We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

“Why did I bother !”

The left are about intentions. They treat their own good intentions as evidence they will do good – and that we, who oppose them, have evil intentions. We notice incentives. If the planned road to utopia rewards freeloading while punishing those who pay for it, it will not get there.

“Why did I bother!” is what Natalie’s exasperated neighbour said when the Tory manifesto came out. That neighbour is one of the goodies: never rich but she paid her way (plus taxes), raised her kids, worked at many a humble low-paying job (as her neighbours’ cleaned kitchens could testify) and ends up with a house, a life she can respect, and no other major assets. May’s intention was presumably to balance the budget. But taking that neighbour’s house to pay alike for her care and freeloaders’ care incentivised her to demand, “Why did I bother!”

Theresa May was stuffing envelopes for the Tory party when she was twelve years old. But maybe that’s the problem. Given my family background, it is mere lucky chance I was not stuffing envelopes for Labour at that age. Almost 5 years separated my reaching voting age from the next general election – which is why I can tell you I have never voted Labour. I had to work out, as the years and days to that first election ticked down, why I should not do what I would have done on my 18th birthday. That is why, today, I could not look at a policy proposal without the thought occurring, “What incentives will this create?”  Evidently, Theresa May can.

[ADDED LATER:  should Natalie’s neighbour have been so exasperated?  My thoughts are here.]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

25 comments to “Why did I bother !”

  • staghounds

    Aside from that it’s hers and not some Duke’s, why is her house sacred?

  • Bulldog Drumond

    Huh, you’ve marched out of the comments section and got your own byline! Congrats on the promotion!

  • Julie near Chicago

    Yes indeed, Niall, congratulations, and a good posting. “A life she can respect”: Well said indeed.

  • Staghounds (June 17, 2017 at 4:39 pm), my opinion on how far Natalie’s neighbour should or should not think “her house sacred” is here.

    May should have expected it! She announced her policy, was surprised by the reaction, and U-turned (no Thatcher she!). Everyone saw that was politically stupid. I’m struck by what a left-wing style of stupidity it was, for May not to notice that

    – she was creating perverse incentives

    – people who vote Tory don’t like perverse incentives; most people don’t like them when they are on the wrong side of them

  • Snorri Godhi

    Congratulations indeed, but this seems to lack context: who is Natalie’s neighbour and why should or should not she bother … to do what?

    Am i the only one here who doesn’t know the context?

  • the other rob

    Congrats, Niall.

    @Snorri Godhi: The context is in the post – upon seeing the Tory manifesto, Natalie’s neighbour asked why had she bothered working hard and paying her own way when the government proposed to steal her only real asset.

  • Jim

    Its the universal problem of means tested benefits though, isn’t it? If you give benefits to people with no money, you encourage people to make sure they have no money of their own to ensure they get the free money. If on the other hand you give free money to everyone regardless of wealth then it requires eye watering basic tax rates. Its perverse incentives vs high tax rates and State involvement in people’s lives.

    So the exasperated neighbour might not appreciate paying 40% basic rate tax (or whatever would be necessary to fund care on a non-means tested basis) for 40-50 years of her life so she can then pass her house on to her children when she needs old age care. Especially when she might drop down dead one day having paid all that tax for decades and never need the care. She might not be able to afford to buy the house in the first place, if the tax rates were too high either.

    The Tory social care tax proposals were IMO fair. To call it a dementia tax was stupid – how many people end up losing their houses now because they end up in a care home with dementia, and get whittled down to £23k of capital? Under the proposals they’d have kept £100k instead so would have done better under the proposals. It basically put all elderly social care on the same footing – it was stupid that someone could have free care in their own (valuable) home but have to sell their home if they needed care in a purpose built building. Regardless of whether the care is free to all or has to be paid for out of personal wealth, there shouldn’t be such a dividing line between such similar needs.

  • Peter Whale

    If things go right or wrong for you when you have paid your way in life should you not pay your way in the last years of adversity or should someone else pick up the bill?

  • It is a seemingly intractable problem. The only way I can think out of it is to grandfather in a reduction in welfare and taxes, and suck it up in the short term with cutting other spending that we might want to pay for it.
    People who have paid in all their lives in expectation of getting something out in their old age should not have the rug pulled from under them, just because it is a ponzi scheme sold as a pension and health insurance… Well no. Actually it’s not even sold because you have no option but to buy it. Certainly the young should not have to pay for old age services when they know they won’t receive any (as they will be unable to save because of eye watering taxes continuing the problem)… I don’t know the answer. Somebody is going to lose out somewhere. Is there any ethical way to decide who?

