An Example of What’s Wrong with the Welfare State.

In around 2004, or 2005, I found myself between jobs. This is what the welfare state is for. I applied for Job Seekers’ Allowance and Housing Benefit, which I claimed for around 3 or 4 months, until I found another job.

If you believe the left, I’d be ‘hypocritical‘ for ever subsequently arguing in favour of welfare reform, after using it, as Iain Duncan-Smith once did. I’m not. I support a welfare state, just not one as currently structured. A welfare state is vital. Decent out of work benefits reduce the risk of temporary unemployment, and therefore increase an assortiveness labour market. It reduce the power of bosses to hold down wages or make unreasonable demands. It reduces the risk of quitting a job for a new, better one, and thereby lose protections for time served. A functioning welfare state is vital to reduce the risk of entrepreneurial activity.  A welfare state is vital therefore to a liquid, flexible labour market, which has been one of the successful things about the UK economy for the last 30 years.

Beveridge, the system’s designer however saw that there must be an eye on the incentives, to ensure the evil of idleness be combated as well as the evil of want. The welfare state’s cheerleaders in the Labour party appear to have forgotten this. Either that or they benefit from a large, permanent caste of welfare recipients who will never escape the trap. No-one wants to live on JSA. But no-one ever does. The problem is once you’re on Incapacity benefit, income support, Housing Benefit and so forth, you’ll never have to survive on JSA alone. This doesn’t stop Left-wing apologists for the current welfare state arguing that it isn’t over-generous, by citing the paltry amount of the most temporary of benefits.

Had I remained out of work for 6 months, I would have qualified for 6 month’s “run on benefits” worth at the time, several thousand pounds. I was actually advised to delay starting a job for weeks, in order to qualify. I told the Advisor in robust Anglo-Saxon to go forth and multiply. But the trap, the temptation to take the easy money must be great, especially for those for whom employment does not represent significantly more money than the welfare payments they’re turning down.

If you house people at public expense, in properties they could never afford by working, you trap them on benefits forever. Furthermore, housing benefit distorts behaviour in its recipients, who never have to plan to pay the rent. Landlords too, find themselves dealing with a stupid customer in the state, and make sure rents are the maximum the state will pay. This distorts the market all the way up from there, raising the cost of housing for all.

It is for this reason I find the Labour campaign about the “bedroom tax” abhorrent. Housing benefit needs reform. So too does every other benefit.

The hyperbole surrounding incapacity benefits from labour is likewise grotesque. Chris Mullins, Labour MP reported “scams” of people who are perfectly fit yet claiming disability benefits. John Hutton, another Labour MP, apparently told him of

“an ameteur football team, currently topping a local league, in which eight of the 11 players recently fielded were on Incapacity Benefit”. 

Yet when Iain Duncan Smith or anyone else broadly identified as “on the right”, who has made extensive research into the subject, makes the same point, the left make an appalling din about the demonsisation of the poor.

The fact is, it is quite possible to claim extensive benefits, which ensure your bills are paid, and keep a roof over your head, and work cash-in-hand thereby enjoying an acceptable lifestyle in perpetuity. Everyone knows of someone like this. Go down your local pub, and you will find one. But the left seem wilfully blind to the phenomenon. For this reason, few countries allow long-term benefits. From the vicious Americans to the cuddly Swedes, almost everywhere has found if you aggressively time-limit benefits, people suddenly become more resourceful as minds get concentrated. Long-term unemployment falls.

IDS’s plans revolve around simplifying and limiting benefits, to ensure no-one receives more than the median wage from the welfare state. This means some people in reciept of generous beneftits will get paid less. It means “the poorest” will suddenly find they have to move to a grottier part of town. You won’t find much sympathy from the tax-payers who already live there. It means Housing Benefit will be paid to the tenant, not the landlord. This means some people with chaotic lives may find themselves evicted if they cannot manage their budget. You will find little sympathy amongst tax-payers living on value spaghetti and ketchup when the money runs out at the end of the month. It means disabled people have to prove they are disabled in order to continue to receive benefits. Some people will be judged fit to work, when they’d got used to the idea they’d got it made on the “sick”. There will be little sympathy for shirkers who’re found out. The coalition’s plans would still leave the UK with one of the world’s most generous welfare states, and which asks the fewest questions of its clients. Ideological and evil it is not.

The Labour party in parliament has been parading the sob-stories of the halt and lame, some of whom are genuine victims of bureaucratic bungling by ATOS or others. All bureaucracies make mistakes, and there will be teething troubles with any new system. But many of whom are simply people who’ve become entitled to a big house provided at public expense, even though they no longer need it, and who are complaining to a Labour MP, who finds their complaint politically appealing. Labour don’t see, despite clear polling evidence, how the working public feel about their neighbours whom they’re supporting. The left needs to stop shroud waving. Labour had 13 years in power, yet sidelined the one man, Frank Field, who seemed to want to get to grips with the thicket of benefits. The conclusion that the client state it created was simply too useful is difficult to ignore. IDS’s plans aren’t demonising the poor. Some people (not all, or even most but SOME) benefits recipients are “shirkers”, which is in any case a word rarely if ever used by him.

It’s too easy for the Labour to malign the intentions of their opponents. It has the effect, psychologically of preventing them examining their record in office. I, like IDS used the welfare state for its intended purpose. A bit of support between jobs. He’s not a hypocrite, nor a monster. And nor am I.

3 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Have a look over to Northern Ireland where the brain dead politicians, with no requirement to cut costs, are opposing the 'bedroom tax' and intend spending £17 million out of their budget to keep their benefit sponging core vote in the comfort to which they are accustomed but undeserving of.
    So, fuck the 12 hour waiting times at A&E etc, Sinn Fein and DUP need to keep their voters sweet

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    "Labour had 13 years in power, yet sidelined the one man, Hutton, who seemed to want to get to grips with the thicket of benefits"

    Do you not mean Frank Field?


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