T he‘Pathological’ Theory of Unemployment
Perkin’s formulation of the work incentives problem in the Soviet Union sounds reminiscent of the 1990s welfare state debate. Economist Michael Beenstock (1996: 57) argues that ‘over-generous provision of unemployment benefit by the state has harmed work incentives and created an unemployment problem’. In Britain, Frank Field (1996: 11) maintains that a ‘nation of cheats and liars’ is being recruited by the British welfare system. Before leaving office, British Conservatives decided to employ MI5 to target benefit cheats (Norton-Taylor and Hencke, 1997: 1) and the subsequent Labour government launched the first ever anti-fraud website with tips on how to report cheats (May 1999, http://www.dss.gov.uk/hy/bfraud). The problem Frank Field (1996a: 15) sees in the system is that comprehensive
welfare provision offers income independent of work which is allegedly attractive to an ever increasing number of criminal fraudsters. He (1996: 15f) states that the British social security budget is exploding at an extraordinary rate; reflected in the fact that a third of the British population relied on means-tested benefits in the mid 1990s.