Thursday 31 October 2013

Welfare and Traditional Conservatism

Welfare and Traditional Conservatism

Traditional Conservatives are not Liberals and that includes Right or Economic Liberals. We believe in Community, something they do not, but we share a concern for the economy. Too often Right Liberals have defined the broad Conservative response to Welfare and it has harmed us. They look at things from a strict economic point of view, which is important but it leaves out another important point, which is what happens to those at the bottom of society?

We understand that society, all societies, will be hierarchical and that there will be unfairness in wealth and opportunity. That has nothing to do with our desire but with reality, human nature and economic realities will decide this not anything else. That includes wishful thinking. So what should the position of Traditional Conservatives be towards welfare?

When I was growing up it was called Social Security and I think that is correct, it is a social security, but like everything it can be used properly and improperly. Today we see it being used improperly, it is something that  is not used to protect the most vulnerable but is instead used as a political bribe. Support my party and I'll give you free stuff. It leads to a culture of aimlessness and despair as those it said it would help, it instead traps.

Social Security or Welfare should be used to protect the most vulnerable people in our Community. It should help the Aged, the disabled and the unemployed for example. It should divide between those in permanent need and those in temporary need. Of course the Aged will not get young again so they would be permanent, as would a certain number of the disabled. The rest who are in need of temporary assistance should also be helped when they are in need but the Welfare system should not set out to trap them.

One of the ways people become trapped are by making the transition between Welfare and Work too sharp. It is better to reduce benefits over time, a few weeks say than to cut it off straight away. It seems like a saving to cut people off straight away but it is a massive disincentive as it punishes people for finding work. It costs money to start a new job and if they cannot be supported over that time it can seem all too hard. It must be remembered that in that transition period they have all of the disadvantages of being unemployed and all of the disadvantages of being employed, not until around the one month mark are they enjoying the benefits of employment.

Another trap is to discourage Work by giving too generous a benefit, of course people still need to live so it is a tough call. But if your getting a good wage for not working it sets a trap, it seems like a good deal, many not realising how badly it affects them until they are trapped.

It's all very well for some to say if they want money they can get a job, but that job has to exist first. Some say that the best way to motivate the unemployed is not to provide any support or only short term support. But it neglects a number of factors, the state of the economy, immigration, local conditions and wage laws. Just because you will work for less money doesn't mean it's legal or in anyones best interest.

What Welfare should not be is a political bribe, nor should it be something that everyone gets. If they need assistance yes, but not for everyday life. If your working and getting a decent wage you should not be getting handouts from the Government. Today many do exactly that, we call it Middle Class Welfare. Another group who should not get Welfare is Business, today Business gets many subsides. Those who earn a decent wage and those who should be creating a profit should not be financially supported by the Government. Welfare should be confined to those in need, if a Middle Class man is unemployed of course he should be supported, but not once he gets a job with a decent wage.

Of course cost is an important consideration, it is not just to simply give out money without accounting for it. The money spent must be accounted for and we must also be on guard against fraud. It is not simply about dishonesty or because it is criminal, it is both those things but it also stops real people in need from receiving assistance. Money is not infinite, it is finite and it must be used wisely to protect those in need. Right Liberals say we can save money by simply not providing any assistance but it is a false economy to cut Welfare as we all get to pay for it anyway in charity and in social disruption. How many beggars do you want to help each day or try and ignore? How many members of your family will you have to support unaided? How much of your possessions would disappear if crime was one of the few growth areas of the economy? And how much would it cost you to protect yourself from this? It is a great mistake to think that money is the only way of paying.

For those in temporary need we need to support them back into work. The best way is not to put artificial limits on what they can receive but to support employment policies that help Business create and keep jobs. It is here that we can make the biggest contribution to Welfare by helping people rise up out of it and by stopping people from falling down and needing assistance.

Upon Hope Blog - A Traditional Conservative Future


  1. A very good exegesis of the issue.

    I have always thought that we need to have some kind of unemployment insurance rather than a government payment. This could be managed through the superannuation system.

    Of course we would still need to have the dole for those who do not have insurance, because they haven't worked. We would also need a commensurate cut in income tax rates so that we could the money aside for the insurance preiums. However, I think that would be a more Tory approach in that it would encourage people to look after themselves.

  2. Dear Anonymous

    I'm not a fan of unemployment insurance, it only really works if we have full employment with unemployment being an occasional thing. But we haven't lived in that economy for decades, instead we have people with two or three part time jobs, casual employment and long periods of unemployment.

    But an interesting idea.

    Mark Moncrieff