Thursday, March 23, 2006

Destroying the Middle Class

Commentary by Martin Kelly
March 16, 2004

The BBC’s Newsnight magazine show has recently reported a disturbing crime trend in Iraq. A campaign of kidnapping and assassination is being waged against the Iraqi middle class.
Such a campaign displays a deep understanding of sociology on the part of the terrorists. Without a middle class, no society can function properly. However, the same thing is happening in a different way in the UK and USA. The elimination of an aspirational middle class is an unintended consequence of the Thatcherite effluvia that now passes for economic policy in both our countries. The Ba’athists destroy the middle class with guns and bombs to ensure that nothing good will come of the country. We do it with pink slips and P45’s, in order to enhance shareholder value.
It used to be good to aspire to bring yourself up from the bottom, but what the heck, if you’re going to get a cheque every week, what’s the point of going to school? If you apply to a college that applies an affirmative action entrance program, there’s not much point mugging up on your math. If you bite the bullet and keep going with college, what’s the point of becoming a doctor, as you’ll only be subject to penal rates of indemnity insurance facilitated by vote-hungry politicians eager to portray themselves as 'the working mans' friend'. You’re a doctor. You must be rich, right? No, not necessarily, particularly if you practice obstetrics in West Virginia, home of the jury award, soon to be a state without doctors.
Paul Craig Roberts recently wrote a brilliant article for Chronicles Extra called ‘Where Did All The Jobs Go?’ According to Roberts, there’s not much point in becoming an engineer in the USA, as nobody is making a job for you right now. You would be better going to law school, and seeing as the USA already has a full one-half of all the world’s lawyers anyway, this will mean that over the course of a very short period of time, lawyer’s wages will drop accordingly. This will be viewed by some, like the controversialist John Derbyshire, as being a good thing, as it will mean that what he recently referred to as the ‘guild’ will be broken.
Lawyers, as a whole, are a group that’s easy to hate. However, consider the cant last week of Stephen Byers MP, a close associate of Tony Blair’s. Byers, you might recall, is the man who refused to sack his press aide Jo Moore after it was discovered that she had referred to 9/11 as ‘a good day to bury bad news’ just as Flight 77 was ploughing into the Pentagon. This man attacked the ‘compensation culture’ that’s driving up the cost of delivering public services in the UK. For a socialist like Byers, the smooth operation of public services is of greater weight than mere trifles like justice, equity and the rule of law. But what makes the speech really notable is its failure to recognise the culpability of the group most responsible for the rise in compensation claims – the politicians.
California would not be facing a crisis in its workmens’ compensation system if the California Assembly had not produced such a system in the first place. One of the first acts of the Blair Government was to pass the Human Rights Act, specifically designed to give recognition of human rights and power to seek restitution for their breach. The fact that a number of claims are now being made under the Act by groups like failed asylum seekers and suspected terrorists is not the fault of the lawyers’ bringing the cases, but instead is the fault of the politicians who enacted the original laws. Another reason for smaller government. QED.
However, the brethren are being squeezed left, right and centre as a favourite target of those who hate the middle class. The brethren, being the brethren, never do things the easy way when they can pick the hard, and so it proves by their abject failure to rein in those among them who do abuse the system, like West Virginian tort lawyers. The outright political activism of the groups and individuals who funded John Edwards does not help the brethren’s image, if a group necessary for a society’s survival are constantly portrayed as being a special interest and not an integral part of the societal process. The existence of a lawyer class is necessary in any society that prizes freedom of speech, the rule of law and the open determination of disputes in open courts presided over by impartial judges whose decisions are open to appeal. If Shakespeare’s dull and often repeated advice ‘let’s kill all the lawyers’ is taken, it has the effect of killing all laws, causing instability and ultimately anarchy. Which is just what the Ba’athists and the Islamists are doing in Iraq right now.
The same process is taking place, with far less violence but no less subtlety, in the UK and USA. If you’re middle class right now, are you doing as well as you were five years ago? I thought not. If you’re about to send your daughter to law school, is the advice of your friend who’s told you of his daughter’s negative experience in the market place after seven years of college nagging at the back of your mind? I thought so. You might be in a position of authority, a doctor, lawyer or school principal. Are you finding that far more is expected of you now in terms of more being added to your job description allied to a decline in attitude of those for whom you provide a service? Again, I thought so. Would you advise your child to go into your line of work? I thought not.
The middle class is the bedrock of all civil, stable societies. Without a class to rise to, there is no aspiration. Without aspiration, there is only welfare and hopelessness. Politicians will always say ‘we’ve helped create jobs’. It doesn’t matter to them what the job is – their kids won’t be doing it. If the only jobs that are being made for college graduates are flipping burgers and tending bar, there is no point in college. And if there’s no point in college, there’s just no point. Period.