Tuesday 16 October 2012

Smart Cards For The Friendless

I'd briefly planned to write something on Iain Duncan Smith's "smart cards for the feckless" policy but had discarded the idea, thinking that it would - like almost everything the coalition has announced since 2010 - be creaking under the strain of universal hilarity by the time I got round to it.

Apparently not. In fact, unless my being extremely busy with that real life thing has meant that I missed the conflagration of criticism, there has been little comment on the matter. It would seem that the public's general penchant for sneering at the lives of those deemed inferior has blinded almost everyone to the unthinking idiocy of the plan.

I say almost everyone because Angela at Liberal Vision has nicely filleted it, whilst also raising valid points about the mission creep for which it could pave a nice flat, smooth path with pretty raised brick border and colourful - yet tastefully nuanced - shrubbery.

You see, this is how IDS views the world of the underclass: (cue idyllic 1930s English countryside ditty)
Bert: 'Ere, Joe. The social 'av just given me this 'ere smart card. Instead of me benefits, I gotta use this in shops and it won't work if I try to get me fags and booze!
Joe: The bastards! So what yer gonna do, then?
Bert: Nuffink I can do, is there? I'm just gonna 'av to give up the drink and smokes and go get a job!
Whereas anyone who has ever lived amongst or near the type of people IDS is targeting know the conversation would, more likely, go like this:
Bert: 'Ere, Joe. The social 'av just given me this 'ere smart card. Instead of me benefits, I gotta use this in shops and it won't work if I try to get me fags and booze!
Joe: The bastards! Anyfink I can do to help, mucker?
Bert: Well, I suppose. You can still buy that stuff, can't ya?
Joe: Yeah. 'Ere, tell you what. Why don't I get your baccy and beer, and I'll give you a food shoppin' list for the same amount. Then I just come round your gaff and we swap.
Bert: Sorted! Cheers, mate.
So, in short, IDS's plan will only work for those who can count on no-one trustworthy enough to do a deal with. Not so much smart cards for the feckless as for the friendless. It also shows his astounding lack of understanding as to the resourcefulness of working class (or, indeed, non-working class) folk. They've been dancing round the - mostly class-motivated - avalanche of sin taxes and government regulations on their way of life for millennia, why would they stop when faced with something as poorly thought-out, and easily counteracted, as selective smart cards?

A convenient headline grabber for the Daily Mail contingent, then, while also gently introducing the idea of smart cards as a means of lifestyle control to a largely bovine public.

Just what we've come to expect from politicians of late, sadly.


JonathanBagley said...

I'm guessing many of these Joes will receive a small commission, so the net result is that Bert has given some of his benefits to Joe, Joe becomes a criminal, Bert carries on smoking and drinking and Berts children eat less and live in a colder home.

Starship Fighter said...

Can't be long before they're issuing smart cards FOR booze and cigarettes, loaded up with an individual's weekly rations, according to government's handy guidelines! And this way, like with heroin substitutes, the doses can be incrementally dropped so that in no time at all everone will be gloriously healthy!

c777 said...

And the contract for making the smart cards goes to?
No, surely not one of their cronies.
I mean that's corruption is it not.
No, no, of course not.
Move along there.

barnacle bill said...

Common sense, seems to be something our politicians leave at home (first or second) when they enter Parliament

david said...

I'm sure white van won't exactly be shitting himself.

Potentially more serious is that this would be another small move in the direction of a cashless society (the thought of which probably gives HMRC and the puritans wet dreams).

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Good point. Kinda like the 'cut' a fence profits by cos, after all, there would probably be some offence created around such practices.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Yes, the idea of smart cards has been foreseeable for some time, but always considered something extreme; something people simply won't tolerate. IDS's plan helps smooth that by making the use of smart cards a routine matter.

Remember this?


Dick_Puddlecote said...

I've no doubt it does. HMRC will know what you are paid every month from April 2013 under RTI regs, so knowing what you spend it on would square the circle. ;)

jaycas said...

Actually the headline of the linked article features tobacco although the text refers to those on drugs - seems like smokers are now drug addicts. Cards useable only in certain shops - what if other excluded shops are offering a cheaper deal on the food you want to buy? Is only a % of the benefit paid in this way cos he's forgotten about eg energy bills? It starts with identified 'troubled families' - cue SS involvement which will in due course decide that you're 'troubled' if you drink two cans in a week and, it goes without saying, if you're a smoker (compulsory testing before award of benefits).

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Yes, that was covered in the LV article. IDS - in his kneejerk zeal to appease tut-tutting Tories - could be cutting down on economies that the targeted families make by using local shops instead of those who can afford the smart card hardware.

If he's serious about this, he's a loony. But I don't think he is as he can't be that dense. It's the modern phenomenon of politicians grabbing headlines and then letting the idea just melt away.

Remember Clegg's much-trumpeted Great Repeal Bill?


john said...

I bet they will go on ebay and people will buy them for more than the face value. I was very pleased when I recently sold a 20 euro note on ebay for £23, might go to the local bureau de change and get more.

Jocelyn said...

Police State, Totalitarian Dictatorship - these are the first things that come to mind! So this Smart Card idea has been implemented in Australia - Hmm, why doesn't that surprise me? They hate smokers, and they hate poor people. That country sounds like hell on earth, I think Afghanistan is a better place to live.

Eddie Willers said...

Indeed, I spent a few months in Sweden in 1986 - the level of public intoxication among teenagers in places like Gothenberg and Lindkoping was incredible - even to us booze-hardened Britishers.

Apropos the foodstamp/card issue...I was buying food stamps at 70 cents on the dollar from the desperate when living in LA in the early 90's. They had no issues selling them (to get cash for other 'substances') and I had no problem using them in the toniest of supermarkets. Win-Win.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Precisely. Another policy purportedly to 'help' the poor but which will, instead, more likely impoverish them.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Oh, come now, Dick—I am sure that the conversation would be far more like your first example: after all, these people are just crying out for a friendly nudge to help wean them off their addictions.

Surely you remember all those sensible folk who backed the smoking ban because "it would give them the push to give up smoking"—that worked brilliantly, did it not.

What? It didn't...? Oh.


Dick_Puddlecote said...

{snork} :)

Curmudgeon said...

Given the current debate on this issue it would be a good idea to remind people of this post. I've just mentioned it on Twitter.

To my mind it's a good touchstone for sorting out those who genuinely believe in freedom and individual responsibility from the closet authoritarians. It's disappointing to see some people whose blogs and tweets I generally respect coming out in favour of it.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Yes, it is rather depressing isn't it?

Ta for the reminder, been under the weather and had forgotten this. :)