L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

03 March 2008 Blog Home : March 2008 : Permalink

The Irresponsible Nanny State

Three British news items come to my attention today
1) Ordinary families would get £100 a week MORE benefits if they lived apart
The Daily Mail reports that :

Three out of four ordinary families would be better off living apart than sharing a home under Labour's benefits system.

Tax credits and benefits are increasingly skewed towards single mothers, a study has shown.

A typical couple on a low or middle income would be £69 a week better off if they lived apart.

2) 21-year-old fathers seventh child
The BBC reports that:

A 21-year-old who fathered his first child at 13 is about to become a dad for the seventh time.

Keith Macdonald, from Washington, Tyne and Wear has been branded a "reckless Romeo" after it emerged that all his children are by different women.

He is reported to be living apart from the mother-to-be.

As he is unemployed he does not support his children financially, but Mr Macdonald says he has no plans to father any more children [...] and that his mother has strong views about the situation.

He said: "My mum's not happy about all these kids. She tells me to pack it in and keep it in my trousers."

3) (OK so this is "Opinion"): Gordon Brown blames the citizen
Janet Daley in the Toygraph comments:

At his party's conference at the weekend, Mr Brown reiterated once again the theme of freeing individuals to realise their ambitions - provided, presumably, that their ambitions (for their children, for example) do not prevent other people (or their children) from realising their ambitions - even though the shortage of good schools, clean hospitals and safe urban streets that is causing us all to fight like rats for scarce food pellets is directly attributable to government directives over which the individual citizen has lost almost all influence. You may be powerless, but it's still all your fault.

Listen carefully for this contradiction and you will hear it everywhere: an entire generation of "irresponsible" parents can be castigated for allowing their children to behave badly, but attempt to intervene responsibly as an individual over anti-social behaviour and you find that the law is not on your side.

It is selfish and irresponsible to ignore government guidelines on diet and exercise because being unfit makes you a drain on NHS resources that should be available to the deserving ill. But offer to take actual financial responsibility for some of your own treatment and you are a social criminal who wants to buy extra privileges or jump a queue (even if that shortens the queue for everyone else).

And she continues below that with an anecdote that illustrates the third point.

So to recap. We have a government that actively provides incentives to do things like become a teenage parent, single mother or a deadbeat dad. It's almost as if the government wanted more single monthers, pregnant teenagers etc. This occurs despite official government policy that these things are bad. And if that were not bad enough, despite eness calls for more individual 'responsibility', if you try to help yourself without asking the government for permission/help you are castigated as some kind of selfish scumbag.

Classic "you are free to do what we tell you to do" totalitarian government policy but not, it seems to me, terribly responsible of the government though if you believe that the role of government is to improve the lot of its subjects.