One argument for reforming the benefits system

He was receiving £20.30 a week child benefit for the eldest of the 11 children in the house and £13.40 each for the others, according to the Times, making £8,023.60 a year tax free.

According to Revenue and Customs, Mairead, with six children, would be entitled to £20,560 in tax credits and Miss Willis to up to £17,870 totalling £38,430, also tax free.

Therefore he could have been receiving £46,453 in benefits

Housing benefit also paid his £7,800 a year rent on his Derby home, which along with the money he got from both his partners cleaning jobs, could have taken his “income” to almost £68,000 – the equivalent of a £100,000 salary after tax.

This would have put Philpott in the top two per cent of earners.


It\’s a fairly
convincing argument too.

Of course, there\’s always an idiot around when you need one:

Writing in the Daily Mail Professor of Criminology David Wilson said that his conviction should leave reality TV “hanging its head in shame” for presenting obscene, outlandish, and violent behaviour as entertainment.

The Birmingham City University professor wrote: “Tragically for his now broken, bereaved family, Mick Philpott was partly a creation of that sick world. It was misnamed reality television that fed his gigantic, malevolent ego, that fuelled his rampant sense of entitlement, that turned him into a twisted kind of celebrity who thought he was untouchable.”

Adding: “Bolstered by his TV appearances, he thought he had the power to control not just his media image but everyone around him, too. Idiotically, he even extended that to a belief in his ability to control fire — with all the catastrophic consequences that followed.

\”No, I’m afraid reality TV shows cannot easily absolve themselves from blame for the harm they cause.”

Yes, that\’s right, going on TV recently made him start having 11 children 25 years ago. Obviously, benefits should be cut if they enathe possession of a time machine.

A useful place to look rfor why we have a crime problem is in the beliefs of professors of criminology.

68 thoughts on “One argument for reforming the benefits system”

  1. Writing in the Daily Mail Professor of Criminology David Wilson said …”

    Ordinarily, this alone would invalidate what he says, as far as the Left is concerned. I suspect it wont this time, though…

  2. To be fair, Tim, what Wilson seems to be saying is that the decision to burn down the house, not to have loads of kids, was “in part” due to his appearance on the telly.

    Philpott thought he would get away with it, and, better still, thought that he’d get back on the telly as the hero who rescued his kids from the fire.

    That doesn’t seem massively far-fetched to me, though he does descend into mubo jumbo in parts.

    Interestingly, yesterday it transpired that when the dead kids were found only one was in pyjamas. The others were in jeans, pants and, in one case, a school uniform.

    They lives on bits of burger and chips while he pissed away the tens of thousands of pounds he received gratis on lager and (IanB’s favourite) massive flat screen tellies.

    But insisting that parents use some of their dole money to buy decent food or pjyamas for their children – perhaps by part vouchers – is immoral and hateful and only to be considered by “fascists”.

    And we must never forget, because JohnB and others will get very cross about it, that is it always and everywhere ‘immiserating’ to live on benefits.

    Getting up in the morning and going to work in your shit job, while Philpott and his ilk sleep off the hangovers you have paid for… that is an unalloyed joy.

    Anyway, he’s just got life with a minimum of 15 years, which made me fucking chuckle.

  3. @ Interested

    “But insisting that parents use some of their dole money to buy decent food or pjyamas for their children – perhaps by part vouchers – is immoral and hateful and only to be considered by “fascists”.”

    Of course, there’s no proposal on the table to restrict how child benefit is spent.. that being the bit that’s for the chiiiiildren.

    If there was, then I’d be slightly more sympathetic towards that than I am towards the idea of limiting what people can do with ‘general’ benefits. So long as, of course, the rule applied to all child benefit recipients… y’know, even those nice respectable middle class people (and, believe me, no government is going to put that on the table as the entree to state control of personal spending. It’s strictly ‘phase 2’ stuff.

    My dad is disabled and gets money to pay for carer visits. He’s not allowed to spend that money on Sky Sports or booze. I don’t think that’s fascist. He also gets his state pension.. and he can, quite rightly, spend that on whatever the fuck he wants.

  4. TTG, I too hate the ‘for the children’ argument, which is about as bad as ‘if it saves one life’.

    But the fact remains, some kids do live and die in squalor, and it doesn’t make you some sort of bleeding heart loon not to think that’s bad and it would be nice if we could avoid it.

    Re child benefit, I agree entirely and it’s probably a better idea than doing it via the dole.

    Re your dad’s pension, I think even I would accept that what they spend it on is their business.

    I made the health argument a week or two back, and I still think that’s valid, but it’s also a fairness thing; Philpott and a lot of other people live in a style that ordinary working people can’t aspire to.

    When the terms of the debate are being framed, as they are, as ‘Is it fair to restrict benefits to the amount that an average working person brings in?’, I think we have lost the plot, a bit.

  5. Re pensions, the main difference being that this is not a payment in lieu of earned money ie no-one expects your dad or any pensioner to earn his own wedge.

