Dear Prudence

Martin Daunton

  • Banking on Death or, Investing in Life: The History and Future of Pensions by Robin Blackburn
    Verso, 550 pp, £15.00, July 2002, ISBN 1 85984 409 X

The trend in most industrial societies is away from the public funding of pensions and towards private, commercial provision. Robin Blackburn describes the finance companies selling pension schemes as a new form of tax farmer, offering dubious deals in return for tax subsidies and lavish commissions. The analogy indicates the tenor of his thinking: tax farmers contributed to the lack of legitimacy of the Ancien Régime. Might discontent with returns on pensions, a growing sense that we have been cheated or at least misled, lead prospective pensioners to rise up and reject the delusions of Reaganomics, Thatcherism, Blairism and the World Bank? If Blackburn is to be believed, pensions are the Achilles’ heel of capitalism.

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