Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Breakthrough Britain

The report is out. It is a shame that the launch was marred by daft scaremongering on one policy point by the BBC and other media in a successful attempt to whip up bleats about discriminating "against" unmarried and single parents. Daft.

However, the good news is that it does seem that the findings are being praised, even if the recommendations are not unanimously agreed upon. This means we work done can produce further suggestions using a baseline of inputs.

The key areas are:
  • Family Breakdown
  • Economic Dependency and Worklessness
  • Educational Failure
  • Addictions
  • Gambling
  • Serious Personal Debt
  • The "Third" Sector
Before I continue, I am reading the briefing, so I apologise if I respond inaccurately or in ignorance of the full report - I am very happy to be corrected if that is the case.

Family Breakdown: Some good thoughts, yet the worry I have is that yet more people will be involved from the State who will wish to manage the situation, not prevent it.

  1. The State should allow voluntary groups to operate more freely but not be gatekeepers to funding, which will always have strings and so distract and undermine sincere intent. I cannot stress this too much - State funding will pollute the Voluntary Sector with their agenda and glacial timescales. This does not appear to be well safeguarded here - quite the reverse. A Minister for the Third Sector - the rot is setting in.
  2. I have long made the case for no additional benefits to be given to people on benefits or housing who increase the size of their family unit and I remain convinced of this as the "least worst" option. There is nothing here to reverse the perverse incentivisation of feckless procreation, to put no finer point on it. This adds to my suspicion that all these people are there to manage the problems, not prevent them.
  3. I do think it is right to consider the concept of "family" as a single taxable entity if children are involved, allowing all legally bound adults to transfer their tax allowances to the household that is there to support the children, including grandparents. Civil partnerships, yes. A cohabiting couple, no, but a grandmother and mother?, yes. This report does at least move a little in that direction.
  4. I find it distressing that no mention is made about the entropic programming pumped out by the BBC and others, such as Eastenders, which appears to be a "Blueprint for Dysfunction". Where are the strong media role models are needed to promote self-reliance, fortitude, courage, moderation, inventiveness and other qualities? Our State broadcaster often seems to have decided on the role of "recruiting Sargent" to keep our Social Services fed with a plentiful supply of "customers"!

Economic Dependency and Worklessness: The recommendations do not appear to do more than tinker and they tinker in a way that requires more oversight and inspection, so more "salaried unemployed". Some things suggested are an improvement, but this is a missed opportunity to put forward significant changes in the context of all the other recommendations. The nettle has not been grasped. No talk of Flat Tax and a fat personal allowance, which is key, IMHO, to boosting productive employment, taking the low paid OUT of Income Tax and enabling a smoother and more rewarding segue from dependency to self-reliance.

Educational Failure: This has excellent stuff - to allow the formation of independent schools free of LEA control and allow parents to switch to such schools, taking the underlying funding with them - it is vouchers by any other name but articulated properly (for once?) so that it makes it hard for the Sociofascists to disingenuously denounce. This alone could do so much, it is hard to articulate the importance this could have on our society. Alas, I feel the LEA Mafia will stomp on this as soon as their rice-bowl is threatened. A pox upon them!

Addictions: Tinkering. Totally misses the key issue of removing the criminals and pushers from the loop. There is only one sensible way to do that and that is to make the supply of drugs not economically viable for criminals to bother selling or recruiting new customers (i.e. pushing). This is through low cost, flat fee supply at regulated outlets. Until you stop the "marketing" end, you are fighting an uphill battle to kerb usage and the crime that is caused by the addicts needing to feed their habit. Many of the recommendations are great if you are in the State machine - lots of jobs. You know the rot is well and truly set in here, with terms like "treatment journey" - the poison of the NHS behemoth leaks far and wide. This is about addiction - addiction to the State.

