This new working for no pay of get your benefits cut lark

Horrors, I know, absolutely bloody evil.

Then, buried at the bottom of this Guardian piece is this little nugget:

Like Reilly, Rayburn was not told that he had a week to refuse the placement. He was working at Tesco with two other young unemployed people who did get a job at the end of their placement.

Y\’know, I have a feeling that a 66% permanent job placement rate might actually make this the most successful work experience scheme ever created.

27 comments on “This new working for no pay of get your benefits cut lark

  1. The problem is the choice – make everyone on the dole work for Tesco’s.

    Then the problem would go away.

  2. So Rayburn was the only one in his group who did not get a job at the end of the trial period? Why not? He was deemed not to be worth hiring as a shelf-stacker …
    It cannot have been too difficult if he is capable of talking coherently to a Guardianista. Did he want the job enough to put in a decent effort?

  3. Never understood why it’s wrong to make people work for unemployment benefits.

    By claiming you’re saying that you want to work, are available for work, but can’t find work. So, here’s some work and some money; problem solved.

    Sure, there’s an economic problem that we don’t want ‘free’ State labour to undercut other businesses, so we should put them to doing something useless (digging holes and filling them in again) or something that we’re sure wouldn’t be done otherwise (painting the gravel on Horseguards?). But that’s about possible competitor businesses, not unfairness to the unemployed.

  4. This does appear to be a form of state slavery. I for one welcome our new Poundland overlords, and all that. I sincerely hope some kind of legal challenge can be mounted.

    Never understood why it’s wrong to make people work for unemployment benefits.

    Well, one valid argument is that if there is work to be done, that work has a market value that ought to be being paid to a freely contracted labourer. In other words, it’s replacing a job with a conscript. I cannot understand how anyone with any liberal economic understanding can support that.

    In a more general sense, the original purpose of welfare was clearly laid out by Mr Attlee, which was to spare the unemployed the indignities of charity- that of being a beggar to somebody who could decide on a whim whether to give you charity or not. Attlee had a considerable experience of being a charity worker, which was what converted him to socialism.

    Now, the point is, if you don’t agree with that, that is fine. But do be clear that you’re no longer offering welfare. You’re not even offering charity. You’re offering something worse than both; a kind of conscription.

    So, if there is work to be done at Poundland, or at Tesco, let them hire somebody at a market rate.

    And, the bottom line is, mass unemployment is a consequence of deliberate State policy. If anyone should be painting the gravel on Horseguards, it should be the evil men and women who inhabit our rapacious ruling class; the politicians, the corporatists, the professional cartels, Vivienne Nathanson, those kinds of people. Let’s force them to work for a living first, before we turn on the poor.

  5. It is when the government does it, Richard.

    Look at it this way. It’s not just rich people who pay taxes. We all do. We all pay a great deal, either directly or indirectly. In fact, as we know, the proportionate tax burden is greater on the poor, due to the relatively higher value of the currency unit to those with fewer of them.

    A major part of the justification for those taxes is that they are paying for insurance against unemployment, illness and so on. Nobody is allowed to opt out of paying for the welfare state or other public services. You must also remember that State provision has obliterated many of the old charitable and mutual assistance sources (the big beast of the State crushing the competition). It is thus a fundamental requirement of such a system that its services are provided to all, without prejudice.

    Basically, replacing a variety of sources of assistance with a State monopoly, then using that State monopoly to force people into conscript work, is just about the most reprehensible approach imaginable.

    And, frankly, “the right” or “libertarians” or whatever we free marketeers want to call ourselves really need to get our fucking heads around the reality that attacking people at the bottom end is a propaganda and recruitment disaster; because there are far more members of the population who fear they may need benefits at some time in their lives than there are who are confident they never will. Which is why people keep voting “left”. We’re never going to get anywhere telling somebody on a chain gang at Poundland to like or lump it, while the bankers get hundreds of billions of “quantitative easing” to get them out of the shit which is entirely of their own making.

    It’s Mervyn King who needs to be cleaning shelves at Poundland.

  6. “In fact, as we know, the proportionate tax burden is greater on the poor”

    Bullshit, I don’t believe that for a second. [citation needed], as they say. And anyway, it’s irrelevant because tax is not a contractual payment for services rendered. You pay it because you have to, and the State spends it in such a way as the State finds it convenient.

