It was recently the 70th anniversary of William Beveridge’s famous report on the welfare of the UK people (‘Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services’).
In it he identified five ‘Giant Evils’ in society: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease. After seven decades the United Kingdom now has a ‘welfare state’ based loosely on the recommendations within this report. On all sides of political debate, from ‘left’ to ‘right’, from statist to libertarian, the welfare state can be seen to have fallen short of the ideals for which it was established. This article focuses on the changes to the welfare ‘benefits’ system that were proposed, implemented and subsequently evolved in the interim period.
Right, so this is the Beveridge report, that lefties always wibble on about as the source of the infinite kindness of the state in Britain.
The report’s initial objective was to “survey … the existing national schemes of social insurance” that were available at the time and “to make recommendations”. Existing schemes, surely not? Weren’t people left to die in the streets before the founding of the welfare state, that’s what I was taught at school? Well, surprisingly not; the survey documents considerable legislation. Over the preceding 45 years, beginning with the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1897, there was a plethora of legislation designed to make certain insurances compulsory. The above act was initially limited to a small number of occupations but was extended in 1906 to cover all, with compulsory health insurance beginning in 1912. Similarly unemployment insurance began for a small number of industries in 1912 but extended in 1920. The Pensions Act came into force in 1908 giving a non-contributory pension to all over 70; this was added to in 1925 by contributory pensions, which also covered widows and orphans. The Unemployment Act of 1934 replaced several earlier unemployment insurance schemes and introduced a national Unemployment Assistance service. Adding to this huge growth in social insurance were medical services, disability assistance, child welfare services (including pre-school), death and ‘other contingencies’. These services were mainly funded by life assurance companies, friendly societies and trade unions.
The report’s authors found the existing landscape “impressive”: it showed “that provision for most of the many varieties of need through interruption of earnings and other causes that may arise in modern industrial communities has already been made in Britain on a scale not surpassed and hardly rivalled in any other country of the world“. The only areas of social care that the committee could fault were healthcare, funerals and maternity. However where they did rail against the existing array of systems was its organisation: “a complex of disconnected administrative organs, proceeding on different principles, found invaluable service but at a cost in money and trouble and anomalous treatment of identical problems for which there is no justification” (as if voluntary interaction needs ‘justification’). They concluded: “It is not open to question that, by closer co-ordination, the existing social services could be made at once more beneficial and more intelligible to those whom they serve and more economical in their administration.” Anyone who has dealt with the Department for Work and Pensions, with its lack of communication and coordination, would question that we’ve made that much progress under a state-centralised system in 70 years. The claim of improved efficiency by providing insurance services through the state is laughable; you don’t need to know about Friedman’s Law to recognise this.
So, in essence, the state saw a thriving area where the market was providing everyone with all the cover they needed and decided they could do it better and more cost-effectively than the market could. Much like British Rail. Or British Airways. Or British Leyland. (The latter not technically nationalised, but utterly fucked by Tony fucking Benn coercing a functioning business to absorb one that should have gone under but was deemed to big to fail. Why does that fucking ring bells?)
If you look back at anything that the British state has done, it has inevitably taken functioning, competing businesses that delivered good services, nationalised them, let them become an overgrown complicated bureaucratic mess with utterly shitty service and a jobsworth corporate culture and then outsourced it equally badly.
Why the bastarding cunting fuck do lefties always think that the state is the only way to provide anything? British Rail was a nationalised industry, it didn't spring out fully formed. British Airways was a nationalised industry, it didn't spring out fully formed. The welfare state was a nationalised industry, it didn't spring out fully formed.
Get to fuck, lefties, with your crazy fucking idea that the state ever does anything useful. Just get to fuck.