Wednesday, September 15, 2021

My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton

 

William Beveridge addressing a group of housewives, 1944. Photograph: Hans Wild


My hero: 

William Beveridge

 by Will Hutton


Sat 23 Oct 2010

I

n 1942 William Beveridge's report on social insurance was a national bestseller: with memories of the 30s still vivid, wartime Britain had an enormous appetite for the promise that the postwar world would be different. The scant support for millions locked, through no fault of their own, in the "five evils" – want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness – had been a disgrace. There had to be change.

Beveridge knew full well that unless any welfare system is based on the contribution principle – citizens pay in and earn the benefit as their due desert – the principle of welfare soon gets degraded. The more taxpayers contribute, the more they will ask if welfare beneficiaries really deserve what they are receiving. The pressure is now on to make benefits ever meaner and ever more tightly means-tested, because, as George Osborne put it this week, why should ordinary working families pay taxes for people to live on benefit? Beveridge's solution was to create a system of social insurance into which everyone paid to insure themselves against life's inevitable hazards – old age, disability, sickness and unemployment. He proposed a national insurance system to pay unemployment benefit, disability benefit and pensions. Every citizen would pay in; every citizen would receive their benefit as an universal entitlement. There could be no means test, no criticism that beneficiaries were fiddling honest tax-payers.

Philosophers and psychologists now recognise what Beveridge knew in his bones: that human beings intuitively believe we are all, to some extent, responsible for our actions – the sentiment that the anti-welfare state brigade tap when they want to differentiate between the deserving and undeserving poor. The only way to trump that thinking is a system of social or national insurance, which the British left has been as guilty as the right in allowing to be abused as just another tax. Yes, William Beveridge is one of my heroes. We need his thinking no less urgently today.

THE GUARDIAN




2009
001 My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd
002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm

2010

017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

2011
079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill

2012

190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer

2015
2016


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