Response to Blundell's Capitalist Manifesto Against UK Poverty last week
Whilst it is true that we provide subsidies for opera, ballet and theatre, one look at the range of projects we fund, and have funded in past years, will demonstrate our commitment to supporting arts projects which promote art in the community, social inclusion, and which bring the arts to people who do not normally have access to them.
This includes funding for everything from reading groups in prisons to local brass bands, and we have worked in partnership with groups such as the Youth Justice Board to find ways of reaching as wide an audience as possible for the arts.
We neither “ignore” nor “harm” the poor. And we would be happy to show John around our Westminster building to prove to him that it is far from being a “palace”.
Sir –John Blundell’s manifesto to make poverty history understands economic issues very well. However, he fails to appreciate the moral, psychological underpinnings of so-called welfare; imputing altruism to people who are as selfish as anyone else.
Many affluent people experience unearned guilt at the very fact poor people exist – and always will. Such sentiments tacitly admit their money was either stolen or inherited – not earned. And yet the latter is no real reason to feel guilt since one has no control over one’s birth circumstances and so no reason to experience Original Sin concerning money.
This guilt conflicts with the idea that it benefits the affluent to have a large pool of manual workers to choose from – the poor. They work for them yet lack the education to compete with them for traditionally middle-class, professional jobs. This makes it inevitable that the poor will always need to work for the middle-class; this keeps them poor since their employers will always try to maximise their own incomes by minimising pay-rates.
For the middle class to successfully educate the poor would mean (they think) their own middle-class offspring having to face greater competition for always-scarce professional jobs. No middle-class parents (eg teachers) are ever going to do this because they aren’t educated enough to understand that economics is not a zero-sum game; this explains the poor quality of schools for the poor. To conceal this fundamental fact, the middle-class invented welfare.
If it were their own money they were disbursing to the so-called disadvantaged, they would be far less likely to disburse it. This is the pseudo-generosity of a man who steals your money at gunpoint (taxation, effectively) and then gives it to the poor as an act of generosity on his part – not yours.
Those with funds surplus to requirements assume welfare is cheaper than other ways of giving. Nevertheless, guilt is always expensive in the long run because welfare budgets never fall: if you pay a man for doing nothing, he will do nothing.
Mr Blundell is wrong to claim welfarists have the genuine welfare of the poor at heart – albeit misguidedly. Welfarists only have the demons of their own neurotic guilt-complexes as well as an inability to succeed in life in-their-own-right, nipping at their well-heeled consciences.
John Blundell is Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs.