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February 19, 2008

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reason

Now the middle class are being excoriated? Hell, I come from a lower middle class family, and are now middle middle but I resent that. Go after the real plutocrats. We should all be middle class!

Steve

Abolish class divisions? And how the hell do you propose to do that?

Jackart

What class are you Chris, and how do you define it? Then how do you propose to abolish class differences? Confiscatory taxation? Reward people financially for dropping 'h's?

Max was a wally, but at least he went to a comp eh. Imagine what it would have been like if he'd been to a public school, but then his writing probably would have been better.

Dipper

House-buying not going well?

Will Blake

"Chris Dillow was educated at Oxford and Manchester Universities, and spent several years as an economist in the City, before becoming economics writer at the Investors Chronicle."

Chris is a confused middle class boy who conflates self- and class hatred and is considering replacing the word "not" with "and" in the subtitle of his blog.

Devil's Kitchen

Chris,

There are times when you really make yourself look like an utter arse, you know that? Not to mention a bitter and twisted poor little rich boy.

You say that you subscribe to no political creed, but you obviously still subscribe to a rather irritating class bigotry.

You often point out how you are a comprehensive boy made good – Max might have been the same. Or was your comprehensive so, so much worse than his? That would allow you to claim some kind of moral superiority, I suppose.

"Above all, though, there’s a third message - if you don’t like our class hatred, there’s a solution - abolish class divisions."

This might be one of the most glib and silly things that I have read in the last year: as the commenter above pointed out: how, precisely, do you intend to do that?

It's just pathetic: to excoriate those who do well in life and then expend considerable money and effort to ensure that their children have a better chance than they themselves had was never traditionally a purely middle-class aspiration.

That some choose not to harness their opportunities nor to attempt to better their childrens' chances is of detriment to this society – it isn't anything to be proud of.

DK

john b

"You often point out how you are a comprehensive boy made good – Max might have been the same."

I'm guessing Dillow Sr isn't a high-flying meeja consultant, although ICBW.

Recusant

This post is both wrong and facile. I was going to go to town on it, but laziness and the knowledge that others have done my work for me - being upper class has its uses - lead me not to bother.

Gethin Price

There's people'd call this envy, you know. It's not, it's hate.

dearieme

By God your chips are vinegary, Mr D.

ad

There is a fourth message: "I hate you and will attack you if I get the chance, so you had better stamp on me while you can still easily do so."

And a fifth: "Feel no sympathy for me, for no one sympathises with the hateful."

Larry Teabag

Oh dear - it looks like this post is being crushed by a tsunami of class hatred...

pommygranate

Chris

This post is as confused as your label of left-libertarian. Max is a 19 year-old lad. You demean yourself significantly by attacking a young boy merely grabbing at an opportunity presented by his father's connections. Please reserve your antiquated class hatred for his parents and The Guardian, if you must. But to blame a 19 year-old boy is vindictive, puerile and makes you out to be a bitter and twisted old man.

Shuggy

"Oh dear - it looks like this post is being crushed by a tsunami of class hatred..."

Ha ha...

"You often point out how you are a comprehensive boy made good"

I thought our Chris went to grammar - then Oxford? This is maybe were you incubated these feelings? It seems quite common amongst clever working class boys that go to Oxford or Cambridge and then go on to have successful careers. Is it mixing with all the Tarquins and Sophies and realising that if it wasn't for their background they wouldn't stand a cat's chance in hell of running a Burger King, never mind running the goddam country? I wouldn't know. The thing about living and being educated in Glasgow is that you never, ever, meet people called Tarquin - so you don't end up hating them.

Scott Hughes

I love this post. But I think "class hatred" can be counter-productive. The only way to abolish class divisions is by the masses uniting against them, which means the middle-class and the under-class need to unite, and class hatred will hinder that process.

U. R. Nuts

So, class divisions are caused by poorer children growing up in homes that don't promote learning, with parents who do not give them self-confidence and ambition, without role models to show that people like them can have successful careers, attending bad state schools, suffering from negative peer effects due to being from the ghetto?

