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The danger here is that the "welfare society" will actually be a recipe for more top-down control and an expansion of State power.

"I'm in favour of government being more proactive. I favour, for example, elimination of the marriage penalty, investment in voluntary groups that provide relationship education, fair funding of faith-based charities and voucherisation of public services."

Let's look at these proposals:

1. Elimination of the marriage penalty. If that means a non-discriminatory welfare system replacing the pro-single-parenthood system, I'm in favour of it. It doesn't reduce or increase state power but it will reduce single-parent welfare dependence and create a more cohesive society.

2. Investment in voluntary groups that provide relationship education and fair funding of faith-based charities. These involve the government transferring funds to approved organisations. This will increase State power over these organisations, making them arms of government. Of course many nominal 'charities' already are State-funded quangos. Either you take money from existing state-funded organisations, or you increase total funding, increasing State power.

3. Voucherisation of public services. This gives increased power to private citizens and reduces the power of state sector bureaucracies, since it requires schools, hospitals etc to compete for pupils/patients/etc. This would reduce State power.

Re #1 Elimination of the marriage penalty - I should add that though a revenue-neutral shift will not directly decrease State power, long term it will reduce welfare dependence, since it will eventually increase the number of two-parent families, and two-parent families are better able to succeed without welfare, ie for two-parent families it is usually a rational economic choice to work rather than live on welfare benefits; which for an unskilled single parent it isn't. Therefore by evebtually reducing the size of welfare state expenditure it will eventually reduce State power.

One of the ways to make funds available for voluntary associations without going down the path of government subsidy is to cut taxes...

As I recall, IDS wrote this in the pamphlet he and Danny Kruger published in 2005. I think the title was 'Good for me Good for my Neighbour' The most interesting part was the point that the Welfare state is a reaction to breakdown in the welfare society. That if you want to reduce taxes, you first have to reduce the demand for welfare, to do that, you have to first strenghthen the welfare society through family, marriage, community and the small community groups and charities.( I hope I haven't misrepresented it.)

Now that does sound like an Adam Smith concept of Conservativism.


Leading by example is another good way, and enjoyable too, as any CH homie who joined the painting,cleaning,constructing etc gang of us who did and Anneka Rice on St Marys at Bournemouth. I detoured on my way home to have a look, and Springbourne now has a super community centre that they would not have without DC and Tobias Elwoods initiative. That sort of thing gets talked about, and may encourage other communities to have a go too. I fully expect us to something similar at every conference destination, so that the Tories get known, not for a gimmick, as our detractors are quick to state, but for a simple example of things starting bottom up. People first.
Whats on for Nottingham Dave??????

One of the ways to make funds available for individuals and families to look after themselves without going down the path of government subsidy is to cut taxes ...

The majority of Govt welfare handouts are there to buy votes, regardless of the colour of the government of the day.

Whether these handouts are disbursed via the State itself or its favoured charities matters not. The employment of staff to 'manage' the carousel of lots of money going in, a bit going out, is yet another way of buying votes, and of massaging the employment figures.

A decent society provides a safety net for the unfortunate; this worthy ethos has been largely transmuted into a encouragement to wastrels and the dissolute.

The concept seems simple enough to me, rather than encouraging the notion that the state has a responsibility to fix every ill in ones life, we reverse the trends of the last 50 years and encourage people to look after themselves and their communities.

Let charities and community groups take over from social workers and bureaucrats.

It will be a long and gradual process, but the potential rewards are huge. Less government, more vibrant communities, lower taxes, lower crime.

The attitude that every problem in life, large or small, should be fixed by the state has been a cancer eating away at our society for decades.

We need to re-educate people to stand on their own to feet, and to look after their friends, family and the wider community. It's not harsh or cruel, the simple fact is that they'd be a damn sight better at it that the state apparatus.

