Given the manifold problems with both the implementation and the design of Universal Credit (UC), as well as similar problems in other welfare systems, one feels tempted to take a step back, and ask: is all this really necessary? Has the state created an overly complicated system where private initiative would have sufficed? Or more ... Continue reading
Parts 1 and 2 demonstrated that while Universal Credit (UC) has the potential to increase efficiency, improve employment incentives and promote recipient independence, there are flaws both in its implementation and the underlying system. At this point, it seems helpful to consider developments in the welfare models of other countries. Take Germany, for example. Its ... Continue reading
...continued from Part 1   The issues of implementation described before should largely go away once UC is finally rolled-out completely and the old “legacy benefits” are gone. However, some issues with UC go deeper; they are a matter system design rather than teething trouble. One is that after going through the strains of a ... Continue reading
Universal Credit has several objectives, some more, some less explicit. Overall, these seem to fall within two categories: increasing employment and decreasing cost. To achieve the first, UC aims to improve predictability as well as increased self-management of recipients. The predictability of a benefits system is an important factor in reducing disincentives to work, as ... Continue reading
On Question Time last week, the issue of the restriction of television licences to over-75s was raised. Nobody spoke in favour of the decision. This is a triumph of special interests over rationality or justice – a problem that was predicted to occur as the population ages in various IEA publications. Let us put aside ... Continue reading
Continued from Part 2... Alston makes many claims about living standards. Some turn out to be without foundation and based on repeating what advocates have told him. For instance, Alston writes: “It is hardly surprising that civil society has reported unheard-of levels of loneliness and isolation, prompting the Government to appoint a Minister for Suicide ... Continue reading
Continued from Part 1… Alston points to rising food insecurity and calls for the government to “systematically measure food security”. However, he ignores the only time-series data we have on this. Eurostat surveys ask respondents if they are unable to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every second day. It ... Continue reading
The United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, recently published his second and final report on poverty in the United Kingdom. He offers up a bleak picture, with rising levels of poverty, particularly among children, spelling out “a social calamity and an economic disaster rolled into one”. The social fabric is unravelling and ... Continue reading
Economic Theory
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the former King of Bhutan, declared in 1972 that “gross national happiness (GNH) is more important than gross national product”. The Centre for Bhutan Studies dutifully constructed a survey-based measure of GNH, whose increase is now the goal of Bhutan’s five-year plans. Wangchuckism has slowly caught on outside of the happy Kingdom. ... Continue reading

Len Shackleton quoted in The Telegraph

Len Shackleton, Institute of Economic Affairs' Research Fellow, is quoted in The Telegraph on the subject of increasing minimum and living wages. He warns that pushing up pay for lower paid workers does not “really impact a great deal on poverty”. “Most people in poverty are either not working or only working part time and ... Continue reading