  6. @ Interested

    The state pension is a social security payment. Society doesn’t think that old folks should be left to fend for themselves.. even if they’ve been ‘irresponsible’ and not saved up during their working years.

    The only difference between pension and unemployment benefit is that everyone get’s a pension whether or not they ‘need’ it. If it were based on need (means tested) then the distinction would be far less clear.

    I understand your point, though I don’t see that the argument that pensions are unlike other benefits is any stronger than argument that they aren’t.

  7. The only way to save kids from that kind of life is to take them off their parents, but that exposes the state to all sorts of yoomun rites liabilities. And then the state would rather keep them in their own rape dungeons, sorry care homes, than allow the merest hint of an adoption by anyone who doesn’t miraculously tick all the PC boxes.

    This will be the case whatever benefits you dish out. There are people out there who wouldn’t be capable of adequately feeding and clothing their kids if you gave them a million quid a year.

  8. I’m not inclined to think that this case tells us anything much about anything, other than that it’s a bizarre tragedy. A stupid man made a stupid plan that went horribly wrong. The primary thing it tells me is that people underestimate fire, and that isn’t confined to dissolute chavs.

    I remember a discussion at Samizdata about how some “elfin safety gone mad” firemen had stopped people rescuing children from a housefire. There was a quite remarkable attitude from many of the (educated, intelligent) commenters that you can just walk into an inferno, pick up a kid or two, then walk out again, even though the reports described the walls already being so hot that it was impossible to get a ladder against them, and the mother was only a few metres from the front door at a window but couldn’t get to that front door herself.

    A stupid man, a stupid plan, a gross underestimation of the fierceness of a petrol fire in a house. Stupid plans rarely have outcomes as tragic as this, but that’s all it is, really.

  9. People like Philpott are nothing in the scheme of things, they are an irrelevance. Their cost to the country is far lower than the cost of other things, e.g. the recession or expensive and stupid IT projects. We should be creating jobs for the people that want them, not fussing about what scroungers spend their money on. It’s dog whistle politics.

  10. Going on reality TV makes you evil, says the professor.
    Actually there are loads of people on reality TV. Newsreaders, reporters, politicians, sociologists, etc.

    Which gives me an idea. Given this large but unrepresentative population, it should be possible to carry out an experimental programme to cure them. Let’s see what works, electro convulsive therapy, adlerian alienation ablation or whatever.

  11. The only reason they had so many kids was to exploit the benefits. The only reason they started the fire was to fit up the mistress who had moved out, so they could get custody of her kids and the benefits attached, and a bigger house into the bargain. All Philpott ever wanted was the money, and he spent it on himself. I don’t reckon he ever meant to kill those kids, purely because each was a source of revenue. But when the conflagration erupted, he had no intentions of putting himself at the slightest risk to rescue them himself, and waited for some other man to do it for him.
    So a vile misbegotten creature. Completely shaped and formed by his vile upbringing, and the corrupting influence of the welfare state.
    There are plenty more where he came from, maybe not so extreme, but still rotten deadbeats exploiting their kids to milk the benefits system.

  12. The argument for Capital punishment just gets stronger by the day. Not once has the abolition of capital punishment been put to the voters.

    We are so luck as our political class, abetted by experts like this turd David Wilson knows what’s best for us!

  13. I think there may be a danger here of using the fact of abuse of a system to argue against the system itself. Numerous murder mysteries have been written about the capacity to abuse the insurance system (motive: she killed her husband for the insurance) but that doesn’t actually tell us that insurance is a bad idea, merely that it is open to exploitation.

    I don’t think anyone here would be in favour of people producing kids in order to farm the benefit system. But this particular case doesn’t tell us anything about that. As I said before; stupid man, stupid plan, tragedy. That’s it, really.

  14. Tim, you really should read what Wilson wrote before slagging it off. What he was mainly saying was being on TV made this guy a worse asshole than he was. Which seems to be true. Wilson overeggs it, though — not surprisingly, as he is a TV poser himself.

    >Going on reality TV makes you evil, says the professor. Actually there are loads of people on reality TV. Newsreaders, reporters, politicians, sociologists, etc.

    And most of them are assholes too!

    >There was a quite remarkable attitude from many of the (educated, intelligent) commenters that you can just walk into an inferno, pick up a kid or two, then walk out again, even though the reports described the walls already being so hot that it was impossible to get a ladder against them, and the mother was only a few metres from the front door at a window but couldn

  15. Trying again:

    Tim, you really should read what Wilson wrote before slagging it off. What he was mainly saying was being on TV made this guy a worse asshole than he was. Which seems to be true. Wilson overeggs it, though — not surprisingly, as he is a TV poser himself.

    >Going on reality TV makes you evil, says the professor. Actually there are loads of people on reality TV. Newsreaders, reporters, politicians, sociologists, etc.

    And most of them are assholes too!

    >There was a quite remarkable attitude from many of the (educated, intelligent) commenters that you can just walk into an inferno, pick up a kid or two, then walk out again, even though the reports described the walls already being so hot that it was impossible to get a ladder against them, and the mother was only a few metres from the front door at a window but couldnt get to that front door herself.

