Let’s Have The Elizabethan Poor Laws Back! – Says IPPR – Jail The Workshy!


I assume that the lad here just doesn’t know what he’s talking about rather than IPPR actually recommending the jailing of the bone idle. But then, you know, modern academia, it’s difficult to know:

Simon Szreter is professor of history and public policy at the University of Cambridge and co-winner of the inaugural IPPR Economics Prize

Cambridge, has been known to have the odd clever person teaching there. This could be all the most wondrous piss take, you never know.

Everybody is proud of Britain being the home of the world’s first industrial revolution. What has been lost to memory is that the industrial revolution itself was facilitated by the world’s first ever universal social security system, the 1601 parish Poor Laws of Elizabeth I. Funded by a progressive tax on the value of land occupied in every parish, they supported the elderly, orphans, the disabled, the ill and the unemployed, providing an absolute entitlement to support for all subjects of the crown.

Yep, OK. There were certain problems, poor peeps could find themselves shuttled from parish to parish as people decided they’d prefer not to take care of them. But it worked well enough, true.

Britain’s present “productivity puzzle” is due to 40 years of disinvestment in our social security, education and health systems, only made worse by austerity.

That’s a weird enough statement as we spend more now than we did then. But:

We need to rediscover the lessons from Elizabethan “incentivised altruism”, and the prosperous need to stop focusing their energies on offshoring their wealth. From 1601 to 1800, when wealth could not be hidden, it was used productively to raise the whole population’s productivity.

OK, super. So, let’s have a look at that Elizabethan Poor Law then:

Main points of the 1601 Act
The impotent poor (people who can’t work) were to be cared for in almshouse or a poorhouse. The law offered relief to people who were unable to work: mainly those who were “lame, impotent, old, blind”.
The able-bodied poor were to be set to work in a House of Industry. Materials were to be provided for the poor to be set to work.[9]
The idle poor and vagrants were to be sent to a House of Correction or even prison.[5]
Pauper children would become apprentices.

OK, those who simply cannot take care of themselves are taken care of, the impotent poor. Those who could but can’t because of some vagary of the economy also get taken care of but have to work to get it. Fair enough. Poor kids get sent off to learn a trade at the age of 10 or 12. Sounds good. And the dodgers and welfare cheats get jailed.

You’ll get a lot of votes on that you know. A lorra, lorra, votes. Mostly respectable working class ones too, those who truly hate the lumpenproletariat.

It’s just, well, is this really something the IPPR approves of? Jailing the workshy? And that idea that the unemployed must labour 40 hours to gain their dole will attract too.

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