Monday, November 08, 2010

IDS and the Road to Serfdom

A number of people have commented, summarised handily here, on the coalition's on-going progressive journey to the 19th century - this time with regards to the plan to force the unemployed to perform ritualistic acts of manual labour in order to retain their benefits.

Some people don't want to work? As a former welfare rights officer and employee of what is now called the DWP, I would respond - no shit, Sherlock. Followed by the question: so what? Even if all the unemployed had a strong work ethic - or a suitably docile attitude, depending on your view - there still wouldn't be work for them all.

It's a fairly easy matter to demonstrate that the relative generosity of a country's welfare system doesn't even correlate, still less prove causation, with unemployment levels. While estimates vary, America's current unemployment rate is higher than Britain's, which in turn is higher than Denmark's.

Unemployment is higher in times of deficient demand but it always exists in a capitalist system, simply because it lacks any mechanism to prevent it. In this sense, the unemployed are carriers of an inconvenient truth: capitalism might work after a fashion but it doesn't require everyone to work to do this. This is why the unemployed must be punished and made servants.
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