April 25, 2011
"Something for something"
...As we report today, Policy Exchange – supposedly the Prime Minister's favourite ideas outlet – has done a brave and unusual thing. Rather than polling the public just on policy and voting intention, it has put a far more abstract moral issue before them. It instructed the pollsters at YouGov to find out precisely what the public thought the most powerful term of approbation in the political lexicon – "fair" – actually amounted to.
The quite unequivocal reply that was received (with breathtakingly enormous majorities in some forms) came as no surprise to this column. To most voters, fairness does not mean an equal distribution of resources and wealth, or even a redistribution of these things according to need. It means, as the report's title – "Just Deserts" – implies, that people get what they deserve. And what is deserved, the respondents made clear, refers to that which is achieved by effort, talent or dedication to duty: in other words, earned on merit.
As I have written so often on this page, when ordinary people use the word "fair", they mean that you should get out of life pretty much what you put in. Or, as the report's authors put it, "Voters' idea of fairness is strongly reciprocal – something for something." By obvious inference, a "something for nothing" society is the opposite of fair. And this view, interestingly, is expressed by Labour voters in pretty much the same proportion as all others.
Imagine that. After all these years of being morally blackmailed by the poverty lobby, harried by socialist ideologues and shouted at by self-serving public sector axe-grinders, the people are not cowed. Even after being bludgeoned by the BBC thought monitors and browbeaten by Left-liberal media academics with the soft Marxist view of a "fair" society – from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs – they have not bought it. They do not believe that if people are poor, it is necessarily society's fault, and therefore society's duty to deal with the consequences....
Even commies don't believe that commie stuff about "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." Imagine the world's most dedicated socialist revolutionary. The one who thinks Pol Pot was a bit of a squish. Suppose his boss says, "Comrade X, you have done more than any other person to advance the revolution. And you will be pleased to know that we are giving the promotion and pay-raise you deserve to Comrade Y, who needs the money more than you do." Ha ha. Smile brother, you believe your theory, don't you?Posted by John Weidner at April 25, 2011 3:38 PM