Saturday, 21 January 2012


Some people would have you think class is entrenched within society. Working, middle and upper, various social strata's clearly defined, historically determined by a persons occupation. Recently those rigid lines have blurred dramatically as our economies morphed creating new jobs and roles for us all.

Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, written by Owen Jones who was in my sixth form A-Level History class, is a recent book focusing on the working class and how they have been vilified, in-particular by the middle classes and organisations associated with that segment of society. It's a well written book, which doesn't surprise me as Owen was a very intelligent individual when I knew him, however in its focus of the working class it tends to have a rather biased viewpoint. 

Class is a classic way for people to pigeon hole society and create friction. I like many other people, don't see class. Nor do I judge someone by colour of skin, nationality, sex or religion. We are all individuals who share two common destinies, a birth and a death. The rest is what we make of our lives. We can't control the backgrounds that we come from. We also can't control the abilities we are born with and all have different goals and ambitions. Does it matter if one person keeps our streets clean or if another wishes to create the next multinational company? It doesn't to me as that's up to the individuals themselves. The person cleaning our streets ensures we have pleasant environments, the other creates a firm that satisfies others demands. I can never understand why individuals would then wish to incite one against the other. The title refers to the demonization of the Working Class, but is quick to demonize the upper echelons of society. 

The author has a clear agenda, that is to victimise people with low incomes. The book is quick to pass judgement on comedies such as Little Britain, in which sketches such as Vicky Pollard, portrays the working class as feckless. Owen believes this shows evidence of working class demonization but throughout his writing he frequently casts aspersions towards the Etonian "toffs" such as our current prime minister David Cameron. Of course we could easily look at other sketch shows and conclude the slander towards the upper class is the demonization of the upper class. Harry Enfields comedy show, which ran during the nineties, had a sketch with two characters called Wayne and Waynetta, again a poke at the underclass, but there was also "Tim, nice but dim", portraying the aristocratic "toffs" as a bunch of inbred half-wits. The book may leap to the defense of the working class but is quick to lambaste the wealthy. Wealth depends on your point of view. Everyone in the UK is wealthy compared to billions of our fellow human beings on the planet. Its just the classic case of thinking the grass is greener elsewhere.

The books number one enemy is Thatcherisms market 'experiment'. Of course Thatcher left many of the state institutions in place but did seek the assistance of free markets to alleviate successive Labour and Tory Government blunders. Owen seems to believe that during this time politicians decided to leave the working class behind if they are not willing to "climb" the ladder. Aspiration was apparently created from the Iron Lady herself, with the sale of council homes and the easy credit consumer culture she put in place (I suppose its just like money creates greed, thus free markets incite greed, despite the fact that human greed existed long before money was created). People are individuals and throughout history have each had their own personal goals. Thatcher didn't change this. "Whatever happened to the Likely Lads" was a 1970's Comedy, which picked up the lives of Bob and Terry. Both were from the same working class background, but Bob wished to become middle class. Terry on the other hand had no such wish, and was proud to remain working class. Point being, Thatcher didn't create class mobilisation or ladders to climb, the concept has been around since the beginning of time. People all have ways they wish to run their lives. Some want to get rich. Some want to be the best in a particular field. Others want simple lives. Others want complicated, fast paced lives. We all have different hobbies and passions. By ignoring the individual and attempting to group people into broad categories Owen makes the classic central planners mistake. Only individuals know what they want for themselves. Freedom and liberty, not the state or a centralised organisation, can help them realise this goal.

Like many from either ends of the political spectrum Owen bemoans the loss of manufacturing jobs. Its a classic mistake which I have covered before. When our economies switched from agriculture to manufacturing you could have used the same reasoning. "You can't eat steal", just like you can't eat marketing ideas or computer software stored as electronic pulses. Peoples employment patterns will not stay static, they will continue morphing as the free market finds new jobs for us all to do, improving our capital structures. Socialists just want to hinder this process, "protecting" jobs from automation, demonizing the entrepreneur, tainting the wealthy amongst us forgetting that they create the wealth for us all to enjoy. The Google co-founders are Billionaires but at the same time they made us all better off. Revolutionising search on the Internet, a tool the free market developed so well. Free Email, Office Software, RSS news feeds, Videos, Pictures. We could have taken away Sergey and Larry's Billions but we would have all lost the tools they helped create and more importantly their talents.

Its easy to paint a utopian world, its what the left do so well. As Owen states there are many low paid service sector jobs that have replaced the relatively higher paying old Manufacturing jobs, but there are also the higher paid ones. IT jobs barely registered as a percentage of GDP 40 years ago, now the sector continues to expand, providing intellectually stimulating and relatively well paid jobs for many. It may be correct to pose the question of who wants to work in a call centre, or a supermarket, but at the same time the book states society needs such people. There will always be less desirable jobs, that's why people try to get an education, to have more options in life. To state this as an issue with the market economy is nonsense. Owens solution, that of higher wages, increased job security, increased benefits and flattening the capital structure by regressing to old lines of work, would ultimately send jobs abroad as wages would be raised above real productivity levels. Rigid labour laws would create a won't hire culture. We all want bigger pensions, longer holidays but this is achieved through a free market, not a state planned economy.

The largest irony of the book is its title, Chavs. The word is associated with  working class when in fact the majority of people refer to Chav as a thug, someone with no respect for others. Many of the so called Working class also mock 'Chavs'. Chavs are in fact the product of the state. Its nothing to do with your occupation as Chavs don't have one. They depend on the state. They view the fact that not getting a job and living off others labour is an option. Minimum wage rates took jobs away from them. State education failed them. Social ghettos created by governments helped make them. 

The problem with left wing thinkers is that they think they are defending peoples living conditions and rights, when in fact they attack them. They want higher living standards, increased equality and rights - all laudable goals, but how do we actually achieve them. If you believe the left then all we need to do is elect them as our politicians/bureaucrats and they will take hold of societies scarce resources and lead us all to their utopia. Personally my utopia is being in control of my own life making decisions for myself. Wealth and opportunity is always liberty and personal freedom. If we sacrifice these to the state then everyone, from all levels of society, loose.