewer words.

  19. @philip

    “How can they know Ro when a “new” variant has allegedly just appeared? Crystal balls?”

    This is the interesting one to me because the policy implications of it are so big. If it adds as much as 0.9 to R (their worst case estimate) then we are in for a hairy few months, because you end up needing the strictest restrictions just to stand still (and if it is capable of infecting a substantial portion of people who previously had the earlier variant, then the population immunity that has been built up so far is no longer going to be as useful; moreover higher R means the herd immunity threshold goes up too). But it doesn’t sound to me like they’ve done anything too fancy – just from the summary presented in the minutes, it seems they ran a kind of ecological analysis, regressing the estimated R in different regions against the prevalence of the new variant in that region. That’s going to be tricky to do well, since the London data point seems likely to have a big influence on the estimate, and London’s weird in a couple of respects (denser and younger population than most of the UK, more public transport etc). They do seem to have been cautious about how much weight they put on this estimate – the fact increased transmissibility is apparently supported by the lab evidence isn’t great news though.

    As for leaving the epidemic state and reaching an endemic one – no epidemiologist I know, and I’m quite well plugged-in on this front, seems to think we’re anywhere near that yet. Look at case/hospitalisation data (particularly for London), or even the ONS data we were talking about – still an upwards curve, just with a dent taken out of it by the very brief lockdown. That “up-down-up” shape has held prevalence of positive tests in the ONS survey at roughly 1% for a while, but that’s clearly not an “equilibrium level” (consistent with an endemic state) because given half a chance, it’s going right up again. It makes more sense to talk about it being “endemic” when we are around-and-about the herd immunity threshold, at which point there might be localised outbreaks but no more regional/national exponential growth due to sustained community transmission across a wide area. (If you do get such growth, then that’s at least a mini-epidemic stage again.) The fact that we’re still getting that kind of acceleration, particularly when restrictions are lifted, is one of the reasons most epidemiologists are very sceptical about us being near the herd immunity threshold yet. If we were, that should naturally be putting the brakes on and “doing some of the work” of the social distancing restrictions, so cases wouldn’t have taken off again post-lockdown. Bearing in mind how restricted everyday life is today compared to back before the first lockdown earlier this year, our hospitalisation and (despite substantially improved treatment) death figures still aren’t looking great compared to the first peak, which was largely driven by pre-lockdown infections.

    Cheers for the good-natured interaction btw.

  20. MBE

    Is there a strict scientific distinction between epidemic and endemic? I’d thought it was more semantic than precise.
    I’m also very dubious about this “exponential” flummery. If we take SAGE’s blood curdling predictions of exponential growth, doubling every week, we arrive after 52 weeks at 4503599627370496 infections. Hmmm.

    Being an ultra sceptic I’m inclined to think, given that there is no correlation between lockdown and infection rate, that the disease already affects a limited social circle first, then maybe later breaks out into a new social circle, and so on. As with endemic disease. (* not a testable hypothesis, admittedly.)

    Have you read Candide lately? I’m increasingly in sympathy with Dr Pangloss / Leibnitz. Voltaire may be correct that the world is shit and God is not nice. But we are where we are, and that is the best we can expect. Up to us to improve the lot of mankind.

    From my reading it seems that in times of extreme social stress from an unknown cause the human impulse is not to seek scapegoats. Salem witch trials and communist class murders are the exception not the rule. Instead in times of mass social hysteria social norms and conventions break down, with class distinctions abolished, more sexual promiscuity, etc. We’re not there yet. It will take a while before I become attractive to nubile beauties again.

  21. Good God Philip, are you suggesting that even I could become attractive to nubile beauties.

    But naaah. No one’s that desperate!!!

  22. MBE: tl;dr If you can’t make your point in a paragraph…

    Theo – perhaps you might invest in a mouse with a “scroll wheel” 😉

  23. ‘The more you earn the less unfair the world seems to you’

    Defective upbringing . . . was she not paying attention when Mommy told her the world isn’t fair?

  24. @ Theophrastus and Chester Draws
    I think that you need to make it clear that “losers” are not the same as the guy who came last in a race or came second in a squash/tennis/chess match.
    Most of us do not resent losing when it is simply because the other guy/guys/gal/gals/guys&gals were better on the day: I have only resented losing if I felt that I was cheated or there was something unfair; I can remember, many years ago, trying to sympathise with a significantly older (over-60) colleague who had come last in a x-country race and got the perceptive reply “someone’s got to come last” – he was not a “loser” in your sense.

  25. In a corollary, I have long thought the U.S. NE liberals backed government charity to protect their own wealth. The Kennedy’s, John Kerry, etc, act like they support the poor by spending government money, not their own. But thereby get a reputation for “helping the poor.”

    It is well established that right wingers give far more to charity than left wingers.

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