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Friday, 26 November 2010

Flight of fancy

“We’re going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it’s jolly expensive, but for those on benefit there is every incentive.”  Lord Flight

In a very predictable response, LibDem and Labour MP's and journalists dubbed Howard Flight's remark as offensive, but when it comes to an objective analysis, it is hard to see what there is to be offended about. He uses the term to mean reproduction of offspring, but while he refers to "breeding" by those on benefits, he applies the same term to the supposedly working "middle classes".

I am sure that at this point lots of people would jump in and remark that breeding is a loaded word with implications for eugenics etc, but that is clearly not the intent.  Likewise the fact that rats "breed" in sewers or the fact that the word is used in similar contexts is only an issue if the febrile imagination of the listener chooses to make that connection.

Lord Flight has nothing to apologise for, unlike the opportunistic whiners who piped up yesterday.


Demetrius said...

Am I being naive but aren't people in this 'ere modern world supposed to respond to primarily economic incentives?

Alex said...

Yes, they do and no they don't. I think he is probably wrong in the implication of his premise because I don't think anyone is persuaded to have children solely because of the value of child benefits - I think the argument for child benefit lies more in arguments of equity related to personal tax allowances (it would be better to give a tax allowance to every member of the family but that isn't necessarily equitable because poorer families save less if they pay less tax).

However he is correct to point out the perversity of restricting the availability of "universal" benefits to exclude "hard-working" families.