Thursday, May 30, 2013

In praise of disobedience

Schindler's Ark gave a marvellous example of how in a criminal world it takes a criminal to accomplish great acts of morality. Similarly, when faced with an act of political stupidity, it is the bureaucrat that knows how to fix it. The 'bedroom tax', a reduction in housing benefit to be paid to people deemed to be over-occupying houses because they have a 'spare' bedroom, even if they use it, has proved to be expensive and, at times, cruel. So how do you deal with it? It is relatively simple, if time consuming. Find a way to call that room something else - a study, a box room, a 'non-specific' room. (The non-specific room is a masterpiece of bureaucratic jargon being used to thwart bureaucracy.) Leeds City Council point out why they are doing it:
Councillor Peter Gruen, the Labour member responsible for neighbourhoods, planning and support services, said it would cost the council more to evict tenants and rehouse them than it would to simply accept that many could not pay for the underoccupation charge.
He said: "The idea of taxing poor people for bedroom tax is perverse. The charges we incur in legal fees chasing up the increasing rent arrears from the last two months is farcical. It costs the courts far more money to evict people."
There is a more general point to be made here. People do not always obey orders. Often they find ways round them. Disobedience to authority is just as human a characteristic as obedience. For that we should be grateful. It can save lives.

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