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The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Welfare Reform, Reflected

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

This Saturday marks the seventieth anniversary of the Beveridge report, which established the modern welfare state. In the light of all that these reforms have achieved in terms of improving the health and wellbeing of the poor and serving social equality, it is shocking to discover a government report alleging the negative effect of welfare upon those who receive it.

The welfare state, the report writes, is:
a check upon industry, a reward for improvident marriage, a stimulus to increased population, and a means of counterbalancing the effect of an increased population upon wages; a national provision for discouraging the honest and industrious and protecting the lazy, vicious and improvident, calculated to … ruin the taxpayers.
This is not exactly a new viewpoint, even if the language is perhaps more strident and direct than one has come to expect from spinning politicians. Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has recently argued that families on welfare should have their benefits capped at two children, that they should "cut their cloth" and not expect the state to pick up the tab should they choose to have more.

The Tory peer Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform, has contended that the welfare system is dreadful, allowing lone parents and the sick to "have a lifestyle" on the backs of hard-working families.

Chancellor George Osborne has outlined plans for £10 billion of welfare cuts by saying that one "just can't balance the budget on the wallets of the rich."

As is now seen in the above-quoted government report, right-wing rhetoric turns the handle on the aged gramophone time and again, repeatedly suggesting the poor are exploiting the rich rather than the other way round, and condemning them for the improvidence of having children. A view which seems vindicated by the fact that the report quoted above is actually the Poor Law Commission of 1833.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

(Thanks to John Pemble in the LRB for this quotation.)

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Posted by Alistair at 10:00 pm


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