The Moral Maze: The Welfare State

Thoughts on the welfare state and the British underclass

The Moral Maze: The Welfare State

Postby Gavin » 27 Jun 2012, 22:05

There was an interesting Moral Maze this evening on the topic of the welfare state.

I'm not always in agreement with Clare Fox but thought she was about right this evening. I was highly impressed with James Bartholemew (whom Rachel has mentioned before). I must read his book.

I was unimpressed with Kenan Malik and Clifford Longley. Both seemed woolly in their thinking and Malik in particular kept on trying to claim the "witness" was saying something they weren't. This (the straw man) is such a devious tactic and it is really starting to expose Malik as somebody who is not up to his role as "prosecutor". It's quite embarrassing how many times he has to be corrected by witnesses.

Though it discusses interesting issues I'm not overly keen on the adversarial format of the programme actually (though Malik certainly seems to be).

Last on was Owen Jones, new darling of the Left. I thought he made some sound points, for example about the high price of rents now, but made no acknowledgent at all of the facts such as the following, which also surely have a significant bearing on our current situation:

  • A great many young people are unemployable. One only needs to listen to phone-ins to hear employers say time after time that they could not find people with the basic skills, or will, to be employed. Often even natives whom one finds in work come across as idle and uninterested.
  • Many of the underclass have children without thinking and indeed have as many as they can while being unable to provide for them - sometimes deliberately in order to collect benefits.
  • We have a popular culture which encourages the values celebrated by the underclass. These include casual sex and the breakdown of the nuclear family. They themselves perpetuate this by buying such music.
  • Due to increased mechanisation there are simply fewer jobs for naturally unintelligent people now.

Mr Jones presents a picture where everybody (except, of course the wealthy) is a saint, is quite capable and is trying their best, but we know this does not actually correspond with human nature or reality.
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Re: The Moral Maze: The Welfare State

Postby Mike » 29 Jun 2012, 22:31

I think it's the Owen Jones-style viewpoint that leads to stories such as this, which I find quite irresponsible.

Such feelgood articles in the past tended to be confined to tales of policemen helping old ladies across the road, or joining in a community festival, or whatever. But when they actually receive praise for conniving at crime, however petty it may be, then we have a problem.

If said coppers had merely let the offenders off with a first-offence warning or a fine in view of the relatively unimportant nature of the offence, fair enough. But in effectively condoning such actions, what message are they giving to those in attendance? To those who later hear about it? Furthermore, what message is the newspaper giving to its readers? It is a strange world indeed when "bringing out the best in the police" means allowing them to connive at crime.
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Re: The Moral Maze: The Welfare State

Postby Rachel » 30 Jun 2012, 21:54

I only listened to 3/4 of it because it was a very poor debate. I disagree with your point Gavin about increased mechanisation giving less work for unskilled people, but all your other points are correct and missing them out ruined the discussion IMO.

Owen Jones seems incredibly aggressive.

It was missing the input of ordinary people. Everyone on it was too far isolated from what they were talking about, both left and right

People went to great lengths to say that that people are naturally creative and want to work. I don't think that's true.

There were also too many people in the discussion.

James Bartholemew writes a bit better than he speaks. He wrote a book called "The Welfare State We're In". I thought it was a good book. He is a bit too right wing for me. For example he disagrees with state pensions. Yet I still enjoyed his book very much. While I disagreed with some of his views, there were 2 brilliant chapters on the NHS and compulsory state school system. He completely demolished the myth that poor people dropped dead or suffered with no/little medical treatment before the NHS existed, which was what I was taught at school.
He got the original 1940's government paper calling for a new NHS. It said that the present arrangement for the poor was good(!). Apparently the main aim of the new NHS at the time was to centralise control and make the standards everywhere the same, rather than specifically help the poor. He then unearthed out of print books and obscure sources about the Friendly societies and pre NHS hospitals/healthcare for the poor and noted that there were no accounts of waiting lists and dirty hospitals that you get now.
It made perfect sense.

