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Another bout of indignation dysentery

Everyone is very, very cross. The welfare reform minister, Lord Freud, has caused outrage for saying that some disabled people are “not worth the minimum wage”.

Spoken without tact but with truth. Some of our fellow human beings are incapable of doing work that is worth anyone’s while to pay six pounds and fifty pence per hour to have done.

Freud had been responding to a question from David Scott, a Tory councillor from Tunbridge Wells. Scott had said: “The other area I’m really concerned about is obviously the disabled. I have a number of mentally damaged individuals, who to be quite frank aren’t worth the minimum wage, but want to work. And we have been trying to support them in work, but you can’t find people who are willing to pay the minimum wage.

While it is certainly true that many people with a disability also have abilities or dispositions that allow them equal or surpass as workers their able-bodied and able-minded colleagues – it is also certainly true that many others, sadly, don’t. This is particularly often the case for the mentally disabled. Long ago, I was a teacher. I saw some sad sights, few sadder than the dawning awareness in a child’s eyes that he or she would never be able to do all that “the others” could.

Still, people are resilient. Such a child might very well grow up to be quite capable of sharing and rejoicing in the dignity of work – real work for real employers, not charity – were it not illegal. Only those whose labour is worth more than £6.50 an hour are allowed to sell it. Those less able are compelled by law to be unemployed.

We have these spasms every few years. Allow me to recycle my post from the last one, in which the speaker of inconvenient truth was Philip Davies MP who said,

“Given that some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, can’t be as productive in their work as somebody who hasn’t got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable that given that the employer was going to have to pay them both the same they were going to take on the person who was going to be more productive, less of a risk, and that was doing those people a huge disservice.”

And I said then and repeat now:

Within hours so much outraged commentary flowed out of newspaper columnists, charity representatives and politicians of all parties, including Mr Davies’ own, that you’d think there’d been an outbreak of indignation dysentery.


Not one response of all the many I read even tried to argue that Mr Davies was factually wrong. They were outraged, disgusted. They asserted what no one denies: that mentally disabled people are equal citizens and often prove to be hardworking employees, valued by their employers. But I could not find one article that argued that Davies’ description of the way things go when a person with an IQ of 60 or a history of insanity seeks a job was inaccurate, or gave reasons to believe his proposal would not increase their chances of landing one.


A quote from Charles Murray: “It seems that those who legislate and administer and write about social policy can tolerate any increase in actual suffering so long as the system does not explicitly permit it.”

27 comments to Another bout of indignation dysentery

  • Mr Ed

    The message is “Better to make it a crime to pay someone less than the national minimum wage, than let a person find work that is objectively viable. If reality and my prejudices conflict, reality must give.”.

    The BBC has been acting as the Labour Party Press Office, taking what might have been infelicitous wording (in the charm stakes) and running with a story simply to:

    1. Create a storm of agitprop.
    2. Distract from ‘good news’ over a fall in jobless, but letting Mr Carswell point out that the boom is just like the Barber Boom of the 1970s and it is a cheap credit illusion.

    And yet, Mr Cameron would not dream of abolishing the licence fee.

  • PeterT

    If you forced all our MPs to read this post you would get one of the following reactions:

    “What? Nonsense!”

    “Oh my god I hadn’t realised! But why should callous employers get away with not employing the handicapped at the the minimum wage? They should be forced by law to give them a job even if by so doing they lose money.”

    “It is an unfortunate side effect of the market many disabled cannot find employment at the minimum wage. Employers should be subsidised to employ those less able at a fair wage”

    You’d be hard pressed (I hope!) to find anybody giving the original reason leftists from the earlier part of last century used for the minimum wage:

    “Good. If they are not able enough to earn the minimum wage they should just go away and die in silence”

    As we all know the correct answer is of course to let these people find whatever work they find rewarding, and if necessary they can supplement their income through family support or charity. If they really really need it then some form of government support might be justified.

