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Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Beyond Welfarism, toward Dignity

An excellent piece in the Telegraph this morning from Philip Johnston on ways in which a post-Welfare society could work, based on Friendly Societies and Mutuals. At a time when IDS' State behemoth is collapsing in on itself before it's got one foot off the ground, and more particularly the most recent Social Attitudes survey has shown the lowest support for Welfare since the surveys began. The survey also revealed that some 22% of the employed workforce have taken a pay cut, and 45% are 'struggling'. Well, I haven't given Ralph Harris an outing for a while and this is a good opportunity.

Arthur Seldon, who founded the IEA with Ralph Harris, was born Abraham Margolis in the East End of London to Russian-Jewish refugee parents. They both died in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. He was adopted by a cobbler, Pinchas Slaberdain, and his wife Eva. He grew up with the great depression in the East End, and knew the harsh reality of poverty at first hand. He recalls when he was nine or ten his foster father died to leave him and his foster mother provided for by an insurance policy. He says he learned that even the poor, if left alone, were doing things for themselves. He said:

I was appalled by the insensitivity of governments to the efforts of the working classes to help themselves - the belief that they could not do all the necessary things. They were most anxious to ensure that they used all the opportunities of insurance to safeguard their families in times of sickness and loss of work. I began to sense a sort of anti-working class sentiment in all political parties. They wanted the State to do these things. They didn't like people to do things for themselves. They thought that ordinary people weren't capable. They forgot all the history of the working classes.
Ralph Harris, too, came from a working class background. He recalled when his mother died finding four policies in a shoebox - a funeral benefit policy for each of her children. "The working class feared they wouldn't have the money to bury their dead, so you could take out for a penny halfpenny a week an insurance policy to pay five pounds; four children, four policies, sixpence a week altogether and five pounds on it." Harris believed in something that was about human dignity;
Liberty carries with it individual responsibilities. Responsibility for yourself, and hopefully your family and as far as possible your neighbours. But it does throw responsibility onto our own shoulders. Well, that's what living means; it doesn't mean shrugging off responsibility and taking soft options.
In the years before the 1911 National Insurance Act, the working classes were served by a network of friendly societies, savings and loans clubs, mutuals and insurers that provided an alternative to the old Poor Law provision; their growth and popularity reflected a striving for that human dignity that is at the heart of a congruent society and nation.

By reserving to itself the duty of care of our less fortunate fellows, the State also creates a barrier to the fulfilment of our own obligations to our neighbour and community; Welfare measures intended with best intention to end the human indignity of the Poor Law and the stigma of poverty have themselves at the start of the 21st century created a Welfare slavery that condemns entire generations of families to a culture of idleness and ill health, deprived of the dignity of work and belonging, alienated from the mutual rewards of citizenship, barred from fulfilment and deprived of that human solidarity "of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees in a business, solidarity among nations and peoples ". Surely to God it's time to end their captivity.


DeeDee99 said...

The Welfare State was initially about providing basic but guaranteed support for those few who were unable to provide for themselves. The 'deserving poor' who had fallen on temporary hard times.

It has morphed into Political Social Engineering, paid for by UK taxpayers. It's about political control of society - the underclass, the poor, middle classes and (as much as they dare, the reasonably wealthy). The extremely wealthy are immune.

Gordon Brown demonstrated this with his Tax policies - particularly Tax and Pension Credits. Both take away the incentive for people to strive to provide for themselves and their families. You could work 16 hrs a week and be given in tax credits a sum that would equal someone working twice those hours. Why bother working more if 'the State' gives you the money?

Pensioners who didn't bother saving for a pension were given a free top-up to their State pension. Why bother saving?

The messages are all wrong. Yet the Government is about to repeat them with state funded healthcare for the elderly. Those who save during their lifetimes will be expected to contribute a capped but significant sum towards their care - whilst those who save nothing will get it courtesty of UK taxpayers.

Until the State stops interfering and funding irresponsibility with OUR money, nothing will change.

Anonymous said...

As I understand things, the professional socialist, social reformers started to make an impact during the early part of the 20th century. Before that, throughout the 19th century (as you illustrate) there were private organisations that effectively did the same thing, without the typical profligacy so loved by government, aka other people's money wilfully stolen, rather than freely given.

