Can’t afford to buy a home? Can’t afford to start a family? Can’t afford to live in the community of your birth? It was all designed into the social system between the 16th and 18th centuries. Designed to fail.
Not failure for everyone, of course. The people who shaped our social system were the noblemen who decided they did not want to work for their living. Far better to ride on the backs of other people. Economists call that behaviour “rent seeking”.
The culture of rent seeking is one half of the binary system called capitalism. Half of capitalism is composed of people who own assets that give them access to income and wealth without having to work for it. The other half of capitalism consists of people who work to produce the value that they own.
Democracy – the 20th century right of every person to vote – did not change that binary structure. In fact, the culture of cheating was further entrenched by Margaret Thatcher. She ordered the sale of affordable social housing at knockdown prices. This co-opted the working class into the culture of cheating.
Over the centuries, the lives of working people were degraded by having to pay rents to the landowners. Those rents are what economists call “transfer payments”. Income is transferred from people who produce and earn it, to people who do not earn it.
One victim is the family. The traditional family unit has collapsed because of the cost of housing.
- Young people are forced out of the communities where they are born because they cannot afford the price of housing. This started when the aristocracy enclosed the commons.
- Because of house prices, women postpone having babies until they reach their thirties. This has created the demographic crisis – fertility rates have collapsed below the rate required to maintain population size.
- Over 50% of today’s 30-year-olds are childless. But, again, the discrimination favours the owners of land. The birth rate among top-paid women now accounts for more than half of all births in England and Wales.
The biggest drops in the birth rate is among manual workers who make up about a quarter of working-age women. They rent their homes and struggle to pay the bills. Many of them rely on food banks for their meals.1
Meanwhile, in 2021, homeowners notched up an extra £800bn on the value of their homes. The largest slice of that total is the value of land beneath the dwellings. The total value of UK residential stock to a record £8.4 trillion.2
1 The Office of National Statistics supplies the data on birth rates.