Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Orange Booker Slur, part 8

Chapter 9: Children, the family and the state: a liberal agenda. By Steve Webb and Jo Holland

This chapter is an apple in a basket of oranges. Webb and Holland address themselves to an issue that tends to be of the greatest concern to social conservatives. One might almost conclude that the intention of the Orange Book is not to reach out to economic liberals in particular, but to the right wing in general.

This would be unfair. Webb and Holland advocate the good that can be done for children by state intervention and support for families.

I have some qualms with the tone - that of declining trends backed up by selective statistics - because in some respects things are getting better. And the range of possible interventions discussed is so large that none can really be done justice in the space.

They suggest "enhanced tax credits for young children" which sits awkwardly with our criticism of the child tax credit shambles. As usual well-meaning tinkering with the tax system adds costs and complexity out of proportion to the benefits.

"Schools need to focus on 'relationships education' rather than 'sex education'... This is obviously a controversial area for discussion..." My understanding is that it is largely a myth that schools do not do this. The national curriculum certainly demands relationships education. Unless Webb and Holland are actually advocating inadequate sex education, and I don't think they are, they are not being as controversial as they think.

But overall Webb and Holland makes some good suggestions, particularly about the need for "normal provision" rather than support for "failing families" which carries a stigma and risks rejection by those who most need it.

The question they neglect to ask is what the downside of state intervention in the family is, from a liberal perspective. Given the libertarian angle of much of the Orange Book, this is doubly surprising.

1 comment:

Peter Pigeon said...

I remember being very unimpressed by the references in this chapter.

Would you like to drop me a line, Joe?