Tuesday 27 October 2020

Is it the Government's job to feed children?


The present Conservative Government has spent more this year than any previous Government. The national debt has gone beyond two trillion and is now at 103.5% of GDP. The deficit, or the gap between what we spend and what we earn could reach 15% of GDP. Yet for some people it’s not enough. We want some more.

The Conservatives are apparently starving children because they won’t fund school meals during the holidays. A footballer who I had never heard of campaigned for free school meals to be extended during the summer holidays. He succeeded. But it wasn’t enough. The Government had to spend more. Now he wants the free school meals to be during other holidays.

It would be easier by far for the Government to give this footballer what he wants. What’s a few more million pounds when we are already spending so much. Why have a battle about school meals?

But if the Government gave in, would that be the end of the matter? No of course not. After a few weeks there would be a demand for still more to feed the starving millions in Britain.

I dislike rich people telling the Government to spend ever more taxpayer’s money. If my net worth was £65 million pounds, the moral thing to do would be to keep enough to live on and give all the rest to the poor. Once I had done that, I might consider I had the right to demand that other people give more to the poor, but until I had done so I would obviously be a hypocrite. Ultra-rich socialists should set the example of sharing with other people, before telling the rest of us to do so.

But is there a problem with starvation in Britain? Can anyone point to where there is famine?

There is an odd conjunction of events. On the one hand people go to the trouble to sail across the Channel or hijack a tanker in order to reach Britain, but on the other they can expect to reach famine and starvation when they arrive. Why do they do it? Which other country in the world where hunger is endemic gets so many migrants?

The truth is that Britain has a problem with obesity, not hunger. If you walk around a city centre, you will see large numbers of grossly overweight people. When did you last see someone who looked like they had experienced a famine?

The amount that someone receives in benefits in Britain is more than average earnings in some Eastern and Southern European countries. In many of these countries benefits if they exist at all are at a much lower level to here and they are temporary. But no one starves in Poland, Lithuania, Greece or Bulgaria.   

Are benefits enough in Britain so that people can avoid starvation? Well if they are not enough, why are there not more starving people wandering the streets?

I would not like to live on benefits. It is for this reason I choose to work. But the vast majority of the world’s population if given British benefits and a British supermarket could live quite easily on the amount given. The amount of vegetables, grains and pulses that can be bought in a supermarket for a tiny amount of money is extraordinary. It would be quite easy to cook the dishes that are eaten all over the world with British benefits.

There is a problem of education. Many people don’t know how to cook nutritious food cheaply. But then the issue is not money but knowledge and education.

There is a difficult balance for Government on deciding how much people on benefits should receive. If the rate is too high, then people will decide to remain on benefits indefinitely. But this will prevent them finding the work that will lift their living standards much higher than life on benefits.

Clearly benefits should be set at a level that people can live reasonably well. If that is not the case, then benefits should be increased. But it is better by far to give benefit claimants enough money to buy their own food rather than give them free meals.

The whole philosophy of giving people on benefits free meals is mistaken.  If they need free meals, why not give them free clothes and shoes too. But if you give them free meals, free clothes and supply their every other need, the logic is that you don’t give them any benefits at all. You just buy everything they need and give it them. Is this what benefit claimants want? The logic of free school meals is eventually to take away all financial responsibility from people on benefits. It is to treat them as children.

The Left uses the issue of hunger because it is emotive. This is why we have food banks and demands for free school meals. It is also why the Left uses a relative definition of poverty defining it as 60% of average earnings. This would be considered as great riches to someone from Bulgaria, so it isn’t really poverty at all. It doesn’t matter if I am relatively poor if my absolute income is enough to fund a lifestyle better than many Europeans who are working. I am relatively poor in comparison to footballers, but so what? It doesn’t mean I am really poor.

I have never seen someone suffering from starvation in Britain apart from sufferers of anorexia and old people who are not properly fed in hospitals. There are children who eat poorly because neither they nor their parents know how to buy cheap nutritious food and cook it. But this problem would not be solved by increasing benefits it would be solved by education.  Children could be taught about all the wonderful cheap dishes that people make all over the world.

The Left likes to pretend that there is a problem with starvation in Britain, because it is an emotive stick with which to beat the Conservatives. But it is obviously false. The Conservatives are already spending more than any other Government in history, but it is never enough. This is why you have to say no to the latest emotive demand. If you don’t then at some point, we will become an economy that cannot pay benefits at all.

You don’t starve when you have no benefits, you do anything to get a job, earn money and feed your family. It’s not the job of the state to feed your children. It’s your job.