    Sure, but notice that in this case neighbours did try to rescue the kids, and ended up covered in smoke and soot and needed medical attention. Philpott, as was noticed by people there, showed no signs that he had done anything to try to rescue his own kids.

  16. ….People like Philpott are nothing in the scheme of things, they are an irrelevance. Their cost to the country is far lower than the cost of other things, e.g. the recession or expensive and stupid IT projects. We should be creating jobs for the people that want them, not fussing about what scroungers spend their money on. It

  17. ….People like Philpott are nothing in the scheme of things, they are an irrelevance. Their cost to the country is far lower than the cost of other things, e.g. the recession or expensive and stupid IT projects. We should be creating jobs for the people that want them, not fussing about what scroungers spend their money on. Its dog whistle politics……

    Thats like saying just because there are murders, we should ignore shoplifting.

  18. Sure, but notice that in this case neighbours did try to rescue the kids, and ended up covered in smoke and soot and needed medical attention.

    We may be discussing different cases. The one I was referring to, the firemen held back some “have a go heroes” to avoid having to carry more inevitable corpses out, and then were accused of elfin safety gone mad.

  19. I find it disheartening how most of the responses in the national press can be explained by nothing more complex than political conditioning.

    So if you’re a leftie, Mick Philpott is an odious individual who shows up no failures whatsoever in the benefits system, while bankers are the living incarnation of all that is wrong with free market capitalism.

    Meanwhile, if you’re a rightie, Mick Philpott shows us how deeply flawed the welfare state allows people to become, but bankers are nothing more than errant individuals operating outside the bounds of an otherwise normally-functioning market.

    I think there’s an element of systemic failure in both, and a good dollop of individual wickedness as well. But someone might suggest, with some justice, that this is just a theologically conditioned response…

  20. Thats like saying just because there are murders, we should ignore shoplifting.

    I am saying, do not (a) focus on the shoplifter who turns murderer and draw lessons about shoplifters from that specific case, instead of (b) prioritising murders.

    Philpott is a statistical outlier – to say the least. Yet apparently we are to draw lessons from his case for the entire welfare system. There is an article on BBC News homepage titled “Derby fire deaths: Were benefits to blame?”

    A couple of days ago George Osbourne said, “I don’t think it’s sensible to reduce this debate to an argument about individual’s set of circumstances”. That was about the

  21. @TTG “The state pension is a social security payment. Society doesn’t think that old folks should be left to fend for themselves… even if they’ve been ‘irresponsible’ and not saved up during their working years.”

    Neither do I. The difference between a pension and the dole is that by definition once you qualify for the pension we’re not expecting you to work. The dole is (in my view) supposed to be a temporary measure to keep body and soul together while you find another job.

    I appreciate that because of our culture, and our shocking state education system, that is not an easy thing to do any more, but we are where we are and eventually we have to stop or sink.

    @JamesV “The only way to save kids from that kind of life is to take them off their parents…”

    A key question –which Philpott answers, as though answer along with a very great many other people is: Do people have kids *because* of the benefit system. I think we know the answer. Is this a good thing? I argue no, but either way it’s a respectable debate to have.

    “There are people out there who wouldn’t be capable of adequately feeding and clothing their kids if you gave them a million quid a year.”

    Agreed, but I’m not sure what your point is? That we shouldn’t really care?

    @UKLiberty “People like Philpott are nothing in the scheme of things… Their cost to the country is far lower than the cost of other things, e.g. the recession or expensive and stupid IT projects.”

    Agreed, but I’m not sure what your point is, either.

    Is it that A is bad, but B and C are worse, so although we have an enormous stat apparatus designed to cope with A we should ignore the problems there?

    “We should be creating jobs for the people that want them”

    Who should be “creating” these jobs? The government? I’d rather not, thanks, and you explain why in your discussion of IT systems. So… Me? Or you? If the latter, who’s stopping you?

    Mick Philpott could have got a job, or created his own. He was able-bodied. People need things doing. He could have offered to do them.

    “…not fussing about what scroungers spend their money on. It’s dog whistle politics.”

    It’s not really their money, but it’s not dog-whistle politics. It seems, from polls, to cut right across the political divide.

    @IanB “I don’t think anyone here would be in favour of people producing kids in order to farm the benefit system. But this particular case doesn’t tell us anything about that.”

    Except that it happens, which lots of us have been saying for decades – only to be shouted down by the left.

    @UKLiberty “A couple of days ago George Osbourne said”

    So fucking what? I don’t care what George Osborne says about anything, and neither do you until it suits you.

  22. Mixed up paragraph:

    A key question – which Philpott answers, as though we needed an answer – is: Do people have kids *because* of the benefit system. I think we know the answer. Is this a good thing? I argue no, but either way it’s a respectable debate to have.

  23. Surreptitious Evil

    I think we can learn one thing about the benefits system from this case – you don’t need to be living in one of the stupidly expensive bits of the country to get what seems a ridiculous amount in benefits.

