Dynamic Benefits – how Iain Duncan Smith lost his way

Only 14 clicked on my blog last week. The core message is important, so here it is again.

Iain Duncan Smith is the subject of an unfavourable assessment in the 13th September issue of the New Statesman (my neighbour passes on copies to me), by Laurie Penny: A modern-day Buddha loses his way. Penny starts with an account of IDS’s ‘Easterhouse Epiphany’. Whilst leader of the Conservative Party in 2002, IDS was so shocked by the deprivation he saw in that district in Glasgow that he embarked on the course which has somehow led to his current determination to destroy the welfare state.

Oddly enough, I agree with his assessment that the welfare state was flawed in principle. Lady Juliet Rhys Williams, a member of the Beveridge Commission, identified means testing as a problem in advance of the Beveridge Report, published in 1942. Her minority Report proposing a Citizens’ Basic Income was suppressed. IDS’s first response to his Easterhouse experience was to set up the Centre for Social Justice, which on 16th September 2009 duly produced the report whose importance I cannot stress and repeat often enough: Dynamic Benefits: Towards Welfare that works. Surprise, surprise, it gives chapter and verse on exactly what Lady Rhys Williams said would happen. Perhaps its parentage explains the general failure to pick up its crucial significance, and the refusal to listen to my pleas to read it. Admittedly Its recommendations  were perverse, but they are innocuous when compared with what is actually happening. They include the first mention of the misnomer ‘Universal Credit’. But anyone who claims to be in favour of social justice should be shouting from the housetops the devastating and thorough critique of the effects of means testing as an important part of the case for a Citizens’ Basic Income.

As I have said many times, Aesop advised that persuasion is more effective than force. Why does the Poor Law mentality hold everyone in thrall? Even Green Party spokespersons do not always press the principle of universality where it is relevant. The Green Party’s principal purpose is to offer a way for mankind to live sustainably within the Earth’s capacity to cope. The Citizens’ Income – because it applies the principle of persuasion instead of force – is one way to allow individuals to change their behaviour and attitudes. There may be better stratagems to combine ecology and social justice, but no one seems to have thought of them yet. The CI is potentially double-edged, though it does also facilitate a rapprochement of old political enemies . The link to Lady Rhys Williams offers some clues to both  the danger and the opportunity. I have discussed them in previous blogs.

But getting rid of Iain Duncan Smith and his horrific ideas on how to deal with deprivation will be a start. Has he been back to Easterhouse lately?

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