The Fabian writer Beatrice Webb said “We have little faith in the ‘average sensual man’, we do not believe that he can do more than describe his grievances, we do not think he can prescribe the remedies.”
And it is true that sometimes we do not always no the remedies to the problems we face; however sometimes we know better than anyone else what is the right solution for us.
And if we allow this meritocratic paternalism to dominate decision-making in the institutions of welfare we can easily slip into making the further mistake: that there is not even a need to explain or justify ‘our remedies’. We end up assuming that there is some elite who knows the remedy and is therefore already justified in implementing it – because it is best for us, but too hard for us to understand.
But even a doctor lacks this kind of meritocratic power – the doctor needs our permission before he can act on us. But what kind of permissions do the leaders of a meritocratic welfare state seek from us before they act up on the body of society?