Gambling: Mostly Statist tinkering. Linking gambling treatment funding and the tax revenues raised concerns me for reasons I cannot quite articulate. No mention of Super Casinos, which is shocking. If the State earns zero revenue from gambling, it would consider it an irritant and not wish it to grow. I am convinced that Super Casinos are about tax revenues, which is DAFT as the taxes are on profits which will almost certainly be repatriated overseas, sucking wealth out of the nation. Maybe the State needs some treatment for their addiction?

Serious Personal Debt: This section does not hit home, in my view. IVAs are allowed and to an extent still encouraged, which I believe will do the opposite of the intended purpose. Considering how numerically illiterate people are, it is no surprise they are financially illiterate, too. I did not detect a way to formally and clearly display the terms of credit cards and refinancing. I know people should be responsible, but the State has a role, in my view, in the area of "weights and measueres" and more intuitive ways to display the consequences of various forms of credit should be put forward, including graphically.

The Third Sector: Alas, we see more moves to entrench the State into the activities of Voluntary Groups. The idea that the unemployed can be brought into volunteering is a good one, as long as it is not abused. This will be hard. It could sort out sheep from goats in terms of the sincere out of work who can volunteer and build up a CV, even if they are not actually in paid employment - this is "unpaid employment", which is at least a step in the right direction, the antithesis of Gordon Brown's 900,000 "salaried unemployed". I suspect the State will not hesitate to get its talons into this area, interfering in what projects can "qualify", so engineering and influencing the precise work of such entities. Once that is in place you are a short hop and skip to some dangerous ground in terms of mobilising masses. The TWO groups who should influence what happens should be those volunteering and those contributing.

The State should BUTT OUT. It is not good news for this area - the State is on the prowl - it has OUR money, but IT wants control over how it is spent. If the State wants to see more taxpayers money going on voluntary groups may I suggest it cuts out the middle man - itself - and lowers taxes.

The document does not tackle State housing, which I feel is a millstone in its current form. If you are in State housing, you need to ASK to move and apply to join the queue of the relevant Local geographic monopoly Authority. Not good for chasing work. That is a very bad thing. Housing needs to be taken out of the 'entitlement' sphere and into the voluntary sector. If housing is not a 'right', dysfunctional families will need to reform to remain housed. I sincerely believe 90% will reform themselves when faced with such a reality.

Overall some good points, and especially one of the two key issues - Education. However, drug reform is not dealt with and most of the other areas seem to reach for the State interventionist approach, with the serious risk of creating yet more organisations, QUANGOs and "bodies" that want to manage the problem yet, subconsciously, will not wish to eradicate it, as that will threaten their rice-bowls.


Mark Wadsworth said...

"volunteering ... could sort out sheep from goats in terms of the sincere out of work who can volunteer and build up a CV, even if they are not actually in paid employment"

Excellent idea, I shall stick it in my manifesto. I was arguing about Citizen's Basic Income yesterday with people who say "volunteering" should be made compulsory if you are on benefits. As a libertarian I cannot agree with that.

It wouldn't work anyway (see failure of New Deal) and no doubt there'd have to be get-outs for students and mothers - so even more pram faces and more kids hanging around at school/Uni without any intention of learning.

But yours is a super "least-worst" compromise.

Roger Thornhill said...

Who on earth would want an unwilling "volunteer"? We have plenty of those in our schools until 16 as it is...and the Government wants to make them endure it until 18!

Mark Wadsworth said...

"Who on earth would want an unwilling volunteer?"

Exactly. But this is what people think is the Achilles' Heel of a CBI system (in my manifesto), "If benefits are unconditional, then people will become welfare dependent. So make people work for their CBI".

Wrong. What traps people on welfare is high marginal withdrawal rates, e.g. which is why far more married mothers work than single mothers. If you get a CBI anyway, and have no means-testing (above and beyond income tax on what you earn) then no doubt many more claimants will move into work (effectively legalising 'working on the side') than current low-paid workers that will opt-out.

Roger Thornhill said...

I agree. CBI is universal and so upholds the concept of Rule of Law (equal treatment regardless).