Death Throes of the Welfare State

The riots in London continue to shed light on the unraveling of a once-great nation. The U.K.’s Tory government has proposed to terminate the “benefits”–some of them, anyway–of those who are convicted of participating in the riots. This applies to those who are not sentenced to prison, as inmates are cared for by the state and automatically forfeit whatever benefits they may otherwise have received.

This seems like an unobjectionable plan. For one thing, all of the rioters that we saw in photos or on video appear to be perfectly able-bodied. Why are they on “benefits” in the first place? One would think that getting a job is precisely what these yobs, as the British call them, need. But in today’s England, reducing a criminal’s benefits is no easy thing:

[T]he proposals threaten to cause a row at the heart of the coalition government, with many Lib Dems uneasy about such draconian measures.

Suggesting to an able-bodied young man that he should work for a living rather than subsisting on the dole while burning cars and buildings in his spare time is “draconian?” One wonders what the Duke of Wellington would have made of that.

Julian Huppert, a Lib Dem MP, warned: “If you say to people there is no way for you to get money then that will lead to an increase in theft.”

“No way to get money”? How about employment? But the issue is financial as well as moral; it appears that Her Majesty’s Government is writing checks to worthless layabouts as a means of saving money:

Meanwhile experts are warning the move could be expensive and difficult to achieve. Ian Mulheirn of the Social Market Foundation said: “It is really hard to identify people and remove their benefits in an automated system. Doing that is extremely expensive, and will cost more money than it saves.”

An “automated system” that cranks out checks to criminals and that can’t, realistically speaking, be turned off: what we see here is the last stages of decay.

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