Tony Blair was the first Labour leader to get the word ‘socialist’ to form part of the aims and mission of the party. Blair’s brand of socialism, which meant state financing of public services that shared the risk between the public and private sectors so as to give service users choice (the third way), was not realised how much it should be. But Blair did little to create universal access to these public services through reducing the need for welfare benefits to access them.
In my view, using Marx’s definition of socialism – the stage between capitalism and communism – is what we have with our disabling welfare state right now – it preserves poverty rather than encouraging self-help, which is what socialism was supposed to be about.
The welfare system should be there as a hand-up, as I am using it for – hopefully if my risk taking in developing businesses pays off by living at home when ‘the sun was shining’ rather than be stuck on means tested housing benefit. By paying people only enough welfare to live discourages self-help and encourages welfare dependency. The welfare system should be based on encouraging us to take risks to get out of poverty by supporting risk taking in terms of creating businesses and improving our education.
As it stands, whether one is on incapacity benefit or middle class and on tax credits, risk is disincentivised, as any gains you make will be punished with increased tax or reduced benefits. Without socialist ideals like universal healthcare regardless of wealth, then people, even myself, will be disincentivised from earning more if it means we lose means-tested healthcare like sight-tests and prescriptions (outside Wales). Socialism should be about the end point – equality of opportunity – and not the means – nationalisation, state control, etc – as it all too often is presented.