Demonising the feckless few

In criticising the UK government’s workfare policy, which will see the long-term unemployed forced to carry out 30 hours of physical labour a week in return for their girocheques, Chris Dillow exposes a favourite rhetorical device of our political masters. Specifically, politicians highlight a small truth – e.g., tiny numbers of workshy dole scroungers – in order to obscure much a larger one – the structural causes of unemployment.

“But policy shouldn’t be based on rhetorical tricks.”

One of the unwritten rules of bourgeois politics is that basing policy on rhetorical tricks serves the interests of politicians and political factions. Evidence-based policymaking, where it exists at all, has to function within this sorry framework, and the more canny evidence-based policymakers know how to manipulate their rhetoric-abusing colleagues so as to give evidence-based policy proposals a running chance.

The problem is that low expectations are central to any evidence-based policymaking strategy. Just as they are to long-term benefits claimants who have become virtually unemployable, and are for this reason an embarrassment to the ruling classes.

The ‘feckless’ few cannot be blamed for defending their interests against those of the state, whether the latter be Tory or Labour-controlled.