Fuel poverty, proof of how much richer we are

The dreadful incidence of fuel poverty in Britain is taken as evidence of how uncaring, unequal, generally undesirable, we are. The truth is the opposite, it’s proof of how much richer we are these days:

Can we please have a focus on the dire state of our housing stock? This will mean investment by the government in energy efficiency, with money from the Treasury. There are millions of fuel-poor homes – each requiring tens of thousands of pounds spent on them if the occupants are to be warm despite their low incomes. We should be spending billions of pounds to reduce fuel poverty.

There’s a certain bitter sweetness to the idea that standard policy is to drive up the cost of energy to beat climate change while also insisting that everyone be able to have cheap energy to heat their housing.

However, fuel poverty is defined as being able to heat a certain amount of the dwelling, to a certain level, on less than 10% of income. The areas to be heated, the temperature they’re to be heated to, being far above those normal in a middle class household of only one generation back.

Actually, very much higher than was normal anywhere before the widespread adoption of central heating in the 1970s and 80s. Which is indeed proof of how much richer we are, isn’t it?

Adam Smith and the linen shirt. A society which goes from yhe lack of one not marking you as poor to doing so has become richer by those very proliferating linen shirts. A society that used to live in cold houses and now regards doing so as poverty is a richer one.

The standards by which we measure fuel poverty are proof that we’ve become richer this past generation.