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Discussion > The Welfare State

I have some ideas about reducing the cost of the welfare state, unlike the the Pielke jr thread, this may cause people to hurl abuse at me :)
I think unemployment and housing benefits should be earned by work. A young person of working age should not be supplied with a home and money when they have given society nothing at all. Parents should support them until they get a job. Obviously many parents will not want to keep paying for the keep of their children for ever and so will pressure them to get a job.
Time spent working should be rewarded by support by the state when an economic slump causes job losses.
There should be no council/state provided accommodation, these houses should all go onto the market and be sold.
Hostel type accommodation should be built, hostels would be quite large, would be spartan but adequate. Food would be provided free along with hot water, heating etc and accomodation would be sleeping only, everything else would be communal. No money would be paid to people in hostels (by the state). If you have no job (and have never had a job) and your parents can not afford to keep you then you move to a hostel. Hostels would help you apply for jobs.
If you have had a job for "many" years and bought a house and you lose your job through no fault of your own then the state will pay your mortgage for up to three years and provide food vouchers.
I have not thunk through everything but you can see where I am going here ^.^

Jan 3, 2013 at 10:36 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Are you sure you're not a mole setting out to prove all skeptics are right wing idiots?

Jan 4, 2013 at 8:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

State-run hostels presumably manned by state employees administered by state bureaucrats, ready at a moment’s notice to take care of the unwanted overflow from the ups and downs of uncontrolled capitalism.
I don’t think you’ve thought this through, Dung. The current system is infinitely more libertarian, and almost certainly infinitely cheaper.

Jan 4, 2013 at 8:57 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

The whole plan also bears the hallmarks of someone who thinks every homeless/unemployed person has parents who can and should support them. I'm as frustrated as everyone else about the benefits dependency culture but the problem isn't the benefits, it's the dependency.

As soon as you start restricting immediate help for people, they have nowhere else to go but crime. That's not the sort of society I want to live in - what we have now has affordability problems, but the principle is here to stay.

Jan 4, 2013 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Hostel type accommodation should be built, hostels would be quite large, would be spartan but adequate.

That was the logic behind the Workhouse, did not work out that way though.

The problem is that a scheme that is supposed to be short term help ends up being long term, there is no incentive at current levels of benefits (if you know how to work them) to get work if the work is minimum wage as you end up woth less. But if you reduce the level of benefits you get the argument about poverty.

A good start would be limiting benefits to the first 3 children, no incentive for the benefit baby makers.

Jan 4, 2013 at 9:59 AM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

It's an intractable problem. One way of getting rid of dependence is having two levels of benefit - subsistence and entitlement (it already tries to do this with the difference between types of benefit)

Everyone is entitled to 3 months (or some period) of reasonable standard of living to cover those unavoidable gaps that people are unfortunate enough to encounter. During this time all help should be given to rehome, re-employ etc. Mortgages or rent should get paid, also legitimate expenses for interviews etc. After that period, it drops back to a subsistence level.

At subsistence level (a level at which there will be a dreg of society who will be happy to live) - you get just enough to live on and a basic place to stay. Getting a job earns your way back onto the entitlement rate after a suitable period of employment.

I'm sure there are problems with this sytem too, but I'm trying to cover the best of both worlds - people thrown on the state through no fault of their own get a breathing space to sort themselves out, those that do retain that right to a breathing space. Those that don't get fed and watered but nothing else until they show some gumption of their own.

Jan 4, 2013 at 10:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames


Your post above is pretty similar to my original post? just substitute hostel for "a basic place to stay".
I am also agreeing with "a breathing space to sort themselves out" but saying it should be related to previous time working; if you own a house and have worked pretty solidly for many years until you hit bad times I am saying give full support.
The point is that SOMETHING has to change in order to break "dependence on the state" and the constant stream of people coming to this country to get benefits they have not earned. By all means suggest alternatives :)

Jan 4, 2013 at 12:48 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Well, having some experience of men's hostels (not personally!) perhaps I'm just coloured by that name - loads of drug and drink addicted men changing rooms every night - being thrown out for misbehaving - hanging around the doorways all day when they are not allowed in, etc. Horrific.

