Very Brief Reflections on Welfarism

Sean Gabb

My women and I spent yesterday with some friends who live in South East London. They gave us chapter and verse on a thoroughly dispiriting symbiosis of financially corrupt bureaucrats and quasi-bureaucrats and an underclass almost too radically degraded to count as human. To do justice to what I heard would take a long essay that I don’t currently have time to write. But I will give the instance I heard of an illiterate youth admitted to a college. He was let in so the college could get funding for him. Because of his illiteracy, he was provided with a “reader” and a “scribe,” presumably at further cost to the taxpayers.

It’s clear that, even if seriously intended, the Government’s welfare reforms are misconceived. I suspect that the only answer, short of cancelling all welfare entitlements without exception, is something like this:

  1. Every head of a household without gainful employment should receive a monthly voucher for £500, to pay rent. Landlords would then have to choose between letting their property stand empty and accepting a cut in their own raid on the taxpayers.
  2. Every head of a household without gainful employment should receive £60 per week, to pay for food and utilities, plus £25 for each dependant to a maximum of four persons. Nobody, no matter how fecund, or allegedly disabled, should get a penny more.
  3. Nobody born abroad, who moved here after a certain date, should be eligible for any kind of welfare.
  4. The various welfare bureaucracies should be shut down and replaced with a simplified dispensing agency – the Post Office, perhaps.
  5. Property crimes should be punished with public flogging, followed by forced labour. That is for those born here. For anyone born abroad, the punishment should be flogging, followed by automatic deportation.
  6. Nobody in receipt of the welfare described above should be allowed to vote in any election, and should not be allowed to register for the vote until he has been off welfare for two years. Ditto anyone employed by the State or any of its quasi-private agencies.

This pill should be sweetened with radical deregulation at the bottom of the kind that Kevin Carson details. There should also be a ruthless dispossession of the pluto-bureaucratic parasites at the top, and of their clients.

After what I heard yesterday – much of which I already knew – I am inclined to great hardness of heart.


  • Flogging?

    For fuck’s sake Sean, I know you enjoy presenting this Edwardian gentleman image, but it is dangerous to lose onself too much in a character.

    The “underclass” have always been with us. They were with us in the Victorian Era too, and were known as the “Residuum” then, and middle class worthies greatly extended the State (and indeed punishments of all kinds) in order to repair them. And all we got was a big old fucking State as a consequence. And the same underclass. There was a bit of a reduction in the numbers between 1914 and 1918, mind. Maybe we could have another war with the Hun.

    Flogging? Dear God.

  • Flogging is much cheaper than prison, and less morally corrupting. As for Edwardian gentleman, I’ve never made any secret of my own low-born origins. I’ve enjoyed a certain upward mobility, thanks to the elitist and meritocratic education system we used to have in this country. But I still identify with those on the edge of, or slightly outside, the middle class, who work hard and see the workshy trash down the road with cars and children and satellite dishes.

    When my wife and I lived in Charlton, we had only one burglary. It was a terrible experience, but we were luckier than most of our friends and neighbours. The pigs were gloatingly useless, and were probably on the take from the thieves. A few days afterward, the thieves came back. This time, I was in, and I was able to go after them with a sword. Sadly, they were too fast for me, but I had a good look at their faces, and I still wish I could have caught one of them.

  • I’ve never understood this fascination with flogging. There’s no evidence it’s any more effective than any other punishment, and it seems to me to be more about satisfying something in the Anglo-puritan mind. It’s well known that prostitutes once referred to flogging as “le vice Anglais” because of the popularity of being on the receiving end of it among Englishmen of a certain class.

    Anyway, we know what happened last time it was popular. Our worthy leaders started off with flogging criminals, then banged up lots of little boys in institutions where they could be flogged at will by grotesquely fat Liberal MPs. Paul Marks wrote the other day about the rewriting of memory; most people are unaware that most of the values we now call social conservative were fetishes of nineteenth century radical liberals, including the hysteria for cruel and unusual correctives.

    Anyway, these days there are websites where one can observe the beating of young mens’ buttocks, so I’ve heard, so there really doesn’t seem much point to doing it at the State’s expense these days.

  • It’s perhaps worth noting that Left and Right argue constantly about two policies united in their ineffectiveness; you can try giving stuff to the Untermensch, and that doesn’t work, or you can hit them with sticks, and that doesn’t work.

    The only policy that does seem to have had a measurable effect was the Methodist approach of terrifying them with eternal damnation unless they work hard and please God. Unfortunately, this was predicated on there actually being sufficient jobs available for the lower classes to do, which hasn’t been the case since the 1970s, when the Eternal Recession began after the banking system broke free of the gold standard.

    Which brings us really to the issue of why an illiterate man would need to go to college at all; the answer being that competition for the insufficient number of jobs is now so fierce that jobs that could once be acquired after a five minute chat with the boss and “I’ll try you for a week and we’ll see how it goes” now require sheafs of meaningless qualifications.

    Maybe we shouldn’t have disproportionately flooded the lower end of the employment market with immigrants, whose offspring are then in just the same position as the natives when the next wave arrives. Just a thought.

  • Sean, I strongly support your policy.

