Enough with the synthetic compassion

Telegraph associate editor Simon Heffer is ready to cut off allowances:

Has anybody noticed that the more we spend on the underclass, the bigger it gets and the worse it behaves?

Has anyone noticed, either, that what we used to call the working class has shrunk? Not merely because, as surveys tell us, so many now think of themselves as “middle-class”, but because something called the respectable working class has almost died out. What sociologists used to call the working class does not now usually work at all, but is sustained by the welfare state. Its supposed family units are not as the rest of us might define the term. It lapses routinely into criminality and lives in largely self-inflicited squalor. It has low educational attainment and is bereft of ambition. It is what we now call the underclass.

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.

Mr Heffer could probably repeat this column every few years with scarcely any changes, because that’s what’s going to happen to the policies that created the “underclass”: scarcely any changes. The War on Poverty, as President Johnson called it, makes the Iraq “quagmire” look like a small patch of gravel.





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