Or are they a Biblical concept- perhaps? It seems to me that the focus of the Bible’s teaching is on the redistribution of wealth (loaded term, I know) to those unable to provide for themselves. Hence the constant cry of the prophets to the Israelite nation to protect the widow, the orphan & the alien. Without the structural safety net of a welfare state, the law enforced the concept of provision for its poorest members through practical actions (eg the law of gleaning). In the New Testament, with its rather different governmental setup, these principles were retained with Jesus attacking the money-changers-on-the-make in the temple courts and with the newly-born church setting up a tier of service providers for the discriminated-against widows in Acts. All of this leads me to the conclusion that there is nothing sacrosanct about universal benefits. I don’t think those of us earning over £42K will suddenly stop having children because we can no longer afford them, should the much-discussed changes to that benefit become realised in 2013. The major problem though seems to be the apparent injustice of the working couple each earning £40K still gaining from a benefit that those with one earner over the threshold will be denied. So, a question: If we accept the premise that universality is unnecessary, is our contention that we are willing to give up our benefit provided there is a way for the double earners to do so as well or is this a smokescreen for saying we’ve always had it and we want to hold onto it, whatever the state of our public finances? If it’s the former we are supporting the benefits of those unable to provide for themselves by taking an extra cut. If it’s the latter then we could be cutting a hole in the safety net of the disadvantaged.