2 July 2008

When do we want it? Now!

The Joseph Rowntree Trust have produced some new research to attempt to determine how much money we need to live in a way acceptable to ourselves and our society. The outcome of months of number-crunching and a large investment of dosh is £6.38. That is apparently what the minimum wage should be raised to in order to prevent lowly paid Smiths falling behind Joneses next door.

This is a simplistic and frankly disppointing conclusion from a Trust who can usually be expected to ask deeper questions. It's years now since I published my paper 'Sen and the Art of Market-Cycle Maintenance' and yet those with a properly placed concern for the psychological well-being of the less well-off segments of society are still following their relative definition pf poverty.

Where does this definition come from? Who decides that we are deprived if we don't have a DVD player today? How long will it be before we need an i-player or foreign holiday in order not to be deprived? Surely it doesn't take much nous to work out that the constant increase in our 'needs' is determined by marketeers who are driving the relentless economic growth that is rapidly eroding the planet we rely on just to survive.

How did this research fail to take note of Richard Layard's work showing that it is not more stuff that makes us happy but better quality relationships?


  1. There have been reports which state many people would prefer to be relatively better off with a lower absolute income than to have a higher income but be farer behind the average wage.

    There is too much 'keeping up with the joneses'

  2. To be fair, £6.38 is going up straight into some Rachman's pie-fund or BTL slumfolio if you live in a remotely pricey part of the country. It doesn't leave much more DVDs and the like, especially if they want to feed themselves other than processed tinned slop.

    The trouble is, few people, aside from the system-fiddlers scrapping over the dregs of the welfare state and the idle rich can exist in a space without shelling out the bulk of their income for shelter, taxes and basic bills.

    Therefore, few have the time to exchange cash for time and luxuriate in building better relationships with their families, friends, and communities.

    The more radical ideas of a Citizen's Income is the only way to go some way to resolving this sorry state of affairs.