Monday 12 December 2005

Confusion in class

I've written about this before but the confusion never seems to go away.

According to Scotland on Sunday

... Scots in their 30s and 40s - more than a million people - are far less likely than their parents to improve their social standing. It also establishes that the nation's poor are less likely than ever to break out of their working-class origins.

The comprehensive education system was last night seized upon as a key factor in reducing the chances of Scots born between 1967 and 1976 bettering themselves.

The problem with this report - as with so many others - is its unthinking use of the term "class".

In Britain people in the "working class" are manual labourers, "middle class" folk work in offices, and members of the "upper class" drive around their estates shooting the odd stag or grouse. We libertarians consider these definitions to be totally useless, and have done for a hell of a long time:

It's such a treat to read Oppenheimer because he always focuses on the key issues. For instance: "There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one's own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others."
So there are actually only two classes - those who work and those who appropriate. By "work", we mean providing goods and services that are voluntarily purchased by others in the marketplace. And contrary to what Mr Marx thought, "work" includes that most valuable of functions - the allocation of capital to its most productive use. By "appropriate", we mean stealing from workers, either directly, or more insidiously, through the state:
Oppenheimer nails the state as a parasite. For example: "The State is an organization of the political means. No State, therefore, can come into being until the economic means [private sector] has created a definite number of objects for the satisfaction of needs, which objects may be taken away or appropriated by warlike robbery."
So when the report talks about "upward mobility" and "downward mobility", it's using "class" in the traditional but useless sense. Listen to "working class" entrepreneur Mike Donnelly:
But Donnelly, who is married with four daughters, is not convinced that tomorrow's workforce has the same opportunities, or the same drive to climb the social ladder. He said: "People don't want to get their hands dirty any more and it has led to a shortage of skilled labour - it has to be imported now. Less people want to take a risk and set up on their own."
I believe that Mike's wrong in thinking that the opportunities aren't there, although he's spot-on about the lack of drive. But sadly the drive to which Mike is referring is one that (like the report) considers an office job to be superior to a manual one. It isn't. What matters is whether the person concerned really is a "worker" in the libertarian sense. The problem today is that all too many people would rather hold "middle class" office jobs with the state. These appropriators would be far more admirable were they to become real productive workers like Mike Donnelly.

1 comment:

David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

The distinction between workers (which you equate with the private sector) and appropriators (which you equate with the public sector) has some interesting consequences:  
Appropriators include almost all doctors and nurses, apart from those involved in the private sector, which often specialises in elective cosmetic surgery. Meanwhile the workers include people who do not work at all but live off capital managed by someone else.

27 December 2005, 12:31:18 GMT
– Like – Reply

Neil Craig
It was interesting to see that this fairly PC report blamed comprehensive schhols as one culprit.

13 December 2005, 13:55:08 GMT