Iain Duncan Smith is busy championing another perverse ‘logic’ in an attempt to justify the occurrence of many people living below acceptable levels of subsistence. For Smith, providing extra money for those near such low levels of subsistence can sometimes make the situation worse:
So, this narrative goes, a family living in poverty one day would wake up free from it the next, simply by a money transfer. Yet any right minded person must know that it needs more than that to set someone free. Something else in their lives needs to change. Ask yourself this: what happens to the children of a drug addict if you increase their welfare payments? Is their family really pulled out of poverty? When you measure the effect on real life outcomes, the extra money may actually have made things worse. You have failed to tackle the root cause of the problem – the damaging addiction. Unless something changes in the adult’s life, nothing changes for the child.
It’s a clear, desperate attempt to sooth the conscience. Money isn’t the cure per se, but money is a central reason for why so much inequality and social, political and environmental problems occur. Or more specifically, the actual relations that frame money transactions and the way money is constructed is the problem. For instance, oil itself has become a currency – it governs the capitalist relations, when oil runs out say if Saudi faces democratic protests and the cost of oil goes up, or if Saudi’s projections of how much oil they have is, as it is said to be, exaggerated – then the neoliberal global system the elite rely on is set for a radical challenge.
Looking at Smith’s arguments closely, it’s clear he conflates cause and effect. In attempting to justify taking money away from drug users he argues that doing so will actually help them get out of their habits (essentially why the government plans to take benefits away from those who don’t stop taking drugs when the government says so), that the reason for why they have a drug habit is because we are giving them more money. His ‘root’ cause is the addiction itself.
When in fact, poverty itself is often the source of the addiction; and the current source of this is neoliberalism. Furthermore, taking away someone’s benefits can actually make the situation ten times worse. Instead of treating drug users as criminals, we should see it through a medical perspective. We should recognise the values that inform our drug system’s stratification, where harmful drugs such as alcohol and smoking are part of our culture even though they are often more dangerous. The “something else” that Smith is talking about is explicitly ignored. In this perverse logic, it is assumed that poverty itself will help remove the addiction. Smith talks about seeing the situation in a more complex way, but his reductive logic that providing people more money is the source of problems such as drugs, is illogical.
However, excessive money is a problem. But not for those at the bottom struggling to survive. It’s a problem when we have greed, profit and illogicality governing our political economic system; this belief that cutting bonuses, taxing the banks and radically reforming such institutions so that they are democratic is a ‘threat’ to our existence is also illogical. Well, it might be a threat to those who wish to prevail the status quo, but for the most, especially those that Smith is stigmatising, it can make all the difference. This society is polarised, and it is only getting worse. Smith and the government are focusing upon the wrong people. This perverse mentality that those at the bottom are to blame is infuriating.
Such ‘logic’ is the epitome of what is wrong with this government’s direction. Such conflation of cause and effect and simplistic acontextual arguments are damaging. The problems we have in society are a lot more complex than throwing money at people, yes. However, we can’t deny that many people live below acceptable levels of income whilst many at the top are living like aristocrats. This has to stop. Blaming the poor through some sort of discursive destruction has to stop.