Monday, 1 April 2013

I Am A Welfarist

The modern concept of social security in Britain is a genius invention. But despite a lot of windy talk about William Beveridge, no one actually invented it. It just sort of happened. His idea is described as a system of social insurance; people pay in, they get the protection provided if they need it. People seem to paint this as being better than it was and come up with creative and tellingly short explanations for why it no longer applies in our comprehensive universal system. It's not because anyone came along and had a better idea, or because politicians were trying to bribe votes and create a client state. It's because no matter how well a system is designed, how radical or brilliant the creator- it eventually has to bare contact with the real world over the long-term.

The British welfare state began as a radical programme but it has become a conservative one moulded by the aggregation of fine tuned adjustments. Almost all of the actual problems come from the ill-thought out and drastic, radical political interferences with it. Self-described conservatives don't like it because it holds up a mirror. The brilliance of the system is that it fills in the cracks in social organisation; it's less a safety net and more a glue to keep the fragile and neglected parts of crucial infrastructure from collapsing. Politicians work themselves into a froth about apparent contradictions and absurdities, whilst having at their beck and call the briefing material explaining exactly how those things came to be and what their importance is. Such was the case with the plan to blanketly remove DLA-Mobility from care home residents: the review the government commissioned found that the country was a patchwork of provision and funding for it, where DLA was being used to fund placements. Ministers tried to assert that this was creating 'overlap' in funding, but that's not something they could actually demonstrate because that money is being spent on something useful. That is money which if taken away would have to be found elsewhere or people were going to be prevented from ever going out.

A functional system creates ambiguity, because the world is ambiguous; idealist systems do not survive long-term contact with what actually happens. Idealist systems are not built to last. So ideals must be compromised, it's which ones you choose to compromise that decides what kind of society you wish to have. Is it fair that someone goes out to work and their disabled neighbour goes to the pub when they eventually get up? No. Is it fairer that the neighbour is expected to live like a monk or be threatened with hunger and homelessness? No advantage to them and no advantage to the working person- just cruelty being fostered as national policy. You can not resolve this with some radical idea, even one based on the best available evidence, let alone those based on prejudice and political expediency. You can choose the best possible outcome and that's it. Thirty years ago it was decided that most residential care units were inhumane and that the costs of making them humane to the point of meeting modern standards of decency was a huge cost for an overall small gain. Care in the Community was introduced and there were warnings it would fail. Tabloids printed rubbish about 'psychos on the loose' and it just wasn't possible for people with complex needs to manage their own care without a lot of help.

So either by pure coincidence, or by deliberate planning which is not widely publicised, the social security system was fine-tuned again, to meet the needs of the huge increase in sick and disabled people who would need it to live independently in the community. Eligibility for Invalidity Pensions were relaxed, Mobility and Attendance Allowing for working-aged people were abolished and replaced with Disability Living Allowance. That didn't need to happen, it was done in order to implement some radical and therefore likely wrong changes to what otherwise a minimalist and conservative fine-tuning. The current government are doing it again by making a lot of changes to DLA which don't require an entirely new benefit, but to make a few radical changes they need to impede the application of DLA case law history by abolishing it and replacing it with Personal Independence Payment.

DLA in essence has been a cost-saving benefit. The idea which came as a surprise at first is repeated across the spectrum of benefits: not a safety-net, not an insurance policy, but a glue in the cracks of social and national organisation which can never be eliminated and would be a disproportionate cost to fix permanently. We have Jobseekers Allowance because the world is producing more than it could ever consume- we don't need more people working to produce more, just so they can afford to buy it. We have tax credits because even if the poor paid no taxes, they wouldn't get enough to live. Child benefits mean children are less likely to suffer needlessly the mistakes of adults. The Housing Benefit bill, the only working-age benefit to rise disproportionately, has done so because of the failure of markets and politics to provide for growing housing needs. This is a fire alarm being blamed for fires, whilst fire-starters in property speculation and fire-fighters in Parliament shout denials or sit on their hands respectively.

There is no fault in social security which is not at its core a fault in the organisation of society. The welfare state is a crystal ball for the free-market of consequences. That is why I am a Welfarist. Almost every conceivable problem the world is facing for the next century will find a solution in Welfarism. Like the rights to life, liberty and freedom of the person- it must apply to everybody.

For most of our history, most people have been servants obeying masters. What little equity came with the natural assumed rights to settle and provide for ones self- to make use of the Common. There is no Common now, so the only provision in its place is that which is controlled by the most powerful- hardly an improvement on feudalism. The closest we have now is our sovereign currency; we should be entitled to a set sum of for the same reason our ancestors were entitled to live on the land- because it is there. Without welfare provision for all, leaving those outside naked and unprotected against future challenges, we are adopting the values of the sociopath. That we will to do to survive and unfortunately the sociopath is a parasite- they depend on the goodwill of others to take advantage of. When that runs out, when there are only the self-interested of Ayn Rand's disturbed dreams left, the inevitable consequence is a legalist dictatorship because no one trusts anyone who they don't have leverage over. Worse still, if we became that, we'd deserve it.


  1. Osborne again reiterating the "better off on benefits" line,yet I have followed you some three years repeatedly asking people to outline the circumstances where this was even possible,never mind an actual case.As if by some sick twist of warped reality,under UC I and many more will indeed be able to outline that case,if I return to work,as all Support for mortgage interest will be immediately removed on any earnings whatsoever-dependent on hours-the best case is less increase in overall income than current system and indeed quite possible to have a reduction in income.

  2. How long exactly have you being saying this?

    Don't worry,those of us who have been following know.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Peter Oborne-"On Monday, the disability living allowance – for so long a charter for deceit and recipe for state-sponsored idleness – will be replaced by a far more humane and realistic system".Seriously can we sue?This is beyond repulsive.

  5. Not only has receipt of benefits caused mass manslaughter,it sponsors kidney failure,inability to stand and a myriad of other deceits and idleness even if you work,a pensioner or child.I knew it would get dirty butthis disgraceful,despicable hate filled-no words are strong enough.I cannot take much more.