Friday 30 September 2016

Ian O'Doherty: But Boris – we are all equal!

Published 02/12/2013 | 21:30

Keeping up with the Joneses: Boris Johnson says envy spurs economic activity
Keeping up with the Joneses: Boris Johnson says envy spurs economic activity
No thanks: singer Morrissey thinks Obama has set a bad example

So, BoJo has once again managed to stick his size 13s into the doodoo. During a speech last week that seemed to be, to put it politely, a stream of consciousness, he pointed out that some people just aren't cut out for a cut-throat, competitive economy. In other words, full economic equality is neither desirable nor attainable.

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Openly evoking the spirit of Gordon Gekko, the London mayor said that: "For one reason or another – boardroom greed or, as I am assured, the natural and God-given talent of boardroom inhabitants – the income gap between the top corn flakes and the bottom corn flakes is getting wider than ever."

He then added, for good measure: "I stress, I don't believe that economic equality is possible; indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity."


Talk about taking an interesting and important point – and a rather similar one to the argument that saw Michael McDowell being pilloried by the worthies in Ireland when he said something similar a few years ago – and making a complete hames of it

Because Johnson, in his contention that some people will rise to the top and some people will stay at the bottom, regardless of which brand of breakfast cereal they choose to identify with, is merely digging into his Big Bag of the Bleedin' Obvious. He, like McDowell before him, was simply articulating a fact of life – some people will succeed, some people will fail and some people will never try at all.

However, by couching his argument in terms of something as grubby as mere envy and a case of keeping up with the Joneses, he managed to take one of the most basic human desires for betterment and turn it into some sort of curtain-twitching, lower middle class one-upmanship. Because ask yourself this – have you ever seen your next-door neighbour get a new car or do up their house and felt consumed with envy?

Well, if you have, my friend, then there is something really wrong with you, because envy is surely the lowest and grubbiest of all human emotions. But his basic point is sound, and Nick Clegg, despite his accusation that Johnson is engaging in "careless elitism", knows that he is right.

The furious response to the remarks is much the same as that which greeted McDowell – accusations of elitism, social Darwinism and contempt for the poor were all quickly trotted out. But since when did wanting to better yourself become something to be ashamed of?

Of course, what passes for public debate in this country shows us the real manifestation of the politics of envy.

This is a mindset that doesn't see someone getting a nice car and deciding you want one for yourself – instead it sees someone getting a nice car and resenting them for it.

I watched with open mouth as some pundits discussed salaries on television last week. There should be a salary cap, one person opined, not just for public sector workers, but for everybody.

This would stop workplace inequality, because it's unfair that some people earn multiples of what their junior colleagues earn.

So what?

That's the way it should be – my boss earns more than me, and I earn more than someone who has recently joined on a lower scale. The greater the responsibility, the bigger the paypacket.

The money you earn in your job isn't a reflection of your worth as a person, as the Cleggites would have you believe. It's simply a reflection of your worth to your employer at that given time, and that can change at any moment.

So, forget about the hectoring, wheedling, suffocating collectivism that thinks people earning different salaries is a sign of pernicious inequality. Because those of us who work in the real world know that everybody has a responsibility to themselves to maximise their earnings.

And if somebody else isn't earning as much as you? Well, maybe they should work a bit harder, then.

Or hire a better agent than mine . . .


Joe Higgins has been trying to paint the potential blackouts as an heroic stand by oppressed ESB workers. The very same oppressed workers who earn an average of €65,000 a year, who receive a 55pc reduction in their bills and who are looking forward to a €500 Christmas bonus, lest we forget.

According to Higgins: "Every worker has the right to withdraw their labour."

On that issue, if few others, I agree with him – workers do indeed have the right to withdraw their labour. And, equally, ESB management has the right to immediately replace the striking workers with people who are actually prepared to do the job.

That's that problem quickly solved.


So, Morrissey ruffled some feathers last week when he condemned Obama for having a Thanksgiving turkey – or 'Thankskilling', as the reliably demented singer puts it.

This, he says, is a case of the president "setting a bad example".

Well, after countless drone strikes, the NSA spying scandals, the fiasco and subsequent cover-up in Benghazi, the farce that is Obamacare and the use of the IRS to audit groups opposed to his regime, I'm sure munching on a turkey drumstick is the least of the bad examples he is setting . . .

Irish Independent

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