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Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Finkler Question: Finkler's Epiphany (Conclusion of this 3 instalment Blog)

At pages 230 - 37 we have Finkler speaking from the platform of a For or Against Israel debate in Holborn. At page 235, a Gentile questioner asks of the For Israel speakers, "Is the reason you are uniquely singled out for censure, that you are uniquely racist?". At page 236, Finkler - answering out of turn from the Against Israel side of the platform - explodes: "How dare you, a non Jew ... how dare you even think you can tell Jews what sort of country they may live in, when it is you, a European Gentile, who made a separate country for Jews a necessity?". He continues a bravura performance over half a page.

The prose is powerful, and I assumed immediately that this was Jacobson speaking, telling us through the Born Again Finkler what he himself thinks in the For and Against debate.

I don't know if that is so; you could take Tamara Krausz's one word comment "Hysterical" (page 237) as Jacobson's own response to Finkler's tirade.

And as the book moves over fifty pages towards its close at page 307, Hephzibah and Libor - Jacobson's most sympathetic characters - say many much wiser things.

But serious moral purpose would involve not leaving Finkler, at page 236, with only Tamara Krausz's one word as the last word. Finkler's argument is specious in an important way and Jacobson, unwittingly I suspect, acknowledges this at page 276 - I will come to that.

Jews began leaving central Europe, especially European Russia, towards the end of the nineteenth century. They left to escape persecution or simply to build a better life - in this, just like the Irish - and like the Irish, America was the destination of choice. Some Jews went to England, some to Ottoman Palestine, some to South Africa. Anywhere that seemed to offer hope.

With the growth of Zionism, the ending of Ottoman rule in 1918, the Balfour Declaration, and the creation of the British Mandate, Palestine became a more popular destination. As I understand it, there were tensions (there had been squabbles over proprietorship of the holy places for centuries anyway) but Palestine functioned reasonably well as a multicultural, multiethnic entity until the British were driven out after the War, with Jewish terrorist organisations - the Irgun, the Stern Gang - delivering the coup de grĂ¢ce.

The United Nations' partition of Palestine in 1948 - done without any plebiscites to seek the views of those living there - created the modern state of Israel and did indeed solve the problem of what to do with the survivors of the Holocaust: they could go to Israel. This is the point to which the President of Iran constantly draws attention: the Great Powers did not want the survivors, many or most of them traumatised people, in their own countries; let the Palestinians make way for them.

But the survivors of the Holocaust are dead. Israel now boosts its faltering population with the religiously-inspired, the nationalistically-inspired, and the dubious characters who see a chance of making money in a frontier society. When Meyer Abramsky left Brooklyn for Israel, it was not out of necessity. It was "to keep his bargain with God" (p 276). And the end result, as Jacobson tells us, was a shooting spree costing the lives of an Arab family.

London is the whole world in one city. The Jews who live there prefer it to Israel, though some of them will discuss leaving. In this their situation is no different to that of the communities of Armenians, Ukrainians, Poles, Chinese, Indians, Iraqis, Afghans, Somalis .... The list is over a hundred.

I work in London one day a month, sometimes more. It must be a hard city to live in. It's crowded, the transport system struggles to cope, housing is wretched, the Westminster government is out of touch with London. I am surprised by the civility which marks my everyday dealings. The young men and women, from all those hundred diasporas, serve my coffee with a smile, cheerfully wave me into the car park, take my lunch time order as if it matters to them to get it right.I am not entirely comfortable with the young women who wear their religion on their heads, but they seem comfortable with me, so I am sure we will get there in the end. But in Howard Jacobson's book, none of these people get a look in. All the coffees are served, drinks orders taken, dinners served by invisible faces and hands.

Mr Jacobson should get out more.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Finkler Question (continued)

After 7 / 7 when a small group of angry young men blew themselves up in London in order to kill bus and tube travellers on a politically correct basis - regardless of sex, race or religion - Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, made a short statement in which (this is how I recollect it) he said, "London is the whole world in one city. Let no one divide us". I was moved by that. I was sure that Londoners would have felt he said the right thing.

Jacobson's slice of London life is very thin and so thin that it feels divisive. There are no proletarians, Jewish or otherwise, though there is a small side-show of prostitutes (at this point I was reminded of Frank Mort's Capital Affairs, a book about the side by side existence in London of high culture and low sex).

