green_man_2010 (green_man_2010) wrote in talk_politics,

What does it mean to 'fail' these days?

I remember that when Thatcher was in power she said
" anyone who finds himself over the age of 25 and travelling by bus must consider himself a failure."

Well, let's just say that she was not wild about public transport annd the country is still in a mess as a result. But what is it going to mean for the rest of us if everyone "succeeds"? Seriously, do you ever stop to think how London would cope if everyone - I mean EVERYONE decided to come to work in a car? or even buy a car? Think we could cope? Roads are bursting at the seams as it is.

Back in the 60s, Labour governments had a dream of boosting the number of kids who went to university. they did - shame that there were not enough jobs for people with graduate honours and so many people with degrees in their pockets ended up stacking supermarket shelves.

So, I ask myself, what should a government, or even a society be aiming for? I think it is true that although there was a moral case being made for abolishing slavery back in the days of Queen Victoria, it was really economics that knocked it on the head.

Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' more or less grabbed the slaveowners by the throat and said "look, mechanisation is cheaper than slavery. Get machines and drop the slaves or lose out" - so the slaveowners did.

For me, the fact that America can elect a black man into the Whitehouse is a sign that something I call 'progress' is actually happening. But for so many Americans, there is no job in the White House, no job anywhere. A more equal society, with more people actually working, and earning a wage that allows them than do more than just live hand to mouth would seem to be a sensible benchmark.

I don't know that we all need to own cars - it makes more sense to commute, providing that public transport is cheap and affordable. Maybe Thatcher should be considered a failure in so far as she never fixed this to happen - ecologically it makes more sense to have more urban busses, more 'park and ride' schemes in city centres and more tube networks in places like London, Liverpool and Manchester.

And, if a society needs to have its bins emptied and its streets cleaned, it should pay those willing to do these essential services. What we don't need in society are people who end up in prison for fraud and other reasons. People who end up in prisons, unable to make any valid contribution to society should be considered failures - and countries that are forced to lock more and more of it's citizens away each year should ask themselves why they (as societies) are failing to incentivise their workforce.

The other question is 'what can we do to make sure more young people succeed?'
To me, university and college are not the only answer. we need to make spaces and make use of the talents of people more suited to working in trades through apprenticeships. And yes, we need to see to it that the bins are emptied too.

A failed state, somewhere where this does not happen , is best exemplified by places like Somalia, and a failed state is not just a tragedy to itself, but to the rest of the world as well. most of the piracy that happens off the east coast of Africa and is spreading slowly into the Indian Ocean is due to the fact that Somalia cannot fix itself and neither can the international community come up with a plan to help the region.

Again, what do we do to put things right? can we, or is it something that people have to do for themselves. i would suggest that nobody really pulls themselves up by their own bootstraps entirely - they make use of the lifelines they see hanging within reach. So getting lines within reach of most people and allowing them to pull themselves up seems to be what we should be aiming to do- whether it's helping kids off of drugs or getting a stable democratic system going in an impoverished and bandit ridden country.

But, that's my own take. what is yours?
Tags: infrastructure, society, uk
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