Wealth Inequality in UK Now Equal to Nigeria, UN Report

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The UK has been sliding down the UN Human Development Report since 1991, and by 1996 became the most unequal nation in the developed world .  The gap between rich and poor in UK society has risen sharply during the leadership of the Coalition government, yet long before these people got power, the gap between rich and poor in UK society was equal to Nigeria, with the poorest here living on roughly the same as their counterparts in Hungary and Korea.

Inequality, Inequality, Inequality

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The 1996 and 2013 reports makes truly depressing reading, but should come as no surprise to those warning of exactly these results from ideological austerity policies.

Key Findings:

  • The UK’s poorest 40% share in just 14.6% of the national wealth – the only country performing worse was Russia (96)
  • The richest 20% have incomes more than ten times as high as the bottom 20%, this is the same as Nigeria, and worse than Ghana and the Ivory Coast, and twice as bad as Sri Lanka and Ethiopia (96)
  • The average per capita income of the poorest fifth of the UK is 32% lower than equivalent in US and the Netherlands (96)
  • Inequality in the UK has risen sharply since 1991, when the country sat around the middle of the table (96 and 2013)
  • As inequality in the UK has risen, intergenerational mobility (children ‘doing better’ than their parents) has also declined (2013 p36)
  • The majority of working people have had little or no wage increases in recent decades, while the top earners have seen substantial increases (2013 p22)

The report links the recent acceleration in rising inequality to austerity, but as the rise started well before austerity the report implicitly calls out neoliberalism itself by holding the key policies of neoliberalism responsible. These policies force down wages, weaken collective bargaining rights of working people, remove social support to balance the failures of capitalism, weaken or remove regulations and legislation governing price controls on core services such as transport, accommodation, food and energy – meanwhile allowing excessive pay rises for top percentile jobs, regardless of social value or added or how these salaries were procured.

 Something’s Trickling Down, But It’s Not the Wealth

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 The Human Development Report is yet more conclusive evidence that Thatcher’s neoliberal idea of the ‘trickle down effect’ (that a minority becoming super wealthy benefits us all) is nothing more than a fairy tale to keep the paupers quiet.  American writer and Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck once wrote:

“Socialism never took off in America because the poor view themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires”

If we aim for precision rather than quotability, we can say that neoliberalism became the dominant ideology of the developed world because the poor were taught to view themselves not as the exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.  The success of Thatcher, Blair, Cameron and other Neoliberal zealots in UK political past and present is to nurture our ego and foster a sense of ‘every man for himself’.  Never mind that an ever decreasing number of us will actually fulfil the promise of elevating our social standing, or that those left behind are suffering ever worsening conditions – just look after your own interests, it’s all about ‘self-reliance’.

The self-reliance rhetoric from the current government might be the hardest to swallow yet, considering that so many key figures in the austerity onslaught wouldn’t know self-reliance if it smacked them in the face.

In the face of all this, David Cameron recently announced triumphantly that that the Tory party was ‘no longer the party of privilege’…at a £400 a seat champagne ball.  Yet this recipient of such privilege has the audacity to call out the poorest sections of our society as exhibiting a ‘something for nothing culture’.

Rich get Richer, Poor get Poorer

What this report and others before it demonstrate is that the rich aren’t getting richer while the poor get poorer, the rich are getting richer by the poor getting poorer.  Wage cuts, price hikes; human welfare cuts, corporate welfare hikes; civil liberties cuts, police power hikes.

In the latest step to remove transparency of the ever growing gap between rich and poor, David Cameron has chosen to block publishing of figures showing the inequality gap in Britain.

We are playing in a casino where the house always wins. The myriad losing players are blamed for not playing hard or smart enough, while upstairs the confiscated wealth of all those losing parties is spewing from a wall in the VIP room full of over indulged, never exerted owners.  The worst part of it all is even if one of those players in the casino does win…they merely enter the VIP room and become a member of this exploitative class themselves.  There is no victory for humanity, only safe harbour for a single human.

I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t strike me as the most compelling dream humankind ever had – which is probably why they have to work so hard to convince us all that it is, with ceaseless films, books, magazines, adverts and so on screaming 24/7 ‘YOU CAN MAKE IT IF YOU TRY!’.

Just take a moment today to really consider what this morally and literally bankrupt ideology is promising, for you, your family, your community and your planet.  Is this the best we can do? If the answer is not a categorical no…it’s time to turn off the television, and remind yourself of greater aspirations.

