The big questions: What is poverty? Is it OK for doctors to strike? Would you flee to Ecuador?

Answered this week by Robert Skidelsky

Related Topics

The World Bank poverty line is an income of less than $1.25 a day. How should we define poverty in the UK?

The official poverty line in the UK is less than 60 per cent of the median household income, ie £13,000 or less.

Households can live on £13,000, especially with housing benefit added. But there's no way of getting round the fact that poverty is bound to be relative to the general wealth. It would be absurd, for example, to say there is no poverty in Britain because no one has to starve. I would define as poverty any income level below which people are unable to develop such capacities as the particular society offers. This is necessarily inexact, and people will draw the line in different places.

Is it wrong to pay tax at the rate of only 1 per cent if it is not actually illegal?

It's morally wrong, because it means that the tax avoider is refusing to pay for the upkeep of the state on which his own security and welfare ultimately depend. People who arrange their affairs so as to avoid tax should not be allowed to live here.

Are GPs justified in striking to defend pensions – or are they already earning enough?

Doctors almost never go on strike. (The last time was 1975.) They have a genuine grievance. But it would have been better had their protest been part of a general resistance to the policy of cuts, which makes no macroeconomic sense.

Which is worse: saving the euro via a political union, or letting it fall apart?

There is no right answer to this. It depends on whether there is a democratic will for political union. I would like to have EU-wide referendums (same day, same question put to all citizens of the European Union) on each "next step" towards political union (eg, it could be creating a single treasury with tax-raising powers). Countries in which majorities reject the next step would be deemed to have "opted out" of the step. In that way a political union could be developed on the basis of genuine democratic assent.

Should doctors be allowed legally to kill people with locked-in syndrome if they want to die?

Yes, subject to safeguards.

Is hosting the Olympic Games worth the expense and the hassle?

Sure. The Olympics is the greatest sporting event in the world calendar. It's a huge achievement to have got it for London, and I have little patience with pettifogging (this clichéd word is just right here) complaints about expense, noise, etc. Having said this, I am not personally addicted to athletics, and will watch highlights from a safe distance.

Is it rude (or just tedious) to discuss football with a non-fan?

Tedious – enthusiasts never know when they are boring non-enthusiasts. So they are not trying to be rude.

Would you rather be tried in Sweden for alleged sex crimes or live out your days in Ecuador?

Depends on whether you are guilty. If guilty, Ecuador.

Should we grant Argentina's wish to enter talks on the future of the Falkland Islands?

Yes: a long (50-year) lease-back arrangement has always seemed to me to be the most sensible.

Is private education compatible with social mobility?

Good question. Private education gives an advantage, but there's been quite a lot of social mobility despite it. More damaging to social mobility, especially in recent years, is the huge gap which has opened up between top incomes and the rest. I would revive the direct grant school system. It's only our irrational hatred of "elites" which prevents this, and leaves the field to privately financed education.

Robert Skidelsky is co-author of 'How Much Is Enough: The Love of Money, and the Case for the Good Life', published by Allen Lane, 28 June

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London