19 May 2008

Means-testing pensioners

Pensioners, like the middle class in general, are victimised by modern legislation. The modern ideology does not accept innate differences but it does, in practice, discriminate against those with above-average IQs, and against personality characteristics associated with above-average IQs, such as conscientiousness and forethought.

The population of pensioners, whether or not classifiable as ‘middle class’, are likely to have above-average IQs, if only because they have managed to reach pensionable age. They fail to protest at the burdens imposed upon them, perhaps to some extent because, like my own parents, they are inclined to accept legal impositions without complaint.

People over 50 now constitute 43% of the voting population (this proportion is expected to rise to over 50% by 2031) and are in a position to exercise significant pressure on the political parties which wish for their electoral support.

Pensioners and prospective pensioners should never have accepted the means-testing of pensions. The effect of this policy is that those who have been so thrifty and frugal as to acquire savings, as well as making sure that they always paid the requisite annual contributions, whatever their circumstances, are being penalised so that more ‘support’ can be diverted to those who ‘need it most’, i.e. those who have made no attempt to build up independence of the state throughout their working lives.

Many of those who qualify for the supplementary ‘income support’, which would put their pension back up to the level it might be at if not means-tested, fail to claim it. They are exhorted to apply for what they are ‘entitled to’, the only reason usually suggested for their reluctance to do so being ‘pride’. But in fact they can only apply by submitting to ‘assessment’ of their circumstances by agents of the collective, who may quite well decide that it is not ‘in their interests’ to be allowed to live in their own home any longer, and they may be popped into the killing fields of the old people’s ‘homes’ whether they like it or not.

Ultimately, the state has the right to force an elderly person to live in a care home, or even to have them sectioned as a psychiatric patient. They will not be allowed the option of quietly starving or otherwise coming to grief in their own homes, which might very well be a less painful and distressing way of ending their lives than what awaits them in ‘care’.

Pensioners and their associations, such as Age Concern, Help the Aged and the National Pensioners Convention, should not tolerate means-testing. It was not regarded as acceptable in the original Pensions Act of 1911, which proposed that the pensions being set up should be paid for by contributions and would be payable to rich and poor alike.

Now Gordon Brown proposes an extra levy on salaries to ‘pay for care in old age’, in addition to compulsory pension contributions. Again, there is no way of opting out of this by saying that one will never be a drain on the state’s provision of ‘care facilities’ for the elderly, but would rather die in one’s own way in one’s own home.

‘The question of ethics with regard to pension policy is one of the issues on which Oxford Forum could be producing fundamental critical analyses if it were provided with adequate funding. We appeal for £2m as initial funding to enable us to write and publish on this and similar issues, which are currently only discussed in the context of pro-collectivist arguments.’ Charles McCreery, DPhil