Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Building Block for a Modern ‘Social Contract’

Henrik Ræder Clausen of Europe News, independently of my recent post about the failure of the social contract, has written his own thoughts on the same topic in this guest-essay for Gates of Vienna.

A building block for a modern ‘social contract’
by Henrik Ræder Clausen

This is a piece regarding the welfare system, and how to apply it to encourage more constructive behaviour in society. The welfare systems as we know them today were generally designed during the 1970’s, and have grown to be a large component of public spending. Some have argued that welfare systems are inherently a bad idea and ought to be abandoned.

I do not belong to that group.

Danish IntifadaWhile it is true that the welfare system places a noticeable burden on the working class, an affluent modern society should be able to care for the weak and the ill in a reasonable manner. This provides citizens with an unprecedented degree of freedom, unique in the history of man. While fundamental institutions of society, such as legislation, education and upholding the Rule of Law are obviously of higher priority activities than welfare systems, our societies are rich enough that we can afford more.

However, in some situations welfare does permit and tolerate irresponsible and destructive behaviour. This is a problem. Not only is this economically wasteful and harmful for the mutual trust inside society, it is also disrespectful for those working people who carry the burdens, in the long run destructive to the system as such. There is no greater crime against the welfare system than misusing it.

This essay, inspired by the Intifada-style riots of immigrant youth in Denmark in the winter of 2008, describes some simple measures to make the social system discourage asocial behaviour.

One of the problems regarding ‘boredom’, vandalism and random riots is that the youngsters doing so have nothing to lose, and thus no direct, personal motivation for day-to-day constructive behaviour. While one may politely request them to stop torching schools and cars, this approach has not yielded results, as the continuous problems in Sweden, France and elsewhere demonstrate. Other ideas are needed.

This suggested ‘Modern social contract’ is a proposal encouraging social responsibility and constructive behaviour. It does not place additional burdens on productive citizens, nor does it require investing faith and money in exotic ‘social projects’ of unproven value, or create major administrative burdens. It is a simple suggestion for improving behaviour and responsibility.
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The principle is simple: Recipients of social security in any form should have an obligation to adhere to certain very fundamental rules of conduct. If these rules are violated, social security payouts will be temporarily suspended. This does not constitute punishment in the legal sense of the word, merely that a benefit provided by society is withheld due to concrete, practical causes. The intention is to make it clear that certain rules of conduct are fundamental, and society will not support their violation. This encourages responsible behaviour and improves lives for all parties involved.

For this purpose, the family shall be considered a fundamental social unit. Parents are responsible for behaviour of their children. Thus, if their children behave badly, the parents can rightly face relevant consequences for the actions of their children.

Some examples of relevant rules:

  • The children must attend to their school.
  • They must act with appropriate respect for the school, the teachers and the subjects taught.
  • Children may not participate in riots or vandalism.
  • Underage children in particular must not be pushed to crime.
  • Violence is not acceptable behaviour.
  • Any kind of drug usage or trade is unacceptable.

This is not intended to be a complete catalog of punishable offenses, and some of the items mentioned above are not even punishable under the law. These are fundamental rules of conduct that we expect every citizen to abide by, and thus it is meaningful to take practical measures to encourage this. Convictions for various crimes are meaningful triggers for consequences, as well as several non-criminal actions.

This is intended to be a motivating factor for parents, so that they may be more active in the upbringing of their children, so that they make certain responsibilities clear to their children, and is a contribution from the public authorities towards raising the children to participate responsibly in a modern society.

An important element of this proposal is that the suspensions of payouts be swift — and brief. This makes the consequences of bad behaviour immediately noticeable, and the parents will appreciate the need to make sure that their children abstain from causing trouble.

It is also important that decisions can be taken by the administration, without engaging in a complex system of law and appeals. The administration, which is the provider of social payouts in the first place, must have the authority to make final decisions, and only in severe cases, such as very frequent suspensions, can complaints be submitted. The legal basis for this is that we are not talking fines or taxes, that is, taking of property, but merely the withholding of public benefits.

While direct monetary savings are not the primary purpose of this proposal, they may result. The money thus unspent may be used to pay citizens to repair any damage done, like painting, removing graffiti, repairing lamps, sheds, plantings and other improvements of the local environment.

