It's absurd to compare Britain in the twenty-first century with Britain in the nineteenth. Unlike Victorian London, our London doesn't have a prostitute for every twelve adult males (prostitution being the pre-welfare option for many women) nor do large numbers of children go about in bare feet, Chinese trainers being available for 99p a pair. Nor do we all die by 45, nor do we have rickets or scurvy or diptheria, nor do two out of five of our children die. Poverty today is not absolute but relative; being poor today is simply not having as much bling as Joe Potato next door. The Fabians of course have a solution to this - take some of Joe Potato's things away and give them to other people. They imagine a Utopia in which we all have exactly the same.
The fact is of course that we're not all equal, and it's simply wicked to pretend that we are. Some are pretty enough to be models, and some of us are not gifted with beauty. Some have superlative football skills, and some can't catch a beach ball at six feet. Some can understand String Theory, and some can't add up a grocery bill. Some can shift sixteen tonnes a day, and some get exhausted just lifting a shovel. Depending on how we, as a society, value various skills and abilities, so rewards vary. Thus a healthy meritocracy encourages those with ability to exploit it, and all society gains. Those without skill or ability even for a manual trade must learn their place in the spectrum, too; a labouring job, or sweeping the street, or working in MacDonalds are callings as necessary as all those better rewarded. The dignity of work alone confers a belonging worth rubies, even if the pay is rhinestones.
That Socialism is an evil was confirmed by Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum;
It is surely undeniable that, when a man engages in remunerative labor, the impelling reason and motive of his work is to obtain property, and thereafter to hold it as his very own. If one man hires out to another his strength or skill, he does so for the purpose of receiving in return what is necessary for the satisfaction of his needs; he therefore expressly intends to acquire a right full and real, not only to the remuneration, but also to the disposal of such remuneration, just as he pleases. Thus, if he lives sparingly, saves money, and, for greater security, invests his savings in land, the land, in such case, is only his wages under another form; and, consequently, a working man's little estate thus purchased should be as completely at his full disposal as are the wages he receives for his labor. But it is precisely in such power of disposal that ownership obtains, whether the property consist of land or chattels. Socialists, therefore, by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner, since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life.The Fabians argue that Brown's stealth redistribution hasn't gone far enough - but isn't it about time we dismissed the whole nonsense about relative poverty and went back to talking instead of absolute poverty? We all recognise that we must freely and willingly give of our wealth to shoe and clothe the desperate, to ensure that none go hungry, none go without warmth and shelter and the sick receive succour. A Welfare system that is a disincentive to work for 5m of our citizens is morally wrong and repugnant; it excludes them from the dignity of work, however humble, from full belonging and from the hope of betterment, and imprisons them in a cruel State slavery more hopeless and despairing than the Slough of Despond. Socialism is an evil. We must fight it's effects with every breath we have.