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« January hurricanes | Main | Money without accountability »
Friday
Jan152016

Name them!

Toby Young has a must-read article in the Spectator about the retribution handed out to researchers whose findings challenges the articles of faith of the political left. It focuses on the work of Dr Adam Perkins, who published a book which claimed that, in Young's words,  "individuals with aggressive, rule-breaking and anti-social tendencies...were over-represented among the ranks of the unemployed:

A senior editor of Nature, one of the leading academic journals, refused to consider it for review because she regards scientific research into the personalities of the long-term unemployed as ‘unethical’, and a sociology professor whom the publishers had asked to peer-review the book refused to do so on the grounds that any book linking benefit dependency to personality must be nonsense because personality is a ‘capitalist construct’.

Colleagues with whom Perkins had collaborated in the past warned him off publication, worried about being associated with such a heretic; and a powerful American professor was so enraged by his conclusions that he lobbied for him to be banned from the conference circuit.

What irritates me is that these people are still able to hide behind a wall of anonymity. They should be named.

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Reader Comments (125)

TinyCO2,

Personality measurements are subjective; perhaps there's some number-mashing in the middle, but ultimately they're the result of arbitrary judgements. It is little more than palmistry and his theories shouldn't be in a scientific journal.

Rather than urge Nature to balance its left-wing biased tripe with an equal measure of right-wing biased tripe, I'd prefer they not publish tripe at all.

Jan 15, 2016 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Swan

"I'd prefer they not publish tripe at all." Robert Swan

On that we can agree.

Jan 15, 2016 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

What? You bought a telescope rather than learn glass making and metal working and make your own? Tut, tut, you filthy consumer.

As one who rode the the wave of private computing (and got a job therein), I would say that I am more stimulated to explore than ever. I don't necessarily care to tread the same path that others have taken. I don't need to see twinkly little lights in the sky to wonder about what's out there. Sure, some kids will just be those who use technology but others will be tempted to push new boundaries. We can't even imagine what will come next.

For instance my fake world is answering questions about history. It pulls together information from dozens of internet and museum sources. It's a little bit like time travel without the diseases or archeology without the dirt.

Jan 15, 2016 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Tiny, please stop feeding the troll. The plastic paddy is just trying to wind you, and the rest of us up.

Jan 15, 2016 at 10:59 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Well I'd have bought the Beast from a skip but I'd have to wait twenty years. But the software was free, does that count?

Every generation has kids that don't have great imaginations but have we run out of interesting and skilled adults? A lack of curiosity for one item doesn't mean something down the line won't spark enthusiasm. Probably the worst thing that society can teach kids is that effort doesn't matter. Socialism does that. It says that no matter how hard you work or how ingenious you are, you shouldn't get much more than everyone else. Then why bother?

I used to believe the myth that the great artists of the past were all poor driven souls but with a few exceptions, most were very commercial. They often died in poverty because they'd spent it all and more besides. Without success, most of them would have had to give up their passion. To be good at something you need to learn difficult skills, the lure of reward is often necessary to overcome the inertia of a quiet life. You understimate the hardships of using your brain, rather than your calloused hands. If it was easy, we'd all be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.

Jan 15, 2016 at 11:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Any study trying to correlate personality traits to behavior outcomes is likely using factor analysis which has been shot down numerous times during the whole Bell Curve controversy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bell_Curve) as the statistical method behind The Bell Curve was factor analysis. The 16PF is also based on factor analysis and the creator of it, Raymond Cattell was an aggressive Eugenicist who started a religion called Beyondism to help evolution filter out the unfit.

As well, factor analysis has shown up in climate science: http://climateaudit.org/?s=factor+analysis

It seems that many psychological scientists suffer from the same malady as climate scientists. They don't understand statistics. The biggest problem with factor analysis is causality which Stephen Jay Gould has discussed in The Mismeasure of Man and Clark Glymour does here: http://repository.cmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1302&context=philosophy

Jan 16, 2016 at 12:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterKevin

There There Duke. You concentrate on your life, let me concentrate on mine.

I promise to you wholeheartedly that I have a reason for living the way I do. I do not seek your approval, nor your understanding, nor your commentary.
Why you think you have the right to stick your beak in beats me, we used to call them 'busy-bodies' , 'Curtain-twitchers' or 'GobSh!tes or 'Old Women'

Jan 16, 2016 at 12:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Kevin: "It seems that many psychological scientists suffer from the same malady as climate scientists. They don't understand statistics."

The truth is that most Life and Earth scientists simply do not get taught statistics as part of their curriculum, and they simply do not realise their importance to their professions. In my case I had to learn through self-teaching and on job training.

