There’s been quite a lot of discussion around the subject of the unemployed over the past year or so – mainly as a result of a much-vaunted and allegedly never-ending boom of unregulated markets and behaviours sadly, and undeniably, busting again.
The unemployed have been cast respectively as victims, spongers, workshy and simply hapless by a series of politicians – each looking to push a particular agenda.
The current coalition government of Tories and Lib Dems seems to incline towards casting the unemployed as at least half-responsible for their state. They find it difficult not to make the already unfortunate feel to blame for a significant proportion of the country’s ills. I don’t know whether Tory leaders do this on purpose or not (though I am inclined to believe they are pretty calculating in what they do) – but the net result, whatever the internal motivations, is that the already unlucky end up feeling even more so.
Today I have read that whilst the tail of the Coalition dog, Nick Clegg, calls for a wealth tax, the little willy of the same beast, George Osborne, calls it the politics of envy. Which then leads me on to the subject of today’s post: to what extent should our economies, cultures and education systems regulate the benefits of good luck?
If you are born to a wealthy family, and acquire a millionaire lifestyle, as many of the current ministers in this government have so done, is that a throw of life’s dice we should simply accept and move on from? Or do we believe that a good luck manifestly wasted – as perhaps God might argue of talent – should be in some way passed on to another more capable of making it work for the benefit of a wider society?
What I’m really trying to say is whether good luck should be regulated in terms of how those who are in its receipt fully make it work for society as a whole. Should good luck be seen as an individual and libertarian selfishness – or should a moral aspect intervene, much as the above-mentioned talent, whereby the right to good luck must be a far more meritorious, as well as perhaps societal, matter?
A lot depends on the answer to these questions, of course: how we configure our welfare system, our health system, our education system – even our law and order system. Now fairness most of us can agree upon – even today I feel, even Tories in their gentler moments! – as being a concept which should govern our societies and structure how we treat each other. But good luck isn’t fair at all – even as most of us, yes, quite selfishly, would far prefer to have it in industrial quantities for ourselves than for others.
So where does that leave it in the general scheme of things?
Do we need to ameliorate its upsides in order to ameliorate its downsides? Or is good luck something which adds an infinity to the world – a matter of always adding to human joy, inasmuch as such an addition to the life of one person implies no necessary subtraction from the life of another?
I wonder if economics and political thought have had anything to say about this matter.
As I wonder if anyone cares to care.