  • Alex

    As with so much statist thinking, motive and intent is regarded as superior to effect. So it is that capitalists, whose intent is (or is suspected to be) to build their businesses for purely their own benefit, are inherently evil regardless of any good effects that result. And statists, whose intent is ‘pure’, get a pass (or even applause) even if the effects of their actions or inactions are to make the situation far worse.

  • Fred the Fourth

    Those who are frothing at the mouth over the “not worth minimum wage” remark are welcome to hire the afflicted to work in their own firms and homes, at minimum wage. Go right ahead, nobody is standing in your way. I’m waiting…

  • Well said, Fred. But they’d rather just force Freud to resign. Ignoring an uncomfortable truth always makes it go away, right?

  • Paul Marks

    Once the government gets into the position of deciding what wages are (or prices are – for a wage is a price) then situations like this are bound to occur.

    “You are showing lack of respect for X group – you have no compassion…..”

    This is the inevitable price of making wages (or any price) a matter of politics.

  • Lee Moore

    There is a serious point in amongst all this Beebo-Graun vapouring. We capitalist hyenas are keen to prattle on about the price mechanism and how wonderful free markets are; and how superficially nice government regulation like anti-discrimination laws and minimum wages are actually destructive to economic well being, particularly of those they are intended to help. But if someone is worth nothing to an employer – or less than nothing, given that hiring an employee comes with the risk that the employee may break things, irritate his fellow workers, sell confidential info etc – even the free-est of markets will not clear him into employment. We can double back and say that if we got rid of welfare then a lot of these economically worthless people would try a lot harder to be more useful, and many of them would succeed, boosting their worth to a positive amount. But we’d still be left with plenty of people who really are economically worthless.

    Much ink may be spilled, of course, on how economically worthless and morally worthless are different concepts, but it is necessary to have some sort of an answer to the question “so what should be done about these economically worthless people ?” or else those who we are trying to persuade of the wonders of free markets will be bound to assume that our answer is ” let ’em starve.” I don’t insist on any particular answer – I can see all sorts of problems with all the answers that are proposed including my own preferred answer, which is charity. But since what with robots and automation and Chinese exports and so on, the problem of economically worthless people is unlikely to get smaller as the days go by, you’d better have some answer ready to hand when you’re about to expound on the glories of free markets.

    Of course, the sad thing is that it looks like Lord Freud and the bloke he was speaking to were actually engaged in a genuine discussion on precisely this subject – ie what practically could be done to help these unfortunates. No good deed goes unpunished. Especially by the Beebo-Grauns.

  • Regional

    The time is coming where you’ll have to buy employment i.e. set up a company either in partnership or sole employee. That’ll fuck ’em.

  • Pardone

    Tsk, Surely the same should apply to pensioners, who are slow, ignorant of even basic technology, and make people late for work by taking an eternity to get on a bus, and then another eternity to pay the ticket and sit down. Why didn’t Mr. Freud suggest the same for the doddering, whinging old dears?

    Good to know you are in favour of using taxpayer money to cover the gap between teeny tiny wages and the cost of living, just like the huge waste of taxpayer money that is the Landlord Benefit which currently fattens the rentier class.

    Do you seriously expect a disabled person to be able to pay for food, rent, council tax, electricity, and rail fares, on £2 an hour? Seriously?

    Mind you, let it not be said that the disabled are not useful, as the sanctimonious and narcissistic Mr. Cameron has so beautifully shown by waving his dead son around like some PR talisman. “Muh dead son! No debate because muh dead son! You can’t talk because muh dead son!” Pass the sick bag. What a conceited, opportunistic scumbag.

    What sort of low-life scum uses his dead son as a shield?

    As for the mentally disabled, plenty of them can be found in the cabinet and in positions of authority, such as the restaurant trashing Mayor (and indeed the restaurant trashing PM), the restaurant trashing Prime Minister, the CV fabricating Welfare & Pensions Minister, the spineless Deputy PM, and in so many other positions of authority.

  • jamess

    PeterT mentioned it, but it needs to be shouted out that originally the purpose of the minimum wage was to make certain undesirables unemployable. At least that’s my understanding – does anyone have at hand the links to such papers/sentiments?

