All law is imposed morality. Law is never neutral; it rewards certain behaviours and agreement with those values doesn’t make them any less of an imposed morality. Despite the fact that it stakes a high moral purpose, particularly after the excessive law making of Tony Blair’s government, and Gordon Brown’s claims to set a moral compass for society, it actually contributes to the wrecking of society and to its taking measures which can only be described as fascist in character.
Society is now divided into victims and villains; even the villains are seen as being a product of their environment, and are thus recategorised as victims themselves. Personal responsibility is dead, buried under an army of outreach workers.
“a significant proportion of our population have been brought up and educated over the last 60 years within a welfare state”
That statement is true in so far as it refers to the 1945 welfare settlement, but I believe it omits a vital point. It is only in the last 40 years that the welfare state has excluded personal responsibility.
Those of us who are old enough to appreciate the morals and mores of the pre-1967 years have a very different perspective on life from those born and raised post 1967.
The spectre of the unmarried Mother who has a baby in order to acquire a council flat is trotted out time and again as an illustration of all that is wrong with the welfare state. It is not, it is an illustration of all that is wrong with a welfare state denuded of personal responsibility by a legislature determined to impose its own top down morality.
Let me take you back to the early 60’s, those of you who are not old enough to remember. There was a welfare state. It provided medical care for the sick, food for the hungry. It didn’t, however, assume that you had no responsibility for yourself.
Young girls had an array of birth control devices. There was the shame of being an unmarried mother; marriage was still seen as the ‘natural’ environment for a child to grow up in, thus ‘maternity benefits’ were only available on your husband’s National Insurance number — no husband, no benefits. There was the time honoured method of ‘keeping your legs crossed’, primitive but effective. Rape was an issue then as now, countered by asking and expecting a brother or respectable friend to ‘walk you home’.
The arguments in favour of the Abortion Act were a product of the feminist movement, women were seen as victims, no longer responsible for their choices. In hindsight, it was an early example of the cult of victim-hood for all. The mini skirt arrived, and women demanded the right to walk home alone and apparently, by the mores of contemporaneous society, half dressed. The Abortion Act would remove the consequences of their actions. Not all women could or would have an abortion. The government decided to abolish the consequences of that choice – in future these ‘victims’ would be given a council flat, and benefits to remove any disparity between them and women who had made different choices.
The National Health Service saw a similar interference. Where once it had been portrayed as free access to a revered professional, it became an ogre that you could easily fall victim to – and thus should be able to sue. The birth of a child with Down’s syndrome, or cerebral palsy, was no longer an accepted factor of life that you rearranged your household to accommodate, but an avoidable tragedy that you had been the ‘victim’ of and should be compensated for. Compensation ostensibly for the child, but the welfare state already did, and continues to, despite the compensation, provide for that child in the form of Disability Living Allowance, amongst the myriad names it has been known as over the past 60 years.
Unemployment benefit was not seen as a ‘right’ to which all who happened not to be employed were ‘entitled’ to, whether they be a 16 year old who had chosen not to remain in the family home, or a fit and healthy 40 year old who had never so far held a job of any description; it was given to those who had held down employment, who were responsible for a family – mostly males in those days – and who found themselves out of employment through no fault of their own. All others were means tested, examined, probed and poked, by the Social Security Board, who grudgingly handed out the bare necessities of keeping body and soul together – no allowances towards the cost of a TV or video, no clothing allowance, merely food and the lowest possible rate of rent. Now the wilfully unemployed are seen as victims who must not suffer, if they choose to live in a £100 a week – or more – apartment, the rent will be paid, they are not responsible for their plight, nor often, expected to do any more to help themselves other than call into the local DHSS office every six months or so.
“When I discuss Libertarianism with people, welfare is the point of the discussion where people start getting out the crosses and garlic”.
Again I would say – it is not the welfare state that is the problem, it is the welfare state combined with legislation designed to remove personal responsibility that is the problem. Reinstate personal responsibility and the welfare budget will shrink to a manageable size that could and should be borne by a compassionate society.
I wonder how long it will be before someone tries to say that I am advocating a return to the work house and that taking personal responsibility is demeaning and discriminatory?