The NHS childrens hospital I went to as a child was a purpose built Victorian hospital. There is no way a gigantic hospital like that could have been built only for the small numbers of rich and upper middle class in Victorian times. Yet the current popular idea put out by the media is that pre 1948 NHS there was nothing.
Apologies for rambling slightly off topic...from the moral maze welfare state to NHS. :)
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Re: The Moral Maze: The Welfare State

Postby Elliott » 30 Jun 2012, 22:50

Owen Jones was actually not as bad as I was expecting (based on other appearances I've seen, and a few articles of his I've read) but the fact is his thesis is very much a "rich/poor" one, which I think people just don't believe in anymore. (It's so old hat, and tedious, when someone says in disparaging tones "the rich" or in plaintive tones "the poor", as if these are both homogenous masses, not composed of individual human beings at all.) I think that capitalism has demonstrated that one can become, if not obscenely wealthy, then certainly comfortably well-off, and the rich are not to be despised so much as envied and (ideally) learned from. Owen Jones, with his tedious resentment politics, belongs in the 1960s. I knew that he wasn't an honest "intellectual" as soon as I learned the title of his book Chavs: the Demonisation of the Working-Class. (Chavs do not work!)

I agree completely with what Gavin said about Kenan Malik. There is something really unattractive about Malik - I think it's his babyish way of talking, as if he's trying to affect innocence and child-like open-mindedness, when in fact he is a fairly dedicated Marxist. He's certainly dedicated to rescuing as much of Marxism as possible in an age when it has been thoroughly debunked. He is clearly intelligent, yet he seems to have a grudge against anyone who might disagree with him, so he approaches them (always) with the intention of straw-manning them to death.

Clifford Longley, I consider to be the voice of middle-class bien-pensant liberal guilt. I believe it was he who kept saying that people are naturally "creative" and "industrious" and "good" etc... just Original Virtue drivel. I honestly don't know whom these people are mixing with if they think everyone is just waiting to excel (if only society didn't do them down etc.). It's a ridiculously simplistic view of humanity, and one that casts society in the guilty position by default, on every single issue.

Claire Fox always surprises me by having a large amount of common sense. I think she and Brendan O'Neill have both made big personal achievements by moving on from Marxism - though I am suspicious of both regarding how much of it they still believe in and wish for. But I thought she was the only one who came out of this with much credibility - the other lady not making much of an impression on me at all.

I agree with Rachel that it wasn't a very good debate. The Moral Maze never is, though I find myself drawn to keep listening to it, possibly because of Michael Buerk's chairmanship. I don't know what's wrong with it but it never delivers a satisfying debate.
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Re: The Moral Maze: The Welfare State

Postby Gavin » 01 Jul 2012, 10:26

What a lot of good comments here. I agree with all of them.

Perhaps the problems with the Moral Maze are that it has the same people all the time and it has that adversarial format. It also doesn't help that it entertains such aggressive people as Mr Malik and Mr Jones, who see such matters in such simplistic and divisive terms.

Rachel, I thought the same thing about them insisting that the natural state for everyone was to want to work. I'm not sure where they got that idea from. A lot of people seem very much inclined towards laziness. I was going to say "are perfectly happy to be lazy". I do not think they are happy being bone idle, in the sense of really being fulfilled, but it is nonetheless their inclination unless forced by circumstances to work.

Hey, even I have to discipline myself and have often tidied up everything in view before I get down to what I should actually be doing!
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Re: The Moral Maze: The Welfare State

Postby Michael » 01 Jul 2012, 18:19

I really want to see a television program of rapid fire Socratic dialogue. There qould be a central topic, but the invited guests do not debate each other. Instead they are subjected to examination by the host, a philosopher, who gets them to talk about their views and asks them searching questions, trying to get at the truth of the issue at hand.

I think it would be very entertaining, both for the high intellectual caliber of the hosts questioning, and for watching self-important progressive 'intellectuals' get cut down to size as the flaws in their reasoning are exposed. It would be a very rewarding show to watch when most of the guests were highly intelligent and cultured with well thought out positions, able to hold their own under questioning.

The problem is that, after a few episodes, it might grow hard to get high profile guests - the self-important would grow wary of exposing their ignorance and irrationality before a national audience. I'm certain Richard Dawkins would be wary of being subjected to the searching questions of an actual philosopher.

