Exclusive Interview: William Beveridge backs #spartacusreport


3:00 pm - January 10th 2012

by Don Paskini    


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Politicians of all parties say that the welfare state needs to get ‘Back to Beveridge’.

As MPs debate and vote on the government’s controversial plans for welfare reform, Liberal Conspiracy is proud to present an exclusive interview with the man himself.

Here’s Sir William Beveridge, explaining what is wrong with the government’s plans and what should be done instead.

DP: Sir William, Thank you for taking the time to speak to Liberal Conspiracy. Do you agree that over the past seventy years, the welfare state has drifted away from the principles which you set out?

WB: It is very flattering to see how influential my report has proven to be, and that even now in 2012, it is still the starting point for discussions around social security.

But while I believe my work is as important as ever, it is worth remembering how different things are now. When I worked on my report, the British Empire had what was effectively a centrally planned command economy, and full employment. We assumed a society with one breadwinner supporting his family.

As for disabled people, the issues in 2012 are rather different from those in the 1940s. For example, the number one cause of disability at the time of my report was ‘Nazi bombs’. Now things are a bit more complicated.

DP: Let’s take the issue of housing, Liam Byrne said that ‘William Beveridge would be horrified by the £20bn bill for housing benefit’. Are you horrified by this?

WB: Oh yes. Terrible. Straightforward enough to solve, though. You’ve got a shortage of homes, and millions of people who are out of work. So what’s needed is a public works programme to get people working on building hundreds of thousands of new homes.

DP: Some would argue that we’ve got no money left and can’t afford that sort of public works programme, though.

WB: *Laughs* No money left? I thought your politicians wanted to get ‘back to Beveridge’, not ‘back to Snowden’! What kind of idiot would rather spend billions on keeping people idle rather than putting them to socially useful work to help combat Squalor and Want?

DP: This week, MPs are voting on the government’s welfare reform bill. Do you support their ideas?

WB: For a start, they really haven’t thought through the details of what they are proposing. Who is that dreadful little man?

DP: David Freud?

WB: Yes, that’s the one. I think a lot of the problems can be traced back to him. When I came to work on my report, I’d been working in this area for more than forty years and had been the leading authority on unemployment insurance for more than three decades. When Freud was appointed as adviser to the last government, he claimed to ‘know nothing’ about welfare and his expertise was in the field of investment banking. I don’t think that in sixty years time, politicians will be talking about ‘getting back to Freud’ on social security policy!

Since Freud was an adviser to the Labour Party, and now advises the Conservative/Liberal coalition, it is no surprise that the principles behind welfare reform are ones which – leaving the political rhetoric aside – all the parties agree on. The problem, though, is that many of these principles are misguided.

I’ll take one example. My report covered all citizens, having regard to their different ways of life and all-embracing in scope of their needs. If you listen to ‘experts’ these days, they don’t talk about ‘citizens’, they talk about ‘the stock’. You would think to listen to them that they were talking about animals, so far removed are they from the people whose lives they propose to legislate about.

And the consequences of their bill – far from slaying the Five Giants, it’s as if the government appointed the Giants to draft their legislation.

DP: So what should they do instead?

WB: They should look again at how to use the state to offer security for service and contribution, for example in guaranteeing full employment to tackle the scourge of idleness.

And as I wrote in 1948, there also needs to be room, opportunity and encouragement for voluntary action in seeking new ways of social advance. New measures are needed to allow citizens to develop their talents, not just be passive recipients of welfare.

For example, I saw the brilliant report which disability campaigners put together yesterday. They’ve got a far better idea about what needs doing, and any politician who wants to ‘get back to Beveridge’ should drop this welfare reform bill and listen to them instead.

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Reader comments


A good time to post this this link I believe.

“Sir William Beveridge Announcement
Beveridge outlines his proposals for a new welfare state.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/nhs/5139.shtml

just in case people haven’t seen the report Mr Beveridge refers to –

http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.com/2012/01/i-support-spartacus-report.html

click on Report – Responsible Reform

“Beveridge was a member of the Eugenics Society, which promoted the study of methods to ‘improve’ the human race by controlling reproduction. In 1909, he proposed that men who could not work should be supported by the state “but with complete and permanent loss of all citizen rights — including not only the franchise but civil freedom and fatherhood.””

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Beveridge#Eugenics

me,

People can manage good and bad ideas together, and eugenics were broadly acceptable as a political idea until some time around 1945 when people suddenly realised what it actually entailed…

Although it would be interesting to see how Sir Beveridge actually felt about disability campaigners, as I suspect in that respect at least Don may be putting a modern glaze on a historical character.

Mind you, it is indicative that arguments against change refer to a document nigh-on 65 years old as if it were still current – for all Don acknoweldges the differing circumstances at the beginning, it seems odd to assume that the differing mentalities and understanding of the world then in place are appropriate today.

Wonderful! The proposed disability welfare reforms would have Beveridge spinning!

