Wednesday, April 04, 2012


Our Irresponsible 'Feral Elite'More Dangerous than our Underclass

Much has been written about the Underclass, since Charles Murray invented the term for the ethnically distinct group of low earners in the USA who, he alleged, were disaffected from society, supported mostly by welfare benefits and semi-mired in crime. Murray crossed the seas at the invitation of the Sunday Times and discovered the UK had an underclass of its own. The right has tended to leap upon the concept in order to blame excessive public spending on a workshy social basement group who cynically exploit the welfare system and create the huge budget it commands.

It would be foolish to deny such analyses have some veracity and that benefits cheating is a genuine problem. But it is only one aspect and, arguably more serious deviant group is to be found in the form of the very rich, a 'feral elite' as Ruth Lister called them last year. Writing today in the Guardian Peter Beresford elaborates the argument.

We have now entered an age when it is the divisive and damaging effects of those who are very rich and powerful that we need to fear, rather than poor and powerless.

And yet, this elite has emerged from the destructive world crisis, with its financial power enhanced, in absolute terms and politically too as the City now provides half of all the funding to the Conservative Party. This pampered elite, cut off from the rest of society yet connected those who decide how its wealth is distributed, is not hard to identify:

Key representatives of this amoral and isolated overclass are to be found among the leadership of tax avoiding corporations; unaccountable, asset stripping private equity companies; profiteers from the inordinately costly private finance initiative; corporate landlords imposing inflated rents funded by housing benefit; and outsourcing companies delivering poor value for money.

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