Developed democracies have a highly developed industrial and technological base, and also have complex government systems.
And in such developed democracies, most of the population will be somewhat affluent - but with a substantial
minority relatively rich and a substantial minority relatively poor. Of course within and across these groups,
there will also be non-economic population differences including ethnic, religious, age, gender, disabled, housing-disadvantaged and other social groups.
What is social exclusion ? Some of such minorities are likely to be excluded from obtaining many of the socially significant things that the majority can obtain (which might include reasonable work, education, or holidays etcetera or generally equal opportunity and fair treatment) - which is what 'social exclusion' is really about. Many government policies in developed democracies (allied perhaps to their 'international exclusion' of poor countries) may worsen their social exclusion and even involve some minorities being treated as social Lepers and Scapegoats. For governments, fixing poverty itself or disability itself may be social or political issues but they are not social exclusion issues - which are basically about treating low-income or other minorities reasonably.
Government for the majority.
Government in developed democracies depends on getting the support of some majority of the population, and so it may
simply tend towards following the 'middle class' majority on most of its policies - and disregard its minorities. But this simple approach to developed democracy government will generally not give the best results for such societies or for such governments. Social cohesion and stability are maximised if all voters feel that government fairly considers at least some of their main concerns - and this also maximises voter support and minimises voter apathy.
Voters in democracies may at times prioritise religious, nationalistic or other issues - but in developed democracies their support for government will mostly be based on what they see as chiefly affecting their own financial wellbeing and this will mostly become governments main priority also. Hence the general level of taxation affecting themselves, and the level of public services affecting them, will be the two chief policy areas to chiefly determine the majority's government support. Public opinion and government responses on these will tend over time to swing between the 'less tax, less services' and 'more services, more tax' positions. While it will be reasonable for governments to follow such swings, developed societies and their government will prosper most if extremes are avoided. Democratic government will often need to follow, but also need to moderate, such voter fickleness if it and society are not to be adversely affected by extreme swings. And developed democracy voters who prioritise wellbeing, will tend to rejecting the economic inefficiencies of both extreme central regulation which discourages personal achievement and extreme non-regulation which encourages exploitation.
The big weakness of central-planning government is that its target-making encourages lying about target-achieving,
and the big weakness of democratic government is that its promise-making encourages lying about promise-achieving. Under both types of government more effort tends to be put into deceiving well than into doing well, and the same weakness can easily afflict many private businesses also.
Government for minorities.
Minorities in developed democracies will generally support government chiefly on the same basis as the majority - on the general level of taxation affecting themselves, and the general level of public services affecting themselves. This will often mean the rich minority being concerned chiefly about general wealth taxation and policing, with the poor minority being concerned chiefly about general state welfare benefits and consumer taxes. Both can be strongly affected by the particular ways in which a welfare state actually administers its benefits. These issues, like many other issues, may be of only secondary concern to the majority so that democratic governments that tend to follow a middle-class majority could often actually reasonably formulate welfare policy positions that instead best suit social stability and economic prosperity.
Some minority issues will tend to impact on the major majority concerns. Hence, large changes in welfare benefit levels can affect the general level of taxation and in such policy areas some reasonable balance is needed. However, there will be minority issues that need have little or no impact on the major majority concerns and these actually need to be dealt with realistically. Merely having laws that supposedly protect some minorities on some issues, often ineffectively anyway, is not generally good enough.
Government by the majority.
Developed democracies with a highly developed industrial and technological base, will need more complex government systems which will need to be run by those more skilled and educated. While this can basically work well, it commonly involves some significant problems, chiefly in government by middle-class professionals tending to have little or no real knowledge of the poor. Government handling of the poorest and their children can then be very inadequate, causing substantial problems.
Government experts are imagined to be anybody with a classics distinction from Harvard or Oxford, or a social science degree from Downtown College - or even just if they work for a significant relevant body - though they have no experience of poverty. Of course the cleverest are entirely dumb about things they have no experience of. The middle-class have built up a theoretical 'false-expertise' on the poor, which they believe to be the truth though it is often far from it. Generally based on the idea that the poor and scapegoats are necessary to the prosperity of society, when they necessary only to a few selfish individuals who can prosper only by exploiting others. The main problems of the poor in advanced countries like the USA and UK today are often less about their poverty than about their mistreatment and misgovernment by middle-class society. Even where governments genuinely do 'recruit minorities', which can be of some limited help, they will generally recruit middle-class professional minorities and a middle-class Indian is likely to have little or no real knowledge of many of the problems of poor Indians. And where government tries to consult with the poor directly, which can also be of some limited help, it will generally be asking middle-class questions of poor who know little of the government systems needed. Many real poverty problems and solutions do not register with governments.
