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Owen Jones vs. Owen Jones

Jones accuses others of making political points over the Derby tragedy, but his own response reflects his political views: When a financier errs, it is partly capitalism’s fault; when a professional welfarist errs, he is simply a wrong ‘un

Oj
Too easy
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Andrew Gibson
On 5 April 2013 20:40

The dreadful fire in Derby at the centre of the Philpott case, and the circumstances around it, have provoked a legitimate debate about the nature of evil acts.

Polemicist Owen Jones has been vocal in stating the traditional view. That is, that Mick Philpott is responsible for his own actions and his particular socio-economic circumstances are largely irrelevant. The arson derived from Original Sin, if you will.

But time and again on other issues Jones has argued the opposite. He has posited that acts of evil are formed at least in part by the political arrangements that surround them.

For example, writing of the LIBOR scandal, Jones properly condemns individual misbehaviour, but notes,  

Of course, Western society has not been plunged into crisis because of the personality flaws of a few thousand individuals. It suits the Westminster elite… to dismiss our current protracted nightmare as the consequence of the actions of a few rogue elements or bad apples. Blame your Bob Diamonds and Fred the Shreds, and leave the rest be, is their message. No, it is the system – capitalism – that is at fault.”

Jones again emphasised the circumstances and arrangements surrounding misbehaviour as a causal factor when he assessed the underpinnings of the financial crisis:

“The crisis was not caused by a few “bad eggs”; the odd greedy banker who can be treated as a fall guy,… It was a system – not a few individuals – which plunged the world into economic catastrophe. This is a crisis of unfettered capitalism, red in tooth and claw, not the unfortunate consequences of some cock-ups by the likes of Fred Goodwin.”

In the same article, he grandly exonerates James Dyson from wrongdoing in the aftermath of Dyson’s decision some years ago to offshore a factory to Malaysia:

“It’s not because he’s a bad person, or morally questionable: it’s because capitalism is about making profit, rather than putting the good of society first.”

That is, the system is to blame.

And Jones is equally excoriating of the wider society in the aftermath of the 2011 riots. More specifically, the accused should not only look to themselves and their own behaviour, but should also consider in mitigation their financial position:

“We do know, however, that 42 per cent of the young defendants were poor enough to be eligible for free school meals – compared with a national average of 16 per cent.”

So Jones is rightly convinced that Philpott is morally responsible for his own deeds, but adds, vehemently, that the arrangements that support Philpott rather than confront and challenge him to change his ways are not a factor in this calamitous tale.

Jones holds this view despite the fact that Philpott seems to have spent twenty years bullying and poncing without ever being given cause to reflect.

Yet Jones is also adamant that certain financiers and entrepreneurs are not only responsible for their actions, but the economic arrangements that surround them are culpable too. Similarly, while he doesn’t condone riots, he avers that poverty and wider social issues are partially explanatory, if not an excuse.

Jones accuses others of making political points over the Derby tragedy, but his own response reflects his political views: When a financier errs, it is partly capitalism’s fault; when a professional welfarist errs, he is simply a wrong ‘un.

Does Jones think that financial and welfare arrangements affect and underpin behaviour or does he not? Do we act in response to systems of rewards and penalties or are they irrelevant?

All that is clear from Jones’s recent shouty demeanour is that he views himself as better informed and morally superior than life’s extras that cross his path and litter his regal wake. 

Read more on: Andrew Gibson, Owen Jones, British welfare state, welfare, and Mick Philpott
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