To encourage people to take personal responsibility

The Tories are all excited about a new way to shred the remaining social safety net. The UK could become even more like the US! Where an illness can make you homeless in an instant!

David Cameron is prepared to look at making workers pay into flexible saving accounts to fund their own sick pay or unemployment benefits, Downing Street has confirmed.

The idea was first floated by Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, who said he was “very keen” to have a debate about encouraging people to use personal accounts to save for unemployment or illness, even though it is not official government policy.

Sure. Fuck unions, fuck collective bargaining, fuck benefits, fuck pensions and socialized health care – just have everybody fund their own, because everybody has plenty of leftover money. Life is fair! Everybody is rich! We can all kick back and relax while pouring champagne over our heads.

Asked about the idea of workers saving up for their sickness and unemployment benefits, Cameron’s official spokeswoman confirmed he was prepared to consider such a model.

“I think the PM shares the work and pensions secretary’s view that we should be doing more to encourage people to take personal responsibility for how they manage their affairs,” she said.

Because people who aren’t paid very much are so irresponsible. Take teachers for instance – they don’t make very much. It’s irresponsible of them not to be bankers instead. Everybody knows bankers make lots of money! So anyone who decides to do something that pays less than that is being irresponsible. Let’s punish them.

The proposal of fortune accounts for the UK was examined in depth in a paper by the free market libertarian Adam Smith Institute thinktank in 1995, which looked at how people could go to a single private provider for an account that gave them long-term care insurance, disability cover, health insurance, savings fund management and unemployment insurance.

This paper suggested: “Many other things that we often regard as ‘welfare’ today are also insurable and will be part of the fortune account package. Cover against incapacity to work, long-term care services, and disability, will all be in the package.”

And you know what else? These will be bank accounts, so bankers will get even more pay. And since everyone will be a banker by then, because it’s irresponsible not to be, everyone will get hugely richer. Win win!

Emma Lewell-Buck, a Labour member of the Commons work and pensions committee, said it was “the latest signal that the Tories are determined to dismantle what is left of our country’s safety net”.

She added: “People don’t choose when to fall ill, and the right to sick pay guarantees people financial security if they are unlucky enough to be too ill to work. Under the scheme the Tories are proposing, that security would disappear.

“David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith can cope just fine without sick pay but, for millions of British people, it provides essential support and peace of mind. As always, it’s the most disadvantaged who are in the firing line under the Tories.”

Only because they’re so irresponsible. Responsible people take good care not to be disadvantaged.


  1. says

    Responsible people are not only not disadvantaged, they are all entirely self-made. Sure, maybe they inherited a pile of money, or got a good education or start from middle class or wealthy parents, but their accomplishments are all utterly by dint of their meritorious actions.

  2. sarah00 says

    What are we paying National Insurance for if it’s not for benefits should we need them?

  3. sambarge says

    You would think it would be electoral suicide but the Conservatives were just re-elected so… The “first past the post” electoral system means that you can have a majority government with a minority of voters. Also, I’ll remind you that Margaret Thatcher was remarkably unpopular and never lost an election.

    It makes me despair for Canada and our Federal election this fall.

  4. thephilosophicalprimate says

    But the rhetoric of “taking responsibility” does appeal to people’s natural cognitive biases. It’s the Just World Fallacy in another form: If people aren’t able to cope financially with a sudden illness, it’s because THEY messed up. They must have done *something* wrong or something bad wouldn’t be happening to them — so, obviously, they are failing to take responsibility.

    Really, it’s the same cognitive bias that leads people to accept the ludicrous notion that misfortune or disease is divine punishment for people’s misdeeds, just given an economic instead of religious spin. Yes, it’s obviously absurd and clearly false — but it plays to our natural prejudices, because the opposite view presents us a picture of the world which is too horrible for us to admit its truth: The natural world is uncaring and bad shit happens to people through no genuine fault of their own all the time, and the social and economic world we share has many institutional injustices built into it.

  5. Dunc says

    What are we paying National Insurance for if it’s not for benefits should we need them?

    Exactly. I mean, the clue is in the frickin’ name. And somehow I don’t expect to either stop paying my NI contributions, or get a refund on my existing contributions, should this idea ever come to fruition…

    But hey, this could open up a whole new world of opportunities for the financial sector to hoover up people’s cash.

    I think that trying to bring in such a scheme in the UK would be electoral suicide.

    You’d think, but somehow I’m not so sure. Enough people seem to be lapping this shit up, and there’s no sign of any actual opposition from Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. (Except here in Scotland, but who gives a toss what we think?)

  6. iknklast says

    Your comment about irresponsible not to be bankers reminds me of a conversation I had recently with my younger sister. We both teach – she teaches high school, I teach college, but we are both underpaid. Her comment? Teachers chose to be teachers.

    This is such a logical fallacy I don’t know where to start. Bankers choose to be bankers. Football players choose to be football players. Doctors choose to be doctors. That is not used as an excuse for underpaying these roles; in fact, you will hear people say that we pay them well so we can attract the best. But the same people say that paying teachers well won’t attract the best teachers. Why? Taxpayer money, that’s why (though it never seems to stop anyone from giving enormous salaries to football coaches. Check out Bob Stoops of OU if you want a good example of a public school employee who is paid well).

    I would counter with the fact that the job should be paid based on its value to society. We sort of do that – money making value, for instance, is why the football stars are so well paid. Doctors are considered valuable, lawyers are considered valuable, and CEOs are considered valuable. Teachers, who are the ones who train all the above, are not considered valuable, at least not since it became identified as a “woman’s field”.

  7. lorn says

    The Lake Woebegone effect, apparently, also works in England. Because this guy obviously thinks everyone is financially above average.

    After reading that I’m thinking that all responsible citizens of England will be doing the responsible thing, and getting that fool out of office ASAP, and keeping him as far away from any responsible position as possible.

  8. Dunc says

    After reading that I’m thinking that all responsible citizens of England will be doing the responsible thing, and getting that fool out of office ASAP

    They just re-elected him for another 5 years, and with a working majority this time.

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