There are no movers and shakers. Finkler is a popularising philosopher who appears on TV; Treslove a drifting figure in the arts world; Libor in earlier life a celebrity news journalist and later teacher. Hephzibah (with whom Tresolve moves in)is going to open an Anglo-Jewish museum. They live in North London and are very conscious of Location, Location. They circulate in bars, restaurants and dinner parties. At times, I didn't feel I was entering a world populated by Jews and Jewishness but merely the world of a sub-group of London's chattering classes, a sub-group which happens to talk more about Israel than about the literary prizes which another sub-group awards.
These people are supposed to be metropolitan and cosmopolitan, but much of the time reading Jacobson I found myself thinking: this feels provincial.

That would not matter if there was imaginative vision. When Jacobson forgets his Agenda, there is, and it is then that the writing improves - dramatically in one case: there are two lovely pages (267 - 269) which evoke the dying of Libor's wife, Malkie. Here we do have imaginative sympathy.

But when the Agenda is dominant, the writing becomes peevish - the sort of peevishness you saw in George Bush, failing to rise to the challenge of 9 / 11 or even a presidential candidates' debate. And using the word "peevish" I am reminded of someone else.

The dust jacket tells us that Jacobson "read English at Cambridge under F.R.Leavis".
I will digress to get to the point.

Back in 1967 or 1968, frustrated with dull lectures at university where only a couple of professors - A.J.Ayer and Isaiah Berlin - dazzled us, I suggested to the committee of the Oxford Union, of which I was a member, that the Union should put on some academic lectures. As I recall, the President, Robert Jackson (later Tory MP for Wantage) took up the idea and the invited lecturers included F.R.Leavis. As a committee member, I was invited to the tea put on for him, though I knew next to nothing of literature or Leavis. Other people asked him questions about assorted literary figures and it amused me that he had a stock response, "He used to do good things ... I haven't looked at his work for years ... I guess he's gone bad now". I don't have the exact words, so I have to tell you that they sounded peevish.

When I came to read Leavis's The Great Tradition, I probably had that image at the back of my mind, making me sceptical of his claim that there can be no great literary art without serious moral purpose - you can go to my essay "Morality and Art" on my website if you want to see the scepticism developed.

That sets the stage to ask of Jacobson: Does he have serious moral purpose? I will try to answer this question by looking at one passage on page 236, which I shall call Finkler's Epiphany and discuss in my next Blog.

The Finkler Question. How do bad books win prizes?

It's Jonathan Safran Foer's fault. I read his cover endorsement of Howard Jacobson, "A real giant, a great, great writer" so I bought the book. I thought Foer's Everything is Illuminated wonderful and the film of the book likewise. So Foer's was a strong recommendation.

But The Finkler Question is a badly written and imaginatively limited book. I will give two examples to support the claim that it is badly written and then go on to the more difficult questions.

In Part One, Jacobson introduces and establishes a trio of three male characters: schoolboy friends Sam Finkler (a Jew) and Julian Treslove (a non - Jew) and their much older former teacher Libor (a Czech emigré and Jew). The setting is North London which, as it turns out, does not bode well: as we all know, it's grim up North London. Why, the BBC is almost on your doorstep. But let that pass.

Finkler and Libor have recently been widowed and in the course of Part One Tresolve is mugged. This introduces a Whodunnit element.

Part One at 134 pages held my attention and I laughed at some of the gags but I felt, not as loudly as I was supposed to. In Part Two everything falls apart, including the prose. Jacobson has got an Agenda, and having discharged his novelistic duties in Part One, is going to pursue it. He starts with a vengeance:

Chapter Six (pages 137 - 57) presents a straw man organisation, "ASHamed Jews" - an anti-Zionist grouping of effete intellectuals, the brainchild of Finkler - and ploddingly ridicules it. They meet in The Groucho Club, where after irritating other guests, they are moved to an upstairs room, "Not even a drinks waiter would disturb them, if that was how they wanted it. This gave a clandestine and even dangerous savour to their deliberations" (page 142).

This is laying it on with a trowel. The ridicule is done with the gag about the drinks waiter. When you pile ridicule on ridicule, the effect (and there is twenty pages of this stuff) backfires. I found it hard to finish the chapter.

We then move to Libor in the University Women's Club in Mayfair, but it's not long before there is more come-uppance for Finkler. He gets it in Chapter Eight (pp 183 - 88). This time he is going to have to face up to the fact that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are the same thing and it's his own children who are going to rub his face in it.