By applying funds in this manner, it might even be meaningful that someone who participated in vandalism, and had their social payouts suspended, participate in this work. This has the intentional effect that those who repair things easily gains a sense of ‘ownership’ of their work, which may in turn cause them to deter others from destroying it. Further, they get an experience that real work pays off, and they get an opportunity to compensate for the lost income their behaviour has caused.

This has a potential for abuse, however, in that some may think they can vandalize things in the expectation that they will later be paid to restore them. But the fact that the money comes from suspended social payouts would make such misuse susceptible to condemnation from their friends and families, who lost the money in the first place. Even a minority of would-be rioters breaking ranks and preferring social behaviour over destruction would be a fine example to set for others.

In Denmark, we have two examples of this system having the intended effect, and that the potential negative consequences tend to be self-eliminating:

  • The municipality of Helsinore had significant problems getting children of Roma immigrants to attend school. The municipality then decided to suspend welfare payouts to the affected families. This worked out just fine. The children had a sudden major increase in school attendance, and the families would receive their welfare payouts anyway. As fundamental education is vital for the future of the children, the benefit is obvious. Unfortunately, the system was declared to be without legal foundation and had to be abandoned.
  • Braband Boligforening, administrators of the immigration-heavy Gellerup area, decided to battle crime by evicting entire families with criminal children, and followed the policy through several legal challenges. Initially, it was feared that such a measure would render countless families homeless, but eventually a mere three families had their rental contract revoked. Crime in the area fell significantly, and it is generally assumed that parents, faced with a credible threat of losing their homes, had some serious talks with their children about what is decent behavior and what is not.

This system would have no negative implications for families who live on welfare provided they take a basic responsibility for the lives and behaviour of themselves and their children. Something so obvious that until now we have not found a need to formalize it.

On a practical level, it could be useful to take some concrete measures to clarify what is expected by families receiving government support. An obvious approach would be to have the receiver read and sign a contract with the terms as part of the application to get the benefits, preferably making the benefits contingent on accepting these terms. This makes the expectations on the recipients clear, and is also a tool within families to clarify, backed by the authorities, that certain rules of behaviour are essential for the family income. Including a wall poster to place in the home wouldn’t hurt, either.

I consider this to be a solid conservative approach to encourage civilized and constructive behaviour. We have had enough ‘carbecues’ and rioting in Europe over the last few years, and it is high time to employ more measures to stop the vandalism and encourage constructive participation in society, lest our societies descend into worse situations leading to radically more drastic reactions.


laine said...

Here's an idea. Why not confine Welfare to ONLY the ill and weak? The more idle hands there are, the more work of the devil. What possible medical or psychological condition can justify entire families on prolonged welfare?

Anyone able-bodied who cannot get his own job should work on state assigned projects. Streets need sweeping. Graffiti needs scrubbing. Parks need litter removal. No work. No money. In the case of children, no school, no money.

No exemptions for immigrant women baby making machines. After maternity leave of three months, they can take turns looking after the children of several families at once while the other women go out to clean houses, help out at old age homes etc.

There will be an immediate noticeable drop in crime and the number of "refugees asking for asylum" as the parasites looking for a free handout will avoid a jurisdiction where they must work for their supper.

To import cultures who are not known for their work ethic is stupid when there is a crying need for a taxpaying work force, not more CONSUMERS of taxes. To hand them money without requiring that they earn it, or even obey the law of the land is insane.

Elderly Scandinavians will be left lying in their own filth while their wallets are emptied for young able bodied immigrant layabouts. Group A after a lifetime of hard work do not owe Group B anything except the opportunity to do the same. No worker owes anyone else leisure.

Diamed said...

It's a good idea that could gain more traction than draconian 'chain them up and make them break rocks for a living' plans. I hope someone tries it so we can see if it helps, or is like building a one foot dike in the face of a 1,000 foot tsunami.

The idea that government should get involved in more than just the last step of crime, the crime itself, is important and needs to be recognized. This all begins in the home and only afterwards radiates outward.

Defiant Lion said...


Spot on I agree with every word.

The welfare system is being abused by marxists as one of their weapons to destroy the UK. We have immigrants who have contributed nothing to the pot being given housing and all manner of benefits to support their large families whereas people who have paid into the pot for their entire working life are told they cannot have benefits for heating or for palliative care in their homes as they enter old age.

Welfare should only be used for our children - schooling and community facilities - and for our sick and elderly.

