J.K. Rowling on Being a Single Mom and a British Citizen.

J.K._Rowling_181958 I chose to remain a domiciled taxpayer for a couple of reasons. The main one
was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper
roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s; to be citizens, with
everything that implies, of a real country, not free-floating ex-pats,
living in the limbo of some tax haven and associating only with the children
of similarly greedy tax exiles.

A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state;
the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts.
When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had
become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot
help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for
the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This,
if you like, is my notion of patriotism….

J.K. Rowling

(via Chris Bertram)


28 thoughts on “J.K. Rowling on Being a Single Mom and a British Citizen.

  1. It’s nice that she didn’t bail after getting rich, but I think I’d rather know how the portkey at the end of Goblet of Fire brought Harry back to Hogwarts when they never go round trip otherwise. I suppose she would say that Crouch could have made one his own way, but that just begs why he would want to do that.

  2. “(All tax forms done)”
    We had this thing from our District of Columbia taxes from 2004 pop out unexpectedly to cost us $400 this year. There was also a thing from 2006 (submitted the wrong form) for $100 that emerged unexpectedly when we were filing our federal return for this past year. My husband is still ironing out the last one–it’s all late penalties rather than actual owed taxes, and it’s so long ago that neither we nor DC can figure out exactly what happened (although the tax season of 2005 coincided with the birth of our second child, so I suspect that has something to do with it). I see from my calendar that my husband has been playing phone tag with the DC tax people for over a month now (the newest snag is that the audit people are somehow legally forbidden to talk to the collection people). It’s all very annoying because we are literally the sort of people who keep track of internet purchases and Craigslist proceeds in order to pay state sales tax.

  3. [The campaign] also reiterates the flagship policy so proudly defended by David Cameron last weekend, that of “sticking up for marriage”. To this end, they promise a half-a-billion pound tax break for lower-income married couples, working out at £150 per annum.
    I accept that my friends and I might be atypical. Maybe you know people who would legally bind themselves to another human being, for life, for an extra £150 a year? Perhaps you were contemplating leaving a loveless or abusive marriage, but underwent a change of heart on hearing about a possible £150 tax break? Anything is possible; but somehow, I doubt it. Even Mr Cameron seems to admit that he is offering nothing more than a token gesture when he tells us “it’s not the money, it’s the message”.
    Nobody who has ever experienced the reality of poverty could say “it’s not the money, it’s the message”. When your flat has been broken into, and you cannot afford a locksmith, it is the money. When you are two pence short of a tin of baked beans, and your child is hungry, it is the money. When you find yourself contemplating shoplifting to get nappies, it is the money. If Mr Cameron’s only practical advice to women living in poverty, the sole carers of their children, is “get married, and we’ll give you £150”, he reveals himself to be completely ignorant of their true situation. …
    Suggestions that Mr Cameron seems oblivious to how poor people actually live, think and behave seem to provoke accusations of class warfare. Let me therefore state, for the record, that I do not think it any more his fault that he spent his adolescence in the white tie and tails of Eton than that I spent the almost identical period in the ghastly brown-and-yellow stylings of Wyedean Comprehensive. I simply want to know that aspiring prime ministers have taken the trouble to educate themselves about the lives of all kinds of Britons, not only the sort that send messages with banknotes.

    The lady can write when she puts her mind to it.

  4. Doug – it’s spectacular writing. All I have is a Nanecdote: old high school friend of mine lived with her fellow for 20+ years because they were grouchy that if they married they could no longer file separately and would be paying couple thousand a year more in taxes. 150 pounds is trivial, but you do get more of something when you reward it.

  5. For the record, I don’t blame Rowling for the last books, I blame her editors.
    Lucas needed people strong enough to send him back to the drawing board, and so did Rowling. After book 3, they’d lost all their leverage to do so.

  6. 150 pounds isn’t trivial at all–that’s $225 a year, every year. I ask you, who is acting like more of a great lady over $225 a year (which gets you a simply enormous quantity of either diapers or baked beans)–Ms. Rowling or Mr. Cameron? I think the eloquence hides the fact that Rowling’s logic is terrible. For $225 a year, every year, you could choose between getting 100 cans of baked beans, 280 some cans of kidney beans or black beans or garbanzos, 100 cans of soup, 70 gallons of milk, etc. I realize food prices are higher in the UK, but the principle is the same. Her example only leads me to suspect that Rowling wasn’t much of a budgeter when she was poor, and she isn’t one now, when she’s rich.

  7. I blame Lucas, but of course his creative sins are much worse than Rowling’s. 1950s diner in space? Whaaat? If you think about it, Jar Jar Binks is the only memorable and compelling personality in Phantom Menace, which makes it ironic that nearly everybody hated Jar Jar.

  8. She didn’t say it was nothing. She said it was not enough, and at an unachievable price.
    I think those who have never dealt with being poor (and many who have)need constant reminders of what it’s like. The same for middle class. It’s too easy for human beings to forget what it’s like to travel coach (as well as what it’s like to not have bus fare).

  9. I do blame Lucas more. Rowling’s work mostly involves sitting by yourself. Lucas had to get thousands of people and batter their egos enough that they couldn’t see or wouldn’t say how bad it sucked.