If you exchange the word 'Hostel' with "self contained flatlets in well-appointed villages" which you are entitled to have for a set period (rather than nightly) - and grade and separate them, so that families are separate from druggies, and druggies get help while they are there, then I can see where you're coming from, though I am afraid of the costs of such a thing.

Jan 4, 2013 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

A further point about the benefits culture I dislike is the sense of entitlement on their terms.

As an example, in the 70s, if you had mobility problems and required a car, the state got you one - and it was a very basic 3-wheeler, turquoise-blue, pretty ugly... but if you really needed transport you were happy for it. And if you could do without, you did. It was self regulating. Now with 'Motability' the government pays for a retail-sourced car, usualy some top of the range estate car which far exceeds your actual need. I've seen people with slight mobility problems driving around in shiny brand new cars (insurance, tax, servicing, breakdown all included) - and I couldn't afford to buy and run, when a basic model would have done just as well.

Free cars from Mobility that WE are paying for :

Another example - food stamps or vouchers. Oh no, the entitled cry, that would make us feel embarrassed in shops and like 2nd class citizens. We would be oppressed and embarrassed by that. We prefer money. Well sorry to tell you, but when you're living off the state, you ARE a 2nd class citizen, and you SHOULD be embarrassed, and you should be trying as hard as possible to get out of that position, nor demanding parity with working people.

Rant over. I sound like Dung.

Jan 4, 2013 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Dung, BigYinJames
Ask yourselves: is it the problem that’s the problem (i.e. the high cost of maintaining welfare benefits) or your moral indignation at undeserving people getting something for nothing?

I’m not being rude. A long time ago, when governments could afford to worry about such things, I did research for the DHSS (as it was) to try to find ways to persuade people to take up benefits they were entitled to (!) Simple focus groups were soon dominated by complaints such as yours, and it was easy to come away with the impression that the whole world was ready to vote National Front. It took a much more complex approach to get something like a coherent point of view from the public on what to do.
The message I took away was one I’ve since discovered formulated by sociologists like Christopher Lasch: - that the disappearance of public debate, due to the decline of organising structures like church, trade union, women’s institutes etc, and the consequence “privatising” of public life, reduces choice, disempowers the citizen and finally threatens democracy. Our focus groups were a microcosm of what’s wrong with the modern political environment - political discussion reduced to a bunch of random individuals sitting round having a moan.

One of the reasons I bore myself silly demanding that people on these threads stick to the proper terms, distinguishing between left and right, communism and fascism, Obama and Stalin, is that if you throw them out, you end up in a kind of sociological State of Nature, a political garden of Eden where anyone and everyone has a bright idea to put the world to rights, and you end up reinventing the wheel (or the treadmill, or the workhouse) over and over again.

Jan 4, 2013 at 3:32 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers


don't get me wrong, I'm generally in favour of the welfare state (as my earlier posting at 9:03 AM hopefully shows) but it's the dependency aspect that always gets me - it should be a safety net, not a hammock. The more comfortable you make it, the higher proportion of people will be happy to lie in it permanently.

I don't want to live in a society of workhouses and an involuntary criminal underclass like Victorian times, and I'm happy to accept that even in the healthiest societies there will be a percentage of the people unable to support themselves, it was always that way. And yes, despite my rant, it's probably cheaper to run the Motability service now than it was to build those crappy 3-wheelers in the 70s.

But be careful, perceived unfairness can drive wedges between factions in society. I've already noticed a rise in overt racism on the internet and real life generally. It feels a little bit like how it must have felt to a fair-minded German in the 1930s when they saw Achtung Juden being painted on shops, it now seems to be ok in polite society to rant about immigration and foreign aid in very unsavoury terms.

Jan 4, 2013 at 3:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

I am not against welfare, I do not want people out on the street, I want people who need help, to get help.
I am against welfare dependencey, state dependency by people who are capable of earning a living.
I am not proposing workhouses, I am proposing " a place to stay" while you get over your problems and then try to get a job in the real world again. My place to stay envisaged private sleeping arrangements but communal recreation areas, no cash but free food. This I estimate would be cheaper than free houses or housing benefit plus unemployment benefit. This would be comfortable but not somewhere you would want to stay for ever.
The housing freed up is much needed by people who can afford to buy them.

Jan 5, 2013 at 10:50 AM | Registered CommenterDung