Saturday, 6 April 2013

Mr Ian Duncan Smith doesn't understand fairness

What is it that the government doesn't understand about being 'fair'? Mr Ian Duncan Smith calls his reforms of benefits fair. He and the government repeat the mantra. The current system is 'unfair' and needs changing, ipso facto their reforms must be fair. It is a profoundly flawed argument.

I will spell it out for Mr Ian Duncan Smith because it is increasingly clear that he doesn't understand it. You do not create less misery by making more people suffer. I don't know what kind of ethics Mr Duncan Smith works with, but it certainly isn't utilitarian which at least seeks to achieve the greatest benefit for the greatest number.

Mr Duncan Smith says the new 'bedroom tax' is 'fair' because it brings those in social sector housing in line with those in the private rented sector. Gosh, that sounds fair, I hear you cry. Why should one group be treated any different from another?

But lets consider another question. Does it really help those in the private rented sector to impose a 'bedroom tax' on those in the social housing sector? The answer is no, it does not. So we don't actually make the situation fairer by imposing it, we simply make more people suffer. It is a bloody ridiculous argument to consider it fair. Fairness doesn't work like that. If we see a group of people being hurt, we don't address the problem by harming others to 'make it fair'.

I really wonder why I have to say this. The bedroom tax isn't fair because it makes families poorer; it makes them suffer, and many of them are unable to move into smaller accommodation because there is a shortage of available housing. It harms people and doesn't solve the problem it is supposed to address. Therefore it is a flawed strategy. Simply pointing to other people who suffer in a similar way doesn't make it fair. If we are concerned about fairness then we should address the problems of those living in private rented accommodation; that might be fair.

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