Friday, 29 June 2012

The more things change, the more they stay the same.


We, on both sidesof the Atlantic, have heard all the verifiable and well documented stories of the young woman who have baby after baby in order to stay on welfare (ahem).

There is nothing new under the sun.

An 1834 Commission under the leadership of one Edwin Chadwick produced a 13 volume report regarding the reform of the British Poor Laws.

Bill Bryson in his book “At Home – A short history of Private Life “ (Anchor Books 2011)  writes as follows:

“The commissioners report fulmigated against those “who value parish parish support as their privilege and demand it as their right”

Poor relief had become so generously available, the commissioners believed, that “it appears to the pauper that the Government has undertaken to repeal, in his favour, the ordinary laws of nature; to enact that the children shall not suffer for the misconduct of their parents – the wife for that of the husband, or the husband for that of the wife; that no one shall lose the means of comfortable sustenance, whatever be his indolence, prodigality or vice”

Bryson continues: With a zeal that came perilously close to paranoia, the report went on to suggest that a poor working man might wilfully choose to “revenge himself on the parish” by marrying and producing children to “increase that local over population which is gradually eating away the fund out of which he and all the other labourers of the parish are to be maintained”.

As Bryson notes from the Commissioners' report : He had noting to lose from such a strategy after all, for his children could be put to work at home and “become a source of profit to the parents if  trade is good, and, if it should fail, they are maintained by the parish”.

Bryson goes out to spell out that the commissioners’ “solution” to the “problem” of having a poor and indigent population was the establishment of the infamous “workhouses” at which husbands were separated from wives, and children from their parents, labour was forced, and food was (by design) inferior  (on no account was it to be superior or equal to the ordinary mode of subsistence of the labouring classes of the neighbourhood”)


plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

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