Jan 16, 2016 at 12:32 AM | Registered CommenterSalopian

It does look to me like the ".... retribution handed out to researchers whose findings challenges the articles of faith of the political left ...." (BH) is simply a continuation of the student union policy of "no platform for fascists", where a "fascist" is defined as anyone who disagrees with those who set up such rules.

Of course retribution is often insufficient to curb such challengers, so we have already had calls for the imprisonment of climate change deniers. The next stop is re-education camps. The difficulty is that if one's world view is based on the notion that man can be "improved", then when he isn't, it must be because he is a vicious little monster (you can tell from the shape of his head), a Daily Mail reader, or even a counter revolutionary.

Jan 16, 2016 at 12:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterBudgie

@Salopian

Too bad their education is deficient in stats. Seems to be important as you said.

Jan 16, 2016 at 1:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterKevin

"Name them"

Ok, I name them Mr and Mrs Fascist Pig.

"Personality is a capitalist construct"

No, Mr Pig, but capitalist a communist construct.

Furthermore, Mr Moderator, grow a pair.

Jan 16, 2016 at 1:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

Bish, I'll bet you think twice before starting another thread like this one.
:)

Jan 16, 2016 at 3:16 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

It is farcical that every thread is hijacked by someone who's viewpoint is simply a more extreme version of the madness of George Monbiot and is clearly taking the piss. Summed up by stating that any economic activity beyond that of self supplied individual consumption is wasteful and exploitative. A reclusive of green localism. I may be out of date on the details.

Jan 16, 2016 at 4:04 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

The presentation of the issue is too simplified to pass judgment.

I must stick with DiCaprio on this one again.

Jan 16, 2016 at 7:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterAila

O/T comments and follow-ups removed (after 8.47pm).

Jan 16, 2016 at 9:21 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

@ Ben Pile

While it is understandable that long periods of unemployment MIGHT affect a person's personality your argument is an insult to the unemployed. Some members of my family suffered long periods of unemployment in the 1930s but they did not respond by behaving in anti-social ways.

Researchers have no business mind-probing as a means of social engineering the political order they would prefer.

In that case a lot of social science researchers should be unemployed. Social engineering is something that is overwhelming associated with the left, as is the habit of smearing the motives of those they disagree with.

Jan 16, 2016 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Roy -- ... your argument is an insult to the unemployed.

It is an insult to the unemployed to be told that their condition is pathological, not social. That is to say it is more like an illness than a deliberate policy. Concomittantly, the remedy is more like a medical intervention than a change in policy. You can see why "policy makers" (pka politicians) prefer the pathological understanding of social problems: it lets them off the hook.

To make the point again, it was *decided* that there should be an amount of unemployment -- that it was a price worth paying for the borader benefits (no pun intended), and that this was a *natural* state of affairs over the ambition towards full employment that had existed previously. (Again, I'm making no claim about what was good or bad here).

The point I also made (though I was in a bit of a hurry) was that at that time (you were discussing members of your family in the 1930s), labour's discontent was expressed through union action, for better or worse. Good for your family members for not doing whatever it is we are imagining that others did. But it would be a judgement to far to say that you knew what motivated those actions, and that therefore your family were more virtuous.

My broader argument is that we should be sure that we understand the formation of character has political, social and economic contexts before we start to make moral judgements about classes of people, which invariably belittle them.

....a lot of social science researchers should be unemployed.

Absolutely they should. There are far too many of them, they produce absolutely shockingly bad and pointless 'research', for no real end other than serving themselves, and there is almost zero discrimination, other than as you point out, left wing priorities. Much of it belittles people, too.

Social engineering is something that is overwhelming associated with the left...

I'm not sure about that. There is much authoritarian rightism in the world -- to the extent that 'left' and 'right' mean very much at all. And it is mind probing and social-engineering we should be critical of, rather than arbitrary designations such as 'left' and 'right'.

Jan 16, 2016 at 1:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

Apologies for my typos. Ununsual keyboard, and spell checker seems to not be working.

Jan 16, 2016 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

The human is an ape that learnt that tools, brain power and co-operation were a better option than using aggression alone but there has been nothing in our genetic past that said that base behaviour isn’t one of the tools at our disposal. In the right circumstances we can all be aggressive, rule-breaking and anti-social. What keeps us in check is the balance of risk and reward for any type of behaviour.

In the past, being unemployed wasn't generally a lifestyle choice (unless you had money already). Those who were undeserving poor usually had some deep seated issue that few wanted to identify with. Being on benefits was very much a thing of shame to be rectified as soon as possible. Further back still, a lack of work meant starvation. While it's not a bad thing to be on benefits as such, by taking away the shame and instead making apparent poverty strangely noble, we have turned not working into a viable way of life. Why wouldn’t some take full advantage of that in the same way others turn to crime?