Developed democracy governments need to identify and use the very few middle-class professionals who may come from poor families and have maintained substantial real contact with the poor and so have the relevant street-wise knowledge of the poor's actual problems needed as well as understanding the government systems that could be used best. Older poor children treated ridiculously by governments will increasingly react against it badly. The young are often the most disbelieving of 'education' by government or by parents so actually mistreating them while telling them they are being treated fairly will not work but turn them to gangs, crime, drugs, violence and even guns. Some relevant actual fairness is actually needed.
Good government and poverty.
The relative-poor minority in developed democracies have problems additional to poverty, but their chief poverty concerns are about general welfare benefit and consumer tax levels and the extent of demoralising means-testing. And a major concern of government will also be the undesirable social consequences of the poor becoming excessively welfare dependent with their demoralised children turning to drugs, crime and social disorder. Social exclusion of any minority will also tend to discourage and waste their talents, reducing their possible economic and other contributions to that society.
If the unskilled unemployed are welfare dependent to the extent of say £200 per week when the average unskilled wage is £100 per week, then they may have little incentive to work and government have little incentive to increase welfare levels. Hence a legal minimum wage system may be needed to ensure that wage levels are above welfare levels. But 2009 saw Europe having legal Minimum Wage levels varying from around £200 a month to around £1,200 a month, with some high wage unionised countries having no legal minimum wage as in Scandinavia.
Developed democracy governments need to deliver needed help to their poor more, but in ways that will promote welfare dependency less. Possible solutions include as follows :-
1. A universal right welfare, like the UK's Child Benefit where everyone with children (rich, poor, unemployed or working) has a right to a small state payment for each child. Such a universal right welfare helps the poor and needs no means-tests,
and creates no welfare dependency problems as long as the amounts are well below the average wage - and even the rich take it as a welcome part tax-refund for them so everybody is relatively happy with it.
Universal benefits tend to having better coverage, lower administration costs and less legal and other problems than attempted-targeting benefits.
And while charities may need to use only attempted-targeting means-tested welfare, universal welfare for all better fits democratic government. Such a Universal Benefit approach could easily be extended further to all adults, and at a lower level to all older children also, to useful effect.
Universal provisions like free education, free medicine and free school meals can be useful alternatives or additions to this approach, and can have some advantages or disadvantages of different kinds as against an equivalent amount of universal money benefit. (The UK government recently examined the possible benefits of universal free school meals, running
free meal trials but rejected this.
And 2012 sees them changing the UK's current Child Benefit from universal to means-tested, and changing the UK's current Old Age Pension from means-tested to universal.
Seemingly they expect these two opposite changes to somehow both give cost savings to government without impacting any wider social costs.
2. A semi-targeted consumer taxation, with taxation concentrated on luxury goods consumed less by the poor and essentials like food having low or negative taxation. This again helps the poor but creates no welfare dependency problems, and needs no means-tests. It could also allow more dangerous counter medicines to be taxed more than safer counter medicines, and at least of each main type of medicine should be an affordable counter medicine so that even minorities lacking ready access to official medicine can access some adequate medicine.
(Recent years have seen UK tuberculosis increase strongly especially among the (antibioticless) homeless, in 2011 to over 9,000 new cases yearly.)
3. Targeted subsidised products for-the-poor-only (as often with social housing), or free-to-the-poor-only state provided or backed products (as often medicines). This needs means-tests, but done through non-profit bodies can be made to seem less like a state handout to the poor who hence feel less of a welfare dependency effect. Means-testing generally should always be the minimum necessary, and should really be confined to adults and used only after considering any alternative possibilities. 2011 sees the UK government planning to evict tenants from social housing 'if they earn too much', to reduce government's housing spending. This will worsen the social mix on housing estates as well as being dictatorial. Of course if the
high earners were simply charged higher rents then that could reduce government housing spending even more, with less bad effect on housing estates as well as being less dictatorial.
4. A negative income tax system to help low-wage workers, as in the UK, does need means-tests but can seem less like a state handout to the working poor who hence feel less of a welfare dependency effect.
