Thursday, October 01, 2009

A social democrat is a conservative who's done some research

A while back, I wrote that:

"One criticism of the welfare state is that once you include tax credits, child benefit, housing and council tax benefit and so on, a lone parent who is not in paid employment and has two children has roughly the same income as a single person who works and gets the average wage.

One possible reaction to this is “that’s a disgrace, and it shows that benefits are too high.” This is the one which you will read a lot in the newspapers."

Fraser Nelson, Thatcherite editor of the Spectator, wrote something similar a couple of weeks ago:

"Take, for example, a British girl leaving school and imagining a life of lower-paid work. The UK government presents her with two options: employment or pregnancy. If she has one child and no job, the benefit income of £207 a week is more than the average wage for a hairdresser or teaching assistant. With two children, it is £260 a week — more than a receptionist or library assistant earns. With three children, it is £324 a week, more than a lab technician, typist or bookkeeper."

*

Fraser is not, however, arguing that benefits need to be slashed. Instead, he is writing in praise of former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith's idea, based apparently on two years of research, that the government needs to spend billions of pounds more in topping up the wages of low paid workers with cash benefits.

It's a funny old world when one of the leading conservative journalists - a proud Thatcherite - and a former leader of the Conservative Party, who was removed for being unelectably right-wing, both argue that the way to get people off benefits and into work is for the government to take a more active role spend more money during a recession to give handouts to working class people. It's good to see Fraser and Iain agreeing with me that a better response to the dilemma above is "that's a disgrace, and it shows that wages for the average worker are too low."

There's an old joke that the definition of a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. In a similar vein, I guess the definition of a social democrat is a conservative who has done some research. It is good to have Fraser and Iain on board.

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