The English

Wealth and Happiness

So, how come this is true?

British families are healthier and twice as well off as they were two decades ago but are no happier, according to an official survey.

Life expectancy has increased significantly over the past 35 years for both men and women, while the number of people dying from heart disease and strokes has markedly declined, figures have disclosed.

Household wealth and expenditure also doubled in Britain between 1987 and 2006, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in its Social Trends survey. Yet despite this boost in health and wealth, levels of contentment remain virtually unchanged.

Between 1973 and 2006, people\’s satisfaction levels have hovered around an average of 86 per cent.

The ONS said the plateau effect was an example of the "Easterlin Paradox", in which the relationship between income and happiness declines after a certain level of wealth is reached.

"In the UK, as in the United States and many other countries, life satisfaction overall has levelled off, despite increasing real economic wealth," said Paul Allin, an ONS spokesman.

Now we know that this result is going to be used (as it already has been at great length by such as Richard Layard and at shorter by Polly) to justify all sorts of confiscations of wealth and income to be spent upon pet schemes. If increasing wealth doesn\’t make us happier, then such confiscations won\’t make us unhappier. There will also be the Greens stating that as economic growth doesn\’t make us happier then there\’s no problem in stopping it in praise of Gaia.

And there I think is the point. I\’m perfectly willing to agree that the absolute level of wealth doesn\’t make us happier. But (and I\’m sorry, I\’ve forgotten where I first saw this idea floated) that doesn\’t mean that changes in wealth have no effect upon happiness.

The thought is that living in an economy where things are, in general and year by year, decade by decade, getting better, is what creates that high level of contentment. "Things Can Only Get Better" being something that we humans rather like to feel. A static economy, or worse, a shrinking one, do not offer that same feeling of general well being.

It\’s not the level of wealth, it\’s the direction that level is heading in. We may all already be fat upon the cornucopian choice that this liberal capitalism shtick offers us, but the happy part comes from the knowledge that tomorrow we\’ll be even fatter.

If anyone can remember who stated this in a more  formal manner I\’d be most grateful if they could tell me.

Binge Drinking

So, not a new problem then, not something caused by the alienation of a neo-liberal economy or whatever the current trope is:

The English, who are now among the worst binge-drinkers in Europe, were also renowned as drunks in the Middle Ages.

"A surviving 12th-century Latin manuscript refers disapprovingly to \’Potatrix Anglia\’ – \’England the drunken\’," said Prof Bartlett, who is presenting the series Inside the Medieval Mind on BBC4, starting next Thursday.

This might be the first recorded case: but actually I\’m really rather doubtful about that:

He will reveal the opening of the North-South divide, with the first recorded case – in 1120 – of a southerner complaining that he is unable to understand the speech of a northerner.

I think it would be quite common for someone to make such a complaint in 9th century England, what with the northerners speaking Norse and the southerners Anglo Saxon.

Celebrating Britishness

Aren\’t we suppoed to be celebrating it? The things which historically have bound us together?

give an airing to Britain\’s vibrant tradition of racism.

Or isn\’t that what Maddy means*?

 

*Working out what Maddy actually does mean is a task too complex for me, apologies.

On Englishness

Quite:

But there is one characteristic that at least distinguishes the English from equally admirable races. We pride ourselves on not boasting about being English. When G.K. Chesterton wrote of “the people of England that never have spoken yet”, he did not mean to suggest that we had nothing to say for ourselves – merely that while other nationalities “talked of freedom, while England talked of ale”. We chose that subject because, being free, we did not need to assert the importance of liberty and because we would have been embarrassed to proclaim our love of what we knew to be our birthright.

A Nation of Alcoholics

Most people in Britain do not believe they could lead their lives enjoyably or successfully without alcohol – but don\’t consider this to be a problem either, according to new research.

The fear of a life without alcohol is so endemic that most adults say they are scared by the idea of socialising, relaxing, taking part in any celebration or trying to have a good night\’s sleep without drinking.

Well, quite, when you\’re living in a Statist, bureaucratic dystopia a method of escape is indeed necessary. The solution, if this is something that you actually care about, might be to disassemble the Statist, bureaucratic dystopia, don\’t you think?

However, things are not in fact as bad as they are being painted.

It is already recognised that one in 13 adults in Britain is alcoholic.