The trouble is, that until page 183 we do not know that the widowed Finkler has three children, towards whom he discharges his paternal duties. Blaise, Immanuel and Jerome appear from nowhere. They have been set up so that Finkler can be set up. The effect in this reader was the feeling that I had been set up. Blaise, Immanuel and Jerome do not re-appear; they are given their bit parts so that Jacobson can continue in the vein of Hectoring Bore. "See? See? See what it leads to?". Yes, it leads to bad writing.

As this is a Blog and not a lit crit journal, I will continue sometime in the next few days.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Funding Streets, Roads and Motorways: the Best Option

I am a heavy user of streets, roads and motorways. I walk into the city centre several times a week, exercising some care since I last tripped on uneven paving. I drive to do food shopping and to visit people. I get out of the country quite often via the M23, M25 and the Channel Tunnel.

I avoid buses and trains even though they are subsidised: they are too often slow and overcrowded. In central London, if I don't walk it, I usually cab it. The Tube is gruelling.

How do I think the road infrastructure I use should be paid for?

I think almost entirely from taxes on vehicle fuel. I don't mind if the taxes discriminate in favour of greener fuels. But there are two main advantages to my prefered funding method, apart from the fact that the mechanism is already in place.

First, taxes on fuel automatically relate cost to use. The more you make use of the roads, the more you pay. Seems fair.

Second, the tax is progressive in a rough and ready way insofar as it collects more per kilometre from the well-off who choose to drive fancy vehicles using fancy amounts of fuel.

I don't like road tolls. In France, the SANEF motorway tolls slow down traffic, create an expensive infrastructure of toll booths (more like frontier posts in their scale), and ensure that the immaculately-maintained roads are much underused. SANEF also spends lots of the money it collects on tiresome roadside propaganda telling you how good it is.

I accept that vehicles probably need to be registered but I think the charges should be to cover the cost of administering the registration system, that's all.

Where I live I pay for a Resident's Parking Permit which pays for wardens to patrol the streets and keep other road users out of the parking bays reserved for me. Fine. But the system generates a big surplus from fines. I think the profit should be spent on pavements and street lighting. Even the most addicted car user uses those.

I find it surprising that cyclists don't have to contribute other than indirectly to the cost of cycle lanes, but I suppose any cost-benefit analysis would come down heavily against a bicycle registration scheme. So maybe the cycle lanes have to come out of the fuel-tax funded road budget. If I am told that bicycle users are generally poorer than car users, then I will feel happier about this.

I blogged yesterday to say there was a left-wing or radical case for favouring low taxes. Today I thought I would say something about taxes I am not going to complain about.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Digging a Hole Near You: Your Council has a Budget Surplus to Spend

I once read a study of Aid to Africa which asked the question, For every $100 given in New York or Brussels, how much reaches the front line in the form of teacher or nurse salaries, school books or medicines, and so on. In some cases, the answer is this: $1

Along the way, there are administrators to be salaried, feel-good "conferences" to be held, bribes to be paid, goods to be lost in transit, pointless purchases to be made.

I asked myself, for every £100 paid in taxes by a UK resident, how much is spent in a reasonably efficient and effective way? I guessed, a half. Maybe I am being wildly optimistic. Parliament's Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office spend all their time telling us how much public money has been wasted. Nothing seems to provide value for money.

I read recently that the utilisation rate of the working time of public sector employees is about 30% - that's to say, when they are at work, they are on-task one third of the time. The rest of the time it's getting over the hangover, chatting, and wandering aimlessly.

Right now, the city in which I live (Brighton) has Minor Road Works going on at every street corner. From previous experience, I guess that they are being carried out at this time of year because there is money in the transport pot which must be spent before the end of March (end of the financial year in the UK) and this is the simplest way to get rid of it. There is money in the pot (a) because there are large revenues from parking fes and fines (b) no one is intelligent enough to spend it intelligently.

Normally, these Minor Road Works are Bodger Jobs. You get no better value than you would from digging a hole and filling it in again.

This is one reason why I now think that left-wing or radical parties in advanced western countries should be leading the way in calling for lower taxation. Taxation is not good value for money. And many taxes are regressive - they take more away from poor people than they do from rich people. This is why I think VAT should be abolished. That would be a very good start in bringing down the tax burden.

And what public expenditure would I cut? Perhaps we should follow Costa Rica's example and abolish the armed forces. Nowadays, they only exist to serve the vainglory of leaders like Tony Blair. And look where that has got us.