    But that will have been coped with by already announced changes (although I suppose he would have counted as 2 or 3 families? Wonders how this might apply to our polygamous brethren.)

    I don’t think benefits were the distal cause in this case – although the possible availability of benefits might have been a contributory proximate cause (the bigger council house seems to have been an important factor?) The distal cause was that Philpott is, whether the trick cyclists agree or not, what the MotCO would describe as ‘a psycho’. Bad cases make worse laws.

    And there were (and almost certainly still are) some utter, utter shits working in the banking sector. As well as a hell of a lot of demonstrations of the Peter Principle. But most people were simply trying to do a decent job …

    And the vast majority of people on benefits would jump at (okay, crawl slowly off the settee towards) a decent paying job.

  24. Interested-

    I’m just saying that an extreme case like this, which is primarily defined by six child deaths in a botched hairbrained scheme, is not the kind one would sensibly use for a calm discussion of the benefits system or welfare class. It’s like saying Lord Lucan was a typical aristocrat, when his definining characteristic was bludgeoning his nanny to death.

  25. Agreed, but I’m not sure what your point is, either.

    Is it that A is bad, but B and C are worse, so although we have an enormous stat apparatus designed to cope with A we should ignore the problems there?

    Philpott is a statistical outlier on whom vastly disproportionate attention has been focused because (a) his is a compelling, shocking and tragic story and (b) it’s convenient to use him to attack the entire welfare system.

  26. @SE “I don’t think benefits were the distal cause in this case”

    I agree, in that I don’t think the welfare state is a sufficient condition for what he did, but it is a necessary one. Show me the working man of Philpott’s abilities with 17 kids, for a start? Show me how a working man increases his available income by having kids, rather than by not having them?

    @IanB “I’m just saying that an extreme case like this, which is primarily defined by six child deaths in a botched hairbrained scheme, is not the kind one would sensibly use for a calm discussion of the benefits system or welfare class.”

    No I agree with that. However, I’m really just saying the same stuff I’ve always said, and said before any of us had even heard of Mick Philpott.

    The death of those kids is a tragedy, but my concern is more with the conditions that allowed them to be born in the first place.

    Because to be honest, and call me mean, I don’t think it is very likely that they were going to grow up to be much more than petty criminals, baby farmers and dole bludgers. That’s not good for them, or the rest of us.

    @UKLiberty “Philpott is a statistical outlier on whom vastly disproportionate attention has been focused because (a) his is a compelling, shocking and tragic story and (b) it’s convenient to use him to attack the entire welfare system.”

    As above, I was attacking the welfare system long before Philpott. He is an outlier in the sense than very few people on benefits burn their kids to death; he is not an outlier in that despite being able bodied he preferred a life of idleness to paying his own way, and fathers lots of kids than he expected everyone else to pay for (and then didn’t even spend the money intended for the kids on the kids).

    I don’t know how we solve this problem. Girls are going to have babies, and men (or boys) are – apparently – now going to abandon them as a matter of course.

    There isn’t work for everyone.

    I’m not saying it’s easy. But we just can’t – in my view, and for economic reasons as much as social ones – carry on as we have been.

    “Cannot” means, eventually, “does not”. All I’m really suggesting is an orderly transition to a saner world, instead of a disorderly collapse.

  27. Are the numbers given above likely to be correct? Somehow I doubt it. I notice a lot of ‘up to’ sprinkled about.

    I’m sure Philpott was milking the system for all it was worth to him, but there’s no signs of £100k a year income. You can only spend so much money on tinned lager and flatscreen TVs. He didn’t drive a nice car, I’m sure we’d have heard if he’d been in the habit of regularly going on expensive holidays, and so-on. Perhaps he was pissing away 75% of the money at the bookies, but again, given the current witch-hunt, wouldn’t we have heard about that by now?

    Precisely how much difference is there between Philpott milking the benefits system to get money, and whichever journalist milked the modern media system with something they knew wasn’t true in order to appear to be good at their job?

    I also can’t help wondering whether the media hasn’t generated more economic activity complaining about benefits scroungers than they actually cost us…

  28. As above, I was attacking the welfare system long before Philpott. He is an outlier in the sense than very few people on benefits burn their kids to death; he is not an outlier in that despite being able bodied he preferred a life of idleness to paying his own way, and fathers lots of kids than he expected everyone else to pay for (and then didn’t even spend the money intended for the kids on the kids).

    I don’t agree with the system as-is; I support a system of a kind that Tim Worstall, Mark Wadsworth and Chris Dillow (among others) have suggested, where every adult receives a citizen’s basic income, a guaranteed unconditional payment, no more and no less. Each adult citizen would have to choose whether he wants to spend that money on having one kid or 17 kids or something else, there wouldn’t be any more money for him from the public purse.

    My comments here have not been supportive of today’s system, they have been critical of using cases like Philpott to destroy it and with no better system apparently being proposed.

