The real economic free-riders are the privileged, not the poorest citizens

Politics and Insights

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The government’s undeclared preoccupation with
behavioural change through personal responsibilityisn’t therapy. It’s simply a revamped version of Samuel Smiles’s bible of Victorian and over-moralising, a Conservative behaviourist hobby-horse: “thrift and self-help” – but only for the poor, of course.

Smiles and other powerful, wealthy and privileged Conservative thinkers, such as Herbert Spencer, claimed that poverty was caused largely by the “irresponsible habits” of the poor during that era. But we learned historically that socioeconomic circumstances caused by political decision-making creates poverty. Meanwhile, the state abdicates its democratic responsibilities of meeting the public’s needs and for transparency and accountability for the outcomes and social consequences of its own policies.

Conservative rhetoric is designed to have us believe there would be no poor people if the welfare state didn’t somehow “create” them. If the Tories must insist on peddling the myth of meritocracy, then surely they…

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