You’d have to did deep for it, but it’s there on page 46 of the Economist in front of Malcolm.
It’s the Bagehot column, considering
The law of averages
One of the principles underlying the government’s welfare proposals is shaky.
Bagehot starts by addressing the populist — rather than “popular” (although the Daily Mail wilfully and consistently confuses the two) — basis of Tory welfare policies:
the ordinary or average man, whose lifestyle, say David Cameron and his ministers, should define the limit of state support for benefit recipients. He is a beguiling but unreliable arbiter of welfare policy.
The ordinary man was born in a speech by George Osborne in 2010, in which the chancellor of the exchequer declared that “no family should get more from living on benefits than the average family gets from going out to work”. This vow has so far had two main applications. From next year, no workless family will receive more than a total of £26,000 ($41,000) a year in welfare payments—the median post-tax income of a working household. This is new: hitherto need, rather than a fixed limit, has determined the parameters of state aid. Meanwhile, changes made last year to housing benefit are supposed to stop its recipients living in homes beyond the reach of ordinary working people.
Bagehot then addresses how the essential notion of re-inventing a new “poverty line” has metamorphed:
This week Policy Exchange, a think-tank, published a report arguing that, since it is unfair for council tenants to live in houses that most families can’t afford, expensive homes (defined as those worth more than the median house price in each region) should be sold off by councils when they become vacant. The proceeds would be used to build more and cheaper homes elsewhere; the proposal was swiftly endorsed by Number 10.
Bagehot then sets out to pick reasonable holes in this notion. Refer to that article for much sage thought, and a whiff of realism.
What Bagehot cannot bring himself to write is that such a policy involves social zoning: the rich man in his semi, the poor man in his high-rise. For ever and ever, amen.
We already have gated communities, school-catchment areas, and now we can look to a hard-and-fast line of residential distinction between classes.
We have been this way before. It was a general practice, but most notorious in the long-running (1935-1959) affair of the Cutteslowe Walls.
The Urban Housing Estate Ltd. bought land and built houses adjacent to the Council-owned housing. The private developer promptly built two walls across shared roads to prevent the Council tenants reaching the main road.
David Cameron ought to recognise the Cutteslowe Walls: the whole business took place in the Tory constituency which abuts his own.
England — specifically so — is already as socially-divided a country as we need. Obviously, the Cameroons want to take the process further.