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January 06, 2014


Edward Harkins

I suggest that, with respect, you are far too generous and lenient in your interpretations of the Coalition Govt' motivations. This is about IMO crude electioneering and vote-buying. On the cosy metro London BBC Marr show on yesterday, PM Cameron said that the decision to ring-fence pensions had 'nothing' to do with the high voting propensity of pensioners. That kind of unblinking retort is why trust in politicians has so diminished. The young tend not to vote in high numbers so they're easier to 'take out' - that's the cynical calculations in our politics. It's all so very akin to the irresponsible, amoral, costly and ultimately counter productive Help-to-Buy bribe to wannabe property buyers speculators (amid draconian cuts in housing welfare benefits).
Twitter: @EdwardHarkins

Socialism in One Bedroom

Without questioning your assumption that "everyone seem to take for granted that rising pensions are better for the old than young" - really?

What about the possibility that people's views are just wrong headed and based on 'compromised' sources and that the pursuit of indoctrination takes precendence over the pursuit of truth?


I agree with socialism in one bedroom. This is about cognitive bias. Old people already get the pension so it is a bird in the hand for them but a remote gain for the young. You are right in your economic argument.

Every one young today if they were rational would support a more generous pension and welfare state as they will be the winners eventually. The logic of the national insurance state is that each generation is supported by those younger than them ( or older in the case of babies and children)
and as people age they fall into the group gaining. Off course all the other policies of the Cabinet are clearly wrong on this basis. The cuts of the welfare budget make no rational sense if you accept the correctness of the National insurance system. My only quibble would be that productivity growth and demography cannot be estimated except very approximately. The faster productivity grows the more easily you can finance the welfare state. And the more generous you can make it.

Edward Harkins is right too. As many bloggers have pointed out making housing more costly lowers the real income of most people while landing a minority with capital gains. Impoverishing housing benefit claimants will do nothing to solve the affordability problem of housing in the UK. It is like a witch doctor blaming spirits for cholera.


Surely the point is that with Osborne insisting on savage cuts, pensions are being protected whereas young people's housing benefit and JSA are going to be slashed in equal and opposite measures. In the long run these measures may well benefit today's young, but youth unemployment, underemployment and financial disempowerment are major issues which need to be addressed today. Reassuring the young that they'll be better off in fifty years time as a result of this policy is missing the point. If you are in the middle of a financial emergency, you want help (and especially not extra hinderance) now, not once the emergency has passed. It's about time-dependent priorities. What rational young person would trade being marginally better off in old age for wasting their 20s stacking shelves for benefits?


I agree with James, above. It's a variant on your third suggestion, really: it's not quite that it means "higher taxes on working-age people", but that it means reductions in other benefits and services for working-age people.


Wow, so people commenting here really believe that we can rely on policies by the current government still being in force in 50 years' time. What's changed that meant that although my state pension age has unexpectedly been pushed up 8 years in my working lifetime so far and SERPS has been unexpectedly abolished that this government's policies won't also be subject to change at some point in the next 50 years? Is it any surprise that young people aren't shouting "hurrah, we've been promised jam tomorrow and this is a promise we are confident will be kept by all governments for the next 70 years"?

Chris Purnell

What do you imagine would happen if there was a surge in voting by the under 25s?


Laura has nailed it. The pension commitment is unfunded and unsustainable, that added to the fact that after observation of political behaviour and culture, you cannot logically expect a commitment to be kept by the next government, let alone successive governments for the next 50 plus years.


The other possibility is that, through his pledge, Cameron merely reinforces the idea that pensions are actually benefits like any other - and that the level of benefit one will receive is entirely in the gift of the politicians of the future.

That's why young people don't see the triple lock as favouring them. They see today's politicians helping today's pensioners and taking benefits away from today's young people. but today's young people must rely on tomorrow's politicians to decide what standard of living they may enjoy in old age.


«Cameron merely reinforces the idea that pensions are actually benefits like any other - and that the level of benefit one will receive is entirely in the gift of the politicians of the future.»

Was that ever in doubt? Currently there is not even remotely a contributory principle: men pay 2/3 of the costs and women get 2/3 of the benefits of pensions and benefits.

The welfare system is in effect a formalization of the ancient tradition that men work hard to pay for the old age of their mothers, and for the lifestyle of their wives.

With the modern twist that men work hard not just for the sake of their own mothers, or even mothers in general, but also for the old age of childless women; thus giving women in general less reason to bother having children, as they via the welfare system will be taken care of by the sons of women who did make the effort to raise their own sons.

In other words the welfare system redistributes not just from men to women, but from women who invested in having sons to women who did not.

The overwhelming political factor in the UK is that elections are won by giving as much as possible to swing voters in the South East, and those are mostly property owning middle aged and older women voters, who want two things most of all:

* Bigger and better South East house prices giving them huge tax-free capital gains effortlessly cashable with low interest second mortgages.

* Bigger and better welfare via higher pensions and higher NHS spending on older female voters.

They also want lower wages and benefits for younger male workers, to fund the above.

The same is true of the USA, where David Frum summarized the politics of our age as:


«Rather than workable solutions, my party is offering low taxes for the currently rich and high spending for the currently old, to be followed by who-knows-what and who-the-hell-cares. This isn’t conservatism; it’s a going-out-of-business sale for the baby-boom generation.»

the Prole

My take, as a 20 something.

I assume that whatever pension I get will be luck of the draw when I get to that age. Further more, I fully expect said pension to be worth little more than the square root of zip point, and only be available if I make it past my 100th birthday or so.

In the mean time, I'm working 60 hours a week of hard physical graft and got a mortgage to pay, so could the government kindly stop taking so much of my extremely hard earned money off me and cease giving it to various (mainly undeserving) causes, not least the pair of scumbags I'm currently working with, who are currently drawing both a decent wage each, but also jobseeker allowance, housing benefits and various tax credits. (Yes I know I could dob them in for benefits fraud, but I'm not that sort of person - informers should belong in communist societies only)


«taking so much of my extremely hard earned money off me and cease giving it to various (mainly undeserving) causes»

Mostly the government subsidizes the financial industry (but never as generously as the Bank Of England fills their bonus pools with free cash).

Then it spends a lot on the pensions and healthcare of middle aged and older middle class women who paid into the system a lot less than the actuarially fair amount.

Other stuff like unemployment insurance is only a small fraction of the total, and fraud on that is a tiny fraction (around 0.7% according to the Tories).

«pair of scumbags I'm currently working with, who are currently drawing both a decent wage each, but also jobseeker allowance,»

It seems to me that there is a good chance that you are evading tax. Because if they get both a wage and Jobseeker allowance, that can only happen if the wage is not declared to HMRC; and if you work with them, you most likely get the same, because any employer who pays wages "cash in hand" without telling HMRC wants all their employees to be implicated in that.

«housing benefits and various tax credits»

It is not uncommon that those with a wage get them because their "decent wage" is not that "decent". For example many JobCentre *staff* get benefits and tax credits because their civil service wages are rather low.

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