    You’re getting on your moral high horse about your greater compassion for the less-well-off but in fact the logical conclusion of your argument speaks otherwise. If the State is entitled to set benefits off against taxes paid, as if it were paying off its ‘side of the bargain’ then the poor (who you assert have a higher cost from taxes) can claim less compensation from the State for its violation of their property rights. In fact if a poor person gets more in benefits than he pays in taxes, your logic says that he should compensate the State for failure to fulfil his side of the ‘bargain’.

    Whereas I would say that taxes are the point-blank robbery, and benefits are just an irrelevant gift from the State to the people, obviously made in the State’s own interests. Giving someone a gift doesn’t entitle you to ignore the damages you owe him. However, of course, these “damages” can never be paid because there is no fund to pay them. The only solution is to abolish the taxes and the benefits, and no, I don’t care about the order you do it, as if there even has to be an order. (If you abolish the taxes first you’ll lose the benefits anyway because no-one will lend the government money any more).

    Basically as a Stirnerist I can’t see why people think they can impose conditions on the State; like pretending it needs a “justification” for taxes, or that the State has a “requirement” to provide service “without prejudice”. Get real. I would cherry-pick Stirner here but really his whole section from Ego and His Own on “Social Liberalism” (ie. Socialism) is apposite here. Here’s a snippet, though:

    “What I produce, flour, linen, or iron and coal, which I toilsomely win from the earth, etc., is my work that I want to realize value from. But then I may long complain that I am not paid for my work according to its value: the payer will not listen to me, and the State likewise will maintain an apathetic attitude so long as it does not think it must “appease” me that I may not break out with my dreaded might. But this “appeasing” will be all, and, if it comes into my head to ask for more, the State turns against me with all the force of its lion-paws and eagle-claws: for it is the king of beasts, it is lion and eagle.”

  7. Richard, I’m not saying any of those things. I’m a libertarian. I don’t want a welfare state at all. I’m just pointing out how things are, in the current situation where we do have a welfare state. The point I’m making is that to turn it into a jump-through-hoops-for-your-money situation actually makes things worse; it turns it overtly into a form of brutalist fascism.

    As to my first point, it’s simply a fact that a pound in tax is a greater burden on a poor man than a rich man, who doesn’t count the pennies because he has so many. I don’t think I need a citation. It’s a simple matter of understanding subjective value. Funnily enough, it seems to be the only case in which the Left do understand subjective value, and is a right wing/libertarian blind spot. But as I said, that’s because the right/libertarian conservatives have a general blind spot about their own rhetoric. You don’t win support by telling people that you’re going to (a) kick them in the bollocks and (b) enjoy doing it. Human nature just doesn’t respond well to that kind of thing.

    It’s a cart and horse thing. You can’t reduce welfare by force. You can’t force people off the dole. You can only reduce welfare by reducing the demand for welfare, which means a buoyant, productive economy that will actually provide jobs and productive opportunity.

    Under the current situation, you can kick as many people onto chain gangs as you like, but that won’t produce production and jobs. You may make them miserable digging holes, but that’s all. That may make you feel happy that they’re suffering, but it’s not actually producing anything. In fact, it’s going to cost the economy even more in funding the chain gangs.

    I don’t see much benefit in driving the economy even further down just to please the sadistic tendencies of those who want to see other suffer. But that’s just me.

  8. Most of what comes out of libertarian writings is utterly ‘sadistic’ towards those that have no opportunity.

    That’s the whole point of moralising as a libertarian. “Look at me! We can all be like me!”

    It’s fucked and bombed. Getting the unemployed to work for free is slavery.

    Any other viewpoint is fucking nonsense.

    No libertarian should support this.

    Only dogmatic wankers like Worstall.