To achieve the overriding goal of abolishing class divisions, we must comprehensively deal with the harmful factors you have helpfully enumerated at great length. Clearly, the state has a moral obligation to take these children out of this harmful environment and away from those parents and poor role models, by force if necessary. Such a program was carried out in Australia many decades ago, with rousing success and acclaim, as noted by that country's prime minister recently.

QuestionThat

I've written a piece partially in response to this post at my blog Question That ('Theories of the Class War')

improbable

"Above all, though, there’s a third message - if you don’t like our class hatred, there’s a solution - abolish class divisions."

Presumably terrorism sends a similar, helpful message, to the wicked rich west?

And it's not exactly like you can just fire all the government-appointed Class Certifiers, you know.

Why am I even reading all this nonsense?


BGC

Not only is this an embarrasing tantrum from CD, it is empirically wrong to state that middle class success comes from stuff like this:

"Just consider some of the advantages a middle-class kid has over his poorer contemporaries. He’s more likely to grow up in a home that promotes learning. His parents give him self-confidence and ambition. He has role models to show that people like him can have successful careers - the importance of which mustn't be under-estimated. In living in an expensive house, he gets into a good state school. And he benefits from positive peer effects whilst kids from the ghetto suffer adverse ones."

In fact, the evidence suggests that these social factors are of little importance; maybe they are somewhat significant, but properly controlled studies have a hard job showing an effect IF you control for genes.

The main advantage in the modern world is not social but genetic - inheritance of IQ and personality. There is *loads* of evidence to support this hypothesis, and none to contradict it.

Genetic advantages are unearned, but they cannot be 'abolished'. So, if we yield to 'hatred' then the only consequence wil be a hate-filled society.

Chris Williams

I think that Shuggy's right. This attitude can derive from arriving at Oxford University from a relatively humble background and finding out who's going to be in charge in 25 years time. And why.

Certainly that's why I agree with Chris D on this one. Just cos you lot have yet to notice, doesn't mean it ain't happening.

Sean Morris

Did you mention that he would be more likely to be brought up by both his birth parents, and have the advantage of having a active father? and all the advantages that brings?

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080212095450.htm

But chris the problem with basing all our social policies on the wants and needs of the middle classes is we make a bigger pot of shit for which an underclass can grow out off.

I think its called Social stratification.

ajay

There is a fourth message: "I hate you and will attack you if I get the chance, so you had better stamp on me while you can still easily do so."

Absolutely. With any luck the unfortunate Max has learned this lesson good and hard, and will do his damnedest from now on to keep himself (and Mr Dillow) on top and the lower classes below, for fear of his fate if the situation is reversed.
The trouble with calls for class war is that, by definition, the uppermost class has all the power, and will therefore win.

Chris Williams

Ajay, your summing up applies most of the time, but it's not a general rule. See today's Venezuela, for example, or the France of 1791, the Russia of 1918, or the Catalonia of 1936.

However, the British upper middle class has gone soft. They used to send their kids to school in odd uniforms which broadcast the message "I am rich. Envy me." Of course the Eton Rifles won some of the resulting scraps, but the purpose was served of identifying the class enemy.

Some time in the late 1960s, though, the rich got all touchy-feely about this, and the prevailing ideology of 'classlessness is good' led to the demise of cap, gloves and blazer. The result is lads like Max, who've not yet (in Max's case, until last week) been taught about the power of cultural capital. They have yet to learn that those who have not got it often react in a hostile fashion when reminded of their lack.

Today, the existence of an unjust and hierarchical society, where the poor can be no more than suitable subjects for treatment, is constantly denied in the political sphere. Socially, we also subscribe to an ideology that denies the reality of class. But try as we might to deny it, it's all still there, and in the absence of clear signals, our awareness of this fact seems likely to emerge in outbursts of fear and/or resentment. Perhaps things were different when we had a labour movement.

There was an old (and now obsolete) Class War sticker, found on bus stops in the 1980s: "If we're living in a classless society, how come you're waiting for a bus, while some guy has just driven past in a car worth more than your house?"

reason

Chris Williams,
the answer to your last question now is "I might just be morally superior."

Chris Williams

For you perhaps, reason, but a lot of other people seem to react by bottling up any resentment until someone really rubs their noses in it. Then they snap. Hence the tsunami.