5. Means tested state handouts of cash to the poor, like UK 'Income Support' and rent support, are the worst form of help for the poor for promoting welfare dependency and its undesirable social consequences - and are open to more benefit fraud than some of the above. If multiple approaches to dealing with poverty are to be used, then the extent of the welfare dependency, and benefit fraud, produced by this handout approach can be reduced if combined with a greater use of some of the approaches above.
Of course governments do face real problems in trying to deal with poverty because the actual issues vary greatly. Hence even with two seeming equally poor neighbouring families, the poverty may in one family be equally spread between all family members but in the other family be concentrated on eg the wife or the children. But 2011 unfortumately sees a UK government scrapping the previous government's small education attendance grant for 16-18 year old children, of £10 to £30 per week,
the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), without any kind of replacement.
Trying to target poor people can create too many problems, so that often poor people can be helped more by targeting them less.
Democratic government will be supported that regulates and taxes its voters, only if it also gives them reasonable services and rewards in exchange. And can rely on voter support more if it also treats its minorities such as its poor, its children and its ethnic minorities fairly. But it is certainly unfortunately common that those offering help to the poor and other minorities, do it so inappropriately as to do more harm than good.
Fancy a SIP ? Since it seems almost impossible to get developed professional middle class governments to take any notice of the real problems of the socially excluded, maybe a Social Inclusion Party (SIP) is needed for the poor and other socially excluded minorities ? Anyone thinking of setting up such a party, please let this site know.
It could be based on good government having 3 main aims in overseeing a society, so that the society ;
1. is good at wealth creation.
2. is good at handling the less able and minorities.
3. is good at not alienating its own citizens or others.
Some political theories, and some political parties declared policies, do not support these 3 aims. But there are certainly a number of political theories that appear to generally support this. And there are perhaps also a number of political parties whose declared policies appear to generally support this. Yet no government has ever seemed to actually deliver on all 3 aims.
And it might be noted that actual political practice is rarely good at following political theory or policy for 3 main reasons ;
A. Government never has full knowledge of (or control over) everything - so its best attempt to achieve an aim may fail.
B. Government attempts to achieve one aim can often to some extent oppose its attempts to achieve another aim.
C. Government often has actual priority aims that oppose its declared priority aims.
HIGH SOCIETY DREAMER, by John A Silkstone.
Walking, with medals on his chest
A man of no fixed abode.
"He's a tramp." I heard someone say
"Just an old man of the road."
But he's a high society dreamer.
Years ago he did his best,
Now those five years of bloodshed
Will not let him rest.
Little lad sits on his doorstep
In a derelict City Street.
From a single parent family
With barely enough to eat.
But he's a high society dreamer
Aspiring for the day
When he and others like him
Can stand and have their say.
On a lamp lit corner
Lips and dress of red.
Most despised profession
Still it kept her family fed.
But she's a high society dreamer
Yearning for the time
She can stop selling herself
And leave this life of crime.
So listen legislators
And people of Whitehall,
Stop thinking only of the few,
Try to think of all.
Those high society dreamers,
The ones that dream and scheme,
And when you sweetly sleep tonight,
Have a low society dream.
Or as the song Electric Avenue says ;
Now in the street there is violence
And then there's lots of work to be done.
No place to hang out our washin'
And then they can't blame all on the sun.
We gonna rock down to
And then we'll take it higher.
Oh we gonna rock down to
And then we'll take it higher.
Workin' so hard like a soldier
Can't afford the things on T.V.
Deep in my heart I abhor ya
Can't get food for the kid.
We gonna rock down to
And then we'll take it higher.
Oh we gonna rock down to
And then we'll take it higher.
Hear a bit ...
Virtual Poverty and Virtual Exclusion. Richer countries like the USA and UK have over recent years been building up a new real poverty and exclusion problem that can be called 'imagined poverty' or 'virtual poverty'. This largely involves children being given an incorrect view of the average family as being significantly richer than the average family really is, so many from average families now think they are poor. Hence a substantial number of 'virtual poor' can be created by modern advertising, TV, film and internet especially in richer countries or developing countries.
1. Advertising. Those selling more expensive products at higher profit margins have more money to spend on advertising than those selling chaeper goods at lower profit margins. So advertising does tend to present average people as buying more expensive goods than the majority of people actually buy. The advertising 'virtual average person' is richer than the average person actually is.
2. TV, film and internet. Those making TV programs, films and websites targeted at the young commonly present 'virtual average families' as richer than the average family actually is. Hence the Disney TV show 'Hannah Montana' basically presents a multi-millionaire family as 'typical' to the young people that it successfully targets. The TV, film and internet 'virtual average family' is richer than the average family actually is.
