Iain Duncan Smith is to take away the jobseeker’s allowance of 1.4 million people if they refuse to undertake periods of compulsory full-time work in the community
He claims it will be part of a new "contract" with the 1.4 million people on jobseekers' allowance, with the government's side of the contract being the promise of a new "universal credit", to replace all existing benefits, that will ensure it always pays to work rather than stay on welfare.
I am sickened by this approach. First, if there is a contract between people and state it is between all people and the state, not just those on benefits and the state.
Second, if that contract exists (and I think it does) then this is its basest form. The state here is offering a conditional offer of reduced benefits in the future as consideration for a current obligation to work without choice on projects that will be run by private contractors for profit with, no doubt the threefold aims of:
a) Undermining market rates of pay for similar work;
b) Providing profit opportunity for a few contractors at cost to most in society;
c) Supporting the notion that the provision of services in the community can be done at undervalue or no cost and without appropriate skills being needed — in the process deliberately seeking to undermine the notion of the welfare state.
As such, in this exchange the state is exploiting its position of power to exploit and is in the purpose seeking to favour a few whilst pursuing an ideological endeavour to reduce pay, undermine social services and provide an unpaid pool of labour for the so called â€šÃ„Ã²big society’.
This is fundamentally unethical. The contract between the state and all who live within it is one where the rights of each party have to be respected; where the state has no right to exploit its power; where the obligations must be mutual and reciprocal; where the outcomes are likely to be mutually beneficial and where the requirements are proactive.
None of these characteristics are present in the approach the ConDems are promoting. A fair contract between the state and the unemployed would feature these obligations on the state:
1) The obligation to create work: real work, paid work, with training and opportunities. The Condems are denying their responsibility for any of these things.
2) The state must pay benefits if it fails in this obligation to create work. But the benefits paid are not some sign of failure on the part of the recipient. They are a sign of failure on the part of the state. The ConDems don’t recognise this. They are transferring the guilt for their own failure to produce viable economic policies onto those who are the innocent victims of their incompetence.
3) The state has a duty to raise the necessary taxes to ensure that those who are out of work — and the vast majority are out of work through no fault of their own despite the claims to the contrary — are not penalised for being so. To seek to ensure they are penalised for being out of work — as the ConDems proposed — is to deliberately create injustice.
This is further indication that the ConDems have a clear goal — to undermine, divide and even destroyed society. Thatcher failed to destroy the society she claimed did not exist. But the ConDems aim to do it — not least by deliberately creating an underclass of people who will be required to undertake forced labour against their will to enhance the profit of an elite in society to further the social goals of a government who is very clearly seeking to push some elements of the population out of society for no fault of their own.
Does that sound familiar to anyone?