  9. Ian B
    You are well-meaning but misled. The “taxes are a greater burden on the poor” is a canard promoted by the left using some misleading data from a survey that was *designed* by New Labour to be misleading for different reasons. The bottom decile in the equivalised income distribution pay more taxes as a %age of their income than the middle deciles because they spend more than 100% of their income on VAT-rated goods (excluding food, rent, public transport and books). How can this be?
    Well, New Labour wanted to conceal the extent of poverty so they had a “Household Survey” that excluded the homeless living on streets (but not those “homeless” living in council-funded B&Bs, prisoners, soldiers living in barracks (but not officers’ married quarters, students living in halls of residence (but not those living in flats and houses. They also excluded redundancy pay from the definition of income and the amount of state benefits included in the income data was less then two-thirds of the amount paid out by the Treasury.
    A large percentage of the “bottom decile” comprises students (funded mostly by loans so they have no income but also ex-public school kids funded by their parents); another significant number is made up of self-employed having a bad year, living off their savings; a few rich divorcees and investment bankers on “gardening leave” (interesting the amount of Employers’ NI the bottom decile pays on the servants’ wages), as well as a minority of genuinely poor.
    The overwhelming majority of the genuinely poor are in the second deciles as can be gleaned frok looking at things like free school meals, council tax rebates, housing benefit and all the other means-tested benefits analysed in the survey.

  10. John77, I’m not arguing on that basis, I’m just arguing from basic arithmetic. If you tax a £1000 from a man who earns £10,000, it hurts a lot more than taxing £1000 from a man who earns £100,000. Each pound for a poor man is more significant than for a rich man. Its subjective value is greater. Which is another reason that Pigovian/Sin taxes are a particular evil, but that’s getting off the point.

    I was just trying to make the general point that due to indirect taxation, everyone is paying a shedload of tax relative to their income, not just better off people getting stung for income taxes. And, if the justification for those extortionate taxes is welfare, the State had better fucking provide welfare, not makework chain gangs.

    And in particular, it had better not transfer privilege to Tescos and Poundland by forcing people to scivvy for free for them. If there’s work to be done, it has a market value, and they should bloody well be paying it.

  11. “It’s a cart and horse thing. You can’t reduce welfare by force. You can’t force people off the dole. You can only reduce welfare by reducing the demand for welfare, which means a buoyant, productive economy that will actually provide jobs and productive opportunity.”

    What about the people who don’t want to work? It doesn’t matter how many jobs are out there and available – if you don’t want to work then you’ll not find one (no matter how hard you claim to be looking).

    Personally, I favour a CI+flat tax or NIT system, possibly based on LVT rather than income taxation. I’d ensure that everyone had the bare minimum – but it would be a bare minimum. Enough to survive by living on really simple basic foodstuffs from the big supermarkets.

    These days, it seems the benefits level is pitched at enough to have sky tv, a console or two and a couple of holidays a year – considerably more than I can afford, and my wife and I both work full time.

    That’s another point, I guess. Two weeks ago, my wife decided she’d had enough in her job so she wrote a CV and applied for three roles on the web. She had three interviews at the start of this week, and was offered one of the jobs on the spot (and another the next day – the third one invited her back for a second interview).

    I’ve never taken more than a couple of months to find a new job – even when moving into a completely new industry. It’s just not that hard, unless you have specific salary expectations. A large part of that may be because I’m near London, where a lot of jobs are, but let’s face it – there’s no point subsidising someone who wants to live in the middle of nowhere because they can’t find a job…

  12. Ian, do you think there are no jobs in the economy which are productive, but where the economic value to the employer is judged to be smaller than the minimum cost of labour (minimum wage plus employer’s NI)?

    Tesco customers (us taxpayers) are bearing the cost of providing benefits to the unemployed. Why should we not require that productive work is done as a condition of the receipt of this non-contributory JSA?

    Basically much of the tax credits system works like this anyway. Very low wages are subsidized by the tax credits system. This scheme happens to lower the minimum wage to zero, effectively.

  13. It’s not just Tesco and Poundland, mind you – it’s also such utter, UTTER bastards as Shelter, The Citizens Advice Bureau, Gingerbread, Age Concern and the PDSA! What utter, utter bastards, eh?

    See the complete list at http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?page_id=16

    In all seriousness, it sounds as though the Grauniad is right in identifying some anecdotal accounts of the scheme being coercively maladministered. But some young unemployed people probably really do lack basic work skills – getting to work consistently and on time, being polite and helpful to customers and so on. I also note that there are lots of caveats – “for up to two months” and so on. I wonder what the median duration is? I wonder how the employment chances of those who complete the whole two months compare with others?

