an original idea? the archive is full of ’em

Ralph Musgrave‘s economics blog makes a case for a program of time-limited payments to companies who hire the unemployed, although I’m not sure if Musgrave is thinking of it as a permanent feature of the welfare state rather than an emergency response to depression. I might quibble with a couple of aspects – for example, it seems possible to me that businesses might exploit it by churning workers every three months to collect the subbo as often as possible – but I think that could be mitigated with a bit of thought.

It’s all very sound, but it only misses one thing: the policy exists and it’s called the Future Jobs Fund, and it was about the first thing the coalition found to cut.

On the other hand, the archive is also full of bad ideas. I note that the pre-Queen’s Speech trailing is talking about “a British FBI” and stuffing everything you can think of into “a National Crime Agency”. This idea was repeatedly briefed out to the Sundays by David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, and John Reid, and its reappearance is a sign that the government is so directionless the circulation of bad ideas round the Home Office files is beginning to influence it. The last time they came up with it, the result was the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, and nobody seems to know what that’s for.

Further, after things like the old National Hi-Tech Crime Unit were rolled into it, fairly quickly it became necessary to re-create them at the police force level because they were no longer responsive to the needs of the police. Apparently, the problem this is meant to solve is that the immigration queues have got out of hand. John Reid decided to save the world by making immigration officers wear a remarkably, depressingly crappy uniform and putting up signs reading UK BORDER, as if wet feet or a big hole in the ground didn’t make it plain.

Now Theresa May wants to hurry up the queues by stuffing bureaucracy A into bureaucracy B. We are clearly at about 2007 in the last government’s timeline. Alternatively, perhaps we never left Late Blairism.


  1. backword

    “businesses might exploit it by churning workers every three months to collect the subbo as often as possible”

    Now, while that would not be good; it might eat into the numbers of people who have never worked, or have not worked for, say, over a year. So while this would be a very cynical exercise, it would do some good, making hard-core unemployed more employable, giving them some earned money to buy things other than necessities. In short, on balance, I’d be in favour of it, even so.

    But, god, the government’s approach to the immigration thing is a fiasco. First, they want to say that terrorists and the like are poring into our country, and they’re going to stop this; second, they refuse to pay for this.

    And “David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, and John Reid” what a shower. One of Labour’s better ideas was devolving power from Westminster (that’s what the elected mayors are supposed to be about), yet at every turn, Westminster makes a grab for local powers. As far as I can tell, FBI-like forces aren’t very often useful, they’re not popular with real cops, and they don’t catch the few nationally-wanted criminals they’re supposed to either. Sometimes, there’s definitely a case for austerity.

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