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The government wants “To set our country back on the path to prosperity that all can share in” and “mend a broken society”, claimed UK Prime Minister David Cameron at the Conservative Party conference on 10 October. Despite national policies inflicting deepening misery on the poorest in society, and promises by his ministers of more of the same, he was seeking to portray his leadership as compassionate and inclusive.
A term often featured in discussions around the state of the economy is ‘economically inactive’.
This rather dismissive term is used to refer to people who are neither employed nor actively seeking employment. They may be raising children, studying, caring for a sick relative, or just generally making the world a better place in their own unique way, but if they’re not a cog in the economic machine, they count for very little in the minds of many politicians and economists.
“Gross impiety it is that a nation's pride should be maintained in the face of its poor.” William Penn wrote these words in 1669. We have no means of knowing what his voice might have sounded like when he read them aloud, as he undoubtedly would have done, but when I hear them in my mind's ear, they are spoken with firmness and a touch of anger. They are words we do well to heed in our own time.