  • Lee Moore

    The left are about intentions. They treat their own good intentions as evidence they will do good – and that we, who oppose them, have evil intentions. We notice incentives. If the planned road to utopia rewards freeloading while punishing those who pay for it, it will not get there.

    Spot on. There is a definite left-right gradient on the relative moral importance of input (intentions) and output (policy effects.) Which leads many on the right to conclude that achieving such and such a goal is not possible, or not possible at a reasonable cost, and so the undertaking should not be attempted, even if the goal itself is laudable. Which leads on to small government, not necessarily from a directly moral approach, but simply from a practical one.

    But as Niall suggests, politicians of the “right” quite often, aka usually, turn out to be lefties, tilting at windmills with no hope of doing anything but tiring their horses, or accidentally lancing a cow. The cynic in me (and yes there is a tiny tiny one) suggests that in many cases the politicians of the right (and some on the left too) know perfectly well that the policy will be ineffective, or even adversely effective. But they do it all the same because their goal is different from the stated one – they want the votes of people who think “the government ought to do something.”

    And yet, some are no doubt sincere-ish in believing that their policy will work. Once again I think Niall hits the nail on the head by drawing attention to the plague of professional politicians who have never actually done anything themselves except talking. I can’t remember the exact quote, but I think the commenter was the businessman Gerry Robinson who at one stage in the Blair era accepted a job as a consultant to help New Labour sort out something or other. On his way out he said with the slightly bemused air of a practical man escaping from a dream – “they seem to think coming up with a policy is the same as implementing it.”

    Which is pretty much where you’re going to end up, if intentions are everything.

  • staghounds

    Even the stupidest person knows that there is no such thing as “enough benefits”. Health care costs everything there is and more. Statistically, everyone in the west who gets old- and many who don’t- will consume more in medical services than they could possibly have saved.

    Once we commit to providing an unlimited commodity, then that commitment will eat the whole economy. She shouldn’t have bothered.

    First the duke’s house, then eventually the neighbour lady’s house. If the public have to pay to keep her, why does she think her children should get what she has instead of the NHS?

    Because she chose to believe the fairy stories of politicians who said that houses were sacrosanct? Pull the other one.

  • Bruce

    Garret Hardin wrote a book addressing this problem, after a fashion:

    “The Tragedy of the Commons”.

    An interesting look at “slicing up the pie” and the problem of defining the “pie” and the recipients of the slices, crumbs and “spillage”.

    Over-fishing, over-grazing, over-taxing; all are examples a “resource” being exploited to or beyond recoverable limits, by people who may or may not know, nor care, about the consequences of their actions.

    The socipathic totalitarian response is to declare as much as possible to be the “commons”, thus “owned” by all. The catch to this is clearly demonstrated by the hundreds of millions of corpses created by the over-seers of several such politico-economic regimes in the 20th Century, as they ruthlessly restricted any exploitation to themselves and, maybe, a favoured few cronies. Everyone might own something, but not everyone gets to have much say in its disposition.

    Delete private property, free trade and any associated legal rights, and insert “table-scraps”……on a really, REALLY good day.

  • Wh00ps (June 17, 2017 at 9:31 pm): ” … Somebody is going to lose out somewhere. Is there any ethical way to decide who?”

    There are two rival systems of ethics. The intentions approach: the immigrant who arrives with nothing, not even a passport (because he burned it to pass himself off as 14 years old instead of 34) will always be in greater need (their term) / want (true term); in left-wing ‘ethics’, the not-enough-money goes to him. Or the incentives approach: those whose attitudes alone keep it functioning have the most ethical claim on the insufficient money there is.

    Lee Moore (June 17, 2017 at 11:48 pm): “… lefties, tilting at windmills with no hope of doing anything but tiring their horses, or accidentally lancing a cow.”

    🙂

    We of course are the horses they tire.

  • Jim (June 17, 2017 at 7:48 pm): “it was stupid that someone could have free care in their own (valuable) home but have to sell their home if they needed care in a purpose built building.”

    It was a good incentive for relatives to rally round and help the old dear stay in her own house till she died, not take up a care home bed. The old dear would prefer it. And so should we. What about a scheme for taking more of the in-home care cost if “no family assistance to carers”, presented with talk of how Labour undermines family ties whereas the Tories will reward them… Might that be a saleable step in the right direction?

    May should have seen it coming. She thought she couldn’t lose, so she nearly did. Her intentions – balance the budget and address a long-term trend (“well 2 + 2 has to equal 5 this year, and it will be 13.5 in a few decades) – were good. But schemes that ignore incentives fail. It is inevitable Labour don’t know that – if they did they’d become Tories. Theresa May was a Tory from age 12; she has yet to fully become one.

