A fair society is one where everyone who works hard and plays by the rules has a chance to fulfil their dreams whether that's owning a bigger house, taking a holiday abroad, buying a new car or starting a small business.Is this a society for humans, or for dogs? Dogs can work hard and obey rules, and be thrown a few bones as a reward.
There’s so much missing from this, not least: who makes the rules, and how? Isn’t a “fair society” one in which people get more power over their lives?
What’s shocking here is the contrast between this and the ideals leftists had 150 years ago.
Back then, John Stuart Mill deplored the “struggling to get on…the trampling, crushing, elbowing, and treading on each other's heels“ as a “disagreeable symptom” of a passing phase of society. Brown, by contrast, seems to glorify such grubby materialism.
And Marx thought a rich society - and Britain today is surely richer than even Marx envisaged - would be able to offer its members self-actualization and freedom. Brown, however, can do no better than a mediocre human resources manager seeking to entrench capitalist alienation: turn up on time, do what bosses tell you, and you‘ll get a little pay rise.
Now, you might object that Brown is not talking to post-materialist privileged people such as me.
But he’s not addressing the poor either: this speech is billed as an appeal to middle class voters. The genuinely poor want any house, not a bigger one, and they want a job, not their own business.
There’s something, though, that depresses me even more than the narrowness and lack of ambition of Brown’s words. It’s that they might actually appeal to voters.