  29. @UKLiberty – ah, fair enough (though expending energy complaining about people complaining seems equally to waste energy).

    I support the Charles Murray idea, personally (which is that basic income thing). I think it would cure a lot of our ills.

  30. The biggest potential problem with a CBI that I can see would be that everyone would have a constant incentive to increase it.

  31. @IanB Yes (and that there would still be people who would want it reducing).

    A locked-in CPI inflator would cover it.

    It’s all covered in many of the studies noted here http://ideas.repec.org/s/bpj/bistud.html

    As a matter of interest, why are no mainstream politican parties talking about it? Is it a power thing?

  32. By the way, the one other thing that Philpott *has* demonstrated to people who otherwise were not really taking an interest is that it is *not*, whatever JohnB (the most outspoken claimer of this on this blog) automatically ‘immiserating’ to live on benefits.

    That this claim should be so comprehensively demolished by this case *is* important, because it removes the argument that *any* cutting of welfare is so unconscionably unkind and cruel that only a brute would propose it.

    This is the standard approach of the left, and it’s clearly not true: Philpott lived the life of Riley *and there are many more like him*.

    There are others who don’t – that is undeniable, and sorting one from the other would be hard. But things being hard is not a reason not to attempt them.

    The Tories are being called “vile” for suggesting cutting bennies to the average working income.

    There’s seriously a lot to be said for, and a lot of monetary value in, permanent leisure time and a guaranteed and secure income.

    Given that choice, I’d personally think very hard about taking the bennies, and earning more on the side, and that would not be right or fair on those who worked.

  33. Except it does’t demonstrate anything of the kind. Nobody denies that there are some people playing the system, but not many people have an 11 child benefit farm (a benefit by the way which is universal and is well known to be a nice little earner for middle class couples too).

    It was me I believe who popularised “immiserate” in these discussions, and what we were actually discussing, specifically, was whether it is just to force some bloke who’s just lost his job to give up smoking to please a few puritan temperance loonbags. And on that issue, this case has literally nothing to say. Because if I or you lose our jobs tomorrow, neither of us has several wives and concubines, a minibus load of children and a career in the arse end of tabloid television. It’s apples and oranges.

  34. UKliberty: “Philpott is a statistical outlier – to say the least. “

    If you concentrate on how his children died, yes. However, if you look at how they must have (briefly) lived…

  35. Damn all this nuance and understanding. Where’s the frothing knee jerk reactions? Is SMFS on holiday?

  36. Some time ago, there was a huge fuss about “some” families receiving £100k pa housing benefit. It turned out there were (a) “fewer than five” receiving (b) ~£1,932 a week, which over a year is £100k.

    No, not great on the face of it, before anyone starts up, but the point is that such statistics are used to persuade the plebs to support rather broader changes to the system. We should be asking if these changes stand up on their own merits, not saying go ahead because it’s wrong there are some (inferred as many, obviously) receiving £100k pa and getting all het up about all the malingerers getting so much money.

    Do note that the £100k pa claim was not supported by those who made it, indeed they refused to provide evidence; the figures were found via an FOIA request and the Telegraph contacting local authorities. I don’t think anyone found out whether recipients actually got the full £100k. The average housing benefit was at that time about £84 a week.

  37. @Interested, #22: The key question is NOT Do people have kids _because_ of the benefit system?

    The question is What stops them?

    For me, the answer is I can’t afford them (plus, I loathe the little monsters). Philpott can afford as many as he wants because he doesn’t have to make any choices.

    Extrapolate to the rest of his life, add an attitude of sublime indifference to others, combined with a desire to show off, and a dash of plain old evil…. There you have him.

    But the main thing is he _never had to make hard choices._

    A lot like many others on the left…

  38. Just another reminder here that child benefit is a universal benefit unrelated to employment status.

  39. @ Ian B (@41)

    You are correct, and it’s a point worthy of repetition. However, when considering child benefit as an incentive to have children, it’s a different decision for someone who doesn’t work.

    If you’re an ordinary middle class family, where both parents work, having a child costs a bunch.. and child benefit doesn’t come close to covering it… because either someone has to quit the job, or you need to pay for childcare.

    A family/parent who does not work doesn’t have to worry about that.. and might feel that the additional child benefit will more that cover the remaining incremental costs.

    /devils advocate

  40. @UKLiberty “Some time ago, there was a huge fuss about “some” families receiving £100k pa housing benefit. It turned out there were (a) “fewer than five” receiving (b) ~£1,932 a week, which over a year is £100k.”

    Yep, we know the tabloids blow stuff up. But two things.

    1) It’s the after tax equivalent that counts, not the headline figure.

    2) I’m more exercised about the plan to normalise benefits at a maximum of the average wage. Which means, apart from anything that a lot of people are working and earning less than other people on benefits.

    By drawing attention to those weird few 100,000GBP cases, and the outrage they cause, you are playing the same trick you claim people are playing with the Philpott case – pull out some barmy cases and the attendant outrage, and pretend that this is the *only* reason people are bothered, ie that if only the tabloids didn’t make this stuff up, or suggest that outlier cases were the norm, then everyone with be cool with the system.