    There are plenty of people who think flat-out that unpaid work experience is wrong. I disagree with them. I did two weeks unpaid work experience at a software company and I probably got more out of it than the company. When they invited me back to work over the next summer for £2/hour, I probably got more out of it (in terms of employability) again than they did, and it covered the cost of bus tickets and lunch.

  14. Rational Anarchist,

    Yes, £65.00 a week is really living the high life, isn’t it? Villa in Tuscany, the works.

    I mean seriously, come on. You’re already at the “basic food” level.

  15. Shelter, The Citizens Advice Bureau, Gingerbread, Age Concern and the PDSA! What utter, utter bastards, eh?

    Couldn’t agree more, total bastards. Free serfs for proggie NGOs and charidees. Talk about a circle jerk.

    You can call this what you like, but “work experience” is pushing it a long way. It’s scivvy work, and it’s indicative of how fucked the economy is that people are now having to fucking audition to work at Poundland.

    Nobody with an ounce of classical liberalism in them should support this; but that’s why it encourages my long standing suspicion that a lot of people claiming a libertarian basis for their ideology are just brutalist conservatives looking for a more respectable justification for wanting lower taxes, and fuck everyone else.

    This isn’t a step on the road to liberty. It’s not even a step on the road to lower taxes. It’s a step on the road to serfdom, and it’s shameful that it’s even under discussion, let alone actually occurring.

  16. JAT-

    Ian, do you think there are no jobs in the economy which are productive, but where the economic value to the employer is judged to be smaller than the minimum cost of labour (minimum wage plus employer’s NI)?

    Sure there are, but that comes down to solving the regulatory problem, not pricing the low-skilled out of the market then coercively hiring them out via the State.

  17. Sure there are, but that comes down to solving the regulatory problem, not pricing the low-skilled out of the market then coercively hiring them out via the State.

    That is exactly what job centres do ALL THE TIME. They co-erce people into getting jobs under the threat of losing their benefits.

    The way the costs are split between state and employer seems like a tiny detail. Tesco internalizes mgmt costs even when paying £0/h in wages with the state picking up the rest in JSA.

  18. Ian B – “This does appear to be a form of state slavery. I for one welcome our new Poundland overlords, and all that. I sincerely hope some kind of legal challenge can be mounted.”

    How does it appear to be some form of state slavery? We offer them money if they work. How is that different to what everyone else does?

    “Well, one valid argument is that if there is work to be done, that work has a market value that ought to be being paid to a freely contracted labourer.”

    OK. I have no problem with that. These people are free to reject the offer of work and get no money. Like everyone else. Why is that wrong?

    “In other words, it’s replacing a job with a conscript. I cannot understand how anyone with any liberal economic understanding can support that.”

    No one has to take benefits. If they don’t want to, they don’t have to. They are not conscripted in any way whatsoever. Why would anyone of a liberal bent have a problem with the idea of mutual obligation – we will provide help, but the beneficiaries will provide something to help them back into the work force too?

    “So, if there is work to be done at Poundland, or at Tesco, let them hire somebody at a market rate.”

    Ideally. The problem is that the market clearing price for labour may be below what we consider to be a reasonable standard of living. And to be honest I wouldn’t employ a young British person if you paid me. Then it makes sense for that reasonable standard of living to be met by a mixture of wages and government subsidies, no? The alternative is for them to rot at home.

    “And, the bottom line is, mass unemployment is a consequence of deliberate State policy.”

    Indeed. But no one is going to let the market determine prices for labour. Alas. So we need some other solution. Suggesting people work for their benefits seems a win-win to me. No one is forced to do anything after all.

  19. So far as I can tell, everyone else is arguing that the way to fix a disfunctional mess of a Statist system is to do more of it. As I implied above, the only reason I can think for people arguing this is down to a rather common, even fashionable, prejudice against the lower orders.

