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Dan Hannan MEP on poverty – Right Thesis Wrong Target

Tom Winnifrith
Saturday 11 August 2012

Tory Euro MEP and obsessive tweeter Dan Hannan is normally bang on the money. He wants Britain out of the EU, a smaller state, lower taxes, more civil liberties. Whilst he shares David Cameron’s deluded love-in with the Olympics, on almost every other matter his assessment is a) correct and b) invariably different to that of the Prime Minister. I still cannot figure out what he is doing in the Conservatives.

His latest run in with the left is on the issue of poverty. Hannan, rightly, regards poverty in absolute terms. The left regard it (wrongly) as relative. Thus Hannan has been slated all over twitter as some sort of wicked capitalist who wants to make poor people poorer and the rich richer. In a sense he does. If one defines poverty in relative terms then the least redistributive system of taxation will increase poverty. Conversely the most redistributive will reduce it.

But what those Hannan dubs the Marxist twitterers fail to mention is that all the empirical evidence shows quite clearly the in terms of reducing absolute poverty ( an incidentally increasing happiness rankings as well) the systems that work the most are the least redistributive. Less equality actually makes the poor better off in absolute terms and happier.

It is all very well for middle class Guardian reading lefties, enjoying a comfortable existence to look at the rich, the banksters, the capitalists, Hannan et al as the sort who could do with a bit more taxation for the Government to spend wisely on the poor. But the problem is that Government would not spend it wisely or on the poor but would piss it away on employing the sort of middle class lefties who urge such schemes themselves. If you ask a genuinely poor person, would you like a) more money even if it means that the rich are a bit better off or b) less money but the rich will also have a little bit less what would they say? For them it is not an academic discussion it is real life and so they would overwhelmingly go for option a).

Where I disagree with Hannan is that he dubs those who oppose his (correct) views as Marxist twitterers. Sadly Dan (and I) are very much in a minority in viewing poverty as an absolute rather than a relative term. It is not just Marxists who believe in relative poverty – most of the British establishment, even in Hannan’s own party, are signed up to it too. I wrote some time about an awful book, The Spirit Level, which was lauded by Polly Toynbee (so is by definition utter piffle and wrong on every count). It is the modern bible of the poverty relativists. And among those who sing its praises is…David Cameron MP. I wrote about Cemeron’s folly on this matter in some detail HERE..

Dan: Since we might agree that Cameron is no Marxist perhaps you should change the story to one about Marxist twitterers and the perennially misguided?

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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