Monday, 9 August 2010

Money - the Ultimate Narcotic

It occurred to me the other day that people wouldn't suffer from as many financial troubles if they actually regarded money as a narcotic.

Consider the parallels:

  • It is a substance of which there is a finite supply, which is tightly regulated by an all-powerful cartel of the Treasury and the Bank of England to maintain it's value;
  • We are all dependent on it - we need it to feed, house, clothe and warm us. None of us can realistically be without it. It's withdrawal would result in unpleasant, sometimes life-threatening side-effects;
  • The abuse of it can have devastating consequences - consider the effects of gambling, as well as debt abuse, e.g. overspending on credit cards.

Now, I'm not advocating abandoning currency and reverting to bartering for beans and goats. The advantages of using currency far outweigh the disadvantages. For me, the advantages of drinking whisky far outweigh the disadvantages, so I'm not going to give it up. But that doesn't mean that I won't treat it with the respect it deserves. I won't drink more than 3 whiskies in one sitting, otherwise I end up slumped in a corner snoring, or worse, standing on a table singing 'Delilah' at the top of my lungs. And either way, waking up in the morning feeling like a whole family of chavs is squatting in my skull.

Likewise, I treat money with the same sense of caution. I only buy something if I can pay for it immediately. The only exception to this is where I'm buying something which is likely to go up in value, where it is acceptable to borrow money, provided that the repayments are affordable. I save money wherever I can - to pay for the things I really enjoy, like holidays in the Lake District, and days out with my kids.

Nowhere else does this analogy seem more clear than in the benefits system. Whole swathes of people, effectively hooked on the narcotic of money, and their dealer is the State itself. They are unable or unwilling to break this addiction, as most addicts are. And the side-effects of their addiction are plain to see - anti-social behaviour and misuse of the substance they are peddled. Of course, not all people receiving benefits have these problems, but you see my point.

The Newest Way of Administering Benefits

The problem with the benefits system is that it pays money to people, not to help them out of poverty, but to keep them in it. I see two possible reasons for this:
  • Sentimentality - the last government, out of a genuine desire to help 'the poor', but in a Marie Antoinette way, misunderstanding the causes of poverty, simply threw money at the problem and hoped it would go away. They made an emotional, rather than a rational decision;
  • Vote Creation - the last government set about to create swathes of Labour voters, to make it as difficult as possible for the Tories to get back into office. What better way than creating massive sections of the population dependent on the State, who would be unlikely to vote Tory?

This could form an interesting debate in itself, but is largely irrelevant.

Of course, in the face of the proposed consolidation, simplification and reduction in State benefits, many of the recipients are complaining about how they will survive without them, and many on the Left are protesting against the cold-heartedness of the coalition in even contemplating such moves.

I suspect their attitudes would be different if the State was handing out heroin.

Just a thought.

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