Social justice warriors perpetuate poverty

Jeremy Sammut

20 May 2016 | Ideas@TheCentre

duncan storrarThe reactions on the Left to the revelations about Duncan Storrar’s past after his controversial appearance on Q&A last week have been predictably misguided.

News Limited publications — The Australian and the Herald-Sun — have been accused of engaging in vicious class warfare by seeking to discredit a person who had the temerity to question the right of wealthy people to receive tax cuts.

What was actually being questioned — by a range of commentators including by myself — was the simplistic explanation for social inequality given by the ABC.

If only poverty was simply a matter of money, rather than a matter of morals and manners — the behavioral norms around education, work, and family life that account for different outcomes in life. 

Nevertheless, those who try to unpick the complex causes of poverty have been accused of ‘punching down’. We are vicious neo-liberals without social consciences who only care about keeping our own money in our own pockets.

Such caricatures are the standard stuff of political rhetoric, but should not be allowed to pass unchallenged.

Sure, I resent having to hand over a higher proportion than I should have to so that some people can lean on others rather than do their own lifting.

But the motivations that drive my interest in the underclass — and especially the welfare of underclass children — are more complex than this.

It may be my migrant heritage, but I like to believe Australia represents a new dispensation. This is a place where anyone, from any background, can make a go of life and rise up as far as their talents and efforts allow. 

The existence in this country of a growing underclass that is trapped in intergenerational dependence and dysfunction offends my sense of the fair go. 

The desire to right so terrible a social wrong is also entirely consistent with true classical liberal principles, which are founded in belief in equality of opportunity and in maximising the human potential of every individual.

I — along with many other Australian taxpayers — am sick of being lectured to about the need to address social inequality by spending more on welfare, which will only perpetuate the problem. 

If people really want to eradicate poverty, the path is outlined in my book. And they should support the adoption of underclass children by functional families so as to give the most deprived children in the community a better chance of climbing off the lowest rungs of society.

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