  • Some days, Bruce, I think the real “The Tragedy of the Commons” is that Guy Fawkes botched it 😉

  • Alisa

    Because she chose to believe the fairy stories of politicians who said that houses were sacrosanct? Pull the other one.

    As if she had a choice, other than to end up in jail.

  • Alisa

    Somebody is going to lose out somewhere. Is there any ethical way to decide who?

    No, for the reason explained here:

    It is indeed utterly immoral to expect your care bill to be paid for out of taxpayer’s money, just so you’ve got a larger estate to pass on to your kids. It is also utterly unfair to tell A to pay into a “pool” for care costs, and then to say that he isn’t entitled to draw from that pool, while, B who didn’t pay into it, may. These are both true.

    This is not a paradox. If you start with a fundamentally immoral system, trying to find moral ways to operate within it will produce just such moral opposites. You could do the same with anything else that was broken at its core. Is a slave justified in murdering his master’s neighbour if needed to make good his escape? The only solution to such a problem is not to have slavery in the first place.

  • Alisa

    It is indeed great to see Niall on the main page.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    Alright, all you libertarians out there. Instead of saying what shouldn’t happen, design and cost a collective/mutual insurance scheme to provide the service “instead of” the state.

    This is the heart of the issue. Unlike healthcare, “social care” does not, IMHO, have the potential to incur infinite cost, so this is exactly where Samizdatistas should come in!

    Insurance (provided by a mutual society) is surely the ultimate vehicle for being provident.

  • I’m not sure libertarians are in the business of grand design of insurance schemes. If people want to use insurance to cover the risk that their care costs will exceed their means, I’m sure no one here would stop them.

    But there are lots of other ways that people can get cared for, besides insurance. (My gran, by the way, decided that she didn’t want to carry on, so she stopped eating. Which is another choice you can make.)

    1. Work and save money. In t’olden days when you were unproductive for 15 years, productive for 50 years, and retired for 10 years, you were working for two thirds of your life. Now you can hope to be unproductive for 25 years, work for 40 years and retired for 25 years. That’s just 44% of your life spent earning. It’s not surprising if the sums in retirement become more daunting. Work longer, save more.

    2. Rely on family – the traditional way

    3. Cut the cost of home care by eliminating all those nasty frictional tax costs

    4. Restore the Mrs McCready type care home, where four or five old biddies are looked after in a domestic house by younger biddy and her hubby. Very common twenty plus years ago – destroyed by government regulation to “improve standards”

    5. Charity

    6. Lots of other hi-tech supported entrepreneurial solutions that I haven’t thought of. But entrepreneurs will. Cos that’s what they do if not driven underground

    But mostly, let’s not have any grand plans.

  • Alisa

    But mostly, let’s not have any grand plans.

    Amen to that, and to the rest of it.

  • Laird

    I second what Lee said.

  • Eric

    If people want to use insurance to cover the risk that their care costs will exceed their means, I’m sure no one here would stop them.

    Staghounds is right when he says “Statistically, everyone in the west who gets old- and many who don’t- will consume more in medical services than they could possibly have saved.” That’s not a foundation upon which you can build and insurance system. Insurance made sense when the most a doctor could do for your heart attack was tell you to take it easy for awhile. Technology has rendered it obsolete.

    The very least you can do, though, is refrain from creating the sort of perverse incentives that have people deliberately impoverishing themselves as they reach retirement age.

  • Paul Marks

    Presently the government pays for the “Social Care” of people who have (I think) less than 14 thousand Pounds. Mrs May wanted to INCREASE that so that you could leave 100 thousand Pounds to their children – not 14 thousand Pounds.

    Yet this rather wild promise was treated by the media (and by the media in general – including the Conservative party supporting media) as a savage “cut”.

    The trouble with telling voters that they are ignorant is that they do not like being told this – and are less likely to vote for someone who tells them that they are ignorant. So if they think that a wild promise is a savage cut – there is very little one can do about it.

    Mrs May would have been better advised to do NOTHING.

    Then the woman mentioned in the post would NOT have kept a 100 thousand Pounds of her house value when asking for government funded “Social Care” in her old age – she would have lost the lot (bar a few thousand Pounds).

    And no I am not a friend of Mrs May (far from it) – but it is grim (grimly amusing – but still grim) that her wild promises were presented in the media as savage cuts – and that the voters believed that the wild promises were savage cuts.

  • Paul Marks

    Of course children used to look after their parents in old age (and they lived in the same house) – even the poor regarded it as a disgrace for their parents to be taken care of by the state. But that was a previous generation – not everyone thinks that government “Social Care” is a “right”.

    How will it all end? In economic, and social (cultural), collapse of course.