by David McDonagh
On Monday of this week, radio 4 had a special three-hour programme on the welfare state that was worth heeding. We were told that seventy years ago William Beveridge wrote a report that was to lay the foundations for the welfare state. He identified the Five Giants that society needed to slay: Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. Using archive from the time, Jane Garvey and Julian Worricker took us back to that extraordinary moment in wartime Britain that has proved so pivotal to the shape of the welfare state today.
They reported how well the system serves those who rely it on it now as well as how those who pay for it feel about it. Changing attitudes to those on benefits were reflected in a new BBC-commissioned poll and we heard three radical visions for how welfare should be provided in the future. The programme featured a debate on fairness, entitlement, rights and compassion with Frank Field, Labour MP, the philosopher Roger Scruton and social commentator, and state-lover, Polly Toynbee. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith was challenged to outline the philosophy behind his decisions on reforming the welfare state. There was a later call-in, or phone-in, in the third hour, to let the listeners in the last third of the three hours devoted to the programme. Most of those people seemed to be utterly innocent of economics, maybe all of them but it was informative as to the sort of support that the welfare state has. It was a celebration but it might have been a special crisis programme.
As we might have expected, the programme was full of the Overclass welfare workers or social worker sinecure-holders, who worried about their jobs catering for the Underclass being held secure, they want to remain on this glorified dole as badly as those on the dole want to remain on it but there were also the likes of Kelvin McKenzie who suggested the scrapping of the welfare state. That would create genuine job seekers.
Quite a few thought that industry had vanished from the UK as a mere matter of the passing of time. It is a very common folly that times change such that life is completely different as we move into supposed different epochs. This particular superstition allows fools to feel that all sorts of things are out of date that never will be out of date & that time is marching to what they suppose is a “progressive programme” that ironically gives rise to the backward wasteful welfare state. Such people seem that they will soon be saying that eating by the mouth will become outdated. With this sort of outlook, one man said we could work in the past but now all the jobs have vanished! He did not seem to realise that the jobs have only seemingly vanished, as a big dole has been put up to ensure mass unemployment. It has institutionalised the asking of a wage that is well above the market clear up rate. This is on par with putting the price of a small loaf up to £5 then saying that no one wants bread those days.
Most who thought the welfare state was a good thing that is clearly doing a lot of good seemed to think in terms of unrealistic hyperbole such that if there were no dole then many would starve. The reality is that they would, then, all then simply get a job. The abundance of jobs of the 1960s that the earlier man thought that mere history had somehow abolished would reappear as soon as the price was right. The policy of ending the dole would soon put the price right and once the market was cleared the natural shortage of labour would soon bring back way more than ten jobs for every worker. Only cutting the dole will get ever full employment. As long as politicians talk of putting more money into the problem of unemployment then, as Iain Duncan Smith does, then they will continue thereby creating and maintaining the basic problem of mass unemployment rather than solving it. It needs less money not more money & if it gets no money at all then it will vanish. Smith said that we cannot turn the clock back, so he clearly shares this delusion of epoch with the earlier man, and he went on to say that Frank Field with his back to Beveridge idea that workers only get funds if workers contribute would cost more than his own unwittingly backward schemes. He feels the winter fuel benefit needs to go but Cameron did promise it so it remains for this parliament only for that reason. He prefers targeted benefits. But he fails to see himself and his rival politicians as the major cause of the problem.
Only the welfare state causes a lack of jobs as only high wage demands gets rid of jobs or rather leaves marginal labour as unaffordable. The number of jobs in any mass urban society is infinite. Illegal immigration from India has hinted at that fact since 1970s by many illegal immigrants from there finding jobs in the UK black economy that pay less than the dole encouraged the million out of work pretending to be jobseekers to demand. Polish workers rubbed that in by up to three million workers before 2007, so, clearly, the idea that that the million unemployed had to be jobless from 1970 onwards owing to a lack of UK jobs is a clear myth. There could have been full employment all that time. We only have the welfare state to thank for the million unemployed all that time. The welfare state mucks society up.
The idea that there are no longer any jobs for life today is another myth. Indeed, the idea that there is any natural rate of unemployment is a myth. Only taxation causes those problems so we can be grateful that some dodge paying their taxes; best that all should do that. Taxation is always a double whammy as it confiscates money to mess society up with.
Back in the 1940s, nine out of ten approved of the welfare state but in 2012 many aspects of it are very unpopular, especially state handouts of cash. All on the programme seemed to feel that the public do not like the wide range benefits of today, that the welfare state is now very unpopular and that the downturn since 2007 has not made it more popular, as was expected but even more unpopular. Kelvin McKenzie holds that all the satellite disks to be commonly seen on the council estates was never the aim of those who set up the welfare state, like Beveridge. Anne Widdecombe wanted it to be reformed but Shirley Williams felt it was still wonderful. The chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, felt that it could not be done today as it was in the past, as society is not as uniform as it was back in the 1940s. As I said, the listener could be forgiven for taking the programme to be on a crisis rather than on a birthday celebration. It remains on the BBC radio iplayer till next