Looking over someone’s shoulder on the train this morning (naughty, I know) I saw the Mirror make the predictable attack on Iain Duncan-Smith’s proposals about how we view poverty. IDS has said something which is sacrilegious to the left, that money isn’t the only solution to the problems of poverty. The Labour party’s Fleet Street mouthpiece has reminded their readers that IDS isn’t himself poor, and by extension has no right discussing these issues.
If all you want is some fuel for faux outrage you can stop reading here.
IDS has made the eradication of poverty and deprivation his mission. Notice I said eradication rather than alleviation, it’s an important difference. Labour believed that getting money to poor families was enough, it seemed simple, give poor people enough money and they stopped being poor. Yet it didn’t work.
They seemed to miss the point that poverty was often the symptom rather than the ailment. If the parents in a family are seriously addicted to drugs and alcohol throwing money at them will let them buy more deeply into their addiction. Lifting a child one pound over an arbetry line which we claim has “lifted them out of poverty” without addressing educational failures won’t keep them out of poverty for long or prevent their children following the same path. It isn’t really that new an idea, do you recall the old proverb, “give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach him to catch fish, feed him for life”?
IDS is right to challenge he childishly simplistic notion that more welfare = less poverty. He is genuinely trying to make poverty history rather than just a little bit less unpleasant.