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Polly Toynbee; deftly bypassing reality

Link: Polly Toynbee: Cameron deftly bypasses the hard politics of the family | Comment is free | The Guardian.

TbwHow can a supposedly intelligent person defy logic her whole life? Here is La Toynbee on the subject of Conservatives and their sacred cow, "the family." Quite reasonably, she points out that this is not a uniquely conservative construct. Even Lefties want stable relationships apparently and, as she says, (alarming image) a Socialist good fairy's preferred gift to a child would be a loving family. After this brief holiday in reality, however, Britain's most barking-mad woman is soon off to la-la land again.

"The reason the left is instinctively suspicious of Conservative praise for the family is because it always sounds like a deliberate distraction from the real cause of social malaise - the wealth gap that dislocates society. It's easier to call for stronger families than to confront the true reason why some countries do well socially and why we do badly."

How can she assert this with so straight a face? If she knows any history, she knows a more accurate (though no less wild) generalisation would be that families in Britain were more stable when the country was poorer. If she knows any geography, she knows that - far from poverty correlating to family breakdown - richer countries tend to have less stable families. It almost seems that the luxury the world's poor most long for is divorce.

The working-class families among whom I grew up did not farm babies for subsidies. A car was a rare luxury. Plasma TVs and Nintendo wiis were unheard of. They lived from wage packet to wage packet and ate less well as pay day approached. They invariably supported themselves by work. That may perhaps be why they were known as "working-class." Why that title is now reserved for the economically-inactive is a question for another day. As it the question of whether the name of "the Labour Party" now breaches trading standards.

I have lived in one rich country and two poor countries. Family is undoubtedly much stronger in the poor ones. Humans seem generally to respond quite logically to a need to stick together. Remove that need, and they respond in other (no doubt equally rational) ways. I make no case for poverty of course. However, while it's easy for a well-off person (unless she makes a living writing for the Guardian) to say so, I don't think there's much correlation between wealth and happiness . As a late friend of my family used to say when I was young, "Money doesn't make you happy, it just allows you to be miserable in comfort".

People generally seem happier with the prospect, rather than the fact, of material success. I would go so far as to say that something to strive for is the secret of happiness, and that it matters very little what that something is, or from where, socially or economically, you begin your strivings.

Endless repetition of the claim that inequality is the source of all evil does not make it right. Endless unchallenged repetition, however - as demagogues everywhere know - may lead fools to accept it as fact.

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