After the financial crisis of 2008, austerity was imposed and welfare reforms were introduced to reduce the burden on the cash-strapped state. But whether it was the ‘bedroom tax’, changes to Disability Living Allowance or Universal Credit, these reforms have been an unmitigated disaster.
This is because, in a capitalist society, people are not valued as individual human beings who have needs that must be met. Rather, they have been reduced to a statistic whose value is determined by how much they contribute to the economy.
Capitalism has a basic but fundamental lesson yet to be learnt – looking after the needs of the people is not a business, nor is it about making a profit or maximising returns on investment!
We saw just recently how, in a remarkable sleight of hand, the poor (and disabled) were blamed for Britain’s financial woes. In a process designed to dehumanise, denigrate and scapegoat, the poor ‘scroungers’ who don’t work, now became a burden to the rest of us, conveniently justifying unjust welfare reforms in the process.
The solution, however, is neither imposing austerity measures nor is it throwing more money at the problem, as the left would. Throwing more money into welfare results in either increased taxes, government debt or both – only exacerbating the problem at hand. Rather, the solution is simple – Islam.
The Islamic system is not a welfare state! It is the obligation of the individual to work and provide for himself and his dependents. If he is unable to, then his relatives need to support him. And if his relatives are not able to do so, then his community must support him. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:
“He is not a believer whose stomach is filled while the neighbour to his side goes hungry.” [Sahih]
Islam places great importance upon communal rights, cultivating a collectivist psyche as opposed to an individualistic one.
It is only if the above avenues fail, that the state steps in and rightfully provides the three basic rights of food, clothing and shelter. This means that the state has a very low welfare burden and it also means that there is a very strong impetus for individuals to work. With tax being minimal, people can enjoy the fruits of their efforts more. In short, you are not better off on the dole than working.
The role of the state is to support the economy through the Islamic economic rules and ensure wealth is distributed correctly through the means of Zakah. State help thus gets to those who genuinely need it.
Take home message:
In a welfare system based on targets not treatments, the common man bears the financial brunt. Under the Islamic system – a system which prioritises looking after the affairs of the people – food, clothing and shelter are the basic rights of all citizens.