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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Swheatie of the KUWG questions the wisdom of 'happiness Guru' Lord Layard

Swheatie of the KUWG questions the wisdom of 'happines Guru Lord Layard

Chris Blackhurst in Monday's 'Independent' praises economist turned 'Happiness Guru' Lord Layard — Richard Layard: "Money is not the only thing affecting people's happiness." Layard reportedly has the backing of multi-millionaire and Prime Minister David Cameron. Yet I believe that this is a key quotation of that economist-turned 'Happiness Guru' who seems even more of an economist in his pursuit of 'happiness':
"In the 1980s, I worked with Stephen Nickell on employment. There was complete confusion about unemployment, its extent and its effect. My best book was Unemployment, which said you could have lower unemployment if you gave more help to unemployed people to get them into work, and made that help conditional on them trying to get work. That became the basis of the European 'Welfare to Work' approach, and Labour's New Deal."
I also reckon that Layard has an obsession with what is measurable. Measurable by whom and on what terms? He loves CBT [Cognitive Behavioural Therapay] because it is so 'measurable' in terms of its 'success'. But CBT is very superficial and does not really address the deep underlying issues involved in a person's distress, a close friend who is now a retired psychoanlaytic psychotherapist and who I once accompanied to her signing-on at the jobcentre or unemployment benefit office in the days of the Thatcher Government. She knows that a lot of 'standard' value jedgements are baised by the economic privilege and, say, sexual orientation of their creators or progenitors.

The interplay between society's non-understanding and failure to accommodate a person's impairment[s] can also lead to the distress of the person living in a disabling society. (That awareness is the basis of the Social Model of Disability.) 

Personal distress can lead us to seek creative outlets for what we are feeling/expereiencing even while a coercive and disabling society tells us to get on with 'business as usuall' so as not to be 'a burden upon others'. (People who 'step out of line' regarding the 'conditionality' of 'welfare to work' approaches are now increasingly subject to punitive and debilitating benefits sanctions that can do little to improve their mental health. Does Richard Layard stop to consider that in his equations?) I believe it is a mistake to think that artists undertake their projects simply to 'make ends meet' financilally and/or satisfy an external 'audience'.

Too much of Layard's rationale comes down to a 'cost/benefits analysis', I would argue, while he does not seem to recognise that being unwaged is distinctly ifferent from being 'unemployed'.

But for me, this life peer lost a lot of credibiity when he was so hopeless at answering my question at a TUC/Guardian conference about economic justice a few years ago that he was greatly relieved when the person chairing that session — who happened to be the Guardian's Economics Editor — gave short shrift to that question. The question was about the mental health of full-time family carers committed to a minimum 35 hour week for £53/wk Carers Allowance as carer to a person on middle or higher rate Disability Living Allowance. See, eg, Gary Vaux' criticism of 'the Cinderella benefit'.

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