One thing I will miss about working at Leeds Met Students’ Union is the political debates we have in the office.
It’s like a game show… put 5 hyper political people in a room, give them some instant coffee and whoosh, off they go. Our Union is one of the better ones, at least afterwards we kiss and make up.
I do love my workmates very much, they’re my best friends and my political nemeses all at once. Just to emphasise that, we could not come from more different political angles. Although I think sometimes they’re a lot more right-wing than they give themselves credit for (I doubt they would agree with me and blazing row of the day no.3 would start).
We began with a discussion about the UKs wealthiest employee in Higher Education. Interestingly enough this is the funds manager for the University of Oxford. For context Oxford has an endowment worth more than many developing countries are worth annually (over £5.5bn), for additional context, the UK government grants £18bn a year to higher education. Yes I know, scary right. So I can’t remember the exact figure but this person was being paid at least £300k a year.
I say ‘Hmm I suppose that means the fund manager is paid more than the Vice Chancellor’ (I won’t go into it too much, I’ll leave that for another time, but some VCs are paid nearly double what the British Prime Minister is paid a year) which Ben, our Associate President Development, who likes to stir conversations up and chip in with inflammatory comments he doesn’t even agree with, says ‘well you don’t really need the Chief Executive’ … which leads us to a conversation on whether organisations need managerial and administrative leaders, and whether a group of efficient senior managers could do this. For the record I thought the idea was ridiculous.
You know in conversations when you can almost predict what will happen next? And because you know someone so well, exactly what they will say? Yeh we had a moment like that.
Vicki, the Associate President Diversity gives her classic contribution to any discussion ‘no one needs to be paid that’ (in reference to the amount some VCs are paid). Now before my blood pressure hits the roof it’s good to go through what I think we broadly agree on:
- That the current gap between the rich and the poor is intolerable
- That some rich people are paid so much that the numbers cease to be relevant to every day life
- That the very richest (earning millions of pounds a year) could afford to be taxed very slightly more
However, I struggle to see how you can compare the amount being paid to labourers in sub-Saharan Africa with the richest people in the USA. They are worlds apart and the pressures and expectations on their income and expenditure are so different. However the typical lefty approach is to generalise everything and equate the two together. This was characterised by Vicki’s announcement that, and I quote, “3% of the population own 95% of the world’s resources” which quite frankly is a lie. I’m not sure about the 2% in the middle too. The number is still a shocking 20% owning 80% but let’s not lie.
Vicki thinks that people paid sums like this are paid too much. I think that no one is empowered to say what constitutes ‘too much’. In fact, society sets these things. The market (the subject of much abuse, poor market) isn’t some evil corporation run from Washington DC, it’s the collective efforts of every person in a given area to improve their lives. It is directly responsible for lifting billions of people across Asia out of poverty, yet it gets a bad rap. Anyway, that’s a tangent (get used to it, oh and get used to my riotous use of brackets). So, aside, the market decides these things. If it deems the skills or attributes a person has to be worth a certain figure then who are we to argue with the democratic, collective will of all people participating in the market as a system.
So, how would you redistribute wealth? It’s a good point, I don’t think that people on the economic right (myself included) have come up with a good enough way. I agree to being taxed, although I think I am being taxed too much. That draws us into a discussion – for another blog I think – on taxation and what it’s used for and consent.
So do we create an amnesty? Hand in your cash millionaires! Or maybe a telethon, which Blue Chip company CEO can promise a £100,000 by midnight? Or maybe a huge collective penny collection drive to reduce poverty in urban areas. It may sound like I’m making fun of poverty but I’m not, I’m serious. Other than increased taxation how could it work?
I know there are numerous possibilities around gentrification and the beneficial social impact of large companies on communities etc and jobs and stuff but it’s not concrete. If you look back at my MAP testing entry I talked about being a shaper. I’m trying to unify taxation policy, the left and right of the political spectrum and gentrification into a single glorious concept. No wonder I’m struggling.
One thing I think we can all expect from my blog is that it will probably raise more questions than it answers.