    And that is why, as I often quote Hayek in that, I am not a conservative. It always comes down to some form of hitting things over and over again in the hope that’ll make them work. The bad incentives in this scheme are obvious (but hey, it’ll hurt the chavs, so it must be good, right?). In particular, the amusing idea that “we” are getting something out of “them” whereas those who prosper from coerced sub-market labour are, er, Poundland and Tesco and Tarquin and Jemima at the charidee.

    To quote from the above-

    “And to be honest I wouldn’t employ a young British person if you paid me.”

    Aye. There’s our bottom line, I fear.

  20. do more of it

    I guess I’m struggling to see what exactly you find so offensive about this particular angle of welfare, Ian. It seems like a reasonable extension of the non-contributory welfare model. I don’t like much of the welfare state, but this seems little better or worse than the status quo ante.

    Is it OK for the state to withdraw benefits if people refuse offers of work they find undesirable (or too badly paid)? Why is that not also a case of the state coercing people into slavery? Slaves got paid by their employers/owners too.

    Why is it slavery if the state chooses the job but picks up the wage bill, but not if the employer picks up the wage bill?

  21. Ian B
    Of course marginal utility theory (and elementary common sense) states that taking £1 from a poor man hurts far more than taking it from a rich one. That is why the vast majority of advanced economies have progressive taxation. But “everyone is paying a shedload of tax relative to their income” is still wrong because those items* deemed “basic necessities” are zero-rated for VAT except household fuel which carries VAT at 5%. If you regard whisky and cigarettes as necessities then that’s your opinion but I don’t.
    The VAT and income tax systems were designed to tax the poor very little [originally income tax was only levied on investment income, not on wages; even as recently as when I started work earned income bore tax at a lower rate than investment income]
    * food, housing, fares on public transport, postage, children’s clothes, clothes for skinny adults who don’t care about fashion

  22. Ian B – “So far as I can tell, everyone else is arguing that the way to fix a disfunctional mess of a Statist system is to do more of it.”

    I am not. The system is dysfunctional. One solution would be to end welfare totally, but that is not a viable option. So instead I think we ought to make welfare less attractive and make sure it is a pathway out of welfare dependency. So people who don’t want welfare, fine. But people who do need to meet some targets. Working 36 hours a week seems reasonable to me. I don’t care where. I don’t care doing what. But work they must. Why is that a bad thing?

    “As I implied above, the only reason I can think for people arguing this is down to a rather common, even fashionable, prejudice against the lower orders.”

    A cheap Guardianista shot. Not even true. If we agree there is a problem with the price of labour such that the market does not clear, then the price of labour needs to drop. We can do that by tinkering on the edges with cutting NI for instance. Or we can cut the wages of the poor. Or we can top up the wages of the poorest with welfare payments. How is it you see the last as expressing contempt for the poor?

    “In particular, the amusing idea that “we” are getting something out of “them” whereas those who prosper from coerced sub-market labour are, er, Poundland and Tesco and Tarquin and Jemima at the charidee.”

    It may be true that Poundland and Tesco are getting something out of this. It may also be true that Tarquin is too. So what? The point is their gains are marginal. The gains for the people who are actually in work are much greater. I have no problems with the idea that we would all benefit. I think that is a feature not a bug. Why would we want a system where no one – especially those on welfare – benefit?

    “Aye. There’s our bottom line, I fear.”

    Our ferals are just unemployable I am afraid. Jail is really the only option. But we could at least try something else. And prevent a new generation following them. There should be no passive welfare at all. Except maybe for the old.

  23. JAT-

    Why is it slavery if the state chooses the job but picks up the wage bill, but not if the employer picks up the wage bill?

    Er, because it’s not a “wage”. Because the “employer” isn’t employing them. Need I go on further?

    But “everyone is paying a shedload of tax relative to their income” is still wrong because those items* deemed “basic necessities” are zero-rated for VAT except household fuel which carries VAT at 5%. If you regard whisky and cigarettes as necessities then that’s your opinion but I don’t.

    It’s not about what is a “necessity”. That’s Ritchie-speak. The question isn’t whether people should buy whisky or cigarettes or petrol or cakes (which are not “necessities” and incur VAT compared to biscuits which are, apparently). It’s whether people do spend money on these things. And, bear in mind that, as Tim always reminds us, companies don’t pay tax, so the fuel tax on transport of everyday goods is being paid by consumers, not companies.

