Peripatetic fathers, scroungers, wasters, and the wilfully idle
April 4, 2013 3 Comments
In the wake of the Philpott murders (sorry, manslaughters) and the excitable reportage it is a difficult job to defend the Welfare State. The Daily Mail takes delight in laying into it (see A. N. Wilson’s attack piece), and whilst the Daily mail’s stance on many things is diametrically opposite to mine, it would be lazy and weak to just dismiss them out of hand.
I like the Welfare State, and yet it has failings. Whilst I do not agree that Michael Philpott’s execrable behaviour is a product of the Welfare State (any more that Dr Harold Shipman’s is a product of the NHS), the Welfare State has funded his lifestyle.
In many ways the today’s Welfare State is a product of the neo-liberal conspiracy that has prevailed for the last thirty years. Monetarism and the supremacy of the individual have fractured old structures, norms, and values. Monetarism has also driven down employment conditions so that state intervention is necessary if abject poverty, penury, or worklessness is not to be even more widespread. Iain Duncan Smith’s reforms may have some validity, but only if we fix the job market first.
I think irony died when the Conservatism, engineers of the destruction of the family, sought to imbue us all with good old fashion family values, a back-to-basics (which seemingly only applied to everyone else). Mr Philpott’s lifestyle choices are almost inevitable given the anything goes attitude that comes with the idea that institutions like the Bullingdon Club are acceptable. Nowadays you can do anything if you are prepared to pick up the bill.
How is it surprising the Mr Philpott saw his kids as cash-cows, when he is surrounded by the commercialisation of everything? We live in a world where the sick as now described as customers, as are the homeless. However, if anyone thinks that beating the underclass into submission works forgets what a society without welfare looks like. I suggest a course of Dickens.
The left are tax-payers too, and their wish for value for money and for an end to fecklessness and the waste of lives is just as real as it is for those on the right. The difference is that we see that peripatetic fathers, scroungers, wasters, and the wilfully idle are by-products of a society that has failed them. Making work pay means making better employment conditions, not making those already poor poorer. The Daily Mail, and A. N. Wilson, luxuriates in the politics of envy, where paranoia sees enemies at every corner. They want the stick every time; whereas its carrots that are only truly effective.
Monsters will exist whatever Nirvana we create. If there really are thousands of Philpotts out there, all taking advantage of the rest of us, then, of course, this must be addressed. But I cannot see how removing, or weakening, support mechanisms would be anything but disastrous for society at large, and the individuals concerned personally. It is no coincidence that these shocking stories, stories like the Philpotts, occur in families already poor. Increasing poverty can only result in more stories like these.