  • Lee Moore

    “does anyone have at hand the links to such papers/sentiments?”

    Here is quite a good 2005 paper surveying progressive attitudes from the progressive era. The minimum wage is specifically addressed a few pages in. Although this is a modern paper, there are plenty of explicit references to the writings of progressive pundits and economists, from the early 20th century:


  • PeterT

    As Lee Moore mentioned in his last paragraph, the truly unfair thing is that Lord Freud used the disabled to help make the compassionate case for abolishing the minimum wage. He didn’t need to do this; he could just have said that you can’t expect to run a business by paying people more than they produce. This strategy totally backfired of course. I wish he would have stood his ground.

  • PeterT

    Jamess, I learned this from Jonah Goldberg’s book ‘liberal fascism’. Plenty of references are given.

  • Rob

    Any deviation, however slight and however correct or rational, is attacked in this way. The political and media class are like sharks – the tiniest scent of blood from one of their own and they attack, they are genetically programmed to do so. The deviation may be in the interests of the country, or even in the long term (greater than four hours) interest of the politicians themselves, but that instinct to gain the tiniest transient advantage by turning on their own overwhelms them.

  • Kernow

    Isn’t society supposed to be inclusive?
    Shouldn’t businesses have a responsibility, as we surely do as individuals, to help those less fortunate?
    A business employing 150 people should be able to find a space for a disabled person, and pay him/her a decent rate.

  • Isn’t society supposed to be inclusive?

    No. Society is supposed to be a place where people exercise free association within a social context that enables several liberty.

    Shouldn’t businesses have a responsibility, as we surely do as individuals, to help those less fortunate?

    No. You are free to help those who you feel are less fortunate and deserving of your assistance. I am all for your right to help people. You have no right whatsoever to force me to help them.

    A business employing 150 people should be able to find a space for a disabled person, and pay him/her a decent rate.

    You are very generous with other people’s money. Do you know if a given company is actually profitable? Do you have any idea if their operating margin is large or tiny or non existent? No, you do not know that. But hey, what do you care, it is not your money, right?

  • A business employing 150 people should be able to find a space for a disabled person, and pay him/her a decent rate.

    For doing what, exactly? And what is a decent rate?

  • Kernow

    It’s all rights, no responsibilities. Interesting. Even the parish of old paid for poor relief.
    Society as a whole shouldn’t help the disabled, but individuals can, and you will defend to the death their right to do so. So, it’s all left to individual good works.
    Just like the good old days. Things were so sweet then. I guess the wheelchair industry would have been stifled at birth.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Poor Lord Freud.

    Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman said it was characteristically naive of Lord Rosebery that “he thought it a sufficient defence of any public utterance that it was true!”

  • Lee Moore

    “It’s all rights, no responsibilities”

    You have in backwards, old cock. We all have a moral “responsibility” not to interfere with other people without their consent. You can, by a slightly confusing inversion, phrase that as equivalent to everyone having a moral “right” not to be interfered with, without his consent. Now, depending on your moral code you may feel that, over and above your moral responsibility to forbear from interfering, you have a positive moral duty to offer help to other people. Which is fine. But neither those you feel like helping, nor anyone else, has any moral right to insist on you doing this. For if they did, you would be their slave. That’s the technical term for “person obliged under threat of punishment to provide involuntary services for another person.”

    A right that consists in nothing except everybody else’s responsibility to forbear from interference is fine – we’ll call it the right not to be a slave, though it makes more sense to describe it as each and every person’s responsibility not to enslave others. But any other kind of right – ie one which consists in your right to insist that somebody else do something for you – beyond forbearance – necessarily destroys their own right not to be a slave. You simply can’t pin a right on yourself that I do something for you, beyond non interference, without making me your slave. And ditto if you pin that right on somebody else.