Perhaps, the need for these organisations might have had something to do with the migration of people from the country to the cities? The cities were made all the more possible due to the role of government in skewing the capitalist system (which is/was beautiful) so that it unfairly protected capitalists from the vagaries of the markets... i.e. the beginning of "corporatism", which changed forever the relationship between rich and poor, and rapidly widened the gap that socialists pretend to want to diminish. (Actually, I might be being a little unfair... sometimes the motivation is honest, but they soon learn where the bread is buttered).

There is a fairly simple book by Tom Hodgkinson called "How To Be Free", I am not sure I agree with many of his C18th ideas for living, but there are some really good descriptions of what it was like to be a peasant before the industrial revolution, and the relationship between landlord and tenant, which seemed to be a lot less polarised than that which we see today.

Firstly, the price of the land that one lived on or worked, usually rented, was a fraction (comparatively) of today. So the peasant had far more money for other needs.

It would be fairly common for landlord and tenant to meet in the pub after work and mull things over a pint, something else that has apparently been eliminated by our professional social reformer.

Actually there was (until recently) a mini example of this on Sark, where the 40 tenants rent the land from the monarch (the landlord), until that is, the "Barclay" brothers decided that they would like to see the introduction of "democracy"... Now "obviously" there was no self interest involved here... But as a result of their entreaties to the EU, the islanders have almost been at war with each other for the last ten years.

Professional government thrives on discord, the more it can create, the better it likes things.

Edward Spalton said...

Back in the Sixties, I knew a keen, up and coming social worker (who eventually became very senior) and got to read "New Society", the trade paper for the profession.

The great pressure then was to abolish all and every distinction between the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor. They were quite clearly setting out to abolish the respectable working class which is characterised in this post. All were to become "clients" of what Roy Jenkins called "the civilised society".

He actually praised the contribution which the "voluntary unemployed" were making to society. He really did!

There was a proposal in New Society to relieve this class of the humiliation of pretending they were "genuinely seeking work" to gain unemployment benefit. The workshy would become "state registered ergophobiacs" and be entitled to a proposed benefit of £10 per week - then the basic wage of an agricultural labourer.

Coming right up to date, I know a young lady with a hip problem, who is maintaining herself with part time work as a waitress whilst she completes her degree through the Open University. She comes of a working class family which does not believe in debt.

An older woman advised her that she should not work but claim disability allowance and that, if she had a baby, she would qualify for a council house too.

David C said...

An excellent post as usual. May I add a note on the importance of the family in this area. Anyone following their family history into the nineteenth century will find examples of aunts and uncles, grandparents, or elder siblings taking responsibility for the wellbeing of those that they quite rightly viewed as their dependents.
Socialism seeks to weaken these family bonds of responsibility, even between parents and children, and replace them with the state.

Anonymous said...

Indeed David C...

Witness Christopher Booker's horrific reporting of the effects of the recent "Children's Acts", which effectively replace birth parents (as the principle carers) with the state.


G. Tingey said...

"Didn't bother saving"
How about the problem of trying to make ends meet, even without trying to save, and getting deaperate, because of inflation, and sometimes taxes, and grasping employers, not paying a living wage?

Yes, it's a problem, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

What can I say..
The "credit unions" still exist...just.
The building societies have mostly become banks: Lending money they do not have to people who cannot afford to borrow it.
As for pensions....please....look at the reason why pensions still manage to grow, slightly; government subsidy.
37 billion in tax reliefs....with an annual payout of....38 billion (ish)
The only people doing well out of pensions are those running the scam...and with interest at near-zero percent those living off savings interest are doing very unwell !
Even annuities are dropping to reflect the New Reality of economic distress....with the near trillion deficit (adjusted for the bailouts that would be 700 billion) dwarfed by the massive private debt.....and even that dwarfed by the looming derivatives monster (estimated at 20 trillion and growing).
A Return To Growth: The new fiction novel by Ima Fool.
Even China is facing massive problems....the states has been bankrupt for nearly a decade....the EU is living off the money printing presses....
There is no easy way out, only arranging an easy death for the bankrupt societies of Earth and starting again with no lending and no borrowing.