    The emphasis on “necessities” is, like much of the rest of this thread, indicative of that ghastly, destructive Calvinism that wrecks our capitalism. Oh, if only we could switch to a “Bastiat’s production ethic” instead. I’ve mentioned in other threads, that the Calvinists lumbered our whole mindset with an emphasis on “work” instead of “production” and we see that here, with people demanding that others “work” even if that actually destroys economic value (e.g. digging holes and filling them in).

    If people can’t get past that, we really are doomed as an economic entity.

    And then we end with SMFS with this gem-

    Our ferals are just unemployable I am afraid. Jail is really the only option.

    Since that was in response to my response to his general description of a “young British person”, we can only conclude that he literally considers every young British person “feral” and fit only for jail. I agree that this prejudice is very popular- you only have to watch Little Britain to see that- but is also quite ridiculous. We really are into the realm of old Tory buffers complaining about the people they have to step over on the way into the opera. Or at least, that kind of person who thinks the entire population are obese, because they’re blind to all the thin people around them because that is what they want to believe.

  24. I’m not sure there is anybody on here who would argue against “taxing £1000 from a man who earns £10,000, it hurts a lot more than taxing £1000 from a man who earns £100,000“.

    But, then, how many of our taxes are done on a fixed-sum basis? Nearly everything is done on a %age, often a progressive one. Is taxing £1667 from a man who earns £10k going to hurt more than £16,667 from a man who earns £100k (assuming all expenses are VATable at the main rate). Probably – but that’s one hell of an unjustifiable assumption – the rich do pay relatively more in indirect taxation more (as John77 pointed out) – although green fuel taxes are significantly changing this.

    What about £840 (tax and employees’ NI) as opposed to £35,400? And not forgetting the £400 versus £12,800 in employers’ NI.

    Now, despite being a libertarian, I do think there is a limited case for some form of work experience for those who have been out of work for extended periods. I’ve had crap jobs and time “on the bench” as a consultant – and I know how quickly you can get yourself out of the habit of getting up and getting the “do the job and do it well” head on. The degree of compulsion reasonable is also a matter for reasoned debate.

    However, I doubt this is a well-engineered example of an appropriate work experience scheme but that’s just my professional cynicism speaking …

    However, we do need to thank Arnald, professional statist, for taking time off nit-picking our comments for examples of our deep-seated misogyny to lecture us about what libertarians should believe in. And, even more amazingly, what compromises libertarians should be willing to make against their basic principles for the sake of pragmatic and efficient solutions.

  25. Ian B – “Er, because it’s not a “wage”. Because the “employer” isn’t employing them. Need I go on further?”

    Well yes. In what way is it not a wage and in what way aren’t they being employed?

    “The emphasis on “necessities” is, like much of the rest of this thread, indicative of that ghastly, destructive Calvinism that wrecks our capitalism.”

    Sorry you have lost me here – people who argue that booze and smokes are necessities and so should be VAT-free so that more people can afford them are Calvinists kill joys? That seems …. interesting. I know I must have missed something somewhere. How do you figure that?

    “we see that here, with people demanding that others “work” even if that actually destroys economic value (e.g. digging holes and filling them in).”

    How does digging a hole and then filling it in destroy economic value? From the hole’s point of view that looks kind of neutral to me. From the digging person’s point of view that looks like an education in the value of work and work-type skills like turning up on time. A benefit bonus. From the people-who-might-have-claimed-but-hate-digging-holes-and-so-are-deterred point of view that looks like a bonus to all of us as well. So it seems to me that everyone is better off except the hole which is merely the same as before. So what value is being destroyed?

    “Since that was in response to my response to his general description of a “young British person”, we can only conclude that he literally considers every young British person “feral” and fit only for jail.”

    No I don’t think you can. Or you can but you shouldn’t. You have. But it would have been better to ask me first.

  26. Er, because it’s not a “wage”. Because the “employer” isn’t employing them. Need I go on further?

    That seems like sophistry. They are doing work and are receiving payment conditional on doing said work. Maybe you could argue the state was technically the “employer”. What is the difference?

    What about National Service in the past, or Jury Service today? Aren’t they more examples of “slavery”?

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