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November 22, 2006

Greg Clark

So we've got another interesting little statement from the major right wing party in the country. Greg Clark MP has released a report, here he is defending it at Conservative Home and here's a snippet from The Guardian's reporting on it:

In a paper being published today, he writes: "The traditional Conservative vision of welfare as a safety net encompasses another outdated Tory nostrum - that poverty is absolute, not relative. Churchill's safety net is at the bottom: holding people at subsistence level, just above the abyss of hunger and homelessness. It is the social commentator Polly Toynbee who supplies imagery that is more appropriate for Conservative social policy in the twenty first century."

It's enough to drive a man to drink, it really is. There's nothing wrong with nicking the other side's rhetoric, that's fine. But to look at Polly Toynbee as a possible source of policy ideas is insane. This is, remember, the right wing party here, suggesting that we should snuggle up to the Great Statist. The one who, yesterday, as you might recall, actually asked, in all seriousness, whether government policy should include this:

Does that include the right to make the wrong choice?

It's extraordinarily difficult to think of any interpretation of the words either freedom or liberty that do not include such a choice. In fact, it's very difficult to think of a meaning of the word 'choice' that doesn't include that possibility.

Now I agree that some do indeed worry about relative poverty. It's not what floats my boat, I'm far more interested in absolute poverty but that's fine, each to his own and so on. But if you are going to worry about relative poverty, why on earth is a right wing (Hah!) party suggesting that we should follow the same old Statist policies? Where's the radicalism? Where, in fact, is the thought at all?

Instead of simply adding to the constipation of the current system where (as Chris Dillow has pointed out) a rise of £1 in pre-tax pre-benefit income can translate into a 8 pence rise in post-tax post-benefit income (from memory, sorry), why isn't someone actually applying brain power to the problem and advocating a real change? A Citizen's Basic Income....along with the firing of a million or two bureaucrats and the dismantling of the current welfare state?

Or do we now have only one political faith, the Statists, divided into the Polly Party and the Stupid One?

November 22, 2006 in Economics | Permalink

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Comments

A Citizen's Basic Income....along with the firing of a million or two bureaucrats and the dismantling of the current welfare state?

1] How would you see that being funded?
2] If this idea could be made to work, what mechanisms, via blogging, influence etc., could we employ to bring about the policy change. This is a serious point. How can we get this idea into the halls of power?

Tim adds: Well, the only party that currently supports it is the Green Party. I'm told that UKIP will come out in favour as well.

Posted by: james higham | Nov 22, 2006 9:33:19 AM

I thought you'd 'appreciate' this as soon as I saw it on the Graun's morning missive, Tim.

I must say I'm eagerly waiting to see the outcome when this story reaches realms of the swearbloggers. DK's at a job interview, so I'm expecting that Mr Eugenides will be first in fray and rather hoping for a good selection of colourful analogies out of this.

Ah well, if you're going to piss people off, might as well do a good job of it.

Posted by: Unity | Nov 22, 2006 9:57:40 AM

As far as an answer to your question: yes exactly. Its a choice between statists.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge | Nov 22, 2006 10:13:37 AM

In reply to James's question on how a CBI would be funded, the answer seems when people start costing it that it what began at £12,000, falls to £8,000, then finally ends up being something like £3,000. This is the exact opposite to a 'flat tax', which in the absence of the Adam Smith Institute trick of declaring huge amounts of spending can be got rid of immediately, begins at 15%, then becomes 20%, and ends up being something like 40%, with Tim and others straightfacedly claiming that this is what makes it progressive.

Tim adds: a CBI of £100 a week (actually, for political reasons, probably the guaranteed minimum pensioners income of £113.50 per week) would be about £250 billion a year.

Posted by: Matthew | Nov 22, 2006 10:38:33 AM

Rage... blind, uncontrollable rage...

Posted by: Mr Eugenides | Nov 22, 2006 11:10:36 AM

Depressing isn't it.

I was going to write more, but it really is too depressing for words. One vast controlling party, divided into a couple of wings. Same policies, same outcomes, same targets. Same mistakes.

I just don't get this Clark feller at all - okay, so even some right wingers accept that relative poverty is a valid construct (it ain't) but how can he feel there's anything other than a one word response to the couple of million childless people in "abject" poverty? The response? "WORK!"

And if they don't, fuck them.

Posted by: Frank Fisher | Nov 22, 2006 11:21:40 AM

I don't even have a problem if they nick an idea of Polly Toynbee's, as long as it's a good idea (I think she supports cannabis legalisation, for instance).

It's that relative poverty is such a stupid idea.

Posted by: Tim Almond | Nov 22, 2006 12:13:55 PM

If I'm allowed to plug a post, you can argue that "In a technology-based economy, relatively equal distributions of wealth are a sign of ill health, not a desirable outcome. Technology boosts the standard of living of the poorest, but it boosts the wealth of the richest by a far greater factor. And that's fine - everyone is better off. The economy is not a zero sum game."

Posted by: Peter Risdon | Nov 22, 2006 1:50:58 PM

I did the basic sums for a negative income tax, Citizens Basic Income style policy, funded by a flat tax, libertarian wet dream a little while ago.

http://sinclairsmusings.blogspot.com/2006/10/ukip-and-train-set-politics.html

Posted by: Matthew Sinclair | Nov 22, 2006 4:29:52 PM