There is a pervasive climate of distrust and resentment of some (not all) working people towards people who for some reason do not work, can not find work or can not work. Depending on the overton window in your particular geographic area, there is variation on how much resentment there is, or what type of resentment. Also, in some cases people who do not at a particular time have some kind of paid employment, for whatever reason, do not get anything like approximating a welfare payment, or don’t qualify. But then we see that people who don’t have access to money are distrusted for being more likely to be “degenerate” (alcohol, drugs come to mind of common prejudices) or themselves somehow “to blame” for their insolvency. Another factor is that people who can not somehow generate sufficient means to live a somewhat acceptable life may in fact resort to activities that range from nuisance (begging, homelessness) to outright crime, ‘socialist’ political activism (which in this case I wrote down here as a form of slander), revolt-type thinking, sabotage or other categories of active nuisance.
Working people have of course a stake in perpetuating and repeating negative stories about people who don’t work. Summarizing, this is because allegedly people without meaningful activities don’t pay in to the system, do not have ‘skin in the game‘ or are somehow compelled to become a nuisance. I am not arguing against or in favour of this opinion, I am just stating as somewhat self-evident fact that employed people clearly have vested interest in blaming or scapegoating jobless people.
As a result the electorate in most developed countries has somewhat excessively used negative narratives, possibly even a degree of slander against the unemployed. This has resulted in the electorate voting accordingly, and as such the legal and judicial systems taken rather extreme and often downright punitive measures against people the unemployed. It varies from country to country how the elderly, retired, disabled, otherwise unemployable are treated but there’s a steadily sliding scale of abuse from people in general, there’s obvious undertones of sexism and racism at work, and I’d qualify the treatment of various sorts of currently or permanently unemployed ranging from resentful to downright sadistic, depending on how well the political system has become weaponized against the “blamed” classes.
I’d argue that most developed countries generate some sort of welfare income for the unemployed. In some countries this is adequate to survive, in some countries there’s even some potential for human dignity but in most developed countries there’s no hint of dignity. Purely as anecdotal personal observation – I’d regard how welfare agencies here in my home country of the Netherlands treat people who file for welfare as intensely and consistently ruthless. There is an active and obvious prejudice here. People who work here consistently act to distrust and if they can somehow chase the person filing for unemployment benefits away from making the claim, they will, more so if the person making the claim has corresponding darker skin pigmentation and/or immigrant backgrounds. I am not putting this up to debate here, it is so obvious that I regard it as factual statement.
Saving money by not having to pay welfare, or conspiring to chase filers away is one thing, but there is also forced work. People who receive welfare benefits are by dutch laws required to make a counter-effort in contributing to society. This kind of forced labour can only be categorized is designed to be unpleasant. Essentially, the municipality involved decides that the “blameworthy” need to become motivated and empowered to work, ‘learn to get out of bed every morning’ and go to work. If welfare recipients selected for this work refuse, or fail in facilitating this regimen they lose benefits, and quite often the mechanism is such designed to make welfare recipients fail, so municipalities can summarily apply punitive measures. However the municipality is cautious not to in that manner end up with large sections of the population becoming homeless, which would in effect worsen the real or suspected nuisance these people would incur on working or “not blameworthy” or “blameless” people.
There is clearly a mechanism that the outrage and resentment of the working section of the population “hydraulically” translates in to votes, and this causally translates in to said punitive measures. And then to consider than in many or most countries beyond the Netherlands welfare is lower (i.e., less dignified) the back to work programs are decidedly more callous, and the hatred of working people is even more acidic or even organized in racist or hate lobbies.
