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June 12, 2008



I suspect the median UK income might stretch a lot further in say, Madagascar than, for instance, Chelsea.

Measuring purchasing power for stuff like food, shelter, healthcare and a little fun every now and again is a better bet than whatever ludicrous amount the exchange rates inform you your currency is worth.

"Ha! Are you really saying that Madagascans are better off than us?"

No, they might be happier though presuming they can afford the items mentioned above and depending on the amount of domestic inequality they have to cope with.

"Are you suggesting we shouldn't encourage equality between nations?"

Nope. Crushing entrenched inequality at home is a good idea to be going on with though.

Andrew Zalotocky

One obvious problem with any attempt to redistribute wealth to poor nations is that most of them are poor because they have oppressive and predatory governments. Any aid that is given to those countries will be looted by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, so most of it won't actually get to the people you want to help.

Bob B

The trouble, Andrew, is that correlations between GDP growth rates and the degree of government authoritarianism are not convincingly good - try Robert Barro: The Determinants of Economic Growth (MIT Press, 1997).

I wish it were not so but the sad fact of life is that some countries have both highly authoritarian governments along with pervasive corruption and strongly performing economies - China, being one outstanding current example. This is perhaps one of the reasons why debates about whether ends justify means are so perennially fascinating.


do these figures you quote resemble real incomes or PPP figures? doesn't look like it - seems like its just converting currency to dollars.

As you'll know, its what can be bought with the money that counts, and not how much it is in nominal terms.


These comments seem a bit evasive, chaps.


"These comments seem a bit evasive, chaps."

I suspect you mean defensive rather than evasive.

After all the question was "Can this position be defended?"


They are evading giving a straight answer, I think.


My mother used to teach Asian women to speak English. One of them said that there was little difference in their living standards between Bangladesh and the back-to-backs of Leeds, but in Bangladesh when their children were ill they died, whereas in Britain they lived.

Not sure if the stats reflect either of those two aspects of British life.

Bob B

On comparisons between the living standards of the back-to-backs in Leeds and Bangladesh:

"Government figures show only 15% of white working class boys in England got five good GCSEs including maths and English last year. . . Poorer pupils from Indian and Chinese backgrounds fared much better - with 36% and 52% making that grade respectively."

In his study of poverty in the north of England in 1936, George Orwell wrote:

"The time was when I used to lament over quite imaginary pictures of lads of fourteen dragged protesting from their lessons and set to work at dismal jobs. It seemed to me dreadful that the doom of a 'job' should descend upon anyone at fourteen. Of course I know now that there is not one working-class boy in a thousand who does not pine for the day when he will leave school. He wants to be doing real work, not wasting his time on ridiculous rubbish like history and geography. To the working class, the notion of staying at school till you are nearly grown-up seems merely contemptible and unmanly."

In places, not much of that culture has changed since Orwell wrote that.


By the time Bengalis arrived in Leeds, I'll bet there were next to no back-to-backs left - it sounds like the usual prolier-than-thou rubbish.

Bob B

Sorry to disillusion you, dearieme, but there are still back-to-backs in Leeds as this recent sales advert for one, posted by an estate agent, shows:

A little googling can retrieve many similar adverts from other estate agents.

According to this academic estimate:

"In Leeds, however, a loophole in the Housing, Town Planning, Etc. Act 1909 was exploited, and back-to-backs continued to be built up to 1937. It is estimated that some 18,000 still remain, constituting an important – and problematic – element of the city’s housing stock."

Richard Hoggart's Uses of Literacy (1957) anticipated with regret the prospective erosion and homogenization of regional cultural differences under the pressure of Britain's national media mainly based in London. In fact, over the last 50 or so years regional cultures and dialects have proved remarkably resilient to homogenising influences. The second person singular (thou, thee, thine, all translated as "tha") still survives as dialect in parts of Yorkshire even though it has long been extinct in other parts of Britain. How come despite the daily influence of TV?

Igor Belanov

Yes, as a resident of Leeds I can confirm that many back to backs do remain in some areas of the city. The population of these areas consists almost entirely of Asians and students, and while they give off a definite air of deprivation and poverty, they are much livelier and more 'human' than Leeds's high rise and council estates of the 60's.

(Many of the 40's council houses are excellent, even if the areas are lifeless)


my point was that the key benefit of being in the UK to Bangali immigrants was not an increase in personal material wealth but the provision of social benefits, but for the benefit of Dearieme I'll squeeze in a couple of reminiscences.

Firstly the local sikh children used to seek out engineering students, gang up on them and force them to help them with their maths homework.

Secondly I worked in a local factory from 91-94 and they still use "tha" and say "us" to mean me or mine, so the local dialects still survive.


I really don't think it's social democrats who are holding down the amount of aid we give to poor countries, Chris.

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