“Aggressive, rule-breaking and anti-social” are relative. It depends upon whether you view your position on the immediate or the wider community. Where families or neighbourhood display a type of behaviour you’re not “rule-breaking and anti-social” if you follow suit. Entire countries display behaviour that we might class as aggressive and anti-social and ours is viewed the same way in return. Even the rules vary from place to place.

The truth is the unemployed are a mixture of needy and lazy, the hard task is to separate them. Otherwise being unemployed will look like the right option to more and more of us because we're programed to take the easy option.

Jan 16, 2016 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

One of the funniest things I have ever seen was Morrissey telling an audience of teenagers he signed on the dole when he left school b/c he didn't want to work. They were falling like flies, screaming 'mummy, mummy, mummy, Morrissey's a dole scrounger'. Sixteen years of careful social engineering went up in smoke in less than 30 seconds.

I nearly wet myself. I'm sure he did it deliberately.

This dole scrounging conversation never took place back in the 1980s b/c people weren't that daft. In the 1960s, everyone worked, well they strolled around, smoked fags and gathered round some poor guy with a shovel in the vicinity of a hole. It was called 'full employment'. If you hated your job, you got another one next day. Capitalism was paternalistic, even in America, not predatory like it is now

Very different from today.

Jan 16, 2016 at 3:52 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

TinyCO2: "... the hard task is to separate them. ..."

Creating categories of 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor -- Poor Law, essentially -- has always worked out badly. We should question the impulse to create such categories, rather than the motivations of people that would be categorised by them. Examining those impulses puts the authors of that kind of test on the same side of history as Thomas Malthus, and the architects of the workhouse. History shows us that the test of 'un/deserving' is highly vulnerable to prejudice.

The only people free to moralise about an individual's worklessness are his or her parents, spouse, dependents and friends. The discussion about who should be entitled to what is a political question. The test of entitlement to benefits should be a test of need, not a test of moral character.

...we're programed to take the easy option.

Speak for yourself. Most people seem to enjoy a challenge. Most people seem to me to be driven to get out of bed in the morning for something -- their children, their own ambitions, their holiday -- rather than by fear. Offer them fifty quid a week for staying in bed, and few would accept it -- it is no way near enough, and not worth the humiliation at the misnomered 'job centre'. Most people would prefer a job... for themselves, for their self respect, and for the social interaction, even if it is low paid.

Jan 16, 2016 at 4:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

"The test of entitlement to benefits should be a test of need, not a test of moral character." Ben Pile.

But need is not defined anywhere. Any attempts to nail it down are met with howls of unfairness. Some people feel the need for a millionaire lifestyle and kill themselves to prove it when they lose it. Does that mean we should fund them? Define need and then measure moral character for those who demand more.

"Most people seem to enjoy a challenge. Most people seem to me to be driven to get out of bed in the morning for something -- their children, their own ambitions, their holiday -- rather than by fear." But you're missing the point, for them the hardship of work is worth the reward. Were circumstances different they may re-adjust their priorities. How many Lotto winners actually go back to work? Forty years ago, men often died very quickly after they finished work because they felt they had no purpose, now people not only adapt to retirement, most of them thrive. Being unemployed doesn't mean you do nothing any more. Being employed doesn't mean you're a hard working, socially acceptable, model citizen either. What are rogue bankers other than people exhibiting the same antisocial behaviour than vandals and thieves? Who hasn't worked with someone who doesn't pull their weight?

While getting a job and working for you living was and largely still is the norm, there is a change going on. Youngsters taking too long going from education to being employed are getting used to the position. Seeing no hope of their own home, wanting a job commensurate with their degree, government schemes giving them cash to set up pie in the sky self employment, time ticks on. Suddenly they're too old for starter positions and they're competing with an enthusiastic, better qualified foreigner... We'll have a lot of people who should never be in that position thinking that society has let them down. With some justification. It's not more cash they need but a kick up the bum. That sort of help is considered a judgement on their moral character. It's not, it's what most of us need from time to time. If we were lucky we got it early, when we were kids. If not at home, we got the message at school. Where does it come from now? From the guy offering you a big lump of cash for this little courier job?

Jan 16, 2016 at 4:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

TinyCO2, you're comparing people on subsistence incomes with millionaires, lottery-winners and people who have retired on final-salary pension schemes. Those comparisons suggest you might not be a resident of this planet.

" there is a change going on

Not really. Hollow moralising and hang-wringing about surplus population is a constant of the modern era -- older than that, in fact. And it always takes the same form: dividing the residuum into deserving and undeserving.

The welfare state is relatively new, of course. But you are still preoccupied with its rights and wrongs from the perspective of individual character. No doubt there are all sorts of kicks up bums needed. But most of the deserving bums occupy red and green benches in Westminster. That is where it was decided that there ought to be a certain number of people out of work, which in turn -- and probably with some justification -- creates a sense of entitlement to the minimum, for nowt. It created a culture.