That really does depend upon how you\’re defining alcoholic. If we take the folk meaning, one who pours the vodka over their cornflakes, then obviously not. If we take a more liberal definition, say, someone who in the end is going to kill themselves with drink, also probably not. The way we get to that number is those who drink more than the prodnoses think is good for them.

If the definition of a problem drinker is taken as someone who drinks to alter their mood on a regular basis, however, Linwood\’s research suggests that most people can be classified as problem drinkers.

"Most people" are problem drinkers? Hmm, I see, this is clearly a case for a massive and immediate expansion of the social work and dependency industry. Staffed, of course, by Guardian readers.

Hmm, put like that, it does make sense, doesn\’t it?

Hurrah! Trebles all round.

A British Day

A new public holiday should be introduced to celebrate Britishness, a review commissioned by Gordon Brown will urge today.

So, err, how are we going to celebrate that then? We\’re not allowed to get pissed any more. Having a parade costs a fortune in licences, you can\’t even get a band to play without asking permission.

Here\’s what will actually happen. This will create an extra long weekend. And as with the other long weekends through the year, Britons will bugger off to Riga, or Tallin, or Split, or Bourdeaux, there to get pissed.

That is, we\’ll all celebrate British Day by leaving Britain.

Apt, don\’t you think?

The Ancestry Visa

The ancestry visa is for those with a grandparent born in the UK. They can come an work for up to five years, no hassles.

The harpies that rule us want to abolish it. For no very good reason though. It seems that it\’s messy or something.

Labour is happy to invoke our history when it wants to make a song and dance about its commitment to Britishness; yet it is content to dispense with one of its most potent manifestations. The ancestry visa is, after all, a symbol of that historic legacy.

You would have expected a mighty outburst of indignation from Parliament about this, yet there has hardly been a squeak. Only Austin Mitchell, the Labour MP for Great Grimsby, who once worked in New Zealand as a university lecturer, has tabled a Commons motion expressing "shock" at the proposal.

So far it has been signed by 43 MPs. As Mr Mitchell points out: "The dominions sprang to our aid when we needed them in two world wars and since. Their inhabitants are of British descent. They are keen to maintain Commonwealth ties and associations with this country."

For good or ill, we are members of the EU and it is part of the deal that all its citizens have an unfettered right to travel to this country, as we do to theirs, to work and settle permanently. But we are so keen on emphasising our European credentials that we are in danger of turning our backs on our own people, who twice in the last century helped rescue Europe from the tyrants who wished to run it.

The cemeteries of France and Belgium are the final resting places for many Commonwealth citizens who lost their lives in defence of this country. Does that count for anything in the Government\’s "consultation" or is this just outdated, old-fashioned thinking?

Quite.

I think that part of it is that the powers that be see any connection with the Commonwealth as being in opposition to our membership of the EU. That I want us out of the EU is one thing but why the relics of Empire should make us less European I\’m not sure. After all, the remnants of the French Empire, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Pierre and Miquelon, these are all in fact part of the EU themselves. And in receipt of substantial funds of ours.

Analysing the British Working Class

This is pretty good:

What do you think of when you hear the phrase \’white working class\’? Tattoos? Dangerous dogs? Shellsuits? Scratch cards? Chips? Binge drinking? The BNP? It would be no surprise if the images conjured are negative; in the past four decades, the image of the white working class has gone from hero to less than zero.

In these tolerant days, the one underprivileged group that it\’s OK to find intolerable is the white working class. In our multicultural society, they\’re the unlucky ones deemed to be without a culture. Last year, for example, the editor of Eastern Eye went on television to condemn Channel 4 for allowing \’illiterate chavs\’ on to Celebrity Big Brother. Eyelids remained unbatted. Trevor Phillips was not called upon to issue a statement. The Sky News presenter to whom this comment was made simply nodded his head in silent agreement.

But it wasn\’t always open season on proletarian whites. Back in the late Fifties and early Sixties, the working class was flavour of the decade. Films such as Saturday Night, Sunday Morning found something noble, if harsh, in the condition of the indigenous poor. The theatre was filled with angry young men with earthy accents railing against the class structure. Pop music was transformed by cocky lads from humble backgrounds, as were photography and advertising .

A working-class hero was something to be, as the only middle-class Beatle, John Lennon, later sardonically sang. And then, almost overnight, white and working class became a deeply unfashionable combination.

Why?

