Thursday, 3 January 2013

National Insurance for Babies

Suppose you are a baby in the womb. You don't know whose womb and you don't know what sort of baby you are. So you don't know if your mother is going to be cruel or kind (and the same for your father if one is about), nor do you know if your parents are rich or poor. And you don't know if you yourself are going to be born fit or handicapped, healthy or sickly.

The womb is your veil of ignorance, even though behind it you can think very clearly about your predicament. Not knowing if you are going to be a lucky or an unlucky baby, it makes sense to ask if you can get yourself some protection against the worst outcomes or, at least,  the impact of the worst outcomes on your future happiness and well-being.

You are almost certainly going to end up casting around for something bigger than your parents to provide you some protection and help, if the need arises. You need to know that if your parents are cruel - whether by intent or as the side effects of addiction, it doesn't matter - you will be removed to a place of safety. You need to know that if your parents can't or won't feed and clothe you and care for you, then something bigger than them will do it for you or at least nudge your parents into doing it themselves.  Finally, you need to know that if you need care for handicap or illness, then someone will provide it - and that in reality means, pay for it. At this stage, you aren't very fussed about whether you will go to school or go to a school which teaches phonics or ...

An unborn baby, behind a veil of ignorance, is pretty soon going to figure out that it needs a Government - it isn't going to be very picky about what precise kind of Government, just one that is willing to look after unlucky babies. And, remember, just so long as you are unborn you don't know if you are going to be one of the lucky ones or not.

Unfortunately, unborn babies have little say in how the Governments of the world are run - though many governments do give some support to unlucky babies. Some even seem to like babies.

If I was an unborn baby thinking this through, then I would hope for a Government which insisted that my birth be recorded and that I be given a name (a fairly modern  historical development, which helps prevent babies disappearing without trace). I would also hope for a Government which, at the same time as it recorded my birth,  issued me with a National Insurance number and a formal list of the forms of bad luck against which it was insuring me and for which it would pay out to sort out.

But who should pay for the National Insurance of a baby - or, let's extend it - a child under the age of sixteen?

Most of the time, it is from general taxation that the costs are covered. I think this is a very bad idea because it not only dilutes or effaces the notion of Insurance (which is specifically to do with protection against bad luck) but also removes the idea of accountability to the baby or child.

If a baby is enrolled in a National Insurance scheme from birth then either the state should pay the subscriptions until the child is fourteen or sixteen or eighteen (and discovers just how much the State has paid to keep it insured) or the child's parents should pay or both.

I prefer that both should pay contributions. I think this would reduce the incidence of feckless parenting - rather as stiff dog licence fees would reduce the incidence of feckless dog keeping. If people decide to have children then the social context should not allow them to think that other people are going to pay for them ha ha.

In addition,  I think that it's in general a good idea to take responsibility for our own lives (if we are fortunate enough to have the health and strength to do so), and so I  suggest that children conrtribute to the costs of their own Insurance.

When I was a child in Primary school, we were sold National Savings stamps with pictures of Royal children on them. We stuck them in books and the Government took our money  - on very favourable terms, I suspect, though the official idea was to encourage children in the habit of saving

Well, maybe when children start doing Saturday jobs they should start paying National Insurance and do it as something to be proud of, helping to insure themselves against those of life's misfortunes which can be handled in this practical kind of way.











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