It's a shame that owing to the demise of socialism, the desire for things to be different isn't being channelled into more positive ends, but that's the triumph of late capitalism for you.

Tim Worstall

“some people were born on third base and go through life thinking they’ve hit a triple."

All worth it just for that phrase, which is marvellous.

"Above all, though, there’s a third message - if you don’t like our class hatred, there’s a solution - abolish class divisions."

And there's the rub. There's not been a human society yet where that has happened. There have been many different social heirarchies: who was best at hacking at peasants, who prayed the hardest, who was born to whom, who gave away the most, who was most filled wth proletarianism (for those who think that the Soviet system was based upon idealism: who was best at faking it for those who don't): there were certainly periods in English history when making money was despised.
Given that there never has been a society without such a heirarchy, and thus divisions, the question becomes, well, what's the least bad one to have?

Charles

Good blog. Garbage post.

Chris - why not do a post on Marx. I'd like to know how a sane economist can back anything that feckless alcoholic ever said.

Dan | thesamovar

Hehehe, dare to mention illegitimate class advantage and suddenly everyone gets terribly upset.

I agree that class hatred isn't terribly productive. The thing is though: the choice is not whether or not to have a class war, it's whether or not to participate. The class war is happening. Some know they're engaged it and some don't.

But you don't have to fight on your own class' side.

BGC: "In fact, the evidence suggests that these social factors are of little importance; maybe they are somewhat significant, but properly controlled studies have a hard job showing an effect IF you control for genes. The main advantage in the modern world is not social but genetic - inheritance of IQ and personality. There is *loads* of evidence to support this hypothesis, and none to contradict it."

The evidence for IQ is terribly weak. For example, if a person takes two IQ tests they ought to give the same result if IQ tests really measure something. They don't, but the results are positively correlated (if you do well in one, you're more likely to do well in another). The trouble is, the degree of correlation between results on two different IQ tests is about the same as the degree of correlation between IQ tests and height (taller people tend to have higher IQs). In other words, if I know your score on one IQ test, it tells me no more about how well you'll do on another one than knowing your height does.

I'd also be interested to know how you 'control for genes'. Does it mean controlling for IQ? If so, that's a circular argument because it hasn't been shown that IQ is an objective measure of an innate factor. Indeed, the evidence seems to suggest the opposite (for example, you can learn to do better on IQ tests).

These arguments aside - it's obvious that in the case Chris mentioned the boy's talents or otherwise had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that he got the job. I'd go further and say that reading most newspaper columnists, the idea that they got there because of their talents rather than their contacts is pretty dubious. If they did, then how come they're all so goddamn dumb?

BGC

Dan - All I can say is read the literature, because you are basically incorrect.

Intelligence: a short introduction by Ian Deary is up to date and can be read in 2 hours.

For the role of genetics in life, read Judith Rich Harris's The Nurture Assumption.

All this will become un-deniable in the next 5 years or so, at the rate information on human genetic differences is currently accumulating. You can either keep on denying it for a couple more years - tops, or you can start to engage with it now - maybe begin with the GNXP blog.

Dan | thesamovar

"All this will become un-deniable in the next 5 years or so"

OK, well I'm willing to bet that it won't.

Incidentally, I should clarify that I'm not saying that everything is determined by environment rather than genetics, I'm specifically talking about IQ (and therefore anything based on it).

Meanwhile, it's still clear that in the case that Chris was talking about, and a large number of other similar cases, IQ/intelligence/talent has nothing to do with it, and your contacts and cultural capital has everything to do with it.

dearieme

I just lurve you English and your lovely ironic understatement.

reason

Dan,
"I'd go further and say that reading most newspaper columnists, the idea that they got there because of their talents rather than their contacts is pretty dubious. If they did, then how come they're all so goddamn dumb?"

Maybe it is because that is what the readers want to read? Unfortunately, it just might be true.

BGC

My main point is that CD's narrative justifying and advocating Class Hatred is based on a causal hypothesis about how socio-economic status (SES) is transmitted between generations. The question is whether this hypothesis is correct.

CD's hypothesis is that SES is transmitted mainly or exclusively via cultural mechanisms ('perpetuated privilege').