Don't misunderstand me; I would quite happily watch the entire welfare state bulldozed into the sea. I just don't believe that individuals' failings account for the excesses of the welfare state. Government's failures do account for it, and this should be the focus of criticism of welfare.

Jan 16, 2016 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

On the contrary - the welfare state is not new.

The church preformed these functions before the reformation.
It was not charity as it was based on forced taxation called tithes.

Now I do not believe in a tax / welfare system but them there are the facts.
If you stop consumer credit then more then enough surplus is available for a universal national.dividend.

Jan 16, 2016 at 6:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Ben Pile,

"Apologies for my typos. Ununsual keyboard, and spell checker seems to not be working."

Try putting in some effort. Like people used to do. Try checking. Try reading again before sending.

Jan 16, 2016 at 6:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

James Evans - Try putting in some effort. Like people used to do. Try checking. Try reading again before sending.

Very fitting comment in a discussion about what a**eholes some people have become.

Jan 16, 2016 at 6:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

There are too many factors.

The mentally ill, for example, are probably overrepresented among the unemployed, cause and reason both. By ill, I simply mean depression although, evidently, the greater the handicap, the greater the likelihood of unemployment.

The discussion also focuses on developed nations where unemployment can be financed and, intriguingly, where society provides employment to many people that would not prosper in more challenging mediums. Case and point, I personally know a number of successful people that have been employed their entire lives but never learned to get a job. It was given to them. Were they to find themselves on the weak side of a job interview today, and despite their professional experience, they will likely behave arrogantly, abusively, dismissively, etc. It is who they are.

Jan 16, 2016 at 6:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterAila

Ben Pile. "I just don't believe that individuals' failings account for the excesses of the welfare state. Government's failures do account for it, and this should be the focus of criticism of welfare." Where did I say anything different? Didn't I write that there are people at all levels who display the same characteristics? For MPs it's more fun to snip and snipe at each other than it is to actually solve problems. MPs of both sides. All trash talk and very little sense. Like posh Jeremy Kyle.

So go on, how do we make MPs from both sides work harder/better?

Jan 16, 2016 at 7:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

TinyCO2 -- So go on, how do we make MPs from both sides work harder/better?

By not buying into the moral fairy tale told about un/deserving poor, and fairy-godmother state agencies. By not letting politicians, officials, daft researchers and silly hacks like Toby Young pass the buck in that way.

Jan 16, 2016 at 7:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

That's all Ben? Gee, I thought it would be harder.

Who said that I bought into their " fairy tale told about un/deserving poor, and fairy-godmother state agencies"? I have my own observations. Are you trying to tell me that there are no un/deserving poor or over generous/evil* state agencies? Because that would be tripe and it's exactly why politicians get nowhere. They take polar opposites and don't admit the truth lies in the middle. The left creates stupid taboos about what you can and can't discuss and the right stomp about and paint everyone with the same brush. I'll also say that there are un/deserving rich, does that help? I'm happy to start at that end. It's just as complicated a problem.

There have been plenty of articles on this site about how lazy and corrupt politicians and scientists are but one article about the poor and you're storming about like that's all everyone here talks about. The core of the article was how the left stifle right wing ideas. I rather think you're proving a point.

*fairies come in good and evil. State agencies lurch between the two. Not deliberately but because we can't decide what is fair or not.

Jan 16, 2016 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

TinyCO2 -- That's all Ben? Gee...

You wanted a magic bullet?

Are you trying to tell me that there are no un/deserving poor

I'm saying that the impulse to divide the poor into those categories is a greater wrong than the sum of all laziness etc, on their behalf. I said it several times. Did you not get it?

They take polar opposites and don't admit the truth lies in the middle.

This is another fairy story. Witness the political consensus on climate change, for example. Contemporary UK politics is better characterised as dominated by such consensuses, rather than by polarised positions. (Though that may now be shifting, but not necessarily for the better).

one article about the poor and you're storming about like that's all everyone here talks about. The core of the article was how the left stifle right wing ideas. I rather think you're proving a point.

I've written extensively, and probably more than most climate writers, about how climate change is used to close down political debate and to exclude unfashionable political opinion. I've written more than most on how politics has been smuggled in under science, and how cognitive science in particular is used to diminish people, long before Lewandowsky and his critics emerged. I've written probably more than any other climate writer on how climate change is the expression of the left's moral, intellectual and political exhaustion. And I've written more than most about how using bad science as a fig leaf for bad politics invariably hurts the very people the nominative left claim to want to help. So you'll excuse me if I say you're talking utter bull**it. I say it's crap when I see Lewandowsky do it, and I say it's crap when a right-wing 'researcher' smuggles his own prejudices into the science, too. If you really thing calling out that crap is 'stifling' ideas, then you have much more in common with Lewandowsky than you think.