Get Involved!

Time Banking – imagine a world without money…now you don’t have to.  Time Banking is taking off across the UK and the world.  The currency is your time and what you do with it, and everybody’s time is equal.  Check it out.

Community Gardens – learn to grow things and share things while recapturing that lost sense of community.

Debunking Economics – read this book, the single greatest destruction of the whole economic paradigm we live in that I have yet come across.

Binding Chaos – this will make you cry, stamp your feet, then never fall for this rubbish ever again.

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39 thoughts on “Wealth Inequality in UK Now Equal to Nigeria, UN Report

  1. They see it as they are just redressing the damage done by old labour before Thatcher. The scary bit is we the people are letting them.

    • The main population of Britain, and their interests are not represented by the establishment, the foreign conquests of Britain, intermarried those who were foreigners, to keep the population suppressed, and thus keep the native population exploited, those who collaborated with this system are well known, as those who crossed over, for reward, this entrenched system is reinforced by police, finance, politicians, and security, aristocracy, academics, publishers, church, artists, and many others that have collaborated with this system of oppression, naturally the list is incomplete as it is extensive, and those who are on this list would not all collaborators, in the main, most would know, once you are in, you are by ritualistic design obliged not to blow the whistle as the ramifications is severity of punishment.

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  3. Reblogged this on Dr Alf's Blog and commented:
    This is quite amazing but perhaps no real surprise under David Cameron’s leadership which has been excessively hard-nosed on austerity. Of course, austerity has little impact on the privileged!

  4. The problem is this is not a Coalition issue. Let’s not forget Labour introduced Workfare and the disability assesments.

    The fact that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer is not a new phenomena, every recession, depression, banking crisis in history has affected the poor more than the rich. The poor have always been punished for the “bad business decisions” of the wealthy.

    The fact is people are greedy !!! As long as an individual is doing ok they see no harm done to their fellow man and even in some cases will take advantage themselves of the situation (pawnbrokers, cash for clothes is the big thing at the moment, loan sharks etc)

    There is no “magic button” that can make people equal, nor to abolish poor people we are all different and have different skills, experiences, opportunities, luck, morals and aspirations.

    But the biggest culprit is snobbery. I have a better car, a better phone, a better house and better clothes etc. A return to simpler and better times may only be possible when as many people as possible are hurt by this “austerity” and realise having good neighbours and friends is far more important than having the latest gadgets. Then the antics of the rich may be tempered by the solidarity of the poor.

  5. You are fabulous Kerry-Anne! The UK desperately needs its own equivalents of Howard Zinn and Democracy Now! You have taken giant leaps in this direction and I am personally very grateful for your efforts. Thank you! It’s so refreshing to find some sane, solid critical thinking amongst the chaos that is mainstream UK media. Keep up the good work!

  6. Pingback: Scriptonite: Inequality of Wealth in UK Same as Nigeria | Beastrabban's Weblog

  7. We got involved in debunking economics when bringing the problem of wealth distribution to the attention of US goverment, warning of the risk of uprisings. It was the critique that I know of of the fractional reserve banking system and the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a minority.

    http://www.p-ced.com/1/node/60

  8. “I love you. I want to have your babies!” Well someone once said that to me and I was flattered. But seriously I am amazed by your perception and fact finding and grateful for all your incredible hard work in producing this blog. When I become slightly less destitute I will fund you – until then you will have to make do with me recommending you right left and centre (geographically if not politically). A BIG THANK YOU. :)

  9. Thatcher, and her cronies, liked what the americans were doing so much she adopted their tatics. Just as the americans have been brainwashed to believe there is such a thing as the “american dream” she brainwashed the british public into believing that they could all be rich, living off their bountiful shares in privatised public services, living in their own homes, with full employment and all their needs met. It would take a lot to convice the americans that they have been conned as they are little more than slaves to capitalism, but maybe if we get a move on we might just wake up the brits to this propaganda before its too late.

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  11. This blog post heavily relies on an Independent article (cited 7 times) dated 21st July 1996 (i.e. towards the end of Thatcher’s rein). So it is not based on up to date or representative facts…

    • It takes the information from 1996 and moves it up to date with the Human Development Report 2013, all information on current elitism within coalition front bench is contemporary, and there are several links to cover recent impacts of austerity.

