Wednesday, June 30, 2004


Particularly their food. Some sarcastic comments from economist PP McGuiness on the Leftist objections to child-benefit payments in Australia:

"The trouble about poor and disadvantaged people is that you can't trust them. Because of their disadvantage they have foolish and irresponsible attitudes to money, which they spend unwisely. They can't be trusted not to spend it on drinking, smoking, junk food and other unhealthy things; nor can they be trusted to spend their time wisely in exercise and study - instead they will sit around watching television, and not even ABC programs. And young women can't be trusted not to have babies for money. Therefore it is necessary to take them in hand, assign social workers and other advisers to tell them what to do and what to eat, and above all, not give them money without strings. That is pretty much what most of the criticism of the Federal Government's new family tax payments and baby bonuses are about.

It is ironic that much of this is coming from the Labor Party, which once campaigned strongly against the idea of paying the dole in kind (food orders, and so on) during the Depression, and sponsored the introduction of the Maternity Benefit - the now forgotten one-off payment to new mothers.

The extreme distrust of the poor and their inability to live their own lives which is displayed by the critics of the new payments is all too typical of those who purport to care for the poor and make social policy. They just know their clients are stupid and hopeless (not their own fault, of course - they are victims of the evil capitalist system), and can never make sensible decisions for themselves. They have to be told what is good for them, and if they don't listen they have to be made to do it. Nowhere has this been clearer than in the debates about junk food and obesity. We have started by aggravating poverty among the smokers and drinkers - if this means they have less to spend on food, it is their own fault. Now we want to force them somehow to eat "better" with what little money they have left."

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