I haven't blogged much over the last year due to long hours, but still sniped over at CiF - and this comment sums my emerging view :
The greatest prize for the very rich would be the total dismantling of the welfare state and the removal of its consequent tax burden (although venture capitalists, on 10% tax - "entrepreneurs relief", do pretty well already).
It's a lot easier to justify a welfare state when the recipients are "people like us" and therefore easier to identify with and to think "there but for the grace of God". Social solidarity among working people, whether it be support for a welfare state or a trades union, will always be stronger in the absence of cultural, religious or racial divisions. Social scientists like Robert Putnam have noted how diversity weakens a sense of community.
So were I an evil capitalist billionaire looking to reduce the power of trades unions and destroy the welfare state, I'd start by funding Left groups supporting mass immigration.
I'd encourage such groups, and left-wing lawyers too, to support the most outrageous abuses of the welfare system, knowing that it would discredit welfare in the eyes of ordinary working people - and I'd chuckle to see Telegraph and Mail readers - and BBC commenters, too - getting angry when benefits rise, as they should do, with inflation.
"The plan is working ... heh heh heh ..."
I'd suggest, with all its faults, that the Welfare State is the most outstanding instance of UK social solidarity - started in Edwardian times by Lloyd George and nailed down in the aftermath of WW2 by a strong people, annealed in the fire of two world wars and quenched in the depression years of the 1930s.
I'd also suggest that the plan is continuing to work :
Despite the tough economic climate, the study by independent social research agency NatCen reveals attitudes towards welfare and welfare claimants have toughened. Only 28% of those asked wanted to see more spending on welfare - down from 35% at the beginning of the recession in 2008, and from 58% in 1991.
Report author and NatCen chief executive, Penny Young, said the study showed the public's view on welfare was "in tune... with the coalition's policies".She said: "The recession doesn't seem to be changing things; attitudes continue to harden. One thing that we've seen is that even where groups are seen as perhaps more deserving - so retired people, disabled people - again for the first time since 2008 we've seen that the number of people who are prepared to see more money go on disability benefits has actually fallen.""Heh heh heh ...." - the BBC Today programme this morning couldn't get over it - in the early 90s recession 58% thought we should increase welfare spending, now it's down to 28%. What could possibly have changed since the early 90s? They just couldn't understand such a dramatic shift in attitude.
"You beat your pate, and fancy wit will come,
Knock as you please, there's nobody at home"
In various posts over the last year, I've aired the fancy that in ten, fifteen years, the Guardian will be simultaneously
a) bemoaning the end of the welfare state and the new poverty of the working class
b) celebrating our ever-greater diversity
and I've pointed out that
Western welfare states carry a high tax burden, which makes life uncomfortable for the mega-rich. It would be a lot easier for them if social solidarity was destroyed to the extent that the welfare state no longer existed and their taxes could come down. A good way to do that is to create atomised societies of competing ethnicities.
Mass immigration will IMHO mean the end of the Welfare State, probably in the next thirty years. A pity. It was a good concept - for 1948 Brits and their descendants. And as an ageing boomer, I don't want the NHS to turn into any more of a death factory for the old than it currently is.
But at least we'll all be equal in our barrios, looking up at the gated communities on the hills.
UPDATE - "The government is considering ending the automatic annual increase in benefits in line with inflation, sources have told BBC Newsnight.
The whole point of benefits is that they're meant to be a liveable minimum amount.So if inflation rises, so should that amount. But there'll be little sympathy for that view from those whose expenses are rising but whose wages are static - and that means most of us.
"Heh heh heh ..."
UPDATE2 - "To promote prudence and responsibility, rather than the dependency and waste of the welfare system, we should return to mutual aid societies
"Heh heh heh ..."