I/S condemns Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms, in which beneficiaries regularly reapply for the unemployment benefit. The policy is aimed at reducing benefit fraud and overpayment:
The (not very-) subtext: “all beneficiaries are fraudsters, and we’re going to do something about it”. The economy’s in the can, times are hard, they’ve got no plan to make things better, so they’re going to focus on othering those in need and scapegoating the victims, whipping up the very social divisions which are currently seeing cities burn overseas.
I haven’t taken a close look at these reforms, but if they’re working as described – ie leading to a reduction in the number of people defrauding the welfare system – then they are a successful left-wing policy initiative. They’re improving the efficacy of the welfare state, and making sure its limited resources are targeted to those in genuine need. You can make the argument that they stigmatise welfare recipients – my response is that it’s more important for the taxpayers funding the system to have confidence that their money is being spent wisely.
On the other side of the ideological spectrum, Matt Nolan disagrees with the left-wing analysis of the UK riots, in which they’re a class-based crisis of capitalism:
In this context, I find the comments of Nina Power in the Guardian not just distasteful, but sickening. She lays the blame for these riots not on the shoulders of selfish individuals, but on capitalism and on society . . .
Truly, it is not the free market system we have that requires wholesale change, it is the victim mentality of people in society that needs to change – we can only have a “better society” when the individuals within it are willing to take responsibility for their actions.
Do I believe there is injustice and inequity within society, within institutions, and within government – yes. But the solution needs to be built from individual responsibility and mutual respect, not the arbitrarily defined institutional structure suggested by intellectuals and columnists.
If you’re going to blame the riots on ‘selfish individuals’ then you need to explain why there are selfish individuals in Crydon and Totenham but not Chelsea or Knightsbridge – is any plausible explanation going to preclude equity and class? And why are these selfish individuals rioting now? One of my readers suggested:
The British have avoided the political stasis of the US, which enabled them to implement policies to avoid the EMU sovereign debt crises, which have unfortunately impacted on the British young, who have rioted.
And just to restate a point I’ve made before. Matt suggests ‘individual responsibility’ as a solution to these problems. But asking people so irresponsible that they’re out torching police stations and looting consumer electronics stores to just ‘be more responsible’ is not a serious solution. Sure, things would be better if irresponsible people were responsible, and disrespectful people were respectful, but that’s like solving public health problems by suggesting that people should be well instead of sick.