Jan 16, 2016 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

@esmiff, Jan 15, 2016 at 8:26 PM

It was the Thatcher government...

esmiff is back hip hip howl and cry at having to endure more of his refusing to answer questions and his:
Wibble wibble Thatcher blah Enron rhubarb Reagan custard Banks waffle Bush parsley-flower-pot-men California. Watch this youtube video youtube.com/dork-of-esmiff and read this fantasy.island/dork-of-esmiff posts

esmiff, stop blaming MT for all the world's problems and answer questions

P

Jan 16, 2016 at 10:20 PM | Registered CommenterPcar

@Roy, Jan 16, 2016 at 10:25 AM

@ Ben Pile

While it is understandable that long periods of unemployment MIGHT affect a person's personality your argument is an insult to the unemployed. Some members of my family suffered long periods of unemployment in the 1930s but they did not respond by behaving in anti-social ways.

+1 Well said Roy. After a fire at my parents' business my parents were unemployed and my brother and I no longer had evening/week-end jobs whilst at Uni. Even though this state persisted for several years, none of us descended into crime, thuggery, violence, drug-dealing etc. We worked together as a family to make our lives better by growing our own veg, doing voluntary/charity work which often yeilded presents and occasional cash in hand jobs.

Researchers have no business mind-probing as a means of social engineering the political order they would prefer.

In that case a lot of social science researchers should be unemployed. Social engineering is something that is overwhelming associated with the left, as is the habit of smearing the motives of those they disagree with.

Another +1

P

Jan 16, 2016 at 10:46 PM | Registered CommenterPcar

Ben Pile

You are arguing with the Daily Mail.

Jan 16, 2016 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

@Budgie, Jan 16, 2016 at 12:53 AM

It does look to me like the ".... retribution handed out to researchers whose findings challenges the articles of faith of the political left ...." (BH) is simply a continuation of the student union policy of "no platform for fascists", where a "fascist" is defined as anyone who disagrees with those who set up such rules.

Of course retribution is often insufficient to curb such challengers, so we have already had calls for the imprisonment of climate change deniers. The next stop is re-education camps. The difficulty is that if one's world view is based on the notion that man can be "improved", then when he isn't, it must be because he is a vicious little monster (you can tell from the shape of his head), a Daily Mail reader, or even a counter revolutionary.

Re-education camps as used by the biased impartial BBC : BBC journos ... sent away for re-education

Jan 16, 2016 at 10:55 PM | Registered CommenterPcar

Pcar - Even though this state persisted for several years, none of us descended into crime, thuggery, violence, drug-dealing etc. We worked together as a family to make our lives better by growing our own veg, doing voluntary/charity work which often yeilded presents and occasional cash in hand jobs.

And you got missed off the New Years Honour's list? The injustice! Still, perhaps the Pope might be willing to make your entire family saints.

Jan 16, 2016 at 11:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

@Ben Pile, Jan 16, 2016 at 11:17 PM

And you got missed off the New Years Honour's list? The injustice! Still, perhaps the Pope might be willing to make your entire family saints.

Looks like I hit a nerve in Ben Troll's armour. I did not mention, infer or claim any injustice. I stated we behaved as a responsible, law-abiding family even though long-term unemployed. To be clear, all cash-in-hand jobs were below tax and benefits thresholds.

There is no excuse for the unemployed to behave in illegal activities, violence or physical/verbal/psychological abusive behaviour.

P

Jan 16, 2016 at 11:36 PM | Registered CommenterPcar

@Sean, Jan 15, 2016 at 4:37 PM

As a small business owner who hires mostly hourly workers I'd say this doesn't look controversial, it looks too obvious. When you hire people you alway ask why they left their last job and you follow up with calls to references. Most employers develop lines of questioning that reveal how candidates get along with coworkers and supervisors without directly asking that particular question. A candidate that has a history of not getting along with either coworkers or supervisors will rarely get hired. It just causes too much disruption. And by the way, these people often lose jobs because of behavior like this. I know all too well, I recently had to let a very productive worker go because of difficulties with coworkers and supervisors.

Sean, I have encountered similar. In one memorable case when recruiting for a full-time manual labour job in an automotive workshop. One candidate looked good on paper and initially in interview and on some physiclal tests. Very strong and agile, ex-army. Then some probing questions and he flipped and became so aggressive I had to hit the panic button.

I should have checked his references before interview: ex-army, promoted twice and demoted twice, Colchester glass house & dis-honourable discharge for, amongst others, cocaine use. Sacked from several jobs for violent fighting with colleagues & superiors, several of whom were hospitalised.

Summary: a psychopath violent thug for hire = long term unemployed.

He ended up in gaol after leaving a trail of his blood back to his flat following post-pub late night fight where he put his victim through a shop's plate glass window and continued the attack cutting himself on the broken glass.