"the Welfare state is a reaction to breakdown in the welfare society"

To my knowledge, the inception of the welfare state predated the breakdown of society. There's a lot of statistical data on this. In the UK the welfare state began in the late '40s, societal breakdown didn't really start until the early '60s. In the USA the two were more closely linked.

There's a fundamental problem, and it isn't so much money, as time and energy.

Many voluntary organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit new members at all, let alone active members.

There's a profound conflict between the drive for economic growth, as defined by the GDP statistic which only represents the volume of money transactions in the country, see eg:


for an introduction, and the promotion of voluntary, ie upaid, efforts.

And why is there a difficulty in finding volunteers? I suggest that driving a huge cohort of women into thinking that they must work, and understandably having little time or energy for anything else, is one factor.

Another is that since the State wishes to control us all, assures that it can and takes a hefty slice of our income to do so, has made many people wonder why they should bother - the Welfare State itself has given many people an excuse to turn off their social conscience.

I think it's agood idea and in an intellectual forum like the Spectator Oliver Letwin is a fine advocate.What will be much harder and I think far beyond the capabilities of someone like Letwin is the ability to communicate what these ideas mean to the electorate at large and how they will impact on practical government policies.

This "big idea" is semantic quibbling. A frontier is a fixed divider. If you "roll back the frontiers of the state" or "expand the frontiers of society" you're doing the same thing and merely redressing a central Tory belief in new slogans - It's called "spinning".

Of course core beliefs need restating for new voters but to pretend they are new ideas is to betray the lineage and the eternal truth of them. These is why I have been a Tory for ages.

Cutting taxes for the hard-working low-income earners is by far the best way to - er - move the frontiers. Boris Johnson today in the Telegraph has a chilling case history - a not untypical one - of exactly the kind of people the Party should be caring for. Such case histories are a foreign country to the rich of Notting Hill.

As for Letwin's " It is one of the biggest ideas that human beings have ever had", excuse me while I stop cackling at the man's utter vacuity. It's no wonder that down in his Dorset West constituency the local Tories who fought like hell to keep his seat safe are in near revolt at what they see as the betrayal of what he had previously claimed were his beliefs and his "selling out" (their word - not mine) to neo Liberal ideas. I should think the LibDems will have a good chance now of taking the seat (Dorset 4 seats Con (2) 83k, LD (1) 73k, Lab (1) 34k, UKIP 6k)

sjm, I think I would not say "driving a huge cohort of women into thinking that they must work", but something more like "driving married couples into thinking that they must both be in paid employment, they must both expect to devote long and possibly irregular hours to that paid work, they must both expect to have to spend more hours travelling to and from that paid work, if there are children they must expect that much of the time they will be looked after by people who are paid to look after them, not by their parents on an unpaid basis, and domestic chores which previously would have been performed by family members on an unpaid basis should now be performed by other people who are paid to do them." All of which is good for GDP and for tax revenues, but not necessarily for society.

Denis Cooper @ 14.51, I completely agree with you, I was just too spitting mad to post as well and comprehensively as you have done. You might also include the familial duties of caring for elderly relatives and grandchildren (as our children's marriages fail).

Our elderly are medically assisted to live longer, so who cares for them? well at the moment, those of us who are in our sixties who are starting to have health problems ourselves. And we are expected to help out with our grandchildren, despite having brought up our own children.

What will the next generation do? will they give up their careers to care for us, and for their own grandchildren? Will they know how to look after the young and the elderly, and the sick and the vulnerable nearby? And will the State have the wherewithal to intervene?

As Dr Newman so clearly posited, political correctness has done a thorough job of undermining society.

driving married couples into thinking that they must both be in paid employment

Sorry, have to disagree. Sprialling property prices, council tax etc. mean that for a decent standard of living both members of a couple DO need to work and we're kidding ourselves if we think its a lifestyle choice.

Yes sjm @ 15:01 I absolutely agree with you!

Building maximum flexibility into the tax, benefit and childcare systems is the only way to allow as many people as possible to make their own arrangements. I earn about £40k a year and my wife works 2 days a week from home while doing all the heavy lifting in bringing up our 11-month old daughter.

