Friday, August 06, 2010

Social Justice for Britain

Absolutely bizarre discussion of welfarism and its cures.

'John McTernan v Neil O'Brien: Can Iain Duncan Smith fix Britain's welfare problem?
Two Telegraph bloggers, John McTernan and Neil O'Brien, debate whether Iain Duncan Smith is really thinking the doable.'

America did welfare reform successfully, but what they did would never work here because 'the disincentives to work - the welfare trap - was already far less severe in the US than it they are here.'

We should spend money on 'increasing the financial incentive to work, or putting it into deflection from welfare, improving welfare to work services, better case management, and more job-focused interviews.' Yeah, that should do it.

John McTernan: 'Thinking the unthinkable, as Frank Field was tasked, is epistemologically impossible. Instead you are driven to think the undoable or do the unthinkable.'

Eh? Baffle them with bullshit, indeed. Apparently, because Britain has an enormously Byzantine benefits system which now has a manual 8,370 pages long, nobody can ever reform it. Even if they try, they won't be able to. My mind immediately returns to 1980, when all the economists in the country wrote the letter to the Times saying what a catastrophe cutting taxes and public spending would be, just before the economy rebounded and the decade of growth and great business began...

Neil O'Brien: 'Might introducing "friendly" reforms which many work pay more, thereby allow politicians the space to introduce other, tougher reforms? Those "push factors" we've talked about do work. But when they are introduced they tend to be perceived as harsh. Indeed, some of Bill Clinton's own advisers resigned over his 1996 reforms – even though they helped millions of people in the long term.'

Harsh? Harsh? Believing it is your right to sit around your house while other people work hard to provide for you is evil. Correcting that situation is not harsh. It is salutary and right.

Here is my solution to this entire problem, point by point. The intent is that all the systems of the state should militate towards the best ends:

1) The national tax system would be replaced by a 15% flat tax.
2) There would be no indirect taxes at all.
3) All public housing would be privatised.
4) Every neighborhood which required it would have free restaurants funded out of local taxes.
5) One benefit still available would be for incapacity. This would be received only after claimants went before a medical/psychiatric board and were examined.
6) Another benefit would be a training bursary. This could be applied for, but only granted after a test of the applicant to make sure that the bursary was good value for money for the taxpayer.
7) The only other benefit would be part-funding of apprenticeships in any industry or business.
8) The NHS would be privatised. People would be given information about setting up Health Care savings accounts, and purchasing Catastrophic Health Insurance.
9) There would be no quangos. Any legitimate regulation or oversight function would be done directly by central government.
10) Education would be non-universal. All schools would be privatised.
11) Eliminate the minimum wage.
12) Allow only well-educated, skilled immigrants into Britain.

The main economic effect of these changes would be to reserve most capital in the private sector, and allow workers to keep a very large part of their earnings. Workers would get to choose what goods to purchase and which not. So for instance, there would almost certainly be far fewer schools, but the quality of those schools would skyrocket.

There would be no skulking around at home option. Given that the cost and ease of employing people would fall significantly, far more casual work and permanent work would be available. Also, because the overall cost of living would be greatly reduced, people would have more choice about how much time they worked.

Of course, it would mean social changes. People would have to move to find work. People like my aunt would have to forsake their fantastic lifestyles. She currently lives by herself in a three-bedroom council house, in a beautiful leafy-green Hertfordshire village. She gets more than a hundred pounds a week disability benefit, despite only having a crooked finger. She even gets money for taking 'Adult Education' classes like Yoga and Pilates. For her, these changes would be disastrous. But for the millions of hardworking poor people who just scrape by while paying the enormous (53%) tax burden to support people like my aunt, life would be immeasurably better.

You want social justice? We can have social justice.

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