Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world


The different views about “reform” of the benefit system are confusing. There is no certainty about the impact and the arguments seem to reflect in-built beliefs. The churches are all about charity and love, so most condemn the changes. And almost everybody is against harming those who are in real need. On the other side, people with a work-ethic support the changes. They believe that there are substantial numbers who could and should find work. They believe that such people are a drag on society and a waste of resources. I am writing a book about the mediaeval poem Piers Plowman, and it’s quite obvious that in 1350 nobody could sort out those who deserved help from those who did not. Nor can we. Nothing changes.

It worries me to reflect that home influence is so very powerful. A child accepts what it finds. I was brought up by two doctors and acquired values accordingly. If I had been born into a house where nobody had worked for two generations – and saw no reason to start -I would have thought the same, and had the same values. I would have resented any diminution of what I regarded as my rights. Changing that culture would obviously be good for the people themselves and for the nation, but it’s a huge task. Education for a start. My wife was a schoolteacher and was once told by a pupil from a ‘deprived’ background, “My Dad gets far more money than you do”. While that seems important to a child, the alleged value of education is easily ignored. One of the motivation theorists claimed that in order for something to be worked for, two conditions must be met. The thing must be (a) desired and (b) attainable.

My in-built attitudes make me favour the reforms. A more academic argument is that any change opens the door to future changes. It breaks the pattern, gets people thinking and perhaps altering their habits. If the present reforms don’t work out quite how the government wants, they will at least be a pointer to strategies that might work. There will be more evidence and different threads in the argument. Whenever you take a step away from your present position, you find you are seeing the world from a slightly different angle. That can be very helpful


  1. I approach this from a diferent perspective. At the moment UK plc is broke. In the same way that you can not continually live on debt as an individual neither can the country. There are a lot of ‘benefits’ that we have been able to have as a society because the country was generating sufficient wealth. That situation no longer exists so we need to cut back not just as a country but as individual households. Remenber it was not so long ago that the country did not have unemployment benefit or any of the other financial measure which we now have.

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