There has been some minor uproar in the UK Daily Telegraph today about Diana Carney, wife of the new Governor of the Bank of England over her views that are against inequality, bankers and conspicuous consumption. She is being denounced for hypocrisy. See
Yes there is a fair bit of hypocrisy in this woman’s world view, but isn’t that true of all of us? I don’t know many non-hypocrites; do you? We all try to hold to our principles, but it is hard. But we are masters at seeing others hypocrisy. Would we rather she didn’t even try?
And there is a new version of Morton’s fork at work. Morton used to tax Henry VII’s nobles saying if they looked poor they must save a lot and if they looked rich they could afford to pay. Now if you are poor and say inequality sucks, you are said to be envious, and if you are rich and say inequality sucks you are said to be hypocritical. Presumably there is some income level where it is ok to say inequality sucks? Maybe it is my income level? Inequality on the scale we now have sucks and is profoundly dysfunctional and I envy no one.
That said, I find it interesting that based on the reaction to this Daily Telegraph piece, about wanting to have less stuff, seeing the costs of economic growth, all of that is seen now as left wing. When I was growing up in a conservative family, we saw avoiding waste, saving string, not doing any conspicuous consumption, not keeping up with the Jones, saving, paying off the mortgage in 7 years (as my Dad did because he hated debt) as conservative. Is it now left wing? Are credit cards right wing? No wonder we in the UK and the US are in a mess.
And indeed personally I have found that getting rid of stuff does make me happier, as we accumulate so much unnecessary dross, and waste time working to earn it instead of living life and hanging out with our family and friends doing things we enjoy. There was a long standing joke in my company: ‘When you retire no one wishes they had spent more time at the office‘…I found that to be true.
Personal Footnote: This post is dedicated to my dear friend Kathi who worries about the same things…