Friday, 18 February 2011

So you're happy to pay scroungers?

Asked Mr G over at HPC, to which I replied:

Mr G, when you say "scrounger" I take it you are using the Daily Mail definition?

Now, precisely why there are five million of such people is down to a combination of stupid welfare system, innate laziness, poor education system, disastrous tax and regulatory policies, political correctness and de-industrialisation etc etc.

But I'd cast the net wider and include other categories of "scroungers" who cost the country far, far more than the 5 million on the dole, i.e.
* politicians
* six million quangocrats
* bankers
* private landlords who receive Housing Benefit (especially if they are renting back a council house they bought for very cheap)
* Home-Owner-Ist Ă©lite generally
* corporatist private sector leeches
* most lawyers, auditors and accountants
* pensioners generally (who get twice as much from the taxpayer as working age welfare claimants and children)
* fakecharities
* the green insustry lobby
and so on.

Faced with the choice between

a) Giving somebody on the dole £70 a week/a pensioner £140 a week and

b) giving a 'private landlord' £1,000 a week or a Council Chief Executive £3,000 a week or an agricultural landowner like Prince Charles £100,000 a week or a banker £1m a week, I know which is the best value :-)


Lola said...

I object! You've left me out of the scroungers list!

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, the likes of you and me are included in 'corporatist private sector leeches' or 'lawyers, auditors, accountants'. You can sweep up mortgage brokers and estate agents into the Home-Owner-Ists.

Lola said...

Phew! Thought I was missing out there for a moment.

Onus Probandy said...

I understand your point (and I think it will turn out that you are correct despite what I'm about to say), but your two choices do not represent the truth.

They might be phrased more like this:

(a) giving millions of people on the dole £70 a week
(b) giving thousands of private landlords £1000 a week

Millions times £70 could well turn out to be a bigger number. Equally: there is only one prince Charles (thank the lord).

Further: the choices are not mutually exclusive. Why don't we not give out money to "scroungers" and not give out money to Prince Charles, landlords, etc as well?

Mark Wadsworth said...

OP, the relevant figures are:

(a) £120 billion (£50 billion for working age, child related stuff, tax credits etc + £70 billion for state pension)

(b) £500 billion-odd (wide margin of error).

As to welfare, I prefer the idea of universal flat rate benefits, so you get it whether you are hard working or lazy; lucky or unlucky; rich or poor.

Frank Davis said...

Almost exactly the point I was making a day or so ago. But the important point (as far as I am concerned) is that the people on pensions or on the dole aren't spending their lives making up interfering busybody rules and regulations to hobble everybody else.

Mark Wadsworth said...

FD, yes, that's another good point (but trying to work out the cost of all this interference is difficult to calculate - what's the true cost of a pub forced to close down following the smoking ban? for example - so I'm just looking at the cash they get).

subrosa said...

Where do I apply for £140 a week Mark? Do tell me. I've an earnings related pension and it's nowhere near that. The basic pension is £97.65.

I often think it would be better to sell up, squander the lot then get the state to keep me. A few exotic holidays would do the trick. Again this year I won't be having a holiday as my fuel bills need paying. I'm not complaining though because I live in one of the best places in the UK.

Mark Wadsworth said...

S, IDS merrily nicked UKIP's "Citizen's Pension" policy wholesale and said he'd replace the whole sorry mess with a flat rate CP of £140 a week (that's roughly the average of what all pensioners get in BSP, S2P, C Tax discounts, winter fuel, free TV licence etc etc).

chefdave said...

I like the cut of your jib Mark. I thought you might miss out accountants, but it's nice to see them included in your list. I applaud your honesty!

I made this point to another accountant a while back but he wrote it off as a case of sour grapes because he had a 'better' job than me. The guy simply couldn't graps the fact that a 10,000 page tax code is in fact a massive subsidy to the accountancy industry. But then I expect nothing less from our new breed of uni educated, New Labour sympathising, suited clones.

Most of the country are on the take in one way or another, and eventually this parasite will overwhelm the host.

Mark Wadsworth said...

CD, the list of parasites is so long, it's probably quicker to work out who is the host, we can probably narrow it down to about a quarter of the population.

Anonymous said...

Mr G and the Daily Mail cannot understand a conceptual problem because they cannot understand economics. Those people on 'Unemployment Benefits' are not strictly speaking unemployed. They have a job. They work in the state service sector. They are employed and organized, at the minimum wage, by the state to terrify us. Their vital job is akin to the old man walking the street with the board sign,stating 'The end is near...repent you sinner...etc'
The employment of the 'unemployed', (minus a board or a sign, but nevertheless recognizable) is to remind us of who we shall live with, what life will be like, what fate awaits our children if we don't play along with the order of things.
In short the Daily Mail reader should thank the hapless millions, for taking on such public service.
Compared to the wages of other public servants: a General, a Bishop or a Judge, a 'Unemployed' is, it seems, very good value for our money.

Mike W

Old BE said...

You have to be a bit careful here. The people who benefit from things like property rights are also often the ones creating wealth in industry/services so it's not a simple transfer of wealth from A to B.

Mark Wadsworth said...

MikeW, another good point.

BE, for sure yes, about half of people are simultaneously being robbed and robbing others*, the netting off exercise is very tricky.

* i.e. homeowners with proper jobs.

Michael Fowke said...

MikeW makes a very good point. That's why full employment will never be allowed.

Mark Wadsworth said...

MF, indeed. As I've said many a time before, the best guarantee of workers' rights is full employment; and the best way of getting full employment is deregulating, detaxing and ending means-testing of benefits etc.

