Saturday, 9 April 2016
I listened, incredulous (as is often the only way) when I heard a reporter on Radio 4’s Today programme announce that a study had discovered (‘discovered’ mind - no doubt by some Pulitzer-level miracle of investigative journalism) that over fifty percent of young people ‘drift’ into work without (gasp) a degree. She sounded astonished that such denizens were capable of breathing, let alone earning a living.
Drifting? As if the only way you could get to stack shelves, sweep up leaves or fuck about keeping people waiting for a cup of coffee – no, drawing a heart in the froth does NOT make you a barista – was if you had paid your dues at the altar of higher education. When the economically illiterate Tony Blair made the fallacious deduction that as graduates earned more than the hoi polloi, forcing 50% through the degree sausage machine would somehow increase everybody’s wage, those of us out here in the world of work were screaming “No!”
Getting a sixteen-year old to learn about getting to work on time, every day and actually, you know, working, is hard enough. Trying to do that with an endless succession of twenty-five year old graduates (MA in intersectional gender and social butt-hurt issues) who can’t yet tie their shoelaces and wear their sub-standard scholarship as an entitlement gong, is just a waste of everybody’s time and energy. Education isn’t about ‘things’ it’s about life, which includes finding out how everything actually works.
Maybe a lack of general common sense explains why so many people are over-excited about the ‘scandal’ of the Panama Papers. (Notwithstanding David Cameron’s clumsy handling of his own involvement) If only those nasty rich people who legally avoid paying more tax than the governments ask them to would voluntarily pay more tax – then we could have a universal basic income... they think.
“You didn’t just make that money.” they bleat, “Society let you make it.” Society, they say, built the roads, made the energy and bred and cared for the workers, all for those hated capitalists to exploit with their greedy ideas. I have news; put everybody on a universal basic income and watch that income get redistributed really quickly, right back to the people you took it from. In any case, if everybody started out with something, that something would soon become the datum level... that is, two-grand or ten-grand, everybody would still, effectively, start out with nothing.
Every time some social justice type bangs this particular drum they assume that all the money that the people they hate have access to is unfairly gained, that it is liquid and that it can be effectively taxed. They assume that it can be equitably distributed at no cost and with zero corruption. They also imagine that if this is done, the people being fleeced will be happy to keep on generating more. Possibly the ultimate aspect of their naivety is the belief that everybody else – you know, the ones who are not capable of creating wealth – will spend it wisely.
Not funny... because it's true.
But here’s an idea. Maybe if they chose a vocational education early on, learned to become somebody useful, then went out to earn their own money not at 23 on some extended graduate trainee-ship, but at 16 when they should be perfectly capable of picking up a trade or other useful work skills; maybe then, by the time they come to have an interest in other people’s tax they will have paid plenty of their own and be very cautious of enabling the heavy hand of state to pick their pockets. Just a thought.