  41. There is a difference between making a claim and criticising a claim; there is a difference between starting a ‘debate’ with a statement and responding to the statement as part of the debate. It’s not me supporting wholesale changes to the welfare system by helping to perpetuate the idea that most people on welfare are workshy scroungers. I didn’t say Philpott is an example of their ilk; I didn’t say there were people on £100k benefits. I’m pointing out the trick being played, not playing a trick myself.

    And IIRC it wasn’t the tabloids who first made the claim about the £100k, it was Osbourne.

    Wind yer neck in.

  42. But you *are* making a claim – that people are being manipulated by bullshit stats into an attack on the welfare system.

    I’m simply saying this is not true (in my case anyway), and that I know the outliers are outliers.

    I am attacking the system based on cases a lot less dramatic – such as those behind the stated aim of the govt to reduce bennies so that noone gets more than the average after tax wage (or is it a straight 26k which would be madder still, I forget and can’t be arsed to check now).

    So no – you wind your neck in, ner.

  43. Surreptitious Evil

    As we’re having what passes for a civilised discussion, I’ll apologise for my bit of pendantry.

    Although there was a staggering amount of Child Benefit involved in this case, it was dwarfed by the count-the-children tax credits available

  44. About 15 to 20 years ago I spent some time teaching, in a high school in a rough part of Newcastle.
    There were a few real nice kids in the class. Decent, and well behaved.
    But for about half the class, I would say I was observing the larval stage of the welfare bludger.
    In the main, they were the sons and daughters of pramface. None of them had a Dad or grandparents on the scene, and many had the uneasy background of being the inconvenient gooseberry in their own home, while their mother invited in a succession of temporary boyfriends. None of them had any of the sense of security and constancy that kids need All knew that their tenancy in their mothers life, and council flat, would end the instant the child benefit stopped. The mother was still producing another baby every 5 to 7 years, to maintain the cash flow, and these kids were approaching the end of their welcome.
    The young girls were effectively planning to live their lives the same way. Get pregnant, ditch the father, apply to the sugar-daddy state for a council flat and benefits.
    Among the lads, very few of them seemed to have any notion of how they would live, except as a kind of parasitic adjunct to a baby based cost centre, hoping that their hostess would not throw them out. Or maybe using violence to ensure she would be too scared to throw him out.

    Sorry folks, we have to wipe out the baby premium. And that means that every baby born with no breadwinner, and no home, gets put up for adoption. And the mother has gone through 9 months of pregnancy for zilch.

  45. So Much For Subtlety

    Matthew L – “Damn all this nuance and understanding. Where’s the frothing knee jerk reactions? Is SMFS on holiday?”

    Not really. But there is not a lot to say about this case is there? Not that there seems to be much nuance and understanding. Just general agreement on how awful this case is.

    The only thing I would say is that everyone on welfare is a unique case and a statistical outlier of one sort or another. I am not sure what the dog whistle is – I think that the criticism of this vile man is direct and clear. But if you want to find excuses for the system that produces such people, you always can. In every case.

  46. So Much For Subtlety

    Ian B – “A stupid man made a stupid plan that went horribly wrong.”

    A stupid man made a stupid plan entirely due to the money given to him by the Welfare State. The motivation is not irrelevant to this discussion.

    “I remember a discussion at Samizdata about how some “elfin safety gone mad” firemen had stopped people rescuing children from a housefire.”

    Presumably this discussion:

    http://www.samizdata.net/2009/03/we-have-to-wait/

    It is interesting you assume the police were right. How do you know? How do you know the fire was so out of control that it would have been suicide to go in?

    It is not as if Health and Safety is not responsible for dumb decisions:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/feb/22/man-drowned-lake-firefighters

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1393012/Suicidal-man-left-die-San-Francisco-Bay-rescuers-didnt-cold-water-gear.html

  47. SMFS-

    Sigh. As I said above, the source of a financial temptation is not relevant. If somebody murders their husband for the insurance money, we don’t say that this proves there is something wrong with life insurance. Some people kill their spouses so as to run off with somebody else. That’s not a mark against marriage. It just reminds us that some people are assholes.

    Well done for finding the Samizdata thread, but it bears out much waht I said about it. The only point I was making was that Fuckwit Philpott was intending to do a heroic rescue and, like many other people, was not prepared for how fierce fire is. Apparently he couldn’t get his fat arse through the window anyway, but others genuinely tried and failed to save the children. The valuable lesson here is not to start fires.

    The point in the Samizdata thread was that upon reflection the fire in that question was already very fierce, and it was thus likely that the police were restraining people for rational reasons; that is, they would die as well. Which, as I said then, is something that police and other emergency responders have always done, and no doubt would do in Anarcho-Libertopia too. And which I or you might do if some idiot was trying to enter an inferno. We all like taking a crack at the authorities; but they aren’t always wrong.

