The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas, et Prevalebit. THURSDAY, JULY 13, 1882. National Insurance.
The report of the proceedings in the House on Monday next will be looked for with more than ordinary interest, for on that day the debate on the Colonial Treasurer’s National Insurance scheme is to be resumed. That scheme has not, so far, been received with much favor by the House apparently, and indeed the difficulties in the way of its successful consummation are no inconsiderable ones. The idea it embraces is not new, having long engaged the attention of political economists both in England and on the Continent of Europe. To the Rev. Mr Blackley, however, belongs the credit of having given the scheme form and shape in England some years ago, when a remarkable article, dealing with the question, appeared in the Nineteenth Century Revietu, from the latter gentleman's pen. The objects aimed at, briefly stated, are these —The abolition of poor rates, and the sweeping away of pauperism. Persons of all classes are to be made thrifty whether they like it or not. The Colonial Treasurer, in his Financial Statement, touched upon the subject, which he dealt with at length on Monday night. He told us, on the first occasion, that the time had come when the question of charitable aid administration must be grappled with on some comprehensive principle. He said there were practically only three courses open to follow —a poor rate, supplemented by private benevolence, large grants from the consolidated fund, aided in the same manner —or a system of national insurance. Major Atkinson has assured us that the latter scheme lies “ within the bounds of practical politics ” —let us hope it may be found to be so. At any rate the matter is one of paramount importance. As Major Atkinson observed on Monday night, “ the line was being drawn sharper and sharper between the enormously rich and extremely poor. The of charitable aid were gradually increasing in. proportion to the population, and they must be prepared to see a large number of persons supported by charity unless some such scheme as the one he proposed was devised. If the number of the needy aud helpless is increasing in this colony, as unhappily appears to be the case from the figures adduced by the Treasurer in support of his statement, it is high time that decisive steps were taken to avert anything like the inauguration in New Zealand of the English workhouse and poor relief system. The adoption of national insurance may entail some hardship and inconvenience upon the people, but these would be infinitely preferable to the horrors of pauperism as it exists at Home at the present day. Many years will probably elapse before anything at all approaching sucli a state of things exists here, but, (making due allowance for the difference in the relative populations) that state of things must come to pass on a small scale, that is, if measures are not
adopted to prevent it. -wnd, bearing in mind the great benefits that would be likely to accrue from it, Major Atkinson’s proposal, if adopted, would not involve such a tetrible amount of hardship or inconvenience after all. Every person, male or female, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-three, or eighteen and twenty-three, would be compelled to pay a little over L4O per annum. “ This would be the total contribution required to provide for sickness and old age,” and would represent, according to the age, as 3d to 3s 3d per week, ora lump sum of L3B if paid down at sixteen. Widows and orphans would be required to pay 2s a week additional for a period of five years, and persons above the age o twenty-three would contribute L 6 per annum or a sum not exceeding that amount for a certain number of years, but females would not be included in this class, and males al r eady members of Friendly Societies would also be exempt. Persons above the age of sixty would be provided for out of the Consolidated Revenue, and the scheme would not include “ the blind, imbeciles, and the unfortunate, who would be provided for by the State always supposing they had no friends capable of paying the premiums. Criminals would be detained in gaol until they repaid the State the cost of their maintenance.” These, to put the Treasurer’s views on the subject in a nutshell, are the chief proposals of a scheme which its propounder fondly hopes will, if adopted, knock pauperism on the head. The compulsory payment of even a very small sum per annum would, doubtless, be viewed by the majority of people as a very great hardship, but, as we have already said, let the object be borne in mind—think of the evil which it is proposed to remedy, and, keeping these things in view, let the public also remember the exceedingly easy terms of payment that would be exacted, and we think all reflective persons will perceive that the system of national insurance which the Colonial Treasurer is anxious to inaugurate is at least worthy of very careful consideration.