But I would also shut down the Arts Councils. The middle classes benefit enough from state expenditure already. Let them pay for their own theatre tickets.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Tired of wacky Eco-Activists? Blame the police

When I turn on my cold tap, the first thing that comes out is a smell of chlorine.

Because privatised water companies are unwilling to invest in long-term infrastructure (they are there to maximise shareholder value), they take the nearest supply of cheap water they can find and they pump it into leaking pipes. To make it safe, they have to clean it up and send it out with disinfectants in it. Fill a glass with the stuff, put it by your bedside and in the morning your "water" has turned into a brackish, metallic, undrinkable fluid.

Eco - activists, however, tell me that it is politically correct to drink this stuff and to shun bottled spring waters, often foreign. I find this unreasonable, and now I know why: water activists are actually undercover police officers working to discredit the environmental movement.

I suppose it's also the case that all these young male cyclists who appear on the pavement from nowhere, no lights, no sense of direction, are also tax-payer funded police officers working to subvert the campaign against cars.

With me? Now you know who is responsible for the idea that disposable nappies are Bad and organic cotton stay-at-home-and-wash-them-Mum nappies are Good.

Postscript 22 June 2013:

I read in this morning's newspapers that the Greenpeace leaflet which led to the famous  McLibel trial of McDonald's in the 1980s was co-written by a long-term undercover police officer working for an organised branch of London's Metropolitan Police which infiltrated protest groups. Probably "McLibel" on Google will get you all you need to know.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Rudolf Elmer: Wikileaks, the Cayman Islands and Swiss Banks

It is a truth not be overlooked that the Cayman Islands is a creation of the United Kingdom Parliament. So too are a score of other "Overseas Territories" which have been created for the sole purpose of allowing the wealthy to bunga bunga their money. Add to this list the Crown Dependencies of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which do very well out of the tax haven status accorded them by Westminster.

There is a simple solution: incorporate all the overseas territories and the crown dependencies into the United Kingdom, subject to UK law and sending MPs to Westminster. It's what the French do with the left overs of their Empire, though of course they also tolerate Monaco and Andorra for the same reasons that we tolerate Jersey and Guernsey.

Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne would lose friends, of course, if they attempted anything so foolish as I am suggesting. What is curious is the unanimity of all of our elected representatives that money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion should be enabled by UK legislation. Find me an MP who is opposed to it!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Simon Ford, 41, Gold Award for Bravery and 14 years in prison

I admire people who are physically brave, especially when they take risks to help others. I also realise that bravery does not mean all-round goodness. A few years ago a young man who just happened to be there received a bravery award for helping passengers during the fire at King's Cross underground station. Some time later he turned up in court for some criminal offence. He was an ordinary working class white Londoner. He got a reduced sentence in recognition of his bravery - and I thought, Quite Right too.

Now Simon Ford, 41, a London firefighter who got a Gold Award for Bravery during operations after the 7 / 7 bombings has been sent down for 14 years for conspiracy to supply cocaine.

I'm not happy with that. But as I read through the long Guardian report on the case - basically, as is usual in drug cases, the detailed police press release - I begin to wonder, Should drug dealers go to prison at all?

I think the police have sometimes wondered that too. Commenting on the whole operation - which involved 520 police officers and jailed 33 people - they say, "the link between drugs and violence has been well made ... Operation Eaglewood has prevented these men contributing to that" by reducing the supply of cocaine in South East England. At the same time, the police comment that the gangs involved in the busted racket avoided violence and none of the convictions are for violence, but simply for conspiracy, supply and money laundering.

So we are talking about end-user violence - and in that case, the link between drugs and violence has been most clearly made in relation to alcohol. Every weekend night here in Brighton, police have to patrol and sit in vans to deal with alcohol-fuelled violence. Recently I observed a nasty incident, inevitably involving young men, and I am glad the police were there to deal with it, with the help of bouncers and more sober clubbers.

I am not aware that the police have to sit in vans at weekends waiting to deal with cocaine-fuelled violence.

In reality, these 33 men have gone to prison - for a total of 200 years and with one individual tariff of 30 years - for economic crimes, for dealing in a drug which - unlike alcohol - is not legal and dealing in which therefore gives rise to the need for money laundering. You can't pay taxes on these earnings even if you want to.

The right approach, in my view, would be to look at the profits of the huge business busted by Operation Eaglewood and extract the taxes which would have been paid had this been a legal business. Plus interest for backpayments and so on. But even though the men involved may not have been very nice people and probably not people I would want to have a meal with, on balance I would still rather that Simon Ford was out there on the streets ready to help me the next time a bomb goes off.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Austerity in North Wales: Beware the Middle Classes bearing sob stories

We are going to hear an awful lot of middle class whingeing in 2011. The squeezed middle. Politicians have told them that that is how they can think of themselves and, golly , are they going to dine out on it. They have already started up.

