I have been musing recently on the long since overdue phasing out of the Education Maintenance Allowance, (EMA) – a social credit awarded to students aged primarily between 16-18 who had the gumption to forfeit productive employment or an apprenticeship and pursue A-levels and the like. There is one sole criterion: these students’ parents or guardians must earn typically less than £20,000, (unless they are self-employed or retired in which case this can be far, far higher). I have been reflecting on how unjust the system was, how just it is that it should be abolished.
Introduced by a Labour government ostensibly to provide a financial incentive to those from poorer backgrounds to continue their education, its benefits rest on key presumptions. Namely, that a poor parent/guardian suddenly cannot afford the upkeep of their child post-16, that the EMA payments are spent wisely by the recipient to mitigate this cost, that said child cannot go out and get a job over weekends or in evenings and that a richer parent/guardian automatically doles money out to their child in lieu of the state doing it for them.
Of these I think resort to coercion – the confiscation of hard-working, successful people’s money to subsidise the children of poorer people as they enter into higher tiers of education – is the most singularly repugnant. Instead of a child generating their own wealth, in their own free time, they must rely on the wealth generated by others, the proceeds of state-legitimised theft, whilst, anchored to the relative success of their parents/guardians, middle class children are penalised and must resort to a job for any extra money they may desire, lest they be spoiled. Idleness for the children of the poor is rewarded, as is the failure of their parents/guardians to earn enough money in the first place.
Moreover, to echo my earlier sentiment, it is foolish to think that EMA is directed to parents struggling to meet food or clothing costs, for example. The massive upsurge in teenage alcoholism following the introduction of EMA vividly displays for all to see where this ‘free’ money is predominantly being spent. If it is paid into children’s accounts, there is no obligation or means by which a parent can gain access to it and, as again I have said, I cannot fathom why the cost of a child suddenly balloons as they embark on the study of A-levels. The economic burden of a dependent per annum remains roughly uniform no matter the timeframe, if the costs are indeed exorbitant – and the scenario I employ here is that, even if parents/guardians didn’t spend all their money on fripperies like fags, like booze they still encountered hardship – we could trace this back to exorbitant taxation and – although hardly distinguishable – the hidden tax of inflation which undermines wages and savings. It makes no sense to tax people only for this tax to be returned to them minus the handling cost of the bureaucracy which underpins this ever-whirling vortex of churned money. Social credit makes no sense, especially when the ‘beneficiaries’ of which are taxpayers.
We must also rigorously consider why more people taking A-levels etc is a good thing. There are deficiencies in the more labour-intensive jobs and the pay is, especially upon becoming a certified plumber or electrician, excellent. Further, for those receiving EMA it must be presumed that they will be conducting their higher-end studies at state-run schools. Devoid of incentive, they are awful. It is doing them a profound disservice to have to coax them inside their doors with the carrot of EMA. As opposed to the situation in which children of the poor must subscribe to state schools, being unable to pay, on top of general taxation, for private education, the whole decayed morass of state schools – at all levels – should be privatised. With multifarious incentives to develop an innovative and stimulating curriculum, not to mention outstanding results and true social mobility, affordable private schools, freely competing with each other – lowering costs, improving efficiency – could stand to revolutionise our society, rather than perpetuating an underclass – those who fall foul to state education, thus cannot read, don’t get a good job and are, after having children, unable to pay for their private education, stoking each turn of the cycle.
What I would lastly like to address is the bizarre sense of entitlement EMA, amongst other forms of welfarism, engenders. It is not your money. You have no claim to other people’s property. Theft in this sense cannot be legitimised; you cannot infringe their inalienable rights outside of provision of a mechanism to defend those rights. If a robber were to offer you a bundle of notes which he had just extracted from a cash register and that you knew he had just extracted from a cash register would you take it as eagerly as what you wholeheartedly take from the state? Would you protest – out in street – and write facile petitions if the robber were caught and compelled to give that money back to whosoever he stole it from? Logically in this sort of situation you ought to.