Here’s a typical piece of NZ hand-wringing over welfare. Despite the recent years of supposed economic boom the welfare roles are still up there and are only set to increase with the recession. So it’s a little disingenuous of Campbell to be talking as though we have just plunged into some abyss and that to abandon people at their time of need would be immoral. Welfare can be a viable and attractive lifestyle choice in NZ, despite the fact that many refuse to see that reality. To even suggest as much risks attracting the title of ‘beneficiary basher’, a member of that nasty underbelly of NZ society who don’t care about children and the poor blah blah.
Let’s take a look at his language
At a time of the year when family care and social generosity should be on everyone’s mind
Here’s some nice use of language – ‘social generosity’. ‘Generosity’ only makes any sense in a context of voluntary giving. If I was the meanest person in the world who would never dream of donating to charity, could I be called ‘generous’ if the money was taken from me against my will and the ‘donated’ on my behalf? I think that would be stretching the definition to absurdity. And so it is with Campbell’s ‘generosity’. Regardless of whether I would voluntarily contribute or not, his use of the word generous in the context of having money taken from me and donated without my consent is simply attempting to legitimise the current nationalisation of charity.
the language of ‘allowing community agencies to become more involved in the delivery of welfare’ has been a synonym for the wholesale privatization of welfare services.
The most ethical outcome would not only be private provision of those services but also the private funding of them. But even if we take the utilitarian approach and accept the truth of his statement, so what? What is the problem with private provision of welfare services? Assuming here that the state still pays for the provision, he presents no evidence that the state can execute the provision of services any better than the private sector, it is simply accepted as an ideological axiom.
The potential for abuse in this situation of dependency ( not to mention in the competition between agencies for the access rights to service delivery) is obvious. What kind of monitoring and safeguards against abuse does the government have in mind
So abuse of the system can only happen with private providers? Abuse cannot happen by the Ministry who have a vested interest in keeping as many people on benefits as possible? Abuse cannot happen by the beneficiaries themselves? Perhaps that is the core of the problem, that the state now has a problem. Reducing the welfare roles is obviously a political issue that can be played to their advantage by ‘taking action’, yet the last thing they really want to do is to take action when they need people to be on benefits. By removing people from benefits they remove a captive audience of voters, reducing their power and ultimately their own raison d’etre.
The potential for dehumanizing (sic), intrusive action by private sector agencies in the lives of vulnerable families is quite high.
The system is already dehumanising, from the source of the funds, taken under coercion and thus removing the element of choice and the ability to make an ethical decision for myself, through the cushioned layers of bureaucrats who don’t seem to realise or care that such forced extraction is unethical, to the recipients who don’t know or care that they are the benefactors of money taken by force from others. The system locks people into dependency and a sense of entitlement and contempt rather than gratitude and respect.
By nationalising charity and forcing out private donation and provision, everyone is dehumanised. The captive ‘donators’ don’t care where the money goes, it’s not their problem any more. They are freed from the burden of having to think about the poor and needy, and freed from having to make decisions that would actually demonstrate to others their true willingness to make a moral choice to help. The whole process is sanitised, the money laundered through the big front-loader of the ‘state’ so that having made their ‘donation’ they can forget about it all. They can step over the guy in the street because he’s someone else’s problem now. Hardly what one would characterise as altruism. And from the other side, the freshly laundered money flows out, whence it came is of no interest. There is no human face attached to the money, no strings that might require the dreaded and outdated concept of gratiutude or hurt the ‘diginity’ of the recipients. It’s a simply a depersonalised entitlement coming from the great money machine, a free gift for recipients who have every incentive to maximise their share from the money spigot, indulging in the great game of rorting the system if it takes their fancy. And in the middle, like a monstrous beatific budda, sits the great leveller, the great assuager of ‘rich’ guilt, the great protector of ‘poor’ dignity, the ‘state’. It is an automaton, caring about neither side as long as it remains the middleman and can continue to take it’s cut, with every incentive to increase it’s ‘customer’ base and ‘income’. So it’s a little rich for Campbell to talk about the private sector as making a ‘profit’.
It is hard to imagine a more efficient system for dehumanising us all, for removing the need to care about your choices and the outcomes you desire. It is an easy cop-out. Actually caring or doing something is hard. Rather than generous I’d say the welfare system is the very epitome of ‘I’m alright Jack’.