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July 22, 2009


Luis Enrique

If I understand you correctly, then what you mean by 'overthrow' in your last para could be rephrased: how do we ensure that there is no such thing as "the rich and powerful" anymore?

It's not just organizational hierarchies that create subsets of rich and powerful people, it's scare productive capabilities combined with bargaining power.

If a few people have a highly valued skill (say, being a doctor) and are able to form some sort of collective block to protect themselves from free entry increasing the supply of doctors (or perhaps there is just a limited supply of suitable candidate doctors) and they can organize to protect themselves from price competition, then such types are always going to be rich, aren't they? How are you going to overthrow that, without heavy intervention in the market - wage and price controls, for instance?

De-skilling may be part of the answer (as you suggest) but how far can that take us? (how many highly-paid jobs can realistically be de-skilled - if skill is interpreted broadly to include, say, "having the right social network"). How long would we have to wait until technology enables us to "de-skill" being a surgeon?

Also, is de-skilling and whatever else you think will overthrow the rich and powerful, something that serious egalitarians must sit back and wait to emerge, or is it something politics can bring about?

Do you think egalitarianism is important enough to contemplate wage and price controls?

Frank the sales forecaster

Plasticity of the social milieu is one of s&n conditions for a technological society. Deny technology and you're Pol Pot or Ted Krysinski, so embrace technology and live with the required features of a technological society. Technology for technology's sake, don't mind the awfulness of the s&n conditions.

As to the greedy rich, they were born with a much higher declining marginal utility of money. At some relatively low income most middle managers will start to consider other motivators (team, recognition, social do-good activities) more important than more money. This usually mistifies sr. managers as they haven't reached their declining marginal utility of money, and being well trained negotiators, give the middle managers what they value more than more money (those other motivators) and keep the money for themselves.

No rich? Just get everyone to have the same declining marginal utility of money.


You are right to be sceptical. You see Milburn and Labour come from a school called 'make work'.

You see it with the expenses scandal. We crewed up, and now lets create loads of jobs.

But the thousands of specification jobs that they have created the last few years is crushing the life out of public services. People specify and set targets and an army of inspectors ensures that they are met.

You can see if all summed up in the Audit Commission's attack on John Seddon for suggesting that it is possible not to touch front line services but save hundreds of millions of those who specify and inspect work.

This has caused a huge personal attack upon Seddon. See the dabate the LOCAL GOVERNMENT CHRONICLE and hear the stories of those working in the public sector.

So, no we don't need more managers, we need more efficient services. This government has really screwed over the public sector and if given the chance they will keep on doing it with their central target driven top-down hierarchy.


What I don't quite get about this report was that much of the blame for professionals coming from professional families was laid at their social networks - intern opportunities, knowledge of options and the like.

I'm not quite sure what government can do about this social capital. Can you stop your dad having a word with the Jeremy Vine show producer? So informal and nebulous to be beyond control.

Jamal Akhbar

What is amusing about Milburn (apart from the obvious failure to link failed spending on education to outcomes) is the assumption that a) there is a working class - in the mid-Victorian sense, and b) that "working class people" (whoever they are) would want to aspire to be like Milburn and the other office monkeys. This liberal narrative is not dead, it's just resting, etc.

Philip Painter

I think that social inequality is a worse state than social immobility. Comprehensive progressive taxation and maybe the top-end equivalent of the minimum wage would go some way to solve that.


"For serious egalitarians, the challenge is... how can we overthrow the rich and powerful."

Really? I agree with Luis. The challenge is to make the poor rich.

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And a lot of it reflects a switch from bank deposits to securities; foreigners “other investments” in the UK, http://www.watchgy.com/ mostly bank deposits, fell by £143.2bn in Q1. And of course there’s no guarantee such buying will continue.

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