Archive for January, 2014

What is the likely impact of policies to redress wide economic inequalities? Many support this goal and some abhor it but few take the trouble to spell out exactly what they mean by equality in this context. Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union speech provided a good opportunity to unpick the concept. The president […]

This review was first published on spiked today. The unsubtle message of Martin Scorsese’s new film, The Wolf of Wall Street, is that there is a thin line between investment bankers and gangsters. Admittedly, investment banking is not itself illegal and its practitioners are not generally prone to extreme violence. Nevertheless, the film portrays Wall Street […]

Episode three of the Benefits Street documentary was relatively dull. To the extent there was a theme it was the relationship between parents and young children. Unfortunately the topic was not properly developed. The programme touched on state intervention in family life including a visit by a health visitor and by someone from Sure Start […]

The vast majority of economic discussion focuses on the wrong indicators. It obsesses over the relatively marginal and misses the truly important. Take the huge outpouring on the latest inflation figures compared with next to nothing devoted to news on labour productivity. The first is of secondary significance while the latter is a crucial measure […]

Given the furore about Benefits Street, Channel 4’s fly-on-the-wall TV documentary series, it was interesting to hear the statistics on benefits cited in the BBC Radio 4’s latest More Or Less programme. Evidently the widely reported claim that 90% of those living on Birmingham’s James Turner Street, as featured in the documentary, are on benefits […]

Whatever criticisms people make of Benefits Street (see 11 January post) it is the only programme I have seen on British TV that has let Romanian migrants tell their own story. The second episode focused on two groups of Romanians, one extended family and one group of 14 men, and the reactions to them. With […]

My obituary for Ariel Sharon was first published on spiked today. Despite the bitter differences between the admirers and critics of Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister who died on Saturday, most share one outlook in common. They claim to have divined a continuity in his career despite his apparent shift from ultra-nationalist hawk […]

Having finally watched the first episode of Benefits Street it was striking that, contrary to the impression given in many commentaries, the welfare state was not to the fore. It would be more accurate to say social exclusion, or what is sometimes called the underclass, was the focus of the controversial TV programme. The fly-on-the […]

Predictions are fraught with uncertainty but it looks a safe bet that inequality, and the associated stigmatisation of wealth, will remain an obsession in 2014. Indeed if anything the new egalitarianism could turn up another notch or two over the year. For evidence of this contention it is not necessary to review the whole of […]

I will be introducing a discussion of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations at the Institute of Ideas Economy Forum on the evening of Thursday 27 February in London.