    Which is why it is perfectly fine and morally admirable for people to help others voluntarily. They tread on no ones toes, or liberty, in so doing. This is indeed society at work, for society is the free association of its human members. But the state at work – compelling Peter to pay Paul – is not society at work, it is simply some people – those who control the state – taking a bulldozer to everybody else’s rights not to be a slave.

  • Kernow

    No one has explained why the old way ie relying on individual goodwill towards the less fortunate was so marvellous. Presumably it’s because the theory you expound is great, but living in such a world was most definitely not. ‘The slaves had it real good’. And you are suggesting that you are slaves because a brutal government helps some people?

  • No one has explained why the old way ie relying on individual goodwill towards the less fortunate was so marvellous.

    Who said it was marvellous? If you are poor, that sucks. If you are on state ‘welfare’ and poor it still sucks, not just for the poor person who is being paid to be poor, but also for the people who make the involuntary ‘donation’. You clearly do not like the idea of charity.

    And you are suggesting that you are slaves because a brutal government helps some people?

    You mean when they help themselves to my property and labour?

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Braille was not created by a government committee, and Helen Keller would have been institutionalised ‘for her own good’ if she tried to learn a new language today. Well-meaning government programs are usually not the best answer if the question is ‘How can we help the disabled?’ Let us not forget that Jesus encouraged individuals to help others- he never suggested that Society had an unending obligation to give them welfare. These days, he’d probably be sued for depriving people of their livelihood (begging)!

  • Lee Moore

    “No one has explained why the old way ie relying on individual goodwill towards the less fortunate was so marvellous”

    Don’t fall into the elementary error of anachronistic comparisons. In t’olden days when welfare was smaller and charity was bigger – relatively – the pie was also much smaller. Thanks to a century and a half of good solid economic growth – courtesy of capitalism, free markets and all that swaddling, and no thanks whatever to redistribution – the pie is much bigger than it was when Dickens was scribbling away. Even the middle class of Dickens time were poor by the standards of today’s welfariat. This is not because welfare helps the poor better than charity, but because the 21st century pie is so vast compared to the 19th century pie.

    There are of course theoretical problems – in terms of efficiency – with charity. A large bureaucratic state can – in theory – set up and enforce a universal compliance regime that can spot malingers, shirkers, and beggars with Mercedes, more easily than can poor ickle small scale private charities or individuals, who only have access to limited information, and who have no enforcement powers to demand more. Except that in practice, the large bureaucratic state either can’t or won’t do this. Much like the socialist theory that it ought to be possible to reap massive economies of scale by just having the one car company fully planned on a national scale, it turns out that just having the one welfare system generates British Leyland like efficiency in welfare provision.

  • Pardone

    Lord Freud wants the disabled to work for £2 an hour and wants you to top up their inadequate wages through your taxes.

    So he wants to steal your property and your wealth to give slave labour to unscrupulous employers via corporate welfare, which is what his grubby little scheme is. Getting the taxpayer pay for everything, which seems to be Tory policy; wages should apparently be paid by the taxpayer, according to IDS and Freud.

    No surprise then, that he is a former banker, part of the biggest welfare piggies of all, who oinked oinked as they squealed “too big to fail! too big to fail!” then made off with the taxpayer dough.

    “Oink! Oink!” Said the piggy bankers as they screwed the taxpayer deep and hard with Help to Buy, created largely for their benefit. “Oink! Oink!” They said, as not one of them has gone to jail for crimes you or I would be thrown in the slammer for. “Oink! Oink!” Said the piggy bankers as they demand infrastructure spending to benefit them, paid for by the taxpayer as always. “Oink! Oink!” said the piggy bankers as they ripped off the taxpayer in the Royal Mail sell-off, which by an amazing coincidence benefited one of Gideon Osborne’s mates, now that’s what I call welfare.

    “Oink! Oink!” said the piggy bankers as they take all your property and wealth while you stupidly blame the disabled for it.

  • Jamess

    Thanks Lee Moore/PeterT for the links

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Another example- the most cost-efficient charity was recently estimated to be The Salvation Army. It is non-government, and privately run- so we don’t need government to ‘correct’ the heartless markets.