Hence the UK today may have only 10% who are actual relative poor, but may have another 20% who are actually in the avegage majority but have been made 'virtual poor' by exposure to modern advertising, TV, films and websites. And these 'virtual poor' will feel that they suffer 'virtual exclusion' in not being able to buy what they wrongly believe that the majority can buy. There is a real problem for some countries where this 'virtual poverty' problem, added to some real poverty problems, may have in part contributed to events like the recent 2011 street riots in the UK. Such 'virtual exclusion' seems to be shown in the UK in a recent Children's Society and University of York study of children aged 8 to 15 which gives their views on social exclusion. UK 21st century children feel 'deprived' if their family does not have most of the popular 'normal possessions' including in importance order 'some pocket money', 'some family holidays', 'some good clothes', 'smartphones', 'a family car' and 'good TV'.
Where it exists this 'virtual poverty' problem may need some more regulation of advertising, TV and film that is targeted at the young - and the problem may be less in the currently censored '18' films area than in the 'PG' films and advertising area !?
Global Politics. Globally the professional middle classes of developed democracies are increasingly establishing a global politics as in extending their human rights related baselines for governing. This again rests on the assumption that the professional middle class can successfully alone govern very mixed societies. In fact the resulting policies incline to being desk-theory stereotype policies with serious inconsistencies and holes, because governing by a professional middle class really needs the help of a genuine mix of others being involved also. Modern political and legal developments have not helped here, and undoubtedly poverty and social exclusion affects the lives of so many children so badly as not to be considered decent to publicly discuss. And the dumbing-down now of education and science, 'because the average person does not like intelligent stuff', is very unhelpful.
A practicable solution that would help democratic governments be more truly representative of their electors, would be having a third of representatives chosen randomly by computer from eligible elector lists. These randomly selected representatives could go for a second term only by election. They would be able to turn down the job, and if three draws produce no acceptance then political parties could nominate representatives in proportion to the numbers of their elected representatives. Randomly selected representatives, unlike professional politicians, would include some average Joes and some from the poor and other rarely represented minorities - and political parties would have to seek to attract them to their ranks. This should do a real bit of good for democracy, and further improvement could come from increasing direct consultation with the people as through the internet. Voting in itself is boring to many, and elections would be more of an exciting spectacle if they included 'Lottery Selection'. (This idea recently put on a local web forum got only support.)
Lotteries have proven that the one thing that millions do fully trust computers to do reliably is random selection, even those without computers, so it certainly looks a better first in electronic democracy than e-voting. And improved internet use could also help the various branches of government and other bodies to identify those people whose contributions might be the most informed in particular issues ? Many working in government jobs have several skills but their job uses only one of their lesser skills, and for them it may be too hard to find and to move to their best job in another department or section. Their managers just want to get the jobs they cover done. A referral payment of say £5,000 to a department that successfully refers any worker to another department who stays 1 year (shared with that department if they helped) could be very useful ?
NEWS. With around 80 million estimated to be living in relative poverty in the EU, the European Union made 2010 the European Year For Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion.
There will be conferences and other events to raise public awareness, but as yet no new commitment to action by governments. see EU Poverty Year 2010.
2010 saw some governments re-pledging to help halve "global poverty and hunger" by 2015, though progress has stalled and it is maybe not as a great a target as it looks.
World recession is now causing some richer countries to reduce government aid to poorer countries, though some are still maintaining their aid levels. Yet 2011 sees the UN is now reporting that recent cuts in aid by richer countries and poor investment practices have been increasing poverty in Africa.
2010 also saw what maybe looks a strange poverty policy being put by the UK Deputy Prime Minister supporting poverty aid being reduced at home while being increased abroad - as 'helping promote world economic growth and helping reduce extremism and terrorism'.
But is this mainly about some transfer of wealth from the rich in richer countries to the rich in poorer countries being seen as a charity-vote winner that will also generate some reverse flow ?
PS. A classic poem on the failings of government, at least when they were religion dominated, written around 1670 was 'Satire Against Reason And Mankind' by John Wilmot Earl of Rochester though that interesting work was maybe just anti-science anti-religion and anti-government ?
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(PS. This website is being especially well used by colleges and universities, so maybe academics must be relied on to get these social exclusion issues dealt with - though most of them may well consider that to be outside their customary role !?)
NOTE : this site gets Google market advertisements, some of which may be examples of social exclusion at work now !
You can do a good search of this website, or of the web, below ;