Back in the Sixties, there was a nobility to the working class and also, crucially, a mobility. It was on the way somewhere. But that optimism has gone. Those who could get out have left, joining an expanded middle class, and those left behind have become the underclass: ugly, obnoxious, feckless and amoral.

Recast the phrasing. There always was a distinction made between the proletariat and the lumpenproletariat. The proletariat have become the bourgeois, petty or not, leaving the lumpens alone to be described as the "working class".

Here\’s an idea though: not one I hold very strongly, rather, I put it forward simply as an idea. Something to be explored.

Say that this rather Marxist distinction is in fact true. Does this explain both the social mobility of earlier decades and the decline of it now? That there was a group both desirous and capable of such, held back by the institutions of the time, and when those constraints were removed, they moved? And that there is no such group now so constrained or desirous?

The Great Divide

There\’s a reason for this:

ALMOST 5m southerners have never travelled north of the Watford Gap

And the article tells us what it is:

…the north is a desolate landscape of derelict mining villages and fish and chip shops, and is dismissed by three-fifths as “bleak” and “unsophisticated”.

So why bother to go?

Emigration Logic

Hmmm.

One thing will be mentioned more than any other: that unchecked immigration over the past decade is creating a country many Britons no longer feel comfortable in.

I don\’t like living where it is 10% foreigners so I\’ll go and live where it\’s 95 % foreigners.

Not really compelling logic, is it?

 

 

True, But

What is the point of the Mr, Mrs, Lord and Lady? Very few people other than lawyers appreciate these niceties. Nor is there any reason why they should. They are neither logical nor necessary.

If, centuries ago, there was a valid reason for adding these appendages, it has long disappeared.

But just because something is only historical, neither currently logical nor necessary, isn\’t actually a reason to change it. We could call Black Rod the Head of Security for The Commons if we liked, wouldn\’t change all that much except losing us a little part of our rich and varied history. A loss of something for nho very good or great purpose.

How to Address Him

So, if our detail-obsessed Lord Chancellor had inherited a baronetcy, pursued a second career in the Anglican church and had won the Air Efficiency Award rather than the hot air medal, he would be the Right Honourable the Right Reverend Sir Jack Straw, Bart, PC, MP, LLB, AE. In that order.

Yes, Jack Straw has just published a guide to how to address people with titles. Multiple ones, as above. Like we needed that, eh?

Anyway, here\’s the Worstall guide to the system. It\’s actually the same as with multiple sets of cutlery at the table. Course by course you start with the outside ones and make your way inwards. So it is with titles. Once you\’ve worked out which is the fork equivalent and which the knife (ie, before the name or after, titles are before, medals and awards after) then the more important the award or title the closer to the name it gets.

Lords are higher than admirals, so it\’s Admiral Lord West. VC\’s are higher than MBEs so it\’s Bloggins VC, MBE. That\’s it!

 

The Anglosphere

There\’s a simple answer to this:

That raises a painful question. If Australians, Indians, Canadians, and even Americans can recognise the Anglosphere as a new factor in world politics, why is it something from which the Brits themselves shy?

It\’s that Brits themselves don\’t shy from dealing with the Anglosphere. As the very article itself points out, what creates the thing itself is that we all engage with it. However, the political classes are hesitant to even admit that it exists. There\’s been a 50 year "campaign" (not the right word, I don\’t mean to imply that everyone involved is consciously working towards this aim, rather that it\’s a general assumption) to detach the UK from that Anglosphere, from those cultural links, and attatch the country to Europe.

The stupidity of the aim itself becomes clear if we consider trade. The idea of barrier free trade across the continent is a good one. The larger a free trade area, the more specialisation there will be and thus the greater the wealth created. Unfortunately, at the same time we were told that we must raise barriers to our trade with the wider world, that Anglosphere. Again, the thought that places geographically close to each other should trade with each other is a reasonable one. But the decision to raise the barriers to long distance trade was signed up to only 6 months after the invention of container shipping: something which completely changed the economics of such long and short distance trade. As long as you\’re on the network (Brad Delong\’s done an excellent review on this) geographic distance now means very little: Bristol to Brindisi costs about the same as Bristol to Brisbane.

So the political move to more local trade began just as the very concept of "local" with respect to trade became moot.

Politicians are like Generals, always ready to fight the last war. Which is, of course, why we shouldn\’t allow them to plan the future for us.

Errrm

From an advertiser, asking about the other blog:

"So are you an American living in Portugal? Otherwise your english is
astonishingly perfect…"