Thursday, 26 August 2021

Unaffordability is a myth


One of the standard objections to allowing refugees access to the UK is that the UK is unable to look after ‘its own people’. It’s usually expressed in terms of questioning why refugees should have priority over homeless people / unemployed people / poor people / military veterans* (*select disfavoured group according to preference). Superficially, it’s not a wholly unreasonable question to ask. It is, though, completely the wrong question, and is based on a series of invalid premises. The invalid premises are that the UK is unable to support those living here who currently need support; that that inability is due to a lack of resources; and that using limited resources to help one group therefore necessarily means that other groups cannot be helped. Take away those premises, and the right question to ask is why, in one of the world’s richest countries, there is so much poverty and homelessness, whether amongst long-standing residents or new arrivals.

In global terms, the UK is a rich – very rich – country. Domestic poverty and hunger aren’t a result of any lack of resources, they’re a result of the way those resources are distributed. And that distribution is a result of a deliberate political choice – which means that it could be changed by making a different political choice. It does, though, suit the ruling classes in the UK to pretend that eliminating poverty, hunger, and homelessness are ‘unaffordable’, and it suits them even more to allow justifiable anger about those issues to be directed at immigrants and refugees rather than at themselves. ‘Divide and rule’ has long been the preferred approach of ruling classes everywhere, and the UK is no exception. Persuading the less well-off that the ‘problem’ is caused by those even poorer than themselves is just the current manifestation of that approach. The saddest part is seeing so many swept along by the big lie that ‘we can’t afford’ to help refugees fleeing a situation that our own government did so much to create.


dafis said...

I might have bought into the "unaffordability" fib had most of UK Government's big spend items were evidently efficient, effective and largely devoid of vanity, delusion and other fantasies. However it's difficult to find much that passes that test. Even the NHS, the so-called national treasure is full of waste, misdirected effort and bureaucratic failure. As for Defence let's not go there ! Infrastructure is in a state of disarray where long winded debates on environment and absence of coherent strategy leads to as much being spent on consultations as there is spent upgrading the national(UK)network, other than HS2 which is a vanity as far as I'm concerned.

So back to the Afghan problem or any of the others in the queue for attention. UK Gov could have dealt with most of the problems it confronts had it been as cavalier in its spending as it has in the context of warmongering. An oppressive regime in Afghanistan post 2001 might have prompted a flow of refugees anyway but the 100's of millions squanderded bombing the shit out of the place and maiming our troops and the natives would have been far better deployed correcting the structural defects of the UK and making it a "better place".

Of course that kind of approach never crossed the collective empty heads and vindictive warmongering bastards that ran the show through from the days of Bliar to the present. We owe the refugees and must do the right thing. That said to ease our anger perhaps we pack Bliar off to Kabul in the hope that those old boys in beards and turbans know how to deal with him..... slowly.

Spirit of BME said...

Throwing money/resources at a problem is not a magic cure, because we would have eradicated poverty years ago.
In my lifetime I believe I have seen two great US President, one of them was Lydon B Johnson (who had the aptitude of a crook and the manners of a polecat) who in 1964 launched what became known a ‘War on Poverty’, targeting inner city depravations. Billions of dollars were spent and in today’s values it would be trillions. Housing, schools were built, and resources hosed all over the place, but sadly time has judged it to be a failure and the same problems are there to this day.
The reasons are many, but the book ‘The Bottom Billion’ goes some way to explain why these things happen.

John Dixon said...


"Throwing money/resources at a problem is not a magic cure, because we would have eradicated poverty years ago." Actually, I agree with the first part of that, but the second part is just not true; the only reason that poverty has not been eradicated is that governments (and sadly, by extension, electors) have made the political choice not to eradicate it. It's not a case of "throwing money" at the problem, but a question of how resources are allocated. Sufficient resources to eradicate poverty exist in the economy, but the way they are distributed is a result of choice, not some vague impersonal force. We should ask ourselves whose interests are served by the myth that poverty is somehow both inevitable and the fault of the poor.