The brilliant report Beveridge rerers to was put together and paid for by lots of disabled people working together to defend themselves because no one else would.
The effort of doing this has led to one of the main authors being hospitalised today and another extremely ill.

The fruits of their suffering can be read at:

http://dlahelpgroup.com/downloads/Responsible%20Reform.pdf

For interest, try this on the differences between national health services (NHS) and social security health care schemes or: Beveridge v Bismarck
http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6963/7/94/

Btw like Beveridge, Keynes, who was also a Liberal, and HG Wells, a co-founder of the Fabiam Society and the LSE, also subscribed to eugenics theories, but then so too did Sir Keith Jospeph by accounts in the press of a speech he made at Edgbaston on 19 October 1974 – see the wikipedia entry.

For legislation and practices motivated by eugenic principles in various countries, try the wikepedia entry for: Compulsory Sterilization

8. So Much For Subtlety

WB: They should look again at how to use the state to offer security for service and contribution, for example in guaranteeing full employment to tackle the scourge of idleness.

And as I wrote in 1948, there also needs to be room, opportunity and encouragement for voluntary action in seeking new ways of social advance. New measures are needed to allow citizens to develop their talents, not just be passive recipients of welfare.

I take it that the OP simply does not grasp what Bev actually meant. He was a Liberal – not in the modern LC sense, but in the genuine Classical sense. Which means he would have been a big fan of Cameron’s Big Society – of giving room, opportunity and encouragement for voluntary action. Not to be mere passive recipients of welfare. In other words the last thing he would have wanted would be massive state-led construction projects. The thing he was trying to avoid was the State guaranteeing full employment.

And he would have been appalled by the Disability schemes we have.

9. So Much For Subtlety

4. Watchman

People can manage good and bad ideas together, and eugenics were broadly acceptable as a political idea until some time around 1945 when people suddenly realised what it actually entailed…

Except Eugenics is not merely a random bad idea. It is inherently part of the welfare state for the non-Marxists. If you reward certain behaviour, you get more of it. Beveridge understood that. If you give money to the idle, the drunk, the feckless and so on, the people who are nearly-but-not-quite that badly off have ever incentive to become so. They have more children than they otherwise would. In a few generations, Britain only has feckless people and slowly the middle classes, who pay for it all, disappear. As has happened.

The socialists and Liberals said there was only one way to make sure this did not happen – sterilise the people on welfare. It is because he supported the Welfare state that he also supported eugenics. The problem has not gone away. We just pretend it has.

Nor do I think it is as easy as to say that after 1945 they realised what it would entail. It is more that after 1945 Marxism became more popular. After all, the case for eugenics is routinely put in places like the Guardian and here at LC. People know what eugenics meant in 1932-1945. They know what it means now. They still support it.

Although it would be interesting to see how Sir Beveridge actually felt about disability campaigners, as I suspect in that respect at least Don may be putting a modern glaze on a historical character.

Sir William. Not Sir Beveridge.

“The thing he was trying to avoid was the State guaranteeing full employment.”

You are getting muddled between ‘what Beveridge thought’ and ‘what I, So Much for Subtlety think’.

In 1944 Beveridge wrote a book called ‘Full Employment in a Free Society’, which argued that because individual employers are not capable of creating full employment, it must be the responsibility of the state.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_Employment_in_a_Free_Society

11. So Much For Subtlety

10. donpaskini

You are getting muddled between ‘what Beveridge thought’ and ‘what I, So Much for Subtlety think’.

Well no I am not. I am not being clear enough in what I meant, perhaps. Although I would point to the context once more. In this thread when people are saying they want the State to guarantee employment, what they mean is a massive State-led construction programme. Which Beveridge would have been appalled by. At most he wanted the State to engage in counter-cyclical spending. The State would not be giving people jobs. It would not be employing millions of people. It would try to use fiscal and tax policy to encourage the private sector to provide jobs. Because he was a Classical Liberal. Not a socialist.

11
Beveridge was, indeed, a classical liberal which is what people either forget or they assume that he was a socialist.
The Welfare State was basically the evolution of the 1834 New Poor Law, which was utilitarian at the foundation but also drew upon the work of Thomas Malthus, whose idea of eugenics was not sterilization (don’t think it existed then) but preventing the poor from reproducing by withdrawing alms houses and sexual contact whilst residing in workhouses. The 1834 Poor Law was not abolished until 1948
8 If you think that he would be appalled by the Disability Act, then he would certainly spin in his grave at the thought of working tax credits, a subsidy for employers.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. DisabltyNetwkHounslw

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  2. 2wolves

    RT @BendyGirl: Exclusive Interview: William Beveridge backs #spartacusreport | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/0APejzZL < #class 🙂

  3. Darren Bartlett

    Exclusive Interview: William Beveridge backs #spartacusreport | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/thXfLTrb via @libcon

  4. Simon

    Exclusive Interview: William Beveridge backs #spartacusreport | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/thXfLTrb via @libcon

  5. B Rawsthorn

    Great to see William Beveridge has come out in support of the #spartacusreport on welfare reform http://t.co/DcCuxghN





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