      • hang on, you have this para:

        “The gap between rich and poor in UK society has risen sharply during the leadership of the Coalition government and is now equal to Nigeria, with the poorest here living on roughly the same as their counterparts in Hungary and Korea.”

        The two hyperlinks regarding Nigeria and Hungary and Korea are to the 1996 – yet in this para you clearly talking about the present. I’m entirely sympathetic to your argument but clearly you’ve made an error here.

        • So I see you have now edited the paragraph I mentioned and yet I see no acknowledgement that the article has been corrected. As I say I’m entirely sympathetic to your political viewpoint but if this is the ethical standard you keep to I’ll be sure to tell people to steer clear of your blog.

          • I had several comments which wanted the article changed and amended the piece to reflect those. I would like to think that reflected a pretty good ethical standard. (comment edited to remove initial snarkiness! Apologies)

            • If there was a button for me to click to acknowledge your comment and your professionalism, I would take the easy way out and do so. I don’t expect perfection from this blog. What I do expect are new ideas, new perspectives on old ideas and analysis – all expressed clearly. You give us this in spades. I enjoy the frisson of outrage too – you deliver that as well. Just seeing that you engage with readers puts you in the top 5% of blogs anyway. You’ll have to get your Alex James Doherty team onto his case as he’s one of those customers doomed to being unsatisfied as he will never come to grips with he fact that the world does not revolve around him.

              • I am really baffled as to why Alex has made raised a legitimate point about the factual accuracy of this piece and is now being belittled for it. Scriptonite has taken an article from 17 years ago and presented it as current data which is completely out of context.

                As for new ideas myrmecia, I don’t see any, this piece is just a class based rant. Of course you are all right about the behavior of some of the multimillionaires you discuss, but every social class has its share of abhorrent behavior. Please don’t make out that poverty is the sole creation of the upper classes. There is an unfortunate minority in the world who no matter what they’ve got will eventually always waste it all away on their own personal path to self destruction.

                The solution is what needs to be discussed, rehashing a load of facts and figures to talk about how the coalition is evil doesn’t change anything.

                • I, like Scriptonite, am far more interested in the inequality in this country, which affects millions, than I am in the possibility that one person may feel belittled by what I wrote. We have lower income workers who have almost no way of reducing their tax liability being taxed to provide age pensions to those for whom pensions are pocket money, to provide home heating subsidies to people who can afford to live abroad and to pay for welfare/law-enforcement services that do precious little to protect the vulnerable, frail elderly from ruthless fraudsters – people who spend their lives plotting how to screw the last quid out of innocent, naive people in your community and mine. See thinkjessica.com for one manifestation of corrosive class inequality.
                  Unlike Scriptonite, I can’t even find time in my day to scoff at people with hereditary titles who think they have any meaning beyond what they project onto them. But I will welcome the opportunity to let those who think peerages have any significance to let them know, with a dismissive laugh, that “the emperor has no clothes”.
                  People like Scriptonite who keep this issue before us are fighting an uphill battle against the latest royal baby and Simon Cowell’s self-indulgent infidelity. The issue is serious, corrosive of our society and Scriptonite deserves our support, not our pettifogging criticism for slips at the sub-editing stage. Criticisms like Alex James Doherty’s can be made directly and privately rather than in a point-scoring way in public.
                  I’m delighted to see recommendations for community gardens and for Steve Keen’s book. If you ever get the chance to see Steve live, jump at it. He is a patient and generous teacher and his grasp of his subject matter is a delight to behold.
                  Personally, I would like to see far more openness on wealth as well as income: public access online to all company directorships and land/property ownerships in an easily searchable database, details of all trusts with legal standing registered with the ultimate beneficiaries specified. On the other hand, I am not attracted to punitive or confiscatory taxes. A ‘land value tax’ is all we would need – this is a tax that is best seen as not ‘imposed’ but as merely enabling the mass of the people (whose presence gives land its annual value) to have access through the state to that annual land value – as a rent payment. A land value tax (together with elimination of income tax and VAT etc.) would also enable ordinary workers to earn enough to save for retirement and a ‘rainy day’ – and a good time along the way.

                • Sounds as if you are doing well out of the system, always justification to demonize those whom are struggling, many of those at the bottom have been victims of fraud or of corruption, and have no way of getting justice, those who are able to afford accountants, lawyers, being those often who pontificate on their moral righteousness, take good care that not to many know what they are about, for obvious reasons.

  12. This is great. I read a news article the other day, which I then realised dated back to 1996. Thanks for this update.

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