    I note that in London where the housing benefit cap has been introduced some boroughs are unable to find accommodation of a low enough price for their residents, and so are actually housing them in hotels on a temporary basis at a much higher price! Clearly the option of allowing these people to find their own accommodation in a cheaper town has not occurred to them – where I live you can rent a 2 bedroom house with an attic (which could be used as storage space or as a 3rd bedroom) for £300 a month. So £500 a month is generous. No one should be told, “as you are in Kensington, the state will pay whatever it takes to keep you in Kensington”. That is absurd, and turns our cities into sink populations.

  • I’m curious DJ Webb: where are you that you can get a 2 bedroom rental that cheap?

  • I do not think flogging fits into this post – which is about welfare reform.

    Corporal punishment (pro or anti) should be a matter for another post.

    Some of the actual ideas for welfare reform that Sean Gabb presents here may actually be quite sensible – but attention is taken away from them by the flogging thing.

    As for mentioning Kevin “Social Justice” Carson in a positive way – bleeping May Day, bleep-bleep.

  • I usually point to a similar assertion as Mr Gabb’s for common sense benefits reform. People often forget how much landlords and higher education establishments make out of welfare too.

    It’s all wishful thinking though, because there are far too many snouts in the trough and corruption is such a big part of GDP.

  • I am all in favour of the vicious being punished by violent means but:
    1-The whole flogging bit seems to have sexual overtones that should rule it out.
    2-The sociopathic scum of the state should not be the ones dishing it out as all you will get is the abuse of such a system.

    This country once again needs to become a martial nation and deal with thec scum at both the bottom and top of society.

  • In B – do you have a link re Paul’s comments on the origins of modern “social conservatism”? Am interested to read

  • MRDA – I’m in in Lincolnshire. A 3-bedroomed flat that is offered for rent for £300 a month – not exactly where I live but not too far away either is this:

  • Richard-

    My usual poor writing has misrepresented Paul Marks, by conflating two separate sentences with an insufficient semi-colon. The “social conservatism” bit should be separated from Paul’s observation in another thread that our opponents rewrite history. Paul and I I think have different views on social conservatism itself. I did not intend to put words in his mouth in this regard.

  • I too am a supporter of flogging and for some of the same reasons as Sean.

    Prison is expensive (circa 50k p.a.). It is considered very bad at rehabilitation and where applied it allows an anti-civic mindset to be engendered where criminals can come to see themselves outside of normal bounds as well as reinforcing this between each other and educating each other on criminal methodology.

    Consequently for many ‘lesser’ crimes, it is no longer considered appropriate to send people to jail. This causes contempt for the law and its consequences, insecurity for the victims and for repeat offenders when they are finally imprisoned embeds some of the problems outlined in the paragraph above.

    For certain types of crime that constitute a significant proportion of total crime committed (such as criminal damage/vandalism; lesser violence; lesser theft) then I believe flogging is the best solution.

    Is it more immoral to flog than to lock away for 23 hours a day? As for rehabilitation it also sends a chilling message to the wider community regarding transgression. Just as back in the day caning, tended to be on the usual suspects, its effect was enough to keep those suspects to a minimum, regardless of their bottom-preserving inclinations.

  • As to Sean’s and DJWebb’s comments regarding rock-bottom prices for housing benefit, I am less inclined. I declare an interest: I live about 30 minutes in the car from Sean in Thanet. The costs of social housing in London and some of the recent government ‘austerity’ measures (otherwise laughable) have meant that many people are migrating in our direction, due to the relative costs of housing compared to Greater London.

    This means for certain locales, such as Ramsgate and Margate, whole areas threaten to become idle which brings its own set of problems. This is further amplified by many London boroughs choosing to save budgets by relocating children’s homes, refugees, halfway houses and that sort of thing in the area.

    There are of course good budgetary reasons for it, but IMO, there are fewer civic reasons for doing so, unless you wish to concentrate all the problems that tend to follow the long-term unemployed in certain districts. Once done, I think the issues would become more pervasive and resistant to remedy and would still cause some of these issues to radiate out into areas where there were more resources.

  • I was thinking about DJW’s suggestion along the same lines as Dykeward – with whom I ought to have coffee. I don’t fancy an invasion of trash too close to me. Deal is a very nice part of the world, and it shouldn’t be “discovered” by the wrong people.

    Perhaps we could herd certain people into caravan parks. Places like Deptford Park and Southwark Park are somewhat underused.

  • Ian – our POLITICAL view of “social conservatism” is much the same.

    I might like people to do X and not do Y – but if they do the opposite I am against state intervention. I do not believe in “saving souls by coecing bodies” and I think the idea that moral improvement can come from the state is absurd (at this point Aristotle throws me out – for denying that the goal of the state is to make people “just and good”, oh well i can have a drink with Lycrophon round the corner).

    About the only bit of social conservatism that I take a different. politiical, view from most libertarians on is abortion.

    But even here there is no special role for the state.

    For example if I had seen that “doctor” in Phiadelphia snipping the spines of new born babies – I would have had a moral duty to try and stop him. Even though I am not an officer of the city, State or Federal government.

    I think the old question makes sense…..

    “Would it be right for you (as a private person) to do this?”

    If the answer is “no” – to say that someone who works for the state has a right to do it is (at best) problematic.

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