10 Sep 2011

Will Hutton's "Them and Us"

I've just finished reading Will Hutton's excellent "Them and Us: Changing Britain - Why We Need a Fair Society". It's a densely argued and extensively researched book that covers a lot of ground (over 400 pages). I found myself agreeing with a great deal of what is said. In particular, he argues that, even if you are very pro-business, no-one can really argue that deregulation is what is needed. Even business people and entrepreneurs need to have the state to set rules to make the system work optimally.

He only mentions the possibility of a Financial Transaction Tax once - on page 214. That's a shame, because I really believe that using an FTT to generate revenue rather than conventional taxes on income and profits would be much fairer. Maybe I should try and contact him directly.

There was one particular idea that I found particularly inspired. Will Hutton points out that the current UK system where 7% of the population are schooled in independent fee-paying schools is one of the most obvious illustrations of unfairness. Pupils from independent schools, whose parents pay an average of £10,000 a year for day students and and £24,000 for boarders have a clear advantage when it comes to getting in to the top universities. So, on page 271, when talking about the financing of universities, Will Hutton says "If upper-middle-class parents are prepared to pay fees on this scale for their children between eleven and eighteen, they could certainly continue to do so for another three years.." And he goes on to say that "An even more radical idea is that students from state schools should be excused from paying altogether. After all, privately educated students have an unfair advantage, and a new fees regime could help correct it." Excellent!!

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