The World We’re In (Will Hutton)

Amazing book. Some key bits:

Religion and the US:

His contention is that the US overall political outlook is driven largely by the philosophical work of Leo Strauss (Natural Rights and History, Chicago University Press, 1953), a refugee from the Nazis promoting the ‘virtuous, morally cenreted citizen’ who must ‘face the consequenses of thier individual actions’ (i.e. law but without the State regulating too much). A key point is his view that religion and nationalism are two of the best ways to ‘entrench virtue’ . ‘Even if religion were bunk and its moral codes impossible to maintian, the task of the educated elite was to keep quiet and maintain the fiction in the name of order‘. And thus of course he’s only stating what many a leader / government has done over the centuries. But remember – Bush et al are living by these maxims. To me this is more dangerous than secularism and will lead to further polarisation of view and the movement of the US away from rationality. It is as Hatton says, a ‘lethal legacy’.

The mirage of the American Dream:

Bottom 20% of US population are locked in to poverty due to lack of available education and lack of social ‘safetly nets’ – analyses have found that poor folk in the US are LESS likely to escape the poverty trap than in the UK, Europe, Canada and even if they do, are more likely to return. 54% of people in the bottom 20% in the 60s were still there in the 90s, but only 1% had migrated to the top 20% (all of this is publically available research). So much for ‘social mobility’. For the middle 60% – economics is on a long term down term with stagnating wages, and a crazy mortgage system that is worse than the UK already and getting worse all the time (and part of the cause of the current ‘credit markets flutter’). The top 20% are doing fine of course, as the system remains geared to them.

There’s more on why the UK should look more to Europe. One for later.