Monday, December 24, 2012

U.K. to monitor unemployed via their computers

The British social welfare establishment has an unofficial motto: "Support everybody, monitor everybody."

So we are to gather from a piece in the Telegraph.
From the beginning of next year, the unemployed will have to look for work through the Coalition's new Universal Jobmatch website or potentially risk losing their benefits.
The tracking element of the programme will not be compulsory as monitoring people's behaviour online without their consent would not be allowed under EU law.

But job advisers are able to impose sanctions such as compulsory work placements or ultimately losing benefits if they feel the unemployed are not searching hard enough.
Assuming the article is accurate -- and I wonder about a reporter who can write "potentially risk," which is redundant -- we have a typical bureaucratic diktat whose left hand is unacquainted with its right hand. Claimants must look for work through the Universal Jobmatch site (what if they don't own a computer?); their job foraging cannot be monitored "without their consent" (do they lose their benefits if they don't consent?); but "job advisers" can impose sanctions anyway.

While this social engineering scheme is far from the craziest aspect of life in soft-totalitarian U.K., it's worth noting as a typical symptom.

To begin with, The State ought not to be monitoring the actions of its citizens who have not been convicted of a crime or shown to have violated the terms of their unemployment benefits. There's no doubt that plenty of benefits collectors are fiddling the government -- taking in dole money while forgetting what work is, or even while working off the books in the underground economy. But this kind of Big Brother scrutiny is far too extreme for what in any individual case is an a priori assumption of guilt.

What makes it more egregious is that the British welfare state has created most of the behavior it seeks to prevent through prying. This is the country where any "asylum seeker" is immediately set up with benefits. Mad imams preaching death to infidels are paid to exist in more comfort than the average working Briton enjoys. A sub-working class in which no one in a family has held a job for three generations can be found throughout Her Majesty's realm.

As in overextended governments everywhere, departments and agencies and administrators can only think in terms of their designated powers, which is probably a good thing in itself, but the trouble is no one is looking at the big picture -- at least, not realistically. All bureaucratic paper shufflers can do is come up with more regulations designed to curb individuals.

Does anyone think this plan will actually be enforced on a large scale? It has all the usual hallmarks of a bone thrown to critics of the welfare system, aimed at reducing the heat on politicians. If any jobless person is actually called on the carpet to account for his lack of initiative, it will be purely as a demonstration for the press or because he has committed a thought crime, like joining the English Defence League. I would bet money no Muslim or black will ever be bothered by the authorities. That would be "racist."

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