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Paying for poverty

Simon Heffer's withering analysis in the Telegraph,

We have an underclass because we pay to have one. I do not mean that to be a glib remark, from which it could be inferred that, if we were to stop paying for one, it would magically disappear. What I mean is that 60 years of welfarism, far from raising people out of poverty and of the vices that sometimes (but not inevitably) go with it, has simply trapped them there. Welfarism has smashed the traditional, and vital, family unit. The state readily takes responsibility for families if those who should be running them decide, in part or in whole, to abdicate it. The huge outlay of money that allows this to happen is represented by politicians - and not exclusively those of the Left - as a great act of humanity and philanthropy. It is nothing of the sort. It is, rather, an act of sustained and chronic cruelty, and it leads to such horrors as happened in Liverpool last week.

That welfarism should allow people to pass their duties to the state was certainly not envisaged by Beveridge when he drew up his blueprint for a welfare system in 1942. As a Liberal of the best sort, Beveridge saw his job as to design a safety net for those who, in distressing scenes in the 1920s and 1930s, had lived in dire poverty owing to mismanagement of the world's main economies after the First World War. The Attlee government interpreted Beveridge differently, and ensured that welfare instead would provide a career structure for those who chose not to work, or not to provide for their families.

Heffer continues,

That was bad enough; but real toxicity has been created by combining this destructive profligacy with a liberal experiment in criminal justice that has now utterly failed, and with the sacrifice of our state education system on the altar of Marxism. Given how many of our young grow up without any moral example in their lives, without discipline or serious learning at school, and in the knowledge that the police will not confront them or, if they do, that the courts have little power to punish, it is small wonder we have pockets of lethal anarchy throughout the green and pleasant land.

I have some disagreements with the essay, and the letters from readers that follow, but they are worth reading.