It should not be used to fund the colonisation of our lands by aliens, give alcohol and drugs to addicts, give cosmetic operations to the terminally vain, give the lazy a career choice (and we have generations of families who have existed solely on benefit) and to provide single mothers with a home just because they opened their legs one night and demand the state pay for the consequences.

I could go on and on about how welfare is being absued in the UK but I'll finish by saying welfare is subject to the tragedy of the commons. It starts out to help a few but then ends up trying to support and ever increasing number of hands begging for more and more placing an unsustainable burden on the productive members of society.

And the marxist scum in the lib/lab/con know this all too well and they use the juicy carrot of a free ride from the state to mop up votes especially from immigrant communities furthering their aims of destroying the UK. It's a disgraceful violation of our democracy, nothing less.

Henrik R Clausen said...

The old school Marxists are, in my view, quite a problem still. More so than when they were out in the open, for they didn't lose their convictions, they just quieted up and got on with their agendas. I've mentioned Common Purpose before, and believe they play a significant role in breaking down the healthy prejudices that has made Britain one of the greatest nations in history.

Yes, healthy prejudices. Useful, constructive, good. I'm getting to understand why Islam has some attraction, in that it at least provides some kind of moral system, however wicked, which may be better than a rotten Life at the Bottom.

The strange blend of Marxists and New Age philosophers in CP abandons prejudice, preconcieved ideas and in general anything that we used to identify with, and thus effectively dismantle Our Culture, leaving a void for just about anything to fill in.

I'm glad that in Denmark we're at least a tad ahead of events. One principle that is good to reassert is that of private property, and let people who behave badly suffer depravation of the support they had taken for granted.

xlbrl said...

"I consider this to be a solid conservative approach to to encourage civilized and productive behavior."
But it is not, and you cannot provide one example where it is.
Robert Conquest--'All things not specifically right-wing sooner or later become left-wing.'
The enormous endowments of Ford, Carnegie, Rockefeller, on and on, are now left-wing, just as all democratic governments move left precisely in proportion to their ability to create programs in the first place. The Founders understood this and constructed a Constitution as an anti-trust document to limit government, which worked for the time it was respected.
This is a game you can only lose. The more money that is created over time, the greater the poverty we can afford to create.
Instead, remove welfare, and permit individuals and associations to grow and perform these tasks in a way that benefits both givers and receivers, as was once done successfully in the United States with a small fraction of our wealth today.
The real game is power, not poverty. You are addressing the wrong issue, and playing their game.

Proud Infidel said...

I belong to the group that says welfare systems are a bad idea. The reasons are simple, not only can they be easily manipulated and scammed, as well as encourage dependency, they are also used as tools by politicians to buy votes. Mind you, I'm not against unemployment compensation (as long as there's a must be looking for work component) or emergency medical assistance to the poor, but large welfare systems like those in Europe are not a good idea in my opinion.

Welfare systems are very effective tools for leftist parties, they can promise this or that benefit and demonize conservative politicians as wanting to end or reduce benefits. Do you think it's an accident that true conservative parties have no power or voice in highly welfared places like Canada and Europe? Welfare systems can be a very effective way to minimize "diversity" of political thought in the marketplace of ideas. It shouldn't surprise anyone that most major parties in Europe are just various degrees of socialist. Even the ones with "Conservative" in their name are nothing more than "Socialist Lite."

Afonso Henriques said...

Sorry Henrik but I agree with xlbr.

My mother earns 2600€ per month, of which more than 1300€ go directly to subsidise programs like that of yours. She never sees that money. Nonetheless, she still has to pay even more taxes concerning her home, her car and every product she buys. And the gas here is always rising, 50% of which is taxes going to subsidise those little programs.

I think in this respect we Euros should look and learn with Americans.

In my opinion wellfare can only be justified if it happens to help the Nation in its higher terms, not to make Gypsies go to school or to give free houses to parasites.

Henrik, are you married? I think it is in whole of Europe but here the price one has to pay (and will pay every month through taxes) to be married is so high it is ridiculous. Yesterday on the radio, a man claimed he and his girlfriend would have to pay more 7 to 10 thousand Euros per year if they happened to be married.

No, for this I can't support wellfare. We help poor children at school, that is, the State buys them books and stuff. From the 5th all the way to the 12nd year at school, an average family with two children studying will have to pay a minumum wage (400€ to 500€ or more) in schoolar books only. That, is if both parents earn more than 1200€.

