The evil effects of welfare 8

 As a Democratic administration and Congress threaten to turn America into a welfare state on the disastrous European model, this interview from Front Page Magazine is worth noting. 

Jamie Glazov interviews Martin Durkin.

Durkin: To most people, I imagine, welfare seems an obviously good thing. But in fact the corrosive and iniquitous side of welfare has been evident for many decades. It’s only now that people are poking their heads out of the trench and daring to say so. You can see the devastating effects of welfare in Britain, for example, in the exponential rise in single motherhood. The figures are astonishing. In the 1950s almost all children in Britain were brought up by their natural parents. Today, only around half the children in Britain are brought up by their natural parents. Half!

FP: Why has that happened? 

Durkin: To see why that happened, let me paint you a picture. In the 1950s, the typical working man and his wife In Britain lived in an income-tax free existence. They kept every penny they earned. For an unmarried teenager, there was no council flat (the ‘projects’ I think you call them), no rent rebate, no rate rebate, no housing benefit or anything else. The burden of looking after her and the child fell on her family, friends or charity. Parents who discovered their daughters were pregnant were understandably furious – because they had to pick up the tab. That’s why Dad stomped round to the family of the boy responsible, to call him to account. They boy’s family understood the full economic implications of making babies and came down on him like a ton of bricks. From the real economic relationships there arose a real moral code – the value and the cost of things were clear. The growth of welfare benefits has been huge since that time. And within that system a pregnant girl gets special treatment (top of the state housing list etc). The fear has gone. The old idea, “Don’t, for heaven’s sake, get pregnant. It would be a disaster” has gone. For many girls, getting pregnant is a ticket to get out of the parental home. This has been the subject of detailed studies. A ten percent increase in benefits, one of them finds, tends to increase the prevalence of single mothers by 17 percent.

FP: How has the Left played a role in this development?

Durkin: This whole trend in social policy was fuelled by the anti-family views of the left. The family was bourgeois. Divorce was even celebrated (at least among the serious Left and among tougher feminists). I suppose they thought they were doing young girls a favor. If they did, they were fatted-headed idiots. The effect is disastrous for all those involved. The levels of depression, violence and criminality among lone parents (and their wayward children and transient partners) is heartbreaking. As one commentator puts it, “The evidence that lone parents – and indeed those who cohabit – are very more likely to be victims of violence is worldwide, consistent and overwhelming.” In Britain single parents are about 20 times more likely to suffer domestic violence. A child of a single parent is 15 times more likely to be abused than a child brought up by two natural parents. A child brought up by their natural mother and a cohabite (non natural father) is at even greater risk – 19 times more likely to suffer violence and 74 times more likely to be killed. It’s awful. To catalogue in detail the full devastating effects of welfare – also for example the crippling effects on men who are out of work – would take ages.

 FP: Ok, but tell us some more negative effects.

 Durkin: Overall, I think in general the bigger evil effects of welfare have been enormously underestimated, even by commentators who regard themselves as more pro-capitalist in their sympathies. Welfare is the basic cause of the deleterious cultural changes we have witnessed in the West over the past 60 years. The Welfare State, pioneered in Britain of course, has corrupted this country to its core. It has transformed the country caricatured by Noel Coward and others – essentially pretty decent, self-reliant, and plucky – into a country which is thuggish, selfish, mindless, dispirited and lost. Gone is the British stiff upper lip. Modern Britons are moaning, self-pitying inadequates. The welfare state has bred a generation of obnoxious, drug-addled criminals and ne’er-do-wells. It has also, incidentally, burdened what was once the world’s biggest, most dynamic economy with the dead weight of an obstructive and vastly expensive state machine. I’m sorry to sound cross about this, but I don’t think people fully realise what’s happened. Britain has, I think, the highest crime rate of any industrialised country in the world. It is twice as high as the US. The violent crime rate is higher in London than New York. Britain has the highest rate of drug abuse, the highest teenage pregnancy rate and the highest rate of sexually transmitted disease in the modern industrial world. What the hell happened?

FP: So what the hell happened? 

Durkin: The logic is inescapable. Each slice of do-gooder social policy has had its own tragic, unintended effects. The weight and quality of evidence leaves no room for doubt. The Welfare State has been an unremitting disaster, beyond any hope of reform. It is not that the welfare state isn’t functioning properly, it is that the welfare state is in essence degrading. In the US, I think much the same can be said of the effects of welfare on the black community. How did we get from the nobility of Martin Luther King, to the sordid, gun-toting, rantings of the gangster rappers? Does the Left imagine that this represents liberation? Larry Elder and others have no doubt what’s to blame. The story goes back to Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, which had people going door to door, encouraging people to get on welfare. Now, I understand, nearly 70 percent of today’s black children are born out of wedlock. It can be demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt that the modern ‘cultural trends’ which we lament have an economic cause, and are a direct result of state intervention. The Left do not see economic necessity as a proper reflection of actual human relationships, but some capitalist carbuncle. It’s clear now that in removing economic necessity from people’s lives (which is what welfare does), we risk sinking into barbarism.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Monday, November 24, 2008

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This post has 8 comments.

  • David

    I’ve looked at my second posting and now realise that it does a poor job of summarising James Bartholomew’s important book; it doesn’t get at the “essence

  • Jillian Becker

    This was really very good of you, David, to go to all this trouble for our readers. We much appreciate it.
    I found two passages in James Bartholomew’s book which I marked as specially noteworthy (but everything in it is a lesson that governments should learn) when I read it first, some years ago:
    1. ‘The great increase in lone and broken parenting was brought about by successive governments increasingly taxing married, working parents with children while giving money and other benefits to lone parents.’ (p281) In other words, the welfare state pays people not to marry!
    2. ‘The state pension has caused the great majority of people to be poorer in old age than they would have been if it had never been created.’ (p331) It was a strong incentive not to save.