P

Jan 16, 2016 at 11:50 PM | Registered CommenterPcar

Pcar -There is no excuse for the unemployed to behave in illegal activities, violence or physical/verbal/psychological abusive behaviour.

Amazing how what was at first being discussed was a general attitude, apparently more prevalent amongst the unemployed according to 'research', became manifest violent criminality.

Jan 16, 2016 at 11:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

Responsibility? Politicians or officers?

Both manifestations take every opportune moment to play their 'Joker' (the EU card)

A modern day 'not me gov' or 'jobsworth'

Time to expose our 'elite' to the real UK and remove their 'Joker' there are no 'wildcards' in real life.

Jan 17, 2016 at 12:02 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

"It is an insult to the unemployed to be told that their condition is pathological, not social."

Who said anything about pathological? Apart from those who are unemployed because they are mentally ill, I don't see why antisocial behaviour would be a pathology. I suspect it's more cultural.

One of the theories about persistent unemployment has been that there is a cultural feedback loop in which growing up in poverty results in learning a culture of resentment, entitlement, and the expectation of failure, that leads people to behave in ways that make them unproductive and unemployable - for example kids bunking off school, joining gangs, becoming addicted to drugs, etc. If true, then you could target measures to breaking the cycle, changing the culture. If this is the case, then telling kids that they're going to fail because the rich and powerful are holding them down, and there's nothing they can do, leads them to give up. Telling them that it's about the culture that naturally results from their circumstances, and if they adopt this specific alternative culture then they can escape poverty, then the problem becomes 'curable'.

It's not necessarily a case of blaming the people themselves. Society imposes a particular culture on them, that causes them harm. Stopping society doing this would be good. But we can't do this if we refuse to recognise the problem for fear that the people themselves might be blamed.

"To make the point again, it was *decided* that there should be an amount of unemployment -- that it was a price worth paying for the [broader] benefits"

It might have been decided that welfare was preferable to make-work and deliberately enforced inefficiency, I doubt very much than anyone decided it was preferable to full productive employment.

Any job that pays more than minimum wage is a case where the demand for workers capable of doing that job exceeds supply. And there are a hell of a lot of jobs paying more than minimum wage, meaning there are a lot of jobs available. The problem is, there is a large pool of people who don't have the skills to do any of them. For the jobs that they *can* do, supply exceeds demand.

I do not think that anyone deliberately decided to deprive them of these skills, or prevent them acquiring them. (Though I've heard stories about the systematic sabotage of the education system that suggests this, it sounds a tad too conspiratorial to me.) More likely it is an unintended consequence of other policies. But I do think it's entirely possible that somebody deliberately decided to stop the business of warping ther economy to try to fit the people available. If so, good. It doesn't solve the entire problem, but it's an improvement.

"The test of entitlement to benefits should be a test of need, not a test of moral character."

Ah! Sounds like Socialism! "To each according to his needs", eh?

The test of entitlement to benefits should be to demonstrate that the person has no alternative if they are to survive. Someone who could earn a living but chooses not to (directly or indirectly) should not be so entitled. "Need" in the sense of "having no alternative" might be justifiable. "Need" in the sense of "want" isn't.

"Offer them fifty quid a week for staying in bed, and few would accept it -- it is no way near enough, and not worth the humiliation at the misnomered 'job centre'."

At first, maybe. But people adapt. Cognitive dissonance means that if a contradiction occurs between attitudes and actions, the attitudes change to justify the action.

I agree that the number who exploit the system and truly wouldn't want to get a better job is a small minority, but I think the majority do become somewhat adapted to it. And there's more that can be done with your life than either work or stop in bed. (Personally, I think I'd just move in to our university's public library. Endless study of whatever takes one's fancy, no demands, no deadlines, no bosses, no customers, no results to deliver. Bliss.)

"Not really. Hollow moralising and hang-wringing about surplus population is a constant of the modern era -- older than that, in fact. And it always takes the same form: dividing the residuum into deserving and undeserving."

The problem isn't surplus population. It's a shortage of population with the skills society needs. The division of the residuum of those incapable of acquiring those skills is about those who fail to do so through their own choices, versus those who had no choice. The disabled and mentally ill fall into the latter category, and they're the ones we do have sympathy with. To 'pathologise' the rest is frankly being too nice to them.

"I just don't believe that individuals' failings account for the excesses of the welfare state. Government's failures do account for it, and this should be the focus of criticism of welfare."

The excesses of the welfare state are an inevitable consequence of the ideology responsible for creating the welfare state in the first place. Welfare itself motivates the culture that leads to its expansion. (Following the economic dictum that you get more of whatever you pay more for. If you pay for unemployment, you'll get more unemployed.) Governments are stuck in the same trap. People on welfare vote for welfare-increasing governments. Politicians institute whatever policies get them more votes. The more people are on welfare, the more governments will divert towards increased welfare. Both are 'responsible' in that they are part of the cycle, but both are simply acting as humans do according to the economic motivators and pressures the system places on them. The welfare state is self-sustaining.