A family that earns less than 1200€ gets the books for free.

The problem is that many of the "poor" families have many children, a luxury that "middle" income families can not have.

A bigger problem: those "poor" families's chidren almost always end up not going to college, repeating many, many years before leaving school. Meanwhile, average families have to make a great effort if they have more than one child studying, and those are the children who usually make it into college.

We are killing our brightest in order to feed our ... "scum"?

I will only support a welfare system that is designed for the brightest and aloud the bright ones to be bright, independent of their social class.

laine said...

It is worth stressing again that productive members of society cannot afford to have children or have one parent stay at home to care for them because their taxes are high to support too many immigrant families who do not contribute in any way and are poor role models for their large broods raised to feel no shame for chronic parasitism.

Indeed, many Muslim immigrants in every western country show their absolute contempt for the state and people that are supporting them by participating in vandalism or worse crimes. They swagger about like colonists. In their minds they are clearly "soldiers of Allah" just by soaking up the enemy's resources through welfare, lawfare, crime, outlays on footbaths, whatever means possible. It's clear they feel entitled to all forms of financial aid, undoubtedly considering them the "jizya" or special tax owed to Muslims by all infidels. They are tribute collectors for Allah wherever they go, and we are fools for paying it.

Henrik R Clausen said...

Many interesting comments here:

Why not confine Welfare to ONLY the ill and weak?

It is already. In principle, that is. The number of recepients in Denmark has tripled since we established the system in the 70's. That's problematic. Compounding this is the fact that 'weak' is an ill-defined termed. Social advisors can be persuaded to grant permanent support to individuals who pretend to be 'weak', while in reality 'lazy' would be more precise.

Henrik, are you married?

I used to be. Much to my surprise, my economy improved significantly after the divorce, in spite of having to pay a significant (€ 10,000/year) support to my ex-wife. The economical incitement for mothers to be single is puzzling. It should be the other way around.

Welfare systems can be a very effective way to minimize "diversity" of political thought in the marketplace of ideas.

You mean, like Italy in the 20's? Hmmm...

I have to set one detail right: What is proposed here is not increased spending. It is suspending payouts in certain situations, and that would save some money. Not a huge amount, granted, but the real saving is intended to lie in less destruction and markedly higher school attendance rates.

It is not meant to 'purchase' decent behavior.

The discussion here is food for thought. Any recommended literature on this? I just might dive in.

xlbrl said...

The econonic inducement for mothers to be single is not puzzling, but inevitable when we vie for tinkering rights in a welfare democracy. In the USA, we won one round on this tilted playing field in 1980, but we have resumed backing into what is your present situation. The only way to see that government does not abuse its power is not to grant it in the first place. Tocqueville foresaw that democracies would have a terrible problem handling equality, because it would be the people who were the sovereign, and so the people who would be their own tryanny. I will try to do a better job tonight after work.
Democracy in America is an amazing book, and the only one I have ever re-read, and four times at that. If you decide to read it, save youself much time by marking it constantly in pencil, because you will be going back to it. We are all in there, all.

Conservative Swede said...


Robert Conquest--'All things not specifically right-wing sooner or later become left-wing.'

This is just a lemma. The full theorem (just defined by me) says that anything right-wing, even if it is specifically right-wing, will sooner or later become left-wing, if it is internationalist right-wing.

And that includes every expression of establishment right-wing, and indeed it has already turned left-wing.

Afonso Henriques said...

Conservative Swede. I agree. But there are many shades of belonging. When we think at the Civilisational dimension, that does not makes us leftist... Nor at the Imperial level as in the case of Russia (and the United States).

xlbrl said...

I do not have any difficulty with your exceptions to definitions of right-wing, and I do not know that Conquest would either. This discusssion, referencing Hendrik, goes back to understandings made over several centuries, and has little to do with internationalism, paleo, neo or otherwise.

thll said...

Welfare is an extension of family care - or rather it should be and were it to remain so it would be of benefit to society. But in Britain welfare has been perverted into a situation where ethnic British families struggling to put shoes on their own children's feet are helping to buy shoes for others (so to speak).

Henrik R Clausen said...

Democracy in America is an amazing book

Thanks. For now, I'm picking up The Conservative Mind.

The situation is mind-boggling. 'Human decency' takes on an interesting meaning when you start noticing that statist systems do not respect exactly that.