  48. So Much For Subtlety

    Ian B – “As I said above, the source of a financial temptation is not relevant. If somebody murders their husband for the insurance money, we don’t say that this proves there is something wrong with life insurance.”

    If the insurance policy did not include a clause refusing pay outs for murder I think we might. Consider the Zong case where the crew of a slave ship allegedly threw their slaves over board to collect the insurance pay out. The insurance company refused to pay out:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zong_massacre

    “Some people kill their spouses so as to run off with somebody else. That’s not a mark against marriage. It just reminds us that some people are assholes.”

    Sure. But we have no contribution to make to the process of someone killing their spouse. Although I guess this sort of thing dropped off when divorce became easier. We do not even contribute much when people kill their wives. But this case has the marks of the welfare state all over it. The more feckless and useless he was, the more money he got. So naturally he became very feckless indeed. He could not even set a fire properly. He would have lacked the application to commit that sort of insurance fraud. We encouraged this sort of incompetence. We rewarded it. We get more of it. No surprise.

    “The valuable lesson here is not to start fires.”

    But it is common in British housing estates because you will get a new and better house. An acquaintance of a former colleague has done it three times. Again we get more of whatever it is we reward. We should stop.

    “And which I or you might do if some idiot was trying to enter an inferno. We all like taking a crack at the authorities; but they aren-t always wrong.”

    Well I am not that libertarian so I tend to think they are usually right. And should be obeyed. Although I wonder on what basis the police have any right to restrain anyone from doing anything in this case. There is something heroic about the fools to rush in to save people. I would hate to see that disappear in Britain. I do not automatically share your faith the police were right and the fire was too strong. But who knows? Someone ran into the Hindenberg repeatedly until he had to be restrains with serious burns. Never did anything before or after. I would like to think I would, but I doubt it.

  49. SMFS-

    Admittedly, there is no specific clause in the terms of benefits payments denying payout if you set a fire in order to implicate the woman who has left you in order to get the children back. You have me there. We might suspect that prohibition of “fraud” in general would cover that, as would the clauses against damaging one’s property, as would the criminal laws against arson, child endangerment, and perverting the course of justice, but clearly since nobody wrote a specific rule that if you burn your house down in order to frame your ex, stage a mock heroic rescue and get on the telly again you will have your benefits docked, it must be the fault of that.

    Yes, that makes sense.

    An acquaintance of a former colleague has done it three times.

    Ah yes, an acquaintance of a friend told me… Must be true then. They’re all at it, the Residuum, houses going up like roman candles, I heard it down the pub, honest.

    A fellow near here in sheltered housing did blow his up, after stockpiling petrol and other flammables. And himself, and the social worker visiting. He was schizophrenic, mind.

    As to your last point perhaps we should be asking which Elfinsafety fascists restrained that bloke at the Hindenburg site, too. What right did they have? Besides common sense, that is.

  50. IanB: “What right did they have? Besides common sense, that is.”

    Common sense gives you ‘a right’ to stop someone doing something (you consider to be) foolish? Really?

  51. Julia: If I see someone about to commit suicide, I will stop them. If they’re serious about it, they can have another go when I’m not wandering past. The same applies to someone doing something suicidal with noble intentions.

  52. IanB. Sigh. I think the point SMFS is making is that the welfare state provides a motive, not that it or the law generally contains an absence of proscriptions.

    Philpott did what he did because he thought it would benefit him, not because he thought it was fun and he wouldn’t get caught.

    Just as (on the humdrum rather than outlier side of the system) the mothers in Monty’s post have kids because it will be benefit them.

    Sure, people commit crime for insurance cash and that’s not a reason to do away with insurance.

    But the vast majority of welfare claims for kids don’t involve any crime, or risk to the person involved, just a financial reward for giving birth.

    Plus, my money would be on it being harder to defraud an insurance company than t
    he Benefits Agency or a local authority, for various reasons.

  53. Matthew L: “Julia: If I see someone about to commit suicide, I will stop them. If theyre serious about it, they can have another go when Im not wandering past. “

    So it’s not about their welfare. Its about your feelings?

    Thank you for encapsulating and illustrating the Leftist mindset for us so very neatly… 🙂

  54. I don’t think Matthew’s a leftist. I also think he’s just articulating a basic human instinct; you see someone doing something objectively dangerous, you try to stop them. If they do it when you’re not there you can’t stop them. Seems simple enough, but I don’t live in your ferociously black and white world.

  55. JuliaM: if you saw someone about to commit suicide, would you walk on by? Or would you interfere, but with a more righteous mindset than mine?

  56. So it’s not about their welfare. Its about your feelings?

    How the hell did you get that from what I wrote? Projecting a bit, are we?

  57. IanB, thanks for the link.

    It strikes me that Philpott was basically a low level criminal, and he took the opportunity of abusing the welfare system. Maybe in another life he would have become a burglar and stolen people’s cars or TV sets? So, that is no more an argument against having a welfare system than it is for owning a car or having a TV set in your home.

