The experience described by Stossel is likely to be all too common. I have been told by workers for a charity that, among things, tries to get jobs for the unemployed that the people who come to them often say that the British ‘Job Centres’ are ‘useless’. Similarly, Lawrence Mead told me he had visited a benefits office in Britain which, supposedly, was trying to push people into work, and found that in fact there was little of this and much more just putting people on benefits.
Then again in Madison, Wisconsin, a former administrator in the Wisconsin Works programme remarked how an official policy could easily be altered beyond recognition by those putting it through.
The politicians tend to be far removed from what is actually going on in these offices. They need to be able to appoint people who believe in and will enact and enforce their policies. Perhaps in Britain especially, where the civil servants are not political appointments, the policies of the politicians do not get through unless the civil servants actually believe in them.
Pushing through changes right through to the front line of the social security system is not easy.
- The scandal of public servant pensions
- Yes, you are entitled to benefits but no, you can’t have them
- Even the staff of the benefits office tell young people they are better off on benefits
- Unemployment hidden in sickness and invalidity benefits in Poland, Norway and Switzerland
- “95% of the young men called for National Service after the war were found to be literate”