It’s hard on her but we are managing the mortgage, still paying into pensions and trying to save plus deal with rampant council tax and energy price inflation. When no.2 comes along, and possibly no.3 (got to do our bit for UK demographics) it is going to get more difficult.

Transferrable tax thresholds would aid us a bit when my wife has to give up entirely. If only to make us feel that we weren’t being spat on each month for trying to raise a family in the best way yet discovered by man.

For couples who are earning as much as me combined or less it must be incredibly hard. Those people need not only sensible tax credits that reward work – as with the US Earned income tax credit – but higher thresholds and pro-marriage tweaks. They also need to be able to pay who they like to look after their kids – rather than state approved sources only.

If they can pay their retired parents to look after the kids two days a week it makes a massive difference to the economics of having both parents working – it also helps boost pensioner income which doesn’t hurt. Otherwise you are left with nothing after paying a nanny or childcarer or whatever – and you still need to get home earlier than an employer will want to take over.

To pay for childcare and still make any money out of Mum’s hardearned means Mum needs to pull in more than £25k-£30k a year. Few can do that and have any degree of flexibility in their working hours.

If you want to get the low-paid working more it has to be worth their while and non-refundable tax credits paid on and boosting already earned income are the best way of doing that and minimising the marginal rates – as the CPS as shown convincingly.

It’s time to stop pissing about. The average age of the population is rising steadily and we actually need everyone working harder and for longer AND having more kids. This is impossible unless we really, really work out how to free people up to solve the problems themselves in family units. Which is where they are strongest.

Part of this is also about stick though. There is no real stick in the benefits system right now. Not really. Some American states cut their welfare rolls by 60% by stopping payment to people who had been on support for more than two years in a sitting and giving a total five year lifetime maximum benefit entitlement.

Convert the majority of income support to food stamps redeemable at all major supermarkets into the bargain and, with tax credits that boost pay the more you work, you have some powerful incentives.

Mike Christie @ 13.38:

"Let charities and community groups take over from social workers and bureaucrats".

I agree wholeheartedly with you and have posted similar comments myself from time to time without stimulating discussion.
If DC and IDS have not already done so, perhaps they should speak to Shaun Bailey and investigate whether it would be possible to recruit a team of people to replicate what he does so successfully in other deprived inner cities.
Perhaps the Archbishop of York (not Canterbury) could be persuaded by the next conservative government to lead a multi-faith crusade (please select the appropriate PC word) with the objective of eliminating homelessness.

The correct word is jihad, David

I wouldn't regard myself as a particularly libertarian Conservative, but I still think reducing the scope of government is the right approach. Big government is intrusive and incompetent government.

I think there's a real likelihood that once a charity becomes dependent on the government for the majority of its income, it becomes simply an arm of government, and everything that was good about that charity will gradually disappear.

I certainly agree about vouchers, but I seem them as a means of reducing the scope of government, not expanding it.

Mike Christie @ 15:49 -

"Sorry, have to disagree. Sprialling property prices, council tax etc. mean that for a decent standard of living both members of a couple DO need to work and we're kidding ourselves if we think its a lifestyle choice."

I wouldn't disagree with that, but both members of a couple working is one reason (among several) for spiralling property prices. But one result is that with a higher "employment rate", ie more manhours being used working for money, and more manhours used in travel, there are fewer manhours available for voluntary work.

No, seriously guys - no one really believes "rolling forward society" is a new or big idea, do they?

It is clearly code for rolling back the state, and means what Tories have always meant. It is just slightly less aggressive/honest about it.

Unless it is a rehashing of the civic republican themes David Blunkett banged on about, with some half-digested "social capital" thrown in.

Tim, 3 of your 4 "proactive" measures are libertarian conservative ones, the only one that's not is investing in relationship education and evne that could be switched from existing funds very easily

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