Another day brings us another nimble U-turn from the “Coalition of the Willing (to be just as bad as Labour)”. In opposition, everyone was vehemently against Labour’s plans to means test benefits that are currently universal. Now that the Tories are in power, they’re suddenly calling for universal benefits to be means tested. The Liberal Democrats have never been in favour of means testing and now they’re in power, they suddenly are.
People of a socialist inclination are suddenly outraged by this (and so is anyone who is expecting any kind of consistency from the government.) Of course, I find curious that left-wing voters were not up in arms when their team proposed this, but in my opinion, anyone who is dim enough to vote for socialism is dim enough to swallow any line peddled by the government.
In a nutshell, universal benefits are simpler (and therefore more cost-effective) to implement. Since they are universal, they are not likely to put people in a position where going to work will be discouraged by withdrawal of benefits. They don’t require a massive state infrastructure to manage and they are not subject to people who have “brilliant ideas” for “making it work better”.
But I suspect the real story here is not the faux outrage peddled by the left, nor is the real story here that middle-class people who fund or have funded so much government waste are going to lose their wafer-thin slice of the welfare pie.
The real story here is who truly benefits from making previously universal benefits, means tested. The real story here is which organisation is powerful enough to sway the government, who have had very clear policies about universal benefits, and was powerful enough to sway the previous government away from universal benefits, which were almost imprinted in its DNA.
This powerful, shadowy and increasingly blatantly “in charge” organisation is the ironically named “Civil Service”, of course. Increasingly arrogant and uncivil, hectoring and bossy and of course, in no way serving the public (although they could certainly be seen as servicing the public!)
It is a tautology that powerful vested interests will form in a “corporatist” society, a society where there is an unholy alliance of hidden, unelected “autonomous” bodies that drive civic life and political parties that are dependent on big business or wealth for their continued success.
This means that a relatively small number of people will have to interact to decide on “how things will be done”, something easily done through “workshops” or “events” or even “dinners”.
Heavily regulated big business is always campaigning with exactly the right people to bend regulation that might actually help people into regulation that makes it more difficult for competition , the only thing that will really keep them honest (and also ensure that the implementers get it “right”.) Politicians are always dealing with exactly the right people to extract funding from to keep them in office or just one step away from it, while ensuring that their “on the same page” as the people who actually make things happen. And of course, quangocrats and bureaucrats are continually supplied with ideas that they can implement to increase the size and scope of their empires.
It’s what you might call “win-win-win”.
Of course, there has to be a loser somewhere.
Have you worked out who it is yet?