Sunday, 7 April 2013

Did chicklit cause the crash?

According to the Palma Index, the fate of the tax system, and of society, rests with the middle classes. The Palma Index is a measure of the ratio between rich and poor in society, just like the Gini Index, only different. Whereas the Gini measures the whole spectrum from the poorest to the richest, the Palma takes a new approach, comparing the richest 10 per cent against the poorest 40 per cent. The reason for this is that the Gini is oversensitive to changes in the middle, and as a result, it's less sensitive to changes at the top and bottom.
So if you have a society like Ireland at the moment, where there's a group in the middle who are getting along just about ok, but at the bottom 40 per cent you quite suddenly have people living in utter desperation, while at the top 10 per cent you have enormously rich people, the Gini won't measure this so well, but the Palma will.
When Gabriel Palma studied inequality, he found that the middle classes generally have around half the gross national income everywhere.
What's different is how much the very rich and the very poor have. And Palma said that how this shakes out depends on who the middle classes side with.
(All this is thanks to a great blog by Alex Cobham of the Center for Global Development and Andy Sumner of King's College London here
It set me thinking. The literature of the 1960s was plain about where its loyalties lay: with the working classes, the angry young men, the scholarship boys.
But when the 1970s segued into the 1980s and 1990s, there was a change of view. Now the heroes were men in red braces gambling and becoming millionaires and brash women in high heels and cutthroat shoulder pads kicking them out of the way to be millionaires themselves.
The chicklit that was a craze of the millennium had the same loyalties. I except Marian Keyes, whose warm, funny books were about girls from a working-class background, often baffled in the new world they'd found themselves in, and wanting only a nice guy like their dad who'd mow the lawn in a woolly jumper and be a strong and comforting love.
But an awful lot of the chicklit was set in an entrepreneurial world fuelled by gallons of crisp white wine, and with money as its beau ideal. Sure, the heroine was looking for true love, but they were using the model the Edwardians used to advise: "Don't marry for money, but marry where money is".
I wonder will we see a new kind of story, now that the rampant greed has led to rampant destruction.

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