It bears mentioning that forced labour programs (some may go as far as call these slavery) cost society and the community a lot of money. Consequently, there is a factual and verifiable causal chain that connects anger towards the unemployed to the degree the municipality of government is willing to generate apparatuses of “encouragement” of the unemployed. I place the word encouragement between euphemistic brackets, because I do not believe there’s encouragement here – there’s just a political overton spectrum of what is regarded as normative or even acceptable to inflict on the unemployed. In the US that most certainly entails the use of the prison industrial complex to purposefully make the unemployed do something that’s meticulously designed to grab them from the streets, or some activity that has been weaponized by labeling it as a crime (such as the war on drugs, which is universally racist) and then sniping off the habitually or systemically unemployed and then carting them off to prison. Essentially, the state gets a carte blanche by the working (or otherwise having an income) electorate where the electorate votes in a manner that creates laws or judicial contraptions to cart people of to prison, so ‘they are out of everybody’s hair’ so to speak. And this denuisansing of society is costly, arguably significantly more costly than giving each of these people a dignified welfare. Locking up someone in the US costs more than all costs a person makes studying at a good business school or university. But we do not do that. We do not seek to somehow -both- increase the universal well-being of the unemployed person as well as doing whatever it takes to make that person a meaningful member of society. Instead we make them do horrible jobs, either as “reactivation” or we lock em up in a seriously dangerous and violent environment. And then we go around making (in the US specifically) that such person now faces a risk of extreme sexual abuse, but let’s not get in to that.
It is very hard to decouple the willingness of the state to become an instrument of vindictiveness. I have dealt with people who do this vindictiveness work at municipalities and I believe we are clearly seeing severe signs of “stanford prison experiment psychopathy“, as well as a severe state of what I’d label milgram psychopathy with these civil servants. I thus state it as fact that in most developed countries people paid for by tax dollars are routinely subjected to work where cruelty is so baked in to the assigned tasks these people become in mere weeks subject to a diagnosis of abusive disorders such as lack of empathy, sadism, delegation of perceived responsibility for mechanisms that are clearly meant to inculcate suffering. I will refrain from degenerating in to Godwin’s law territory.
The point of this article is the assertion that after a certain number of months or years, someone who for some reason (which can be due to personal responsibility in some cases, yes yes) needs welfare benefits nearly irreversibly damaged. I’ll stick to analyzing this for my country, and yes my perceived narratives are mostly anecdotal, but I can only state that the subjects involved were of a consistent nature, thus perceived over many cases if not universal. Reasons why people do not work for long times tend to be wayyy to often attributable to how society responds to specific individuals to begin with. Personal appearance, gender, race, family backgrounds, unacknowledged disability, undiagnosed diseases, mental states, history of abuse, etc. etc. all contribute to people either not working, not being able to work (and still having to qualify for welfare as opposed to disability) or downright giving up on work.
So we can safely say that we have a society wide instrument fueled by electoral resentment, which is completely useless in getting people back to work (unless we include slave labour in US prisons in the equation, but I hardly regard slavery as a government policy worth debating) and as a side effect worsens the state of the welfare recipient as to become even more unable to work. I have not met people who were on welfare longer than five years (out of thousands) who did not have at least occasionally suicidal ideation, or needed and received psychiatric care, or needed and received antidepressants. Or, to complete the list of pathologies, who didn’t end up self-medicating in some manner, either with alcoholism or other types of drug use.
Can society politely request of people who receive welfare benefits to take some sort of reciprocal activity (meaningful volunteer work comes to mind) but what if this for some reason does not happen or simply isn’t possible? How far do you go exacting sanctioned state retribution to publicly validate that we need some form of welfare to begin with, and that “if we do not give them welfare we’ll probably end up paying more money through prisons, law enforcement and judicial apparatuses”. We can agree we rather not live in a society where the state lets vulnerable people just die, such as happened several times in the UK, rather than offer them disability or welfare. Societies that cruel are clearly losing appeal to the golden rule and maybe its citizens are within their rights to actively resist such regimens.
