Friday, March 18, 2016

Is there fairness between the generations? Don't ask the experts, they don't know.

Intergenerational fairness is one of those terms like 'austerity' and 'fairness' that appears more and more in the media but everybody has their own ideas about what it means.

The Parliament of the UK wants to try and puts some substance to term and its implications. To my mind this is a good thing. To do this it there is a committee of MPs that question 'experts' that have firm views about the subject.

Research and presentations keep appearing from the IFS, David Willetts, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Intergenerational Foundation that purport to show how good things are for older people compared with the young. Some of this research, from David Willetts in particular, is inclined to connect the two together.

The flaw, the very obvious flaw, with all the research is that it only ever looks at one or two factors at a time. This means you can cherry pick a subject. For instance the high price of housing and its impact on young people but ignore the result of the ultra low interest rates on the wealth of older people.

Intergenerational fairness is a 'Xmas Tree Subject'. You decorate it with the things that most appeal and support your point of view and forget the decorations that don't.

This short video is taken from a meeting of the committee and illustrates how far we are away from having any hard evidence on the subject. The gentleman is Ashley Seager, the co-founder and board member of the Intergenerational Foundation.

I don't know the name of the lady MP but I admire her persistence in getting him to give her a straight answer.

So now we have it. Nobody knows the numbers. Somehow I doubt that it will stop the pundits from continuing to broadcast their divisive messages.

The star of committee meeting is a guy called Ben Franklin from The Longevity Centre. His session starts at 10.42 on the timeline. I think Mr Seager could take a few lessons from the young man's grasp of data and brevity of response. Dick Stroud

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