I would also expect a lot of denunciation by the chattering classes as the show grew in popularity.
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Re: The Moral Maze: The Welfare State

Postby Gavin » 03 Jul 2012, 15:21

Michael - I enjoy reading Plato's Socratic dialogues (well, I did - I spend most of my time reading technical manuals these days!) but I did feel, after a while, that he was indeed quite an annoying character in that the people whom he would engage in discussion were trying to do jobs, but he would always question and probe and undermine their confidence until they really didn't know what to think any more.

I suppose what I am saying is that Socrates had no end of questions but did not seem to have any solutions. It is of course easy to pick fault but more difficult to propose solutions and be the one in the driving seat, as it were. Eventually the state killed him, probably because he was so annoying.

Do you have much sympathy for this point of view of Socrates, or do you think I am perhaps too harsh on him and should probably have read more dialogues?!
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Re: The Moral Maze: The Welfare State

Postby Michael » 03 Jul 2012, 17:11

I enjoy reading Plato's Socratic dialogues (well, I did - I spend most of my time reading technical manuals these days!) but I did feel, after a while, that he was indeed quite an annoying character in that the people whom he would engage in discussion were trying to do jobs, but he would always question and probe and undermine their confidence until they really didn't know what to think any more.


The early dialogues, where Socrates is the primary speaker and no conclusion is reached, may be the most accurate portrayal of the historical Socrates. The middle and later dialogues feature a fictional Socrates who seems to be delivering Plato's own ideas, though the dialogue form makes it impossible to be certain.

I agree about the annoying nature of the questioning the early dialogues, though I make an exception for the Euthyphro, which raises the question that every adherent to revealed religion must face: is an act morally good (pious) because the gods approve of it, or do they approve of it because is it morally good? If the former, then morality is completely arbitrary, and man has no reason to obey moral laws and restrictions other than fear of punishment and hope of reward. If the latter, then it is questionable why revelation is needful to tell human beings what is right and what is wrong.

I think the middle dialogues, including the Phaedo, Protagoras, and Symposium provide a good model for an intellectually stimulating chat show.
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Re: The Moral Maze: The Welfare State

Postby Elliott » 15 Jul 2012, 21:13

Back on the topic of the welfare state, here is an astonishing report by the Daily Telegraph that Britain's NHS is spending up to £1600 a day on agency nurses (each one). This is perhaps an example of the disaster that can happen when state and private organisations work together. I can't imagine a private healthcare service wasting money on that kind of scale.
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Re: The Moral Maze: The Welfare State

Postby Gavin » 16 Jul 2012, 09:44

It is incredible that they are spending so much on foreigners treating foreigners.

Check out these stories from the Daily Mail:

These are foreign nationals. Of course many others have managed to gain British citizenship either by being born here or by coming here illegally and managing to get away with it for long enough. As a result, they are often not deported, but just let off.

We are not talking about being enriched by, say, wealthy Americans or Swiss or Canadians. Crazily, perversely, it is really hard for them to get into the UK!

We know Mohammed is already the most popular name in the UK for newborn boys. Everybody knows we are talking about a massive third world exodus into our country. It's no wonder it is breaking at the seams. We're encouraging our own ethnic and cultural replacement in a manner that would be damned by the Left if it were the other way around, with us flowing into, say, Saudi Arabia, imposing our customs. We would not be allowed to do so, of course.

Someone, surely, has got to take the situation in hand at some point and bring to account the people who have done this to Britain, with no mandate from the people at all.
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Re: The Moral Maze: The Welfare State

Postby Gavin » 16 Jul 2012, 09:49

By the way, it is notable how often "Daily Mail" is used as an ad hominem. The Left find it very difficult to argue on factual grounds so often resort to pure insult or dismissive ad hominems. Brand relied on this when "debating" Peter Hitchens. "Ah well, you write for the Daily Mail." Of course this is meaningless and does not challenge the facts of their stories at all. Your own eyes and ears won't challenge the facts of the stories either if you go to London.
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