Paul Bernal, writing in his blog, comments on Government proposals for ‘food stamps’, noting their similarity to parts of the Home Office’s discredited ID card scheme:
The latest proposal for â€˜food stampsâ€™ has aroused a good deal of anger. Itâ€™s a policy that is divisive, depressing and hideous in many ways â€“ Suzanne Mooreâ€™s article in the Guardian is one of the many excellent pieces written about it. She hits at the heart of the problem: â€˜Repeat after me: austerity removes autonomyâ€™.
Thatâ€™s particularly true in this case, and in more ways than even Suzanne Moore brings in. This new programme has even more possibilities to remove autonomy than previous attempts at controlling what â€˜the poorâ€™ can do with their money â€“ because it takes food stamps into the digital ageâ€¦
The idea, as I understand it, is that people will be issued with food â€˜cardsâ€™, rather than old fashioned food stamps. The precise details of these cards have yet to emerge, and quite how â€˜smartâ€™ they will be has yet to be seen, but the direction is clear. The cards will only work in certain shops, and only allow the purchase of certain goods. At the moment theyâ€™re talking about stopping â€˜the poorâ€™ from buying such evil goods as tobacco and alcohol, but as Suzanne Moore points out, equivalent schemes in the US have blocked the purchase of fizzy drinks. In a digital world, the control over what can or cannot be purchased can be exact and ever-changing. It allows complete control â€“ we can determine an â€˜acceptableâ€™ list of things that people can and cannot buy.