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I’ve posted twice on the British government’s move to get elderly people out of their houses to ‘create space for families’.  The first post is dated October 2011 and the more recent entry appeared yesterday.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps, a Conservative, has described the houses of the elderly as ‘prisons’.

David Halpern, Director of the No. 10 Behavioural Insight Team, known as the “nudge unit”, thinks pensioners should be on their bikes back to work for social interaction. He cites a study which says that more than half of Britain’s elderly are lonely, adding that this is worse than smoking.

Most elderly people in Britain are lonely? Really? I would like to see those results in detail.

There was no greater liberation for me than when I stopped working because of mass redundancies. I claim nothing from the state, by the way. I can hardly wait for my better half to retire and join me.

I agree with a lady — Wife of Bath — on the European Tribune board commenting on this topic (emphases mine):

Newsflash: work was KILLING me and I’ve never been happier than since I retiredThere’s almost nothing that’s true or the same for everyone (yeah, yeah, we all need oxygen; not what I’m talking about); a one-size-fits-all solution or suggestion makes me roll my eyes every time.

Being retired doesn’t mean watching tv all day and “working” doesn’t mean being fulfilled all day. They mean very different things to very many people. To ME, the ultimate satisfaction is getting to choose the projects with which I wish to occupy myself, and having more power than anyone else over the use of my time.  I’m just sorry I didn’t get to this position sooner.

Good for her — that’s what we work for: independence, free time and days which we can finally call our own.

However, she’s hit on a significant point with ‘having more power than anyone else over the use of my time’. Aye, there’s the rub. That must stop.  The Government posits that your life and your property are not your own.

As I said yesterday, Mr Halpern’s nudging of wroking during retirement recalls the slogan Arbeit Macht Frei. Before the Nazi Party began using it, one of the early adopters was Auguste Forel, a Swiss scientist who studied ants. In one of his volumes, Ants of Switzerland (1920), he wrote that work liberated them: le travail rend libre.

Elderly Britons = Swiss ants.

Other bloggers in the UK have written about the increasing marginalisation of our elderly. James Higham pointed out the abuse in nursing homes, and The Snowolf and Longrider tackled this governmental fixation about bedroom blocking.  Longrider posted more thoughts on the topic last week in ‘Nudge Off’, with which I couldn’t agree more. Here are a few excerpts:

I see that the Cameroid’s [Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative] nudge unit is in top gear. The latest target is the elderly. It seems that this group is now the pariah of society –  a selfish generation who haven’t the decency to pop their clogs and leave their worldly goods (especially their houses) to the younger generation

my Gran managed to smoke like a chimney until she was 93. She lived alone but always managed to be talking to one neighbour or another. If she wasn’t doing that she would be knitting away with arthritic, nicotine-stained fingers and a fag dangling from her mouth. She outlived her husband by twenty-odd years. Longevity is in the genes, I suspect.

More junk scienceLike other introverts, I am more content alone than with groups. Sure, from time to time, it’s nice to meet up with like minded folk, but I don’t need it and I doubt I’ll shuffle this mortal coil early without it.

Another blogger, WrAnTz, looks at the situation this way:

This does indeed sound very much like Social Engineering. It also sounds very much like real life mirroring the lyrics of the Genesis song “Get ‘Em Out by Friday”

The song by Genesis, in the style of a play, was set back in the 60′s and 70′s when there were many unscrupulous landlords … The song moves verse by verse through time and enforced population movement. Ultimately bringing the listener, to the year 2012 where Genetic Control has announced that they are restricting the height of all humans to four feet. It is then revealed that  the reason behind the restriction is so that Genetic Control, who has recently bought some properties, will be able to accommodate twice as many people in the same tower block.

Our Coalition government, particularly the Conservatives, have a fascination with Scandinavia. Last week, David Cameron met with Norwegian and Swedish government officials at the Northern Future Forum in Stockholm about pension reform and a higher retirement age.  Never mind that the UK does not have many jobs for anyone, old or young. Furthermore, anyone over 50 — perhaps even 45 — faces a near-impossible struggle if they wish to work.

That said, nudge chief Halpern said of the discussions:

raising the retirement age could result in far-reaching changes. His team is tasked with developing ways in order to change people’s behavioural patterns so that the need for legislation or other stern government reaction gets negated.

