The welfare state and social solidarity

After the Jessica Gilbey episode, more evidence that (depending how you look at) shared participation in the welfare state is the basis of social solidarity, or that welfare hand-outs bring out the ugly, grasping, envy-ridden side of human nature:

“The fact that I’ve fallen through the cracks has absolutely destroyed me,” says Melbourne documentary maker Kerry.

“The most annoying thing is feeling like I’m the only one, like everyone else is getting it but me,” says PhD student Chris.

“Self-funded” retiree Stuart is more measured: “I was disappointed in as much as the Government loves to advertise the good bits but I think they keep the nasty bits away from you. I could have done with it for repairs to our home,” he said.

Genuinely self-funded citizen Andrew of Carlton did not receive the $900, and was not interviewed for the article, but if he had been he would have said that he was glad not to have further added to Australia’s already far-too-high budget deficit.

5 thoughts on “The welfare state and social solidarity

  1. The second one makes me especially cringe when I think about all those subsidies that have be given to the same in-group of Australian film makers who inevitably, year after year, make those awful “white-trash aussie-bloke does good” films that nobody ever wants to watch.
    Funnily enough, one of my English friends had a very similar comment, and pointed out that Aardman studios never received any grants from the British equivalent grant funding agency, despite everybody actually liking their films.


  2. “[W]elfare hand-outs bring out the ugly, grasping, envy-ridden side of human nature” – Whilst I don’t agree with the complaints of these people, especially Kerry who thinks he has fallen through the cracks (despite having, probably, chosen to be a documentary film maker and thereby accepting an irregular income), I don’t think it is fair to level it down to the welfare state as bringing out “the ugly, grasping, envy-ridden side of human nature”. Sometimes it may do that, but even if we didn’t have the semi-welfare state we have in Australia (I say “semi” because I have lived in England and have noticed that half of Melbourne is not council flats like London hence we are not a real welfare state!), the same emotions could be brought out in a fully free market system where sometimes people benefit through family background, pure luck etc. I suppose though what you’re getting at is the sense of entitlement, which I agree is a big problem. But then again these problems exist outside the welfare state, such as the sense of entitlement that Sir Fred Goodwin has for his 16 million GBP pension – He did no more to earn that than a recipient of a $900 government handout.


  3. Kyrstian – I agree that if God was rewarding virtue in life, nobody would get the money in these examples. But Goodwin did at least have an agreement to exchange his services for money, albeit a ridiculous sum.


  4. True, he did have an agreement. But I don’t think having an agreement makes him any more entitled to that 16 million GBP than somebody who has no agreement but because of government decisions misses out on $900. An agreement is just a legal instrument that confers rights, doesn’t give legitimacy. In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be the $900 handout or most other such handouts, nor the 16 million GBP pension. I am just arguing that we shouldn’t be singling out people who feel a sense of entitlement because of the welfare state, because the sense of entitlement is also a product of the wider society we live in – It’s also a product of the free market as it is the welfare state.


  5. The main issue is actually bad targeting. There are two components in the targeting, measurement and policy.

    Choosing a taxable income range of $1-80,000 is easy to do because the ATO has a list available. Is taxable income the best way to measure?

    I would argue that it is probably too simplistic a measure. Both my parents earn well over $100K, but salary sacrifice close to the maximum $50K into super (being 55+). Therefore their taxable income ended up under $80K and they get the full $900 each.

    The policy assumption is that the government assumed that everyone who pays no tax qualified for $$$ as unemployed or on YA or pension. This suggests it was done in a rush and without consulting a broad enough group of people. The question that should be asked of Swan/Rudd/Gillard/Tanner is:
    Did the government intentionally exclude people who earn income but pay no tax or was it just careless policy? (along the lines of the cash to overseas pensioners last time)

    I find the former PhD student enlightening. Having received about $60K of scholarship money, its unfair that everyone who actually paid tax (to fund scholarship) is getting some of their money back.

    Maybe the government should have called it a “retrospective tax refund” by retrospectively raising the tax-free threshold by X and lowering the thresholds above $80K or so. Is the sense of entitlement just due to bad branding?


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