I loathe to talk about the practical outworkings of left-wing policies rather than the principals behind them, as if they would somehow be right as long as they worked in practice. But on this occasion I can’t let the occasion pass to comment on how unjustified, even practically, they are in the first instance.

Let me share with you where I am coming from. One of the greatest arguments used against libertarianism (which incorporates the belief that individuals should NOT be taxed for the redistribution of wealth) is that there are poor people in our society who would starve, get sick, die, etc. if those who earn money by working were not taxed to distribute to them. Apart from the fact that principal ALONE should not allow such a breach of individual liberty, it is clear to me that, even practically, such a policy cannot be justified. The government’s job is not to be Robin Hood in the first place, nor should its sphere of influence and control extend nearly so far, but on a practical level also, the only lasting results of such action is negative.

Since the age of 8, I have lived in a middle-class suburban area within 2 miles of what is historically a poverty-stricken region – this particular part of North Belfast has on many occasions been ranked among the poorest in Europe. Many of my friends and close acquaintances are from the area, and two of my churches. The unemployment rate is one of the highest in the UK. So, I have first-hand experience of how the ‘poor’ live. And it is clear to me, after many many years, that this is NOT poverty. I have been waiting for proof from someone, somewhere (preferably government) that there is little or no REAL poverty in the United Kingdom today. And lo and behold, the government yesterday revealed their new measures of poverty (since clearly the old measures, ie. disease, lack of food, lack of clothes etc.) have already been eradicated. And you won’t believe what the new measures are.

Bear in mind, please, that the government is justifying FORCEABLE COERCION of the wallet – that the fruits of the labour of folks who are bothered to get up and work everyday can be taken by force – to GIVE to those who are in ‘poverty’; ie. those who do NOT meet the following criteria:

1) That they have enough money for 2 pairs of all-weather shoes for EACH ADULT

2) That they have enough money to keep their home in a decent state of repair

3) That they have enough money for A HOLIDAY AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR AWAY FROM HOME, NOT staying with relatives!!

4) That they have enough money for NEW FURNITURE if the old is worn-out

5) That they have enough money for extra leftover money AFTER spending on all essentials, ie. food, clothing, etc.)

6) That they have enough money for regular savings of at least 10 GBP A MONTH

7) That they have enough money for a home insurance policy

8) That they have enough money to have friends and family for meals at least once a month

9) That they have enough money to pursue hobbies and leisure activities

10) That they have enough money to repair broken electrical goods, or to BUY NEW

And there are separate criteria for kids, which conclude that they are poor if they can’t afford leisure equipment (eg. a bicycle), enough bedrooms for every child over ten of different sex to have his or her own bedroom, or school trips.

Remarkable.

‘Poverty’ is beginning to sound quite alluring. The government are willing to steal (ie. to take forceably without one’s consent) from those who work hard to support themselves and their familes, to GIVE IT AWAY to those who can’t afford a holiday away from home AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR without resorting to staying with relatives. (How awful that you would have to stay with relatives.)

So let me first tell you about the practical outworking of this definition of ‘poverty’ in the ‘poverty-stricken’ area of Lower North Belfast. The parents could work, but they are better looked-after staying at home as they will get welfare, child benefit, DLA, DSS, and tax credits. They could buy their own house, but it is better to get one ‘for free’ (ie. stolen from the taxpayer) from the goverment. If they were forced to work, they may not be able to afford the pair of Nikes, the Levi’s (at over 50 GBP a pair), the widescreen television, the DVD collection, or the mini-SUV. Their kids may not have gotten the Playstation, bedroom TV, or the free meals at school everyday. So they stay at home, and collect weekly from those who are working ON THEIR BEHALF.

What this does is to create two entirely separate groups of people – group A who work hard to earn what they can to support themselves, and sometimes enjoy luxury – and group B who fall into the government’s ‘poverty’ category, do not work, have NO INCENTIVE to work, and raise their children to feel completely ENTITLED to the fruits of other people’s labour. This is dishonest, immoral and the results of flawed principal.

I am absolutely convinced, from first-hand experience above all else, that we are not seeing much REAL poverty in the UK today. What we DO see a lot of is people who are irresponsible and cannot bear to live within their means – who want to keep up with the Jones’s, so to speak. This sense of entitlement is born DIRECTLY from a leftist, socialist-leaning political agenda.

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APPENDIX: I thought I would spend a couple of moments before I stop writing to set out the practical outworking of a LIBERTARIAN philosophy of government – so you can contrast it with the above, which is what we are experiencing now under semi-socialist leftism.

Children would be born into a world where it is normal and expected that you must work to earn a living. They would NOT have a way to rely on other people, except either a) by the charity of others, or b) by the support of their families. Tax would be almost non-existent so enterprise would be everywhere. Employment would be in plentiful supply. There would be a niche for everyone, and they would have 99% of what they earn to themselves to invest in whatever they choose. As teens finish education age, they would instantly join at a pay level they can get, and work their way up. People would have to live within their means. Retail prices would be low, as lack of sales tax and the free market keep them competitive. Prosperity would abound, as it is created by the actions of free individuals (as we are seeing in all regions of the world where capitalism has had a chance). People would be free to do whatever they wanted, so long as it did not infringe on the actions of other individuals.

Even if there were no principals to consider at all (which there are!) …. which one of the above sounds better to you??? Which one of them is more likely to eradicate REAL poverty?

(Please feel free to email me at john-wright@ntlworld.com on this or any other posts.)