Letter: The price of right-wing economics

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YOU ARE right to draw attention to the size of the social security budget, and to point out that it cannot continue as it is ('Welfare in a state', 27 June). Yet the fault is not in our social security policy but our economic policy. The benefits system was designed by Beveridge for a world in which unemployment was not above 5 per cent. During the 1980s, the world was dominated by governments which did not regard this objective as a high priority. By letting unemployment rise, they not only made spending rise: they made revenues fall as well. In the United States and Australia, as much as here, public sector deficits are the price of right-wing economics. Attempts to force down wages have made many workers depend on benefits.

It is hard to change this by tinkering with the budget. People deprived of benefit and lacking other visible means of support may fall ill, or they may take to crime. Either possibility may cost the state far more than the social security budget does at present.

Earl Russell

House of Lords

London SW1