DBC Reed said...

THis all very well but if all the good jobs are being nicked by robots (as Michael Heseltine, I believe,said on Question Time*)then it is very difficult to maintain this productive worker/ scrounger division.
* I would n't know because he must
have been on later than the 5 minutes which is all I can bear this programme for.5 minutes is pushing it actually.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC, if robots do the manufacturing, people can do other stuff instead. There's always something worth doing.

AntiCitizenOne said...

Is Heseltine aware that tractors have "stolen" million of agricultural jobs in the UK?

"Funnily" enough the economy grew rather than shrunk at this occurrence...

Maybe he's doing the fallacy of seeing the job as more important than the output (a subset of the broken windows fallacy)...

Bayard said...

My reply to Mr G would have been along the lines of:
"Are all the unemployed "scroungers"?"
To which I suspect he would have replied (if he had half a brain): "No, of course not, just those who refuse to work"
Me: "So there are some unemployed who are actively seeking work and therefore are not "scroungers"?"
G: "Yes"
Me: "Well if they can't find a job, what hope have the others? and if you force a scrounger to work, you are de facto depriving an honest job-seeker of one" (retires feeling smug).
I must say that, as an employer, would never want to employ anyone who is forced by the state to seek employment. I made this mistake once (because I didn't know who I was hiring) and the man lasted a week before I had to sack him because he was worse than useless, not only did he do no useful work, but he actively prevented others working, too. I think it is only in DailyMailland that there are employers who will actually give work to those starved into it by the state. I wouldn't employ someone like that unless I was paid to.

Ian R Thorpe said...

As an idealistic young man in the information technology industry I used to think building machines to do most of the work freeing humans from drudgery was a billiant idea.

I don't blame myself for the 'jobless economy' but as I curse technology while trying to find a human capable of thinking for him or herself and making decisions at my bank, internet service provider, or and of the online shops I deal with, the folly of our obsession with technology becomes apparent.

So I agree the unemployed are better value. Most of them are capable of contributing if only we could find them something to do.

Mark Wadsworth said...

AC1, and electricity stole the jobs of lamplighters and cars stole the jobs of coachmen and so on. If Heseltine's theory stacked up then only about a million people would still have a job.

B, another excellent point, I must remember that one (which I had vaguely formulated before but not as game-set-and-matchly).

IRT, I wouldn't worry about it for the reasons that AC1 suggests. They'll always find new things to do.

DBC Reed said...

Yes blacksmiths started to sell cans of petrol to passing motorists then turned themselves into petrol stations.Then the petrol stations started to disappear.
Is n't this argument based on the idea that there have been Kondratieff cycles before and these will have periods of stagnation which will indubitably lead to periods of growth.
It was pretty obvious that electric irons would succeed gas irons as they succeeded those numbered flat irons you put on the coal-fired range.So what's the next big thing? Should exist in embyo somewhere.Most likely mass-
producible by robots.
Don't give me the old number: there's no such thing as technological unemployment. I know three photographers who technology put out of work.One of them re-trained as a plumber and ruined my bathroom.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC, it is indisputable that free market capitalism is the best way of creating wealth, but it is not very good at sharing out the proceeds. So work on the 'sharing out' side of the equation, and don't worry about the 'creating' bit.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC, I might add that banking, corporatism, Home-Owner-Ism and other forms of cartellism and monopolism are not free market capitalism - they don't even stack up on the 'wealth creating' part, let alone the 'sharing' part.

DBC Reed said...

There's a one-word answer to this free-market-capitalism-will-evolve argument: Detroit,or Cleveland ,or Pittsbugh or Gary, Indiana or, closer to home, Burnley and the Lancashire cotton towns,or the Yorkshire wool towns.Or the acme of laissez faire: Liverpool (which has lost a third of its population since WW2).
In what way is Detroit not a product of free-market capitalism?
How come the United States, which is wealthy and car obsessed ,cannot pay its own citizens to make cars that can be bought by the same citizens from the same pay?As the man says 'Something is wrong somewhere.'
You have argued yourself that businesses can do better by restricting supply than expanding goods and services.And this does n't need a formal cartel.The housing market,as a giant amorphous mass, is managing to keep up house prices by restricting supply.
As for sharing the wealth,don't ask a Socialist and expect a business-knows-best answer.But on the right (-ish) of the spectrum ,the Douglas scheme of Social Credit ,which is almost a hundred years old ,does appear to offer solutions by including money to buy the goods produced in a Citizens Dividend ,which they called a National Dividend.

Mark Wadsworth said...


1. Not all businesses are cartels, in fact most aren't cartels. In any event, this is one of the few areas where governments can justifiably intervene. Unless it doesn't want to, e.g. housing, banking.

2. The US car industry did badly because their cars were shit and expensive and the workers were over-unionised.

3. Yes, it is sad when you see these old industrial towns, but the cotton industry shouldn't have been there in the first place - it was only there because the Brits wouldn't let India have its own cotton/clothing industry.

4. What creates more wealth - manufacturing stuff expensively over here or cheaply in China? The latter obviously, as I said, that doesn't help unemployed British people very much, but that's the 'sharing' problem not the 'creating' problem.

Bayard said...

"The housing market,as a giant amorphous mass, is managing to keep up house prices by restricting supply."

This is a myth; it's the availability of cheap money that pushes up house prices. Think Ricardo's law of rents, Ireland, what will happen to house prices when interest rates go up and the supply remains the same.