In today's Independent, Professor Chris Adams from Llangollen in North Wales heads the Letters page with a recital of woes. There is more than one Professor Chris Adams but I think this is one who is about my age (63).

"Income collapsed" in 2008, he tells us, because "pensions suffered zero increases and income on savings vanished". "Our immediate response was to eliminate all marginal expenditure. All charity contributions, all magazines and arts subscriptions are stopped, insurance is reviewed, travel is cut back, and we not eat out or buy new clothes. We don't draw any benefits, we don't have a mortgage and we've never had to apply for credit"

You get the picture? It reminds me of one of those stock Victorian morality paintings. Virtue Deceived; The Gambler's Wife and Children. To which is now added: The Distressed Professor.

Mine was a stock response: I fell about laughing.

I felt a bit bad about that. Maybe this was a case of genuine distress and I was being heartless. North Wales may be a very grim place for all I know down here in Brighton. So I thought I owed him a bit more of a hearing.

The Professor does not provide his bank balance but nowadays that hardly matters: it's all on Google anyway. You just need to develop a set of algorithms for the task in hand. I am still developing the set to deal with the Squeezed Middle, but the general idea is that you type in a name [ say, "Professor Chris Adams" - it is always more efficient to use the scare quotes ] and then you do a plus something. For example, + Consultancy or + Porsche.

Try it. You can see that I have high hopes for my system. I must try using it against myself before I become too self-satisfied.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Loyalty: an over-rated virtue

I begin with a declaration of interest: I don't do Loyalty very well, either to people or institutions. I probably still think it's a Fault, but I want to persuade you that there are reasons for thinking, maybe not such a big one.

When other people pull Loyalty on you - either their own Loyalty or your own lack of it - it's to make you feel bad. The world is full of Loyal Wives and Loyal Husbands who have burnished their Loyalty into a powerful weapon of attack. The other party is left cowering.

It sounds a weak answer to protest that you would rather have a loving wife or a loving husband than a Loyal one.

Servants are expected to be Loyal to their employer, especially if that's a Prince Charles or a Princess Diana. The servants' loyalty is necessary if the employers are to conduct their affairs and trysts and intrigues without risk of discovery. This kind of Loyalty is a one-way street which the powerful expect of the powerless. It's really obedience by another name.

British politics is characterised by tribal loyalties. Young men must choose their party no later than Oxbridge and stick with it through thick and thin if they are to have any chance of rising to the top.

Only the prospect of imminent foreign invasion in 1940 allowed the party-hopper, Winston Churchill, to become Prime Minister - which he did on the back of the disloyalty of over 70 Conservative MPs withdrawing support from their own government following a string of military set-backs. For such disloyalty, we have profound reason to be grateful.

(Already in the 1939 House of Commons debate following Hitler's invasion of Poland, the Tory right-winger, Leopold Amery, called across the chamber to Labour's deputising leader Arthur Greenwood - rising from his place to reply to Tory Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain - "Speak for England". Those words became famous because they called for something which politicians can't usually manage; they can't usually tell their country from their party.)

The side-effects of party loyalty saturate British political life. It is what is responsible for the froth of indignation which fills the letters pages and substitutes for any kind of critical thinking: "Labour traitors", "LibDem sell outs", "Tory wets". Instead of articulate citizens, even our bloggers behave like reincarnations of parade ground sergeant-majors. Their brains switch on only when someone steps out of line; their wrath is instantaneous.

I can do without this kind of loyalty. Times are going to get worse. We need people to speak for England.

Added 24 July 2018: A much expanded version of this blog post forms a chapter of my book The Best I Can Do (degree zero 2016), freely available as a paperback from Amazon, Waterstones and other booksellers

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Monday 3 January: the real reason it's a public holiday

Saturday 1st January was very quiet here in Brighton. There were a lot of people staying in bed, nursing hangovers. That's called Celebrating the New Year.

Some of the shops actually shut, though it wasn't a public holiday. They were just being realistic.

In some countries New Year's Day would have been a public holiday on the actual day.

But in Britain, a public holiday must fall on a weekday (Monday to Friday). So the New Year's Day public holiday gets shoved forward to Monday 3rd January.

