Poverty and wealth, by this logic, don't just fall along a continuum the way hot and cold or short and tall do. They are instead fundamentally different experiences, each working on the human psyche in its own way. At some point between the two, people stop thinking in terms of goods and start thinking in terms of problems, and that shift has enormous consequences. Perhaps because economists, by and large, are well-off, he suggests, they've failed to see the shift at all.
"Getting tough" with the poor through policy is more likely to backfire than succeed, as it just encourages more mean-reducing, risk-taking behavior. At some level the marginal utility of consumption for the poor fits the standard model, so income effects will more likely bring normal behavior than will substitution effects.
- Is There Anything Good About Men?: How Cultures Flourish by Exploiting Men
- Free Will and Consciousness: How Might They Work?
- Advanced Social Psychology: The State of the Science
Then he tells a story about standing in a park next to Fulham's football ground with his dad when he was only eight or nine. He looked across the Thames, and asked his father what was on the other side of the river. And his father told him there was nothing there; that he couldn't go over there.
"Then when I got to the age of about 19, I wondered if something was there. And this is going to sound ludicrous, but it's as it was. I thought I'll go and have a look. So I got off the bus, and instead of going over the bridge I went along the other side of the bank. And there was a rowing club, and people rowing; people from Cambridge, and Barclays, and stuff. And I felt so inhibited by them, I couldn't go any further on. I had to go back. These rowers and stuff – this is it, this is the thing – not feeling you fit in. I didn't feel as if I fitted in. Feeling that you shouldn't be there. That somebody's going to tell you off. That you're in the wrong place. And I realised I'd been told something at the age of 10, that you can't go there – that it's not for you. And I just believed it. So when people say: 'Oh what's wrong with the working class? All they've got to do is this and that.' Well no, it's not as easy as that."
He breaks off, looking slightly apologetic. "I'm just trying to talk about this without sounding as if I've got a grudge, cos there is no grudge. I hope this isn't sounding like a terrible sob story, I don't mean it to be at all."
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