Brendan O'Neill on the welfare state

Thoughts on the welfare state and the British underclass

Brendan O'Neill on the welfare state

Postby Elliott » 03 Apr 2013, 10:01

This is an excellent article by Brendan O'Neill. Just a small sample:

In truth, the real dimwittery in this debate is among the confused and angry middle-class warriors for welfarism. They have simply failed, and failed miserably, to reckon with one of the iron laws of modern politics – which is that the more reliant you are on the welfare state, the more experience you have of it, the less you love it. And by extension, the further removed you are from the welfare state, the less experience you have of it, then the more you can fantasise about its virtues and grow to love it – or at least to love an imaginary version of it derived from watching Casualty and reading Polly Toynbee columns.

You should really read the whole article because it's very good. I think there is definitely an element of "faith" in the middle-class advocates of welfare. It's a cliche, but I'll repeat it: they don't believe in God, so they've replaced him with the welfare state. It's a project that brings them out of their daily lives and allows them to feel they're making a difference to the world at large.

Personally I do believe in a welfare state (it would be hypocritical of me not to) but I think if a country is going to have one, it should be a functional one, and that means building in safeguards from abuse that, themselves, will certainly strike the more vociferous pro-welfare campaigners as abusive. They want to believe that when somebody claims welfare, they should get it, because nobody would ever claim welfare illegitimately. Well, that's pie in the sky. People calculate, and the calculation is often that they'd rather sit at home than work.

Furthermore, there is dysfunction in the welfare system itself. It paralyses people, keeping them psychologically locked in dependency. Again this is something of which I have personal experience so it always annoys me when idealists claim it doesn't happen, or that it's just a small risk and not inherent to the system itself (how would they know?).

But the problem that needs addressing before any of this, is "what jobs are people going to go into if they leave welfare?" When we've off-shored so much of our manufacturing, unintelligent people are simply un-needed. Then there's all the red tape which prevents, or at least hampers, people from setting up new businesses employing other people: in Britain it's an absolute minefield. But maybe we shouldn't get into that in this thread. Let me just reiterate that Britain's welfare state is far from perfect, and I think idealists are not helping things by pretending that it is.
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