Why? Because otherwise Monday to Friday public sector workers would miss out when New Year's Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday. The same thing happens with Christmas Day and Boxing Day holidays. Public sector workers really are indulged.

How much nicer it would have been for the public holiday to have been given on the Saturday 1st with the government giving hints to retailers that, frankly, since half the population will be suffering from the effects of a late night and lots of drink, why not accept reality and shut up shop for the day?

But we don't live in a fair society. Public holidays have become public sector holidays. Shop workers live with that fact all the year round.

Personally, I would abolish all public holidays and add them into individual entitlements. Workers would negotiate their holiday days to suit their needs and tastes. With any luck, the public sector would discover the idea of a Rota and its services would remain available 364/365 - maybe even 365/365

As it is, between 24 December and 4 January we live with skeletal public services. That suggests that many of them are not so "vital" as the public sector unions would have us believe. They are part-time services functioning to suit their employees.

Christmas and New Year is a bad time to get ill - you are more likely to die because you are more likely to be treated by someone who is standing in or moonlighting or simply hungover. That's one of the best arguments for NO public holidays and a duty Rota throughout the health service, GPs surgeries included. If they don't know how a Rota works, they could ask their local Tesco. Or their local kebab shop.

Postscript. I am asked, How much do you expect people to work?

I reply: there are 365 days in the year. If people don't have to work on more than two thirds of those days, we're doing well, and if their working shift averages 8 - 9hours including breaks, we're doing all right. Put it another way: if you don't have to work more than five days in any one week and if, in addition, you get 30 days ( 6 working weeks') holiday - total 134 days holiday with no separate public holiday entitlements - you've probably got something which is as good as it gets.


Added 24 July 2018: A much expanded version of this argument forms a chapter on Time Management in my paperback The Best I Can Do (degree zero 2016) freely available from Amazon, Waterstones and other booksellers.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Make a New Year's Resolution: Stop Saving!

My excellent bank, First Direct, has turned into an Agony Aunt. It seems that its customers , when surveyed, are only too willing to wring their hands, beat their chests and flagellate themselves: we should have spent less, they say; we should have saved more; oh, why why did we not pay off our credit cards .... and so on in a tiresome vein of socially acceptable self-recrimination. First Direct has chosen New Year's day to release the results of its survey - this is a day when even more self-recrimination is guaranteed (oh, my head ... why did I drink so much?)

To be precise, according to First Direct, three quarters of people wished they had saved more in 2010. Why? Are they quite mad?

What happens if you save?

If you are lucky, you earn a rate of interest which roughly keeps pace with inflation so you come out quits. It depends a bit what rate of inflation actually applies to you - how much your Council Tax is going up and so on.

All right, I grant that you do better than you would from buying lottery tickets - but that's hardly a sensible comparison. Lottery tickets are a tax on the poor.

Consider some alternatives to saving:

Spend the money on double glazing or loft insulation. This brings down your fuel bills on a continuing basis and since energy prices will probably rise above the general rate of inflation, your savings on your household bills will exceed the interest you would have got in some cash ISA. It's a no brainer.

Already got double glazing? Then replace your household appliances with more energy efficient ones and achieve the same effect on your energy bills.

Been there, done that and still got money burning a hole in your pocket?

Lend it to your children so they can install double glazing etc. Ask them to pay you the rate of interest you would have got in a cash ISA - cheaper for them than a bank loan or a running credit card debt. You do no worse and they do better. It's called the Big Society. Remember, banks want you to save so that they can lend your money at higher rates of interest than they pay you. Cut out the middle man. Lend direct.

Ah, yes, but what about a Rainy Day? A Day will surely come when there will be a Big Bill to meet and for that I need Savings.

Suppose I grant the Rainy Day hypothesis even though it is usually a bogus argument advanced by mean people to justify hoarding money.

So I grant the hypothesis. Then I say that a business-like solution to the feared Rainy Day is to think like a business and ensure that you have lines of credit secured.

Lines of credit? Money you can borrow on demand but haven't actually borrowed.

Myself, I have these lines of credit:

My credit card limit
My overdraft limit
The overpayments on my mortgage which secure me an automatic draw-down facility

Cost of these lines of credit: Nil. In other words, I have a free Insurance Policy against a wide range of nasty events.

Some people insure against Nasty Events: their washing machine breaking down, their mobile phone being stolen, their house being burgled, dying ... They have a list of Standing Orders as long as your arm.

I have never denied that some people have got money to burn. Where would our insurance companies be without them?