Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Never Mind The Quality Feel The Quantity

Don't worry comrades - we'll sort out the quality later 

Let's see if we can work out what connects the following.

1. Hampstead demands more welfare

OK, we know these people were only put on earth to wind us up, but sometimes they still manage to hit the spot.

First, His Grace the Archbishop says that making the unemployed work for their welfare benefits would be "unfair", and that such reforms could drive people "into a downward spiral of uncertainty, even despair".

No mention of the unfairness to hard-pressed taxpayers who currently have to support these people, or indeed of the unfairness to the people themselves in failing to help them back into the work habit.

And of course no alternative solutions - other than continuing to pour yet more of that evil money stuff over the problem in the vague hand-wringing hope of divine intervention.

You and I may understand that we've already tried money, and it doesn't work. But His Grace clearly hasn't spotted that his government literally doubled the amount spent on so-called "social protection" to well over £200bn pa, the major part of which goes to working age households (even in real inflation adjusted terms the spend increased by nearly 50%). And yet he doesn't think it odd that we have more working age welfare dependents today than we had back in 1997 - despite the intervening boom. To him, more welfare money is Good, so less must be Bad.

Then this morning the DT's Mary Riddell joined his attack on IDS's reforms:
"IDS believes that dysfunctional lives are the root cause of poverty, while the centre Left thinks, correctly, that the reverse is true...

The shift towards a US-style punitive system, under which the recalcitrant are left to starve, is also ill-starred... The US precedent does not augur well for compelling Britons to get the work habit by enforced manual labour, such as litter-picking and graffiti-scrubbing. But for an orange jacket, those unemployed through no fault of their own will be indistinguishable from criminals. With youth unemployment already running at 17 per cent, the Government risks creating a class of chain-gang conscripts."
Yes, poverty is the root cause of dysfunctional lives, so more welfare is the solution. QED.

2. One teacher good; one thousand teachers better

The excellent Reform have just published a report on teaching. They highlight Labour's huge increase in the number teachers and classroom assistants, such that the ratio of staff to pupils fell dramatically:

The programme was driven by Labour's belief that more teachers had to be A Good Thing.

But as Reform shows, studies of pupil performance find that it's not the number of teachers that matters but their quality. And that's a much more difficult thing to achieve than simply adding more bodies and reducing class sizes.

True, Labour poured money into teacher training and improvement programmes as well (a cool £1.5bn pa), but without any obvious results in terms of quality.


What connects both of these things is the socialist obsession with quantity ahead of quality. From Stalin's famous tractor factories, to the calibration of compassion in terms of welfare spending, the left thinks that Big is always best.


As we've blogged many times (eg here), today's British poor are not poor in any historically meaningful sense of the word. Whereas if you need to see how welfare dependency drives dysfunction you need look no further than Dewsbury (see this blog). If there's any causal link at all, IDS is much closer to reality than dear sweet Mary.

Of course, both the Druid and Riddell are unreconstructed left-wingers of the Hampstead variety, so we shouldn't be overly alarmed. The vast bulk of the population agrees with the IDS reforms - work must be made to pay, and no able bodied person of working age should be able to live on unconditional welfare indefinitely. IDS just needs to ignore the shocked gasps from Hampstead and press on.

At the same time you can't help getting a bit angry. Comfortable middle class people like His Grace and Riddell have inflicted more damage on the poor than any number of profiteering City fatcats. They're the ones who've promoted state welfare over individual responsibility, and they're the ones who've all but destroyed the ladder of educational opportunity up which people like Tyler once scrambled.

Their obsession with quantity has left us with the lethal combination of welfare dependency right alongside dumbed down education.

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