The question before me then is, does the right have a duty to varying degrees of easing discomfort in some unconsolable members of its citizenry. And I believe, yes the state has that duty, universally. Yes the state must pick up people with sickness and return them to health, in varying degrees. If someone is dying of tuberculosis in the street it isn’t only the risk of infection spreading that makes the modern state institutionally care for such a person – it’s also that we as human beings are elevated by a sense of empathy. We are moral beings who are bound to care for vulnerability, regardless of what negative stereotypes or caricatures we can foist upon such people.
In the past I concluded such polemics with a polite and reasoned argument for basic income, but I won’t go there for now.
What I will however conclude with is the statement that (a) there’s clear scientific evidence that people over the equivalent income of “about” 15000 euro purchase value, become more outspoken in their political and societal beliefs. One might say, if a person suddenly generates or receives money to the degree of 15 thousand euro purchase power they “get an ego”, “they start actively defending their interests”, or their “emancipate”.
It is no surprise than that welfare hovers decidedly below the mean empowerment level. Consequently, those in welfare are likelier to succumb to despair, get sick, degrade to habitual self-harm, gravitate to mental disease. They can’t help it. Nearly every human being would exhibit the same pathologies if subjected to similar and similarly inescapable ordeals. We can vomit paternalisms, accusations, negative stereotypes, thinly veiled racism, self-validating criticism or outright threats of violence over the people enmeshed in lifelong welfare but that is not going to solve the mess we have created.
Yes, as a civilized society we HAVE to give people at least some income, or they pathologize in a range of manners. And yes, if we end up cultivating a large contingent of people in welfare (disability, pension, etc) traps, we are cultivating a subsection of the populace we will find very difficult to reintegrate again in to meaning, self love, productivity, a sense of belonging, self-respect or ability to contribute. Not having welfare is scandalous and unacceptable. But leaving people on welfare for years on end is probably just as senseless. But then additionally tormenting those people in all sorts of additional and a quite expensive state vindictiveness industrial complex is tantamount to society actively damaging itself.
So what you might so, it’s only 5% of the employable population at most, or even “only” one tenth of the population in times of economic downturn. You might argue “omelette and eggs” with regards to the precious fruits of capitalism, or you might argue, “that’s the cost of how this system works and works so well”, some win, some lose.
But then I politely invite you to entertain the notion that in coming few decades we will see a fast worsening of the quality of available jobs, as well as a fast decrease in available jobs, as well as an ultra-fast increase of divisions in society. This is the moment I feel at easy using metaphors of titanics and icebergs. We no longer need to have all these people do often nonsensical work. We as a society waste resources and the future is set for society to have more and more resources and human potential actively sabotaged by this system as technological unemployment progresses. Jobs will pay less, they will become increasingly dull and unpleasant, work stress will increase and availability of jobs will be likely to be substantially more difficult. So more people will be competing for unpleasant jobs, and hey will go on in this insane bidding war of academic degrees contrivances. No your local barrista does not need a university degree in people servicing to do her job, she needs a humane income, dammit.
And it’s dangerous. Ask yourself, what would a society look like where over the years the cohort of precariat and the outcast hordes of welfare recipients has swelled. It’s already far worse out there than most employed people dare to acknowledge in anything but hushed whispers. It has begun folks.
So what do we do? No I won’t repeat my basic income mantra, because basic income as an instrument is not implementable in the current political ambiance, and even less so in the resulting dystopian, oligrachical mess we may wander in to.
No, what I am saying is this – if you are currently ’employed’ in the industrial complex of exacting state revenge on these people I’d say watch your back. Yes these are fighting words. Because you will be hard on your way already to the twin of respective milgram and stanford prison experiments sway. You may have been thrust in to a mission that’s set to become the most universally hated one in developed western society. Because if this flips due to technological unemployment, and if the overton window slides in to a format that would have large cohorts of the unemployed to start voting in a manner congruent with their actual needs and feelings, you may be in for a rough ride and it’s debatable if that future society will treat you with anything approximating the lack of mercy you have been led to inflict on your clients.