It’s time to reconfigure our social insecurity system

February 21, 2019

It is hard for us to imagine that we once felt proud that we could develop a social security system designed to prevent people from living in poverty, whether they were children, older people, people experiencing unemployment, people with a disability, students, war veterans, people experiencing chronic illness, or people with caring responsibilities.

The fact that this was even our aim as a society seems, in retrospect, brilliant. The fact that this aim has been so undermined and subverted by the neoliberal agenda is not. We hardly even use the term social security anymore, preferring the term welfare, according to the derogatory US usage. Welfare used to mean the wellbeing of all members of society.

Now it is shorthand for purported laziness, moral decay and that deadliest of sins, dependence. This framing always begins with the false notion that people choose to bear the brunt of inequality and that they should be punished for doing so.

The social security system, according to this dismal gospel, rather than offering a real measure of security in people’s lives, is there to make people feel bad because they have chosen, for example, to be unemployed.

John Falzon in the Age/Sydney Morning Herald