Jan 17, 2016 at 12:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

Nullius, you write too much, and too too inconsistently to respond to your points directly.

"Ah! Sounds like Socialism! "To each according to his needs", eh?"

That's right. Using the word 'need' is to confess to being a fully paid up member of the Communist Party. I take orders from Moscow, via a time machine and a flying saucer.

If I was better at being a time-travelling communist agent, I would have tried the semantic acrobatics you did: a big dance around the word "need".

---- '"Need" in the sense of "want" isn't' ----

I'm pretty sure I made a distinction between need and want. Have a look.

I'm also pretty sure that *I* made the point that the problems of welfare were cultural, that policies which turned welfare into full blown welfarism were instigated by a government which couldn't provide. And I'm pretty sure I said that these political decisions were made "for better or worse" -- which is to say I didn't say that make-work was a good thing. So it's hard to understand your points, many of which you contradict. That is to say you're picking a more effective fight with yourself, than with anything I've said, though your comments seem directed at me.

You agree that welfarism creates lower expectations -- that its effects are 'cultural'. "It's not necessarily a case of blaming the people themselves", you say. You suggest a soft intervention to change the culture. But then you say that calling even this effect 'pathological' is to be 'too nice to them'.

You note that there was a policy decision to increase the rate of employment, and yet just a bit later you say 'Welfare itself motivates the culture that leads to its expansion'.

"Cognitive dissonance means that if a contradiction occurs between attitudes and actions, the attitudes change to justify the action."

Cod psychology means you can pluck bullshit out of thin air and turn it into a theory which explains complex social phenomena, including the formation of character. If you don't agree with me, it's just cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is alive and kicking in your comment. What's your excuse?

People on welfare vote for welfare-increasing governments.

I hate to bring up the MT. But it was MT's government that increased welfare more than any other government. You're just plain and simple wrong about that, NiV, and you're speaking from prejudice, not from the facts. So much for that 'on the word of no one' stuff.

Jan 17, 2016 at 12:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

I used to hang around with working class musicians. One of them ( a right wing, Sun reading Tory) rubbed his hands with glee and said 'Cameron will sort out the dole scroungers'. I replied 'How long have you been unemployed, Gary' ? Three years. I'm just not trying hard enough.'

I would give every single right wing tabloid reader in Britain a gun and send them off to fight the Muslims in the middle east. Every single one. They can take Delingpole and his sick, little minor public school numpties with them.

Jan 17, 2016 at 12:52 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Who takes the harshest anti-welfare line? Those on state benefits



On a daily basis I spoke to people who were in receipt of tax credits, child benefit, ESA, DLA, income support and housing benefit yet still told me matter-of-factly "we don't claim benefits". Over time I understood that what this really meant was that they were striving to define themselves as something other than the endless media presentations of "scroungers".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/12/anti-welfare-rhetoric-families

Jan 17, 2016 at 12:52 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Wow, this is heated.

"individuals with aggressive, rule-breaking and anti-social tendencies...were over-represented among the ranks of the unemployed..."

Could well be, I haven't read the paper, and don't intend to, nor am I looking for ways to cut their benefits. It strikes me that if you are "aggressive", "rule breaking" or "anti-social" you aren't likely to be welcome by an employer even it you had skills that they wanted. So I don't wonder people with these characteristics are "over-represented" in the ranks of the unemployed. I do wonder what "over-represented" means though and here's why.

A few months back there was the usual horrific headline (I can't remember about what) that you were 40% more likely to die of cancer for - let's say eating read meat on Thursdays" than you would be if you didn't. I looked into the figures and found that no eating read meat on Thursdays gave you as 0.6 our of a thousand chance of dying of cancer and eating red meat on Thursdays gave you a 1 out of a thousand chance of dying of cancer.

Ben, the undeserving poor exist, I don't believe there's a way of separating them from the deserving poor, but they definitely exist.

Jan 17, 2016 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Geronimo -Ben, the undeserving poor exist, I don't believe there's a way of separating them from the deserving poor, but they definitely exist.

Do you think I have argued otherwise?

Jan 17, 2016 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

Topby Young continues:

Last week, I wrote about the punishment meted out to Napoleon Chagnon, the evolutionary anthropologist whose work on the indigenous population of the Amazonian rain forest challenged liberal pieties about the goodness of man in his prelapsarian state.

