“Jobs Not Welfare” — UPDATED

October 20, 2013 § 2 Comments

In reading an issue of The Times Literary Supplement from September recently, I came across a review of an economics treatise, Ending Poverty: Jobs, Not Welfare, by Hyman P. Minsky.  The very title of the book struck me as an absurdity (as much of economic theory does, to be frank).  But then I realised that as ridiculous as Minsky’s title is, this reflects a larger problem in our society.  Welfare was never meant to replace jobs.  Ever.  That’s not the point.  Welfare was meant to provide a social safety net for workers when the economy failed, they lost their jobs, etc.  Welfare was never meant to be a permanent situation.

But the problem is that politicians, economists, and bureaucrats have, in the years since welfare states were created around the time of the Second World War, decided that welfare is a permanent state.  And, of course, someone reading this right now is going to argue that some people actually prefer to live on welfare permanently.  This is a stupid argument, to be blunt.  There are also some people who prefer to murder their fellow human beings.  This is not a reason to cut welfare.

People who complain about welfare and the cost to taxpayers (and those who claim that people on welfare are lazy, etc.) tend not to be people who have ever actually lived on welfare.  When I was a kid, my family did.  It wasn’t pretty.  Any study I’ve ever seen of poverty are very clear that it is nigh impossible to survive on welfare in any urban centre anywhere in the Western world.

Permanent welfare is NOT an option, nor should it be, nor should it ever be.  And yet, politicians and bureaucrats seem to think it is.  People on welfare don’t.  Thus, Minsky might actually have a point. Of course, Minsky, a maverick economist if ever there was one (he died in 1996), argues for massive government intervention to create jobs, not exactly an argument that’s going to make him a lot of friends in today’s neoconservative orthodoxy.

UPDATE: Brian Bixby published this last week with some factual basis to back up what I have to say here.

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