  10. (as well as what it’s like to not have bus fare).
    I always run into people reminding me of what it is like not to have bus fare.

  11. “She didn’t say it was nothing. She said it was not enough, and at an unachievable price.”
    I don’t know what the British situation is like, but in the US, there are some subcultures where marriage is seen as desirable, but it is just a question of not quite getting around to getting married. I can’t find the post, but Eve Tushnet talks about encountering this attitude among a poor women she has met in DC while working at a pregnancy center. I wish I could find the post, but Tushnet writes that these women do really want to get married…someday. After we’re financially settled, after we do this, after we do that. Tushnet put this better than I can, but the basic idea is that instead of seeing marriage as a strategy for organizing your life and living it successfully, they see it as a sort of lifetime achievement Oscar, which is what you get once you’ve done everything else in life (kids, work, home, etc.). You sometimes see a similar attitude even in the US middle class, which is to some extent caused by the cultural imperative to have a wedding that costs as much as a new car. It always boggles my mind when I hear of an unmarried heterosexual couple buying a house together. Way to put the cart in front of the horse, people.

  12. Well, my husband and I did that. We weren’t engaged, either.
    In our case I blame it on PTSD from seeing two divorces (my mother’s) up close and personal.

  13. AmyP, the increase in payment isn’t enough to offset the cost of adding an adult man to the household. Call me cynical, but merely having a husband in the house does not mean adding another income. For poor women, it usually means adding another (larger) mouth to feed. It should also go without saying, that unlike their children, the husbands of poor women have the legal rights and physical strength necessary to enforce their ideas of where the household budget should go, even if they are doing nothing to contribute to it. What happens when hubby decides it’s his lucky day and goes to the gambling boat? Or stocks up at the liquor store on booze and cigarettes, because hey—you can get food at the food pantry!
    Bah. If folks aren’t getting married, there’s usually a damn good reason for that. A better solution to the poverty poor single mothers face would be—give ’em a free college education (or its economic equivalent, such as apprenticeship or technical school). The skills to get a good job and earn a decent living will do more for the family—with the added bonus that people who are better educated are more likely to stay married.

  14. “Well, my husband and I did that. We weren’t engaged, either.”
    I hate to see any really young people buy a house. As Groucho Marx says in Cocoanuts (1929, it’s about the big 1920s real estate boom in Florida):
    “You can have any kind of a home you want. You can even get stucco. Oh, how you can get stucco.”

  15. “I don’t know what the British situation is like.”
    Indeed. Cameron’s proposed £150 marriage bonus is in the context of broader social welfare cuts. The £150 gained would be far less than the social support lost. It is in this context that the debate here in the UK is being held.
    Rowling is not being a grand dame: she is simply refusing to distracted by a bright shiny trinket.

  16. “Indeed. Cameron’s proposed £150 marriage bonus is in the context of broader social welfare cuts. The £150 gained would be far less than the social support lost.”
    Aha. And what would those social supports be? Is it along the lines of the US’s 1996 welfare reforms, or is it just pure cost cutting? I see that the British deficit (the yearly amount that outgo exits intakes) is 11.8 percent. That’s about where the US is right now, and the NYT says that it’s about the same as Greece’s budget deficit, a very ominous comparison.
    I especially liked this quote from the NYT piece:
    “Mr. Darling promised to halve the deficit within four years, focusing on a broad array of public sector efficiency savings, tax increases and most crucially, a recovering economy. But he drew a line when it came to the types of spending and wage cuts that other debt-laden countries in Europe have been forced to impose.”
    It feels just like home.

  17. The simple answer is that it’s just pure cost-cutting. Social welfare departments will lose posts and funding, with inevitable knock-on effects for decades to come, ala Thatcher. Both major parties, incidentally, are promising that the cuts will be even more severe than under the iron Lady.
    Interesting that you note the deficit. I’m a citizen of both the UK and the US, and have spent roughly half of my adult life in each country. I may be incorrect (and I’m not keeping up with what goes on in the US right now), but my strong impression is that Brits feel much more panicky about a large deficit than Americans do. Some of the rhetoric over here from the mainstream parties sounds much more Hooverian and anti-Keynesian (oh the irony) than I remember from my time in the US. My admittedly highly impressionistic take on this is that in a time of crisis Britain, a medium-large country, starts to feel less like the large, powerful nation it wants to see itself as, and more like the medium-sized country it fears it has become. It starts comparing itself (and its possible responses to the economic crisis) less to America and more to Greece, a country that lacks the heft to call its own shots and to successfully navigate the storm. I’m guessing the IMF embarrassment of the 1970s has a lot to do with this mindset, but I don’t really know.
    Maybe austerity is the right thing to do — and maybe the UK is small enough that it needs to put its tail between its legs, roll over, show its international creditors its soft pink belly, and hope for the best. But my own feeling is that the UK could weather the storm in a much more productive, confident way, but is bottling it.

  18. Complete tangent about Lucas: If you have not watched this completely unsafe for work and entirely unsuitable for children (NOT KIDDING) review of the Phantom Menace, you should:

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