Thursday, 15 June 2017

That's how democracy works.

From The Daily Mail:

A major Tory donor who backs Boris Johnson to be the next Prime Minister has demanded Theresa May overhaul the party agenda and slash tuition fees.

Ukrainian-born Alexander Temerko said the party faced losing the youth vote for good against a Labour Party committed to scrapping university charges.

The comments section is full of the usual bile, all the Boomers who had 'free' higher education and student grants; who bought their houses back in the day when UK government policy was to keep prices down and are now getting taxpayer-funded house price increases most years, all the pensioners who are getting far more out of the welfare state than they ever paid in etc.

As I have been saying for ages, the key is to get out and vote. Pensioners are treated so favourably because they all go out and vote for whichever party they think is likely to give them higher pensions and subsidise their house prices etc. A million votes once every five years achieves far more than a million people attending a protest march and is a lot less effort. But you have to have something to vote for.

That's why we set up YPP five years ago. We're into Georgism (lite or otherwise) for its own sake, but it is easiest to sell to the non-Homeys, non-Boomers and non-pensioners (i.e. the under-40s) because they would benefit most immediately, hence the tongue-in-cheek name.

The lesson to learn from the Greens and UKIP is that it doesn't matter too much if you never get (m)any MPs. Once they hit a certain threshold, the major parties started merrily nicking Green/UKIP policies to try and shore up their own vote, thus doing (some of) the Greens'/UKIP's work for them.

So while YPP doesn't seriously expect to have any elected representatives any time soon, that doesn't matter (I personally wouldn't want to be an MP, I've got a perfectly interesting and well paid job, thanks).

Problem is that Labour has drawn similar electoral calculations and decided to grab the under-40s vote by nicking one of YPP's less important policies - reducing tuition fees/student loan repayments. In reality, there are no student loans, it's a graduate tax on higher earners but for some reason they don't call it that - didn't Labour say they were in favour of higher taxes on higher earners?

And some more cynical Tories now want to adopt this in retaliation, entirely as expected.

Labour also appear to have stumbled across our main policies and mumbled something along the lines of shifting taxes to Land Value Tax and reducing VAT, but they appear to have done this on general principles without realising that these are The Big Ones, do it properly and this would save the under-40s five times as much as diddling about with tuition fees/student loan repayments.

Ah well.

Hopefully the under-40s will realise that Labour are trying to buy them off with token concessions and that there is a real alternative to the socialist/neo-liberal/Home-Owner-Ist see-saw.


Bayard said...

I'd laugh if the Tories cut tuition fees and then, at the next election, all the young people voted Labour again, because their objection to the Tories runs deeper than that.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, that's how it works, next time the Tories have to outbid Labour and so on. Nulab had to introduce fees because Tony doubled student numbers without giving extra funding. The Tories only trebled them to fuck over the Lib Dems. I don't think anybody really supports them, whatever the merits or demerits.

Lola said...

A lot of older people who have enjoyed house price rises are just as cross as their children. They fully realise that what they gain their children lose. Georgism has a wider appeal than maybe you realise.

Bayard said...

"because Tony doubled student numbers"

Something that seems to have been accepted unquestionably as A Good Thing, despite mounting evidence that a lot of graduates have nothing much more to show for three years study than a load of debt.

James James said...

"In reality, there are no student loans, it's a graduate tax on higher earners but for some reason they don't call it that"

No it isn't. They charge interest on it, and if you overpay you can pay it off. You can't do that with a tax. With a tax you can't overpay so much that they stop asking permanently.

They've even started charging a market interest rate on the latest student loans.

If it looks like a loan and quacks like a loan, it's a loan.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Mark Wadsworth said...

Says Meryl "If it looks like a tax and acts like a tax, it is, surely, a tax."

James James said...

I see, it has tax-like aspects and loan-like aspects. The loan-like aspects are the interest and the fact you can pay it off, which you cannot do with a tax. The tax-like aspects are that you don't have to pay it off if you don't earn much (though it continues to accrue interest) and it gets written off when you retire (which indicates that no commercial operation would have lent the money in the first place).

James James said...

This raises an interesting question: what is going on with US student loans? They are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Plenty of them never get paid off. Why are commercial operations lending the money in the first place?

Mark Wadsworth said...

JJ, agreed they are a mix of loan and tax, I say the latter outweighs the former.

Recurring taxes on land also have loan like aspects - it's like an interest only, non repayable, non recourse loan.

James James said...

True but then we're starting to use language in a very unconventional way. It doesn't really aid understanding above saying "if you own this land, you will pay this much a year; alternatively you can choose to forfeit the freehold".

If I rent a flat, I could say "I have an interest only, non repayable, non recourse loan from my landlord, which ends when I move out", or I could say "I pay this much a month, until I move out". The latter is much clearer, even if they are the same.

Everyone knows it's not "really" a loan. It's a liability I acquired by occupying land, not by borrowing money. Whereas in the student loans case, it's a liability I acquired by borrowing money.

James James said...

P.S. I'm one of the lucky folks who paid £3k/year for university. I pay off my student loan next month. The average interest rate has been less than 1%, less than my mortgage.

Would I have done it if the fees were £9k/year? Probably. Would I have done it if the interest rate was 5%? Not sure.

paulc156 said...

Accepting that we probably don't need half the population to be taking full time degrees and that abolishing university fees is bloody expensive I'd have thought a halfway house arrangement whereby subsidised (interest rate subsidy) loans for students would still occur but with a range of subjects incurring no debt for the student at all. At least this way people would be getting subsidies to take degrees in subjects that might offer a national dividend so to speak. eg.stem subjects.

Mark Wadsworth said...

JJ, agreed.

PC, which is pretty much YPP policy, as it happens. Occasionally, we agree 😀

Dinero said...

Anyone got anecdotal evidence of a Fees affect on tuition quality as students now pay for the tuition themselves.

Bayard said...


I have always thought that a system of National Scholarships could be set up, which students could take and, if they passed the exams, the scholarship would pay for their tuition and something towards their board and lodging. The scholarship would have to be renewed at the end of each year. This would mean that only bright, hardworking students got free tertiary education, and if you were dim or lazy or both, you would have to fund your education yourself. After all, why should the state pay for someone to go to university, even if it is to study a stem subject, and then doss about for three years?