Fed Up Brits

Posted on January 6, 2013


Government provided housing is insufficient. The Heaton Family expects more and better from Mother England.

In light of the election results in America last month, which seem to confirm that a majority of voters prefer dependence to opportunity, I was amazed to discover a contrary trend within the last few years arising from the most unlikely of places – the United Kingdom!   Yes, Great Britain, which remains Britain, but hasn’t been ‘Great’ for over half a century, has actually arrived at a general consensus that the Social Welfare system has gotten out of hand.  Who’d of guessed?  Detached observers would contend that it has been out of hand for decades, but perhaps even in a nation where the legitimacy of government handouts seemed beyond question, it may be that the government has overplayed its hand.

British citizens and the Welfare State are not infatuated with one another anymore. Well, let’s just say that Britain has filed for a divorce, citing ‘irreconcilable differences’ and incompatibility.  Why so sudden?  Maybe it’s not that sudden.  Maybe a resentment has been festering.  I’ve been noticing rock musicians from the U.K, moving to the United States for several years now, for the purposes of getting out from under the massive tax burden.  Well, I suppose it was nice while it lasted.  Some of this angst  accounts for the election of Tory Party David Cameron as Prime Minister, even though Cameron is far from what American Conservatives would consider a conservative as it’s defined here. Mr. Cameron would be something roughly akin to Mitt Romney in his incarnation as Governor.  Having said that, Cameron’s election was still quite a swing by British standards, away from the policies of Labour Party P.M.’s Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.

It’s possible that in looking at Britain now, we can roughly calibrate how out of control things must necessarily become here, before people conclude that the nonsense has to stop.  Consider that Britain has the highest number of working age citizens on disability benefits of any nation in the developing world.  We’re behind them in that statistic for now, but we’re doing our level best to catch up.  Meanwhile, Her Majesty’s subjects appear to have reached a breaking point.

Typifying the newly emerging sentiment is that of Alison Howarth is a 46-year-old mother of one who moved to Spain in 2005 from England to escape the rain, ‘yob culture’ and in her words, “complicated benefits system that are favourable to immigrants rather than British people.” When hearing that Prime Minister David Cameron was proposing to put a cap on housing benefit to what equates to £500 a week, Mrs. Howarth felt incensed, not because of the austerity measure, but instead because British tax payers are paying for jobless ‘scroungers’ to live in often ‘luxury’ accommodation. “I have paid tax all my life in Britain. Why should it go into the pockets of those who view having kids as a commodity?  For the last seven years I have received no child benefit whatsoever. If my husband and I can manage to get work in a rural farming town in inland Spain and make ends meet without any state help whatsoever, I find it hard to believe that people in Britain can’t get by without money being handed to them on a plate,”

To provide a bit of historical perspective, England’s Daily Mail newspaper describes the origins of the British Welfare State:

Seventy years ago, with Britain locked in battle against the armies of Nazi Germany, one of the most brilliant public servants of his generation was hard at work on a report that would change our national life for ever. Invited by Churchill’s government to consider the issue of welfare once victory was won, Sir William Beveridge set out to slay the ‘five giants’ of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.

When his report was published at the end of 1942, it became the cornerstone of a welfare state that supported its citizens from cradle to grave, banishing the poverty and starvation of the Depression, and laying the foundations for the great post-war boom. For years the welfare state was one of the glories of Britain’s democratic landscape, a monument to the generosity and decency of human nature, offering a hand up to those unlucky enough to be born at the bottom.

Surprisingly however, Beveridge’s concept and intentions for a safety net, did not envision people deliberately gaming the system to avoid being productive. As the Daily Mail notes, Beveridge designed the welfare state for a tightly knit, deeply patriotic and overwhelmingly working-class society, dominated by the nuclear family. Britain in the Forties was an old-fashioned, conservative and collectivist world, in which divorce was exceptional and single parenthood so rare as to be practically unknown. Though millions of people had grown up in intense poverty, they were steeped in a culture of working-class respectability and driven by an almost Victorian work ethic. In the world of the narrow terrace back streets, deliberate idleness would have been virtually unthinkable.

But alas, there is always the eventual manifestation of unintended consequences.  Well intentioned and with a keen insight into the society and the time in which he lived, Sir Beveridge was still investing unwarranted faith in human nature.  Time and the corrosive nature of the Government as Parent, Citizen as Child relationship, have laid waste to Beveridge’s good intentions.   Government spending, of which a good portion includes Social welfare (entitlements, as we call it), tap about 40% of the U.K.’s annual Gross Domestic Product, and have for roughly 4 decades now.   As things stand presently in Britain, many Brits rightly feel that it is perverse for the government to dole out £ 30,000 ($44,000) in combined benefits, when that amount exceeds what a good number of the working population earn on an annual basis.  That is what the English would call just a bit ‘barmy’.  

It can’t help when native citizens of Britain notice that a large contingent of immigrants from places like Pakistan are welcomed into their country by the government on the premise that they would be workers, but instead, quit working and rely on government support.  Included in that support is subsidized or in other cases, free housing in what the Government calls ‘Council Houses’.   To add insult to injury, these same immigrants support, advocate and plot violence against the very same people who work hard to pay for their lavish government benefits.   Dominic Sandbrook of the Mail Online, describes the sentiment of a growing number of Brits when he sums it up thusly:   

“To my mind, though, it is frankly bizarre that we have entered the 2010s with a welfare system designed to solve the problems of the Forties, handing out child benefit to millionaires and allowing some people to make more on benefits than their neighbours do by sheer hard work. With foreign competitors eating into our markets, the harsh truth is that 21st-century Britain will need to work harder than ever to earn its living. Even meeting our health and pensions bills for the next 50 years will be daunting. Paying current welfare costs on top of that would stretch our finances beyond breaking point.

I’ve always felt that Brits have become rather naïve, lackadaisical and much too tolerant, for a people that are only a century removed from owning an Empire upon which the Sun never set.  That they are capable, even to a feeble degree of getting their backs up over being exploited, is a welcome development.

Perhaps the politicians and the bureaucrats will be able to throw some pixie dust in the eyes of the British people and get them put back to sleep.  One would hope instead, that their eyes are open now and will remain so.  It’s something to watch.  It will help us prognosticate on just how long it will be before people here come to their senses and put the boot to the ‘Government as Parent’ politicos.

Author’s Note:  This is the second in the series of essays in which we look at Europe from the standpoint of how citizens and government officials are hitting the brakes on what I term, ‘Social Fascism’ – a hybrid of socialistic policies and government enfranchisement of well connected business interests.  The first in the series was ‘Sacre Bleu‘, which you can check out here.  The next will be shortcoming and will profile a nation on the European Continent that has been minding its affairs quite responsibly with excellent results.  Look for that shortly.  Meanwhile, you are welcome to guess that country’s identity.