In sp!ked, Neil Davenport explains why the legal victory against workfare in England isn’t actually a good thing even for people in that situation:
… the case is still seen as a major coup. Joanna Long, a member of campaigning group Boycott Workfare, captured the mood of Reilly’s supporters: ‘Today’s ruling is a victory for the people against a government which thought it could compel unemployed and sick people to work without pay, backed by a vicious regime of sanctions which made the poorest far poorer.’ Really? Only in this victim-centred age could doing a few shifts at Poundland be seriously compared to forced slavery.
What the ruling in favour of Reilly is not, however, is a victory for ‘the people’. Rather, it is a triumph for our culture of self-pity, narcissism and whining entitlement. The new ruling will further cushion and cosset young people, relieving them of any impositions or pressures. And it will bolster the infantile notion that young people must be protected from the demands of becoming economically independent or hard working. In the long run, this will do the development of young people far more damage than a few weeks working for benefits.
[. . .]
In this sense, today’s ruling will bolster the idea held by some young people that the world really does owe them a living. The Reilly ruling seems to acknowledge officially that young people should not be expected to meet society’s requirement to work in case it damages their vulnerable self-esteem. It suggests that self-pity and a sense of entitlement is now far more laudable than simply overcoming life’s challenges or learning how to grow up.
Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the court came to such a decision. For the past two decades, the state has been keen to show that adult autonomy is not something people should exercise too much. So while the ruling looks like a victory for people power-style leftism against a (mainly) Tory government, in truth it is a demand for the state to look after us. It is an acknowledgement that we should forgo individual sovereignty for a close relationship with the all-watching, all-checking and autonomy sapping state. Whereas genuine radicalism was always a demand for autonomy from state regulators, today’s radicals aspire to be more tightly bound to state institutions. Any excuse to bolster state legitimacy and authority over us, even at the expense of a Tory government, will always appeal to elite-minded, undemocratic judges. Reilly and her supporters demand to be treated like children. Is it any wonder that a paternalistic state will oblige?