  58. So Much for Subtlety

    Ian B – “Admittedly, there is no specific clause in the terms of benefits payments denying payout if you set a fire in order to implicate the woman who has left you in order to get the children back. You have me there.”

    That is not the point. The point is that the system itself encourages corruption and moral failings of which this is just an extreme example. We offer people money for being total disasters and naturally their lives become even more disastrous.

    “We might suspect that prohibition of [fraud] in general would cover that, as would the clauses against damaging one

  59. So Much for Subtlety

    Ian B – “Admittedly, there is no specific clause in the terms of benefits payments denying payout if you set a fire in order to implicate the woman who has left you in order to get the children back. You have me there.”

    That is not the point. The point is that the system itself encourages corruption and moral failings of which this is just an extreme example. We offer people money for being total disasters and naturally their lives become even more disastrous.

    “We might suspect that prohibition of [fraud] in general would cover that, as would the clauses against damaging one-s property”

    You might. But it does not. One of the reasons Housing Estates are so vile is that the British State is just a bad landlord. If you trash a privately-held apartment, you will be on the streets. You trash a government-owned one and not only will you not be prosecuted, but they will rehouse you.

    “Yes, that makes sense.”

    A strawman does not make a good argument.

    “As to your last point perhaps we should be asking which Elfinsafety fascists restrained that bloke at the Hindenburg site, too. What right did they have? Besides common sense, that is.”

    People standing by did. Come on Ian, this is a chance to prove your libertarian credentials. If freedom means anything, it means the right to do heroic if stupid things. Why should anyone restrain someone from risking their life if they want to? And H-n-S has a very bad record of forcing people to stand by while preventable deaths occur.

  60. Yes, being a dogmatic libertarian, people certainly do have the right to kill themselves. Being an empathic human on the other hand tends to motivate individuals to try to prevent other people they know getting themselves killed. And when you are an emergency responder, you’re going to be additionally motivated, whether you’re employed by the State or not. Hence for instance as an electrician/engineer, I can’t remember specifically physically restraining somebody from killing themselves, but there have been instances where I told them not to do X because it was dangerous and foolhardy, and they have not done it.

    Which so far as one can tell, is all that the police did since, from what we can tell from the reports, there were more than enough public to overwhelm a few police officers.

    As to your broad brush about council tenants;

    We lived in a council house from when I was 10, and my mother lived there until she died and, like all her neighbours (bar one, story follows) kept the property in good condition. Long after I had left, a bad family moved in a few doors down; fights, appliances in the garden, etc etc. The council went to great efforts to sort them out, and failed, and they were moved on and the nice 3 bedroom house given to a decent family.

    Where were they moved on to? I don’t know. Councils have to deal with the people nobody else will deal with. Perhaps they were dumped in a sink, or put in a hostel. But they lost the nice house.

    And this is what fegging drives me mad about you SMFS; you act like all these problems are recent. Identical families have been described since social commentary began- I believe the word “Hooligan” comes from an infamous family called the O’Halligans. Maybe not, maybe urban myth. But, the Problem of THe Residuum is not new, and there is yet to be a solution found.

    Declaring every council tenant to be similar; declaring that somehow this problem didn’t exist in the past, declaring there was some golden age when there were no hooligans, when for god’s sake you are on the damned web, you can go and download, say, London Labour And The London Poor (1850s) and find Henry sodding Mayhew complaining about precisely the same lifestyles and behaviours among the costermongers; you can do this.

    The welfare state did not create such people. It didn’t start girls getting pregnant out of wedlock- though it may have caused fewer babies to go in the canal- and neither did it initiate young men getting girls pregnant and not taking responsibility. Again, have a read of LLATLP and you’ll find it endemic in the mid nineteenth century.

    And one stupid man with a stupid plan is not representative of anything but stupidity. We may as well hold Jeremy Thorpe- another stupid man with a stupid man- as proof that all Liberal MPs hire hitmen to kill their toyboys.

    “The point is” not any of these grand moral statements. The point is one idiot, and really that’s all.

  61. Errata:

    Jeremey Thorpe was a stupid man with a stupid plan. Discussing whether Norman Scott was a stupid man or not was not part of my plan.

    We moved to the council house (formerly Development Corporation) when I was 14.

  62. Here is an analogy to the Philpott strategy. You might not like the way I say this, but it’s true:

    There have been examples in the past when a jurisdiction has reacted to a problem caused by, for example an infestation of rabbits, by paying people for every dead rabbit they hand in to the pest control stall. All well and good, until you realise that people have started breeding rabbits, to maximise their receipts, because it’s a hell of a lot easier than capturing a diminishing stock of wild rabbits. That thing about getting more of what you pay for.

    Well in Philpott’s case we paid him to mate, and produce live rabbits. We didn’t pay him to raise them right, or provide for their needs and security, all he ever needed to do was breed, and keep custody, of as many offspring as he could. He used them as a cash crop.

    Then he risked part of his cash crop in a bid to capture more, and because he was arrogant and ignorant, it went horribly wrong. Wiped out his assets and entire revenue stream.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *