I went today to a seminar for early career researchers, most of whom are working on issues related to social security. That is, of course, a terrible idea; I spent most of my career trying to interest people in social security issues, and look what happened to me.
Adrian Sinfield, who reflected about the changing situation in Scotland, gave one of the presentations, He was very kind about a book I wrote more than 25 years ago, Poverty and Social Security: concepts and principles. However, as I’ve explained to Adrian, I’ve had some reason to think again about that book, and I wonder if I didn’t make a strategic error in writing it. If we want a social security that treats people with respect and dignity, it’s important that people should see it as a part of everyday life, not as provision for the poor, or even a safety net for exceptional circumstances. It’s not necessarily a good idea either to focus a discussion of social security on its effects on poverty, or conversely to identify poverty with the receipt of social security benefits. The discourse has shifted since, and discussions of social security tend to be hijacked by discussions of employment; that is even less appropriate.