Chagnon gives an extremely deterministic account of the populations he studied. He was criticised because amongst other things, he may very likely have been the cause of the violent conflicts that he was particularly interested in. If it is a 'liberal piety' to say that anthropologists should not deliberately instigate or accidentally cause conflict, then I'll stick my hand up and say I am such a liberal. To make it worse, just as Young's cause this week seems to confuse the effect for the cause, Chagnon, too, tried to say that what he was observing had a 'genetic' effect.

Young is searching for politically-incorrect bad science, to pretend that it is good science which has been shut down because of political correctness, not because it is bad science. In this, he simply mirrors the excesses of what he opposes.

Jan 17, 2016 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

If I approved of the things, and I do not, I would judge the Dorkster almost worthy of a preservation order. He is a strange combination of Major Douglas and bits of the Chesterbelloc.

Jan 17, 2016 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Sydney

When, in the 90s, we advertised for a Ph.D. physicist with really interesting work to do, one applicant wrote mainly that past experience might not match the job needs, so could we please advise if it mother had not.
Problem. The application letter was unsigned and unnamed. There were no return details and even the Uni of the Ph.D. was unnamed. Could have been male, female or other gender.
Point is, rather hard to generalise about unemployment traits and personal properties in a case like this. How many others are too vague to analyse?
(No, the job was not in climate science, but I can imagine that they snapped up this applicant who then developed hate for miners, us, who did not even reply to the application.)
Geoff

Jan 17, 2016 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

"That's right. Using the word 'need' is to confess to being a fully paid up member of the Communist Party. I take orders from Moscow, via a time machine and a flying saucer."

To say that the right to welfare is based on 'need' is indeed to confess to Communism. The belief system certainly didn't go away after the Soviets collapsed. Many people still believe in it, and are still trying to implement it.

"I'm also pretty sure that *I* made the point that the problems of welfare were cultural, that policies which turned welfare into full blown welfarism were instigated by a government which couldn't provide. And I'm pretty sure I said that these political decisions were made "for better or worse" -- which is to say I didn't say that make-work was a good thing."

I was agreeing with you there. I was disagreeing with your claim that criticising the culture of the long-term unemployed was "pathologising" it, or that identifying culture as a problem was missing the point. Your aim seemed to be to blame deliberate government economic policy instead of the culture of the poor themselves. I'm saying that it can be both/neither. Both government and the culture of poverty are entwined in the cultural feedback, and I don't blame *either* of them - but the people who instituted welfarism in the first place.

"So it's hard to understand your points, many of which you contradict."

I suspect the problem is different background assumptions. You're assuming that certain policies are inescapably connected, so that to reduce economic inefficiency is necessarily to expand welfare for the unemployed. I'm saying you ought to reduce inefficiency (the policy change you're complaining about) but to solve the resulting unemployment a different way to creating a welfare culture (i.e. don't cause unemployment). It's tricky to explain.

"But then you say that calling even this effect 'pathological' is to be 'too nice to them'."

By analogy, I understand *why* criminals and thieves are economically and psychologically motivated by their circumstances to do what they do. That doesn't mean I approve of it, or of them.

I think you're depending here on the moral principle that a person is not morally responsible for something they have no control over. I tend to agree, but that doesn't mean the act itself shouldn't be judged morally negative, or that the person shouldn't be punished. It's a utilitarian calculation. A child initially has no understanding of right and wrong, and only learns through experiencing consequences. To educate them properly, we cannot shield them from adverse consequences from what they do, even though we know that being ignorant of the rules they cannot be properly blamed for their actions.

I'm not *entirely* without sympathy for people who survive by stealing from others because that's what society has taught them, but I'm not going to shield them from the moral consequences of what they do, either. Them not being to blame doesn't mean we ought to let them off.

"You note that there was a policy decision to increase the rate of employment, and yet just a bit later you say 'Welfare itself motivates the culture that leads to its expansion'."

Welfare is the wrong solution to unemployment, as are make-work and inefficiency. Stopping one does not necessarily imply increasing the other. Only welfarism itself sets the assumptions that make it so.

"I hate to bring up the MT. But it was MT's government that increased welfare more than any other government. You're just plain and simple wrong about that, NiV, and you're speaking from prejudice, not from the facts."

Wrong about what? I've not mentioned MT - are you confusing me with someone else?

I tend to agree - in dismantling the system of union-instigated protectionist inefficiency, Maggie created a lot of unemployment that at least in the short term had to be dealt with by welfare, and for whatever reason the longer-term solutions of retraining and redistribution of labour failed to happen as quickly as they should. Having been given this flying start, welfare got entrenched with subsequent governments competing for how much they could offer to the unemployed as welfare, instead of breaking down the barriers that stopped them getting new jobs.

Maggie only managed to get about half the job done. Whether that's because she didn't understand all the implications or because she was politically constrained/opposed, I'll leave to someone who knows more about the history of it. It was still an improvement.

Jan 17, 2016 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

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