If it’s anything like smoking — and unless we register vocal opposition now — the Government will be forcing us out of our houses and into work, just like they and their allies forced smokers out of pubs, restaurants, hotel rooms and then out of homes and jobs.  The anti-smoking campaign started with persuasion and ended up as legislation. I can foresee the same with regard to our elderly.

So, my fellow Britons would do well to take note — when the gentle nudge doesn’t work, the heavy-handed weapon will be brought in to deprive us of our houses and our free time. Sadly, it won’t stop there.

As I mentioned earlier, we have a severe unemployment problem with our youth. The same is true in France, so it is far from being a British malaise. Our nations have chosen to deal with the lack of ‘skills’ by importing labour from abroad as part of the solution.  This new labour force knows that our wage levels offer a high standard of living compared with their own. Consequently, a number of our employers have lowered hourly wages which still means a good deal for overseas workers and less salary to pay on the employers’ part. It’s a win-win. Housing doesn’t matter too much, as a number of itinerant workers are happy to live in a higher density household than a Briton would. Factor in the housing bubble, and you can see the issues this situation creates for British youth, even those with college degrees.

The elderly are not responsible for this state of affairs. They did not see it coming. Who did? Tony Blair’s Labour government started the ball rolling in the late 1990s, and shortly after the Millennium, everyone started noticing sweeping changes in demographics from Eastern Europe as well as Asia. The same happened in France, which is why Marine LePen — rightly or wrongly — has such a strong rump of support from the working classes. (Whether she manages to collect the 500 mayoral signatures she needs in order to present herself as a candidate in this April’s presidential election is still up in the air as I write.)

So, as far as most of us see it, why should the elderly be made to pay for a Government mistake?

Yet, as history tells us, scapegoats are easy to create, especially by left-wing advisors and governments. This is done by whipping people into an emotional frenzy over a perceived class (or race) issue.

Although I studied world history in school, I don’t recall much on the kulaks. I’m sure I would have remembered their story, which doesn’t really get much coverage these days. Nonetheless, if you don’t know their history, it’s instructive of what could happen with any social group. Think of the Jews under the Third Reich.

Imagine a similar set-up with Britain’s elderly — not now and not in a few years’ time, but with scope creep it’s a possibility given a few decades with a future malicious government:

According to the political theory of Marxism-Leninism of the early 20th century, the kulaks were class enemies of the poorer peasants.[1] Vladimir Lenin described them as “bloodsuckers, vampires, plunderers of the people and profiteers, who fatten on famine.”[2] Marxism-Leninism had intended a revolution to liberate poor peasants and farm laborers alongside the proletariat (urban and industrial workers). In addition, the planned economy of Soviet Bolshevism required the collectivization of farms and land to allow industrialization or conversion to large-scale agricultural production. In practice, these Marxist-Leninist theories led to disruption of agriculture as government officials violently seized kulak farms and murdered resistors.[1][3] …

According to the Soviet terminology, the peasants were divided into three broad categories: bednyaks, or poor peasants; serednyaks, or mid-income peasants; and kulaks, the higher-income farmers who had larger farms than most Russian peasants. In addition, they had a category of batraks, landless seasonal agriculture workers for hire.[1]

Larger farms of the kulaks = more spacious houses of the elderly.

Note the scope creep with regard to the kulaks:

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks considered only batraks and bednyaks as true allies of the Soviets and proletariat. Serednyaks were considered unreliable, “hesitating” allies; and kulaks were identified as class enemies because they owned land. But, often those classified as kulaks were not especially prosperous. The average value of goods confiscated from kulaks during the policy of “dekulakization” (раскулачивание) at the beginning of the 1930s was only $90–$210 (170-400 rubles) per household.[1] Both peasants and Soviet officials were often uncertain as to what constituted a kulak. They often used the term to label anyone who had more property than was considered “normal,” according to subjective criteria, and personal rivalries played a part in the classification of enemies. In the early years, being classified as a kulak carried no penalty other than mistrust from the Soviet authorities. During the height of collectivization, however, people identified as kulaks were subjected to deportation and extrajudicial punishment. They were often murdered in local violence; others were formally executed after conviction as kulaks.[3][4][5]

Note the progression from mistrust by the authorities to summary execution.

It is for this reason that the Government and their nudge unit would do well to rethink this policy towards our elderly. As I said yesterday, it is moral dereliction and a great offence against our most law-abiding, loyal — and vulnerable — members of society.

If you wish to comment where it counts, email grant.shapps@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Tomorrow: What think tanks are behind UK-style nudging?

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