Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Victims of a century of Welfarism

Nicholas Wheller, Trevor Llambias, Nicholas Saunders, Mahry Rosser and Ryan Clark. You'll never have heard  their names before, and both you and I will forget them by lunchtime. As Mary Riddell comments in the Telegraph, they were just five teenagers who have died in youth custody in the last five weeks. Temidayo Fuwad Ogunneye, 15, was the latest of London's teenagers to be stabbed to death on the street last week and indicative of the increasing trend for African names on the morgue toe-tags. Despite what his mum says to the Standard, he was never going to be an architect, university was as remote a possibility for his future as winning the lottery and he lived and died his brief life a nobody, a failure, in a world of gangs and drugs and council estates. Whether white boys so traumatised by custody that they strangle themselves with their underwear or black boys gasping their last breaths on blood-puddled tarmac they have in common that they held their lives so cheaply that the petty rewards of crime outweighed all the risks and disadvantages of being a crim. 

The fiction that Britain was divided into upper, middle and working class peoples was out of date even in the 1970s when John Cleese filmed that famous sketch with the two Ronnies. Only the LibDems pretend that the entrenched privilege of the upper class is significant any more. Scaffolders and plumbers are as middle class these days as were once bank clerks; their kids will go to uni, their wives shop at Waitrose. The rewards of trade and profession, once so diverse, have become indistinguishably close in economic terms. And apart from all this is a pervasive, suppurating underclass who could almost be living in another country so alien are they to our everyday life experiences. There are men of 30 living in Peckham who have never boarded an aircraft, never seen a farm, never slept a single night away from their council estate (unless in a prison cell) and many of those will only have visited central London with its plethora of museums, galleries, monuments and spectacles a handful of times in their lives. They live and die in a tiny two-mile radius, living alongside but apart from the rest of us who know the airports of the world and the smell of a tropical rain shower. These are the victims of a century of Welfarism. 

Yes, the National Insurance Act 1911 is a century old. This was the point at which the political class lost faith in the ability of the working class to make rational economic choices and took the matter out of their hands. This was the dawn of Welfarism. Arthur Seldon, co-founder of the IEA, was born into poverty in the East End, the orphan of Russian immigrants. He wrote
I was appalled by the insensitivity of governments to the efforts of the working classes to help themselves - the belief that they could not do all the necessary things. They were most anxious to ensure that they used all the opportunities of insurance to safeguard their families in times of sickness and loss of work. I began to sense a sort of anti-working class sentiment in all political parties. They wanted the State to do these things. They didn't like people to do things for themselves. They thought that ordinary people weren't capable. They forgot all the history of the working classes.
The IEA's Ralph Harris himself wrote
Liberty carries with it individual responsibilities. Responsibility for yourself, and hopefully your family and as far as possible your neighbours. But it does throw responsibility onto our own shoulders. Well, that's what living means; it doesn't mean shrugging off responsibility and taking soft options.
In a superb post from November 2010 that I have kept bookmarked, Chris Mounsey writes here of the way in which the State destroyed working-class independence. Welfare destroys lives, makes slaves of the least capable, locks the slow and the talentless into a hopeless pit of despond and condemns lives as worthwhile as our own to a life of struggle without self-respect and to an early death. 

So today when I think about the body of some pale Welsh kid with ribs visible hanging by the neck from his cell bars from his torn pants with the agony suffused on his distorted face a better alternative than the life to which Welfarism had condemned him I shall think also about Polly Toynbee and Ed Milliband and all the other corrosive fools sipping chilled champagne in celebration at a century of cruelty and inhumanity and feed my righteous anger. 


Anonymous said...

The classic Cleese-Barker-Corbett sketch is even older, from The Frost Report in 1966-1967.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Putting it all right will take a century - but we know that 'they' will not allow that - too many vested interests.

Anonymous said...

All a bit late now.

The Baby Boom generation managed to make quite a hash of things.

Matthew said...

Bloody brilliant.

Gordo said...

There is a class system. Toynbee and Milliband, along with Cameron, are part of the ruling class, and they will not abandon their power lightly.

Anonymous said...

welfare is bad till you try going without it. I remember the trouble we had to go to to get my broken arm repaired at the start of WW2 when I was about 5 years old. Almoners etc before pain relief.

Anonymous said...

I think you are missing another important change. The growth of technology means that there are now almost no jobs for the unqualified or incompetent. Holes are now dug by machines that need a reasonably skilled operator; farms which once employed dozens of labourers are now run by one family; office boys, butchers' boys, etc are extinct.

Without welfare, the streets would be full of starving beggars.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Brilliant post, R. Please don't ever give up blogging or write a book.

Anon 0210: you're conflating two different things here. A humane and effective emergency medical service does not imply open-ended soulless welfarism of the kind our host is deploring.

PPS said...

Thanks for this!