Archive for April 28th, 2012

I’ve occasionally commented on foolish public policy in the United Kingdom, including analysis on how the welfare state destroys lives and turns people into despicable moochers.

But if you really want to understand the horrifying absurdity of the welfare state, check out these passages from  a report in the Daily Mail.

Carl Cooper thought he was doing a public service by offering seven benefits claimants the chance to work for him. But the company boss was flabbergasted when none of them turned up on the first day. Astonishingly, not a single one even had the courtesy to tell the marketing firm boss they would not be coming in. Mr Cooper and other staff members called the new employees to ask them where they were. Initially, some refused to answer their phones  when they recognised the number calling them. When the staff finally got through, five said they would be better off staying on state benefits rather than doing the commission-based work. Four of the seven also claimed  torrential rain had put them off.

Wow. Five out of seven admitted that mooching off the taxpayers was a better way to live. What does that tell us about the over-generosity of handouts?

Let’s continue.

Mr Cooper, who runs Car Smart, a marketing firm for independent car dealers in Canterbury, Kent, criticised the benefits system and said it rewarded people for doing nothing. He added: ‘I was left stunned when none of the new recruits turned up for work. They are a bunch of workshy layabouts. ‘These are people who are so morally twisted that they would rather stay on the dole than work. ‘People keep saying there are not enough jobs in the UK but the real problem is that there are not enough determined or ambitious people. ‘The benefit system is too generous and encourages the unemployed to stay unemployed and just breeds more laziness.’

But it’s even worse than Mr. Cooper realizes. He’ll still be paying these people, but in the form of taxes that then get redistributed to subsidize idleness.

You might think the moochers would lose their benefits because they chose laziness over work, but you would be wrong.

Mr Cooper said all his employees received a basic retainer of £100 a week initially and are enrolled on to the company’s commission structure, which could see earnings rise to up to £400 a week. The jobseekers who failed to turn up will not lose their benefits because the basic pay is under the minimum wage.

I found the above story via Kyle Smith, who also cites a story from the Times about a crazy proposal to have bureaucrats scrub floors and serve as human alarm clocks for the welfare class.

Town hall officials have been told to get down on their hands and knees and “clean the floors” of the homes they visit under David Cameron’s Troubled Families programme. They have also been urged to turn up at family homes at 7am if necessary to get parents out of bed and children ready for school on time. The orders were issued by the programme head, Louise Casey… “I want to see people rolling up their sleeves and getting down and cleaning the floors if that is what needs to be done. If a family needs to be shown how to heat up a pizza, show them how to do it. If it takes going round three times a week at 7am to get Mum up, then do it.”

I would have included a link to the underlying story, but the Times has the most incompetently designed website I’ve ever encountered (presumably because they want to charge, but they don’t even give you a chance to click on the story and then pay).

Anyhow, I have three quick reactions to this bit of foolishness.

1. I’d like to see the head bureaucrat, Ms. Casey, spend a month scrubbing floors and waking people up at 7:00 a.m. She strikes me as the typical leftist clown, sitting in an office enjoying a cushy and overpaid job while dreaming up absurd ideas on how to waste taxpayer money. Maybe if she gets her hands dirty by “rolling up [her] sleeves,” she’ll learn the difference between blackboard theorizing and the real world.

2. My gut reaction is that the government should cut the handouts to these dysfunctional households. For every day the welfare bums aren’t up on time to get their kids to school, they lose 10 percent of their loot. If their floors are dirty, that’s another 10 percent. If you want to change their behavior, start cutting into the budget for cigarettes and booze.

3. More realistically, we’re dealing with a problem of people who have little if any self-respect, and they pass horrible habits to their children. Kicking them off the dole might wake up some of them, but I suspect more than a few of them are past the point of no return. Society would probably be better off if their kids were put in foster homes, but I’m sure government would screw that up as well.

Stories like this leave me increasingly convinced that the only good approach is radical decentralization. Get these programs out of capital cities like Washington and London. The U.S. welfare reform was a decent start, but get responsibility to the local level. And in cities, put neighborhoods in charge. Have those small communities in charge of raising the money and spending the money.

That approach is far more likely to generate good ideas and good solutions, though I confess I’m pessimistic about anything working.

But we should figure out ways to stop inter-generational poverty and welfare. I gather it’s considered bad form to suggest mandatory birth control for welfare recipients, so has anyone proposed a different approach that might work?

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My Foreign Bathroom Adventures

I like to think I’m not particularly stupid. Indeed, a left-wing writer recently said I was “relatively intelligent.”

And even though I have a Ph.D., I also like to think I have a decent level of common sense.

But I am constantly humbled by foreign bathrooms. My most recent challenge occurred this morning in Bratislava, when I took a shower. Here’s a picture of the shower controls. Maybe it’s obvious to you how they work, but it took me a couple of minutes of random turning and twisting before I got the shower running at an appropriate temperature.

That was just the beginning of my adventure. I then realized, when my shower was finished, that I didn’t know how to turn everything off. So I spent another couple of minutes randomly fiddling with the two knobs (alternatively pelting myself with freezing or scalding water) before it stopped running.

I had a similar episode last week in Zürich. I was in my room and had to use the bathroom to recycle some diet soda. As I was standing there, doing my business, I noticed that the toilet had a couple of strange devices inside the bowl. I then noticed that the inside of the toilet lid had a couple of pictures showing how the devices would wash and then dry one’s nether regions. I didn’t think to snap a picture, but I perused the Internet and it was something like this, but had a drying nozzle as well.

It occurred to me, after I was done, that it might be dangerous to flush because water might come shooting up at me. And even if I stood to the side while flushing, I didn’t want to risk getting water all over the bathroom.

There were no written instructions, not even in German. So, after pondering the matter for a while, I realized that the safest option would be to sit down and then flush.

So with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation, I did just that. You can imagine the anti-climatic feeling I got when nothing happened. No whirring, no buzzing, no jets of water, no dryer. The toilet flushed, and that was it.

But that wasn’t the end of the matter. I’m one of those people who has to touch when I see a “Wet Paint” sign, so I was curious to experience this high-tech device.

So I spent several minutes trying to figure out how the damn thing operated. European toilets often have two flush controls, one being for light jobs and the other for heavy jobs (I’m trying to be delicate). But it didn’t matter which one I flushed.

I thought that perhaps the controls only worked if some sort of sensor could tell you were sitting down (and using the heavy-duty flush control at the same time). But that didn’t work.

So I failed in my mission. Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t ask the hotel how it worked, but I couldn’t think of a non-embarrassing way of saying, “hey, I want to try your fancy wash-and-dry toilet, so can someone come up and show me how it works?”

But I still have stops in Vienna and Kiev before returning to the United States, so perhaps I’ll get another opportunity to demonstrate by bathroom naiveté.

P.S. If you’re missing the public policy commentary you normally find on my blog, one of my goals in Slovakia is to convince the new socialist government not get to rid of the flat tax. Sadly, I think it’s a lost cause, just like in the Czech Republic (where taxpayers are getting betrayed by a supposedly right-of-center government).

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