    One of the chapters (10) explains why it is hard for a democracy to get rid of the ruinous welfare state once it is established. If only Democrats would take note of this now as they plan a vast increase in welfare provision, starting with a national health service.

    I’d like to draw your (and roger in florida’s) attention to a book by David Fraser, ‘A Land Fit For Criminals’. It’s an appalling but accurate description of the state of law enforcement (or rather the lack of it) in poor declining Britain.

  • roger in florida

    David, I appreciate your perspective and will get this book. However I have to ask; are there not cases where we need to to extend help? One of the definitions of a civilised society is how it takes care of it’s unfortunates. Surely we don’t need starving children on street corners to remind the rest of us that we need to be self disciplined. I am confused on this. I recall when I first worked in Vancouver BC, that I was appalled at the drug addicts on the East side, the rampant prostitution in even the prosperous areas of the city. I worked in an engineering office on West Pender Street and was astounded at the revelation of some of the young women who worked as admin assistants that they moonlighted as prostitutes and were prepared to make appointments with us! This was something I had never experienced in London. There has to be a general belief in something, hopefully not religion but a moral code, what we are, what we are proud to be. I came to this site because I am an atheist conservative, believing that morality is nothing to do with religion, but what is it to do with? Am I right to oppose the homosexual agenda? Am I right to oppose abortion? Am I right to oppose handouts to the able bodied? I have seen families living in cars. Actually David, North America is a brutal place, it will grind you to atoms if you are not strong, and many people are not strong.

  • David

    My apologies for the sometimes-large font in the previous posting. Something went wrong with font. It wasn’t intentional.

  • David

    Lessons were actually learnt (as opposed to our current crop of politicians always saying, “lessons need to be learnt”) during the mid 19th Century onwards and forgotten almost entirely and put into reverse from the early 20th Century onwards. According to James Bartholomew, the diagnosis of the problems caused by the (then, parish-based) welfare system were to be found in the book/report published in 1834 concerning the Poor Laws. “Questionnaires were sent out across the country to those who administered the Poor Laws… The report they produced was the largest social investigation ever to have been made. It was a revelation.”
    A Dr Brushfield reported: “In the pauper’s habitation [a ‘pauper’ is a welfare dependant] the children are dirty, and appear to be under no control; the clothes of both parents and children, in nine cases out of ten, are ragged, but evidently are so for the least attempt to make them otherwise; for I have very rarely found the clothes of a pauper with a patch put or a seam made upon them since new.”

    In contrast: “In the habitation of the labouring man who receives no parish relief, you will find (I have done so), even in the poorest, an appearance of comfort: the articles of furniture, few and humble as they might be, have their best side seen… The children appear under parental control, are sent to school… their clothes you will find patched and taken care of, so as to make them wear as long a time as possible; there is a sense of moral feeling and dignity easily discerned.”
    Mr Okeden, for the Commission reports: “Moral character is annihilated, and the poor man of twenty years ago, who tried to earn his money, and was thankful for it, is now converted into an insolent, discontented, surly, thoughtless pauper, who talks of “right and income”.”
    The welfare system, it was argued, created a self-perpetuating dependency.
    The answer, it seems, (of this small part of the welfare system) was to reduce the welfare payments.
    “When the relief, though adequate, has been rendered ineligible [i.e. unattractive] – new life, new energy is infused into the constitution of the pauper; he is aroused like one from sleep, his relation with all his neighbours, high and low is changed; he surveys his former employers with new eyes. He begs a job – he will take no denial – he discovers that everyone wants something to be done…”
    (I’m not going to type out the whole of the 400-page book!)

    James Bartholomew takes apart most of the aspects of today’s welfare state showing the problems that the welfare state caused – and thereby showed the solutions. The chapters of the book include:
    Social Security;
    The NHS: Like a Train Crash Every Day;
    Education: Eleven years at School;
    Housing: From Homes “Fit for Heroes”…
    There are numerous pithy quotes and charts and graphs scattered throughout the book.
    You wrote: “Did the welfare state at any point since the end of WWII shrink?”
    No, it expanded hugely: that’s the problem. James Bartholomew argues that the Welfare State is the main cause of our problems and not the solution. The Welfare State exacerbated such social problems as there were and made them much worse – like pouring petrol on a raging fire, I suppose.
    The website derived from the book is at:

  • Jillian Becker

    On a second reading of your comment (my first was too hasty), I see that you actually say, David, that the book’s lessons ‘were put into practice’ at some stage. This I didn’t know. I saw no effects of their being put into practice. Did the welfare state at any point since the end of WWII shrink? Please tell us when and how the lessons were learned and changes were made.

  • Jillian Becker

    Thank you, David, for mentioning this excellent book. I have read it – in fact I own a copy – and I too recommend it.

    Unfortunately, as you say, it may as well never have been written for all the notice successive British governments have taken of it.

    It might be read as a cautionary account in America, but only by people who are not likely to be in power in the foreseeable future.


    From David, UK

    I would highly recommend James Bartholomew’s book, “The Welfare State We’re In”. It explains in great detail the history of welfare in the UK and the lessons that were actually learned and were put into practice, but have since been forgotten.