I would argue that this hypothesis is in the first place very loosely-formulated (making it very hard to test), in the second place it has very little or no evidence to support it (if you control for genetic inheritance), and thirdly that there is a much more precisely-formulated hypothesis for which there is a great deal of supportive evidence: that SES is transmitted between generations mainly genetically.

If you are basing a policy of deliberately increasing Class Hatred on a false hypothesis, as CD is doing, then you will simply get all the horrors of class hatred - but no benefits.

If you are skeptical of the horrors of politically-induced inter-group hatred, then you should read the work of Thomas Sowell. For example, (according to Sowell) the continuing horrors of the Sri Lankan civil war were almost entirely a product of a politician (successfully) seeking election by whipping-up hatred against the Tamil's higher average SES. Once started, the inter-group hatred became self perpetuating.

The UK Labour Party has a tendency to whip-up class hatred in order to secure votes, and the outcome is simply class hatred but no effective action.

For instance, in 2000 Gordon Brown manufactured a completely and utterly bogus and dishonest Class Hatred narrative against Oxford University on the basis of the failure of a medical school applicant called Laura Spence to be offered a place.

Seven Years later we have a big new government bureacracy (OFFA), and more bureacracies within each and every UK university designed to combat this non-existent problem, and daily reports on the (non) problem in the broadsheet newspapers - in fact, after all this expenditure of resources and time, the proportion of state school students (or students from low socio economic groups) at Oxford and other selective universities has actually declined.

Why? Simply because the cause of low proportions of state school and low-SES students was not prejudice in admissions, but was the effect of meritocratic admissions policies operating on (more or less) IQ differentials as expressed in educational qualifications and attainment.

If you control for the educational/ cognitive quality of university applicants there is not a problem, and never has been a problem (at least, not in recent decades).

Same applies to the Class Hatred narrative. The evidence points to almost complete social mobility (in the UK and US) on the basis of IQ and other desirable employment attributes.

Presumably this is why Gordon Brown recently stated that IQ was not the whole story - because he wanted to maintain Class Hatred in the face of evidence that there was no problem of social mobility, and wanted to redefine the situation until there was a problem justifying Class Hatred - despite the fact that according to IQ research there is no problem. So, IQ research should be ignored - according to GB.

Hence we have major political policy initiatives, and general elections being fought, on the basis of bogus non-problems such as lack of 'diversity' in universities and lack of 'class mobility' in nations; and electorates asked to support ineffective but highly bureacratic non-solutions to these non-problems.

Is this scenario of disohonestly- manufactured problems and their bureaucratically intensive non-solutions (leading to huge numbers of new middle class jobs and inflated middle class salaries among the bureacrats - but no effect at all on the problem supposedly being addressed) really the best that socialists have to offer?

I guess the answer must be yes. The left is politically bankrupt, and can only win votes by intellectual dishonesty on an ever-increasing scale.

This is presumably what drives a decent and intelligent leftish chap like Chris Dillow into doing something as nasty and destructive as advocating Class Hatred as a matter of public policy.

Political Umpire

"Just consider some of the advantages a middle-class kid has over his poorer contemporaries. He’s more likely to grow up in a home that promotes learning. His parents give him self-confidence and ambition. He has role models to show that people like him can have successful careers - the importance of which mustn't be under-estimated. In living in an expensive house, he gets into a good state school. And he benefits from positive peer effects whilst kids from the ghetto suffer adverse ones"

How would 'abolishing class divisions' change any of this?

Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand never adopted the 'class system' as obtained in England at the time they were formed as colonies yet, strangely enough, in each of those societies the above situation obtains.

Exactly how do you propose making people better role models and parents in general? National service? Or do you want to dumb down everyone into Eastenders-watching football appreciating Asda-shopping morons?

ajay

Ajay, your summing up applies most of the time, but it's not a general rule. See today's Venezuela, for example, or the France of 1791, the Russia of 1918, or the Catalonia of 1936.

I can't help remembering what happened a few years after 1791 and 1936 respectively. Nor noting that the people who had all the money and power in Venezuela ten years ago still have most of the money and a lot of the power now.

Chris Williams

True, Ajay, but my exceptions are, as I claimed, enough to question your assertion of static classes as a general rule.

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