‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The British underclass: cocooned victims

Theodore Dalrymple, a retired doctor who worked in Birmingham with many of the underclass, writes an excellent, all-in-one piece about the misery and degradation at the bottom of society, and how it is sustained by people in the middle who depend on it for their living, and a political class that pretends to treat these carpeted, centrally-heated slaves as their clients.

And the whole thing is supported by ninnies who think they're clever: "For intellectuals, multiculturalism is a lot of different restaurants."

It's in yesterday's Daily Express, but I'm finding it hard to create a link as you are led straight on to some viewing program; so since everyone who was going to buy that edition has now done so, here's the text:

MODERN Britain is a land of contrasts, not to say of paradoxes. Its children are simultaneously overindulged and neglected, mollycoddled and subjected to violence. Adults either work long hours or while away the time in complete idleness.

It imports labour from overseas but supports large numbers of people to do nothing. As the health of the population improves so the number of invalids grows inexorably. No war has ever produced as many people unable to work as the British welfare state.

Despite official statistics – misleading, of course – about the low rate of unemployment, one in seven British households does not have a working adult. Millions of children are growing up with no personal example of earning a living before them. No wonder later in life they call the day on which they receive their social security “pay day”.

They even use the word “wages” in this connection. (Habitual burglars, by the way, talk about “going to work”). It is not their fault. We have made – or perhaps I should say our government has made – them as they are.

We should not imagine, just because we ourselves would like a little more leisure time, that the condition of state-supported idleness is a happy one. Living happily in idleness is an art which most people do not possess. On the contrary, state-created and subsidised idleness is purgatory on earth, or a limbo in which you are denied the two great motives of effort: hope and fear.

IF THOSE paid to be idle go out to work the chances are that, because they are mostly unskilled, they will receive little more money than if they do not. Who, other than a saint, wants to get up at 6am every morning to earn £15 a week more than if he stays in bed? The idle do not believe they can improve their lives by honest labour and they are not entirely wrong.

On the other hand they cannot deprive themselves of an income either. Whatever they do, however they behave, the money – such as it is – will come in. No hope, then, and no fear. This also means no meaning. What rushes in to fill the void? The answer is self-destruction and social pathology of every conceivable kind. Better to live a life of perpetual crisis – a kind of personal soap opera – than one of quiet limbo. A bit of crime and violence helps to break the monotony.

The whole system is very expensive. It means the rest of the population has to spend between an eighth and a quarter of its working life paying for it. Moreover, there is no end in sight: for the system is reproducing the very kind of people who will necessitate its continuance. No one strapped to a treadmill ever had a more futile occupation than the employed British population working to reduce child poverty under the present arrangements.

A large number of the households with no working adult are those of single parents. Contrary to received opinion, the answer is not to force them all out to work, tiring them out so that they can devote even less time and attention to their child or children.

The answer is to provide firm and very strong incentives for people to form stable couples. As anyone who has ever witnessed an unhappy marriage will know, not every stable couple is a happy one but from the point of view of public policy it is better on the whole. From the point of view of children and public finances, too, couples (even unhappy ones) should be stable. Successive governments have followed exactly the opposite course, encouraging the break-up of parents as much as possible. The consequences are disproportionately severe for those at the lower end of the economic spectrum.

Paying large numbers of people to do nothing, we find ourselves short of labour so we import it. This has unfortunate consequences, whatever political correctness might say. (For intellectuals, multiculturalism is a lot of different restaurants).

ONE of the reasons people give for wanting to leave Britain – and more want to leave than the natives of any other comparable country – is that it has entirely lost its distinctive character. Oddly enough, even older immigrants say the same, lamenting the country they came to is no longer the one they live in.

As if this were not enough, much of the demand for labour produced by the prosperity of the past years, now coming to an end, has been bogus in the sense of not being economically viable in the long run. Half of the employment created in the past decade has been in the public service without there having been a corresponding improvement in public services.

These extra public servants – many of them in effect drones of the State, whose main activity is obstructing others from doing anything useful – have to be paid for by taxes. They are an extra burden to those in the real economy and are the natural political allies of the permanently idle. After all, those with social pathology require an army of saviours from the consequences of their behaviour.

The whole pyramid scheme – for that is what it is – works wonders for a time, based as it is on a mountain of personal and public indebtedness. But once confidence in it is lost the edifice comes tumbling down.

As Louis XV’s mistress Madame de Pompadour said, aware of where all the excesses of the aristocracy were ultimately leading: “Apres nous, le deluge” (After us, the deluge). The Government has turned a cynical witticism into its economic and social policy.


Wolfie said...

Theodore Dalrymple - an excellent writer, many lump him in with the hard-nosed right but I find him simply refreshingly rational.

Sackerson said...

He over-writes, especially when in the Spectator - hasn't learned to wear his learning lightly - but stripped down, his material is first-class.

Wolfie said...

I kind of like his wordiness - I can be the same after a bottle of red wine over the dinner table.

Wolfie said...

... fortunately my wife finds it charming.

Sackerson said...

My wife is similarly tolerant when I get "sh*t-faced philosophical".

Anonymous said...

"After us, the deluge".

Can't wait. Can we bring back the guillotine? Maybe we can use the Olkympic Stadium to execute "enemies of the people" like the Chinese are going to do with the birdsnest.

Unknown said...

My God, this man deserves the Common Sense Medal of the Century!

Thanks for posting this, BW.

I'm not an economist, but it's clear to me that many of our public services are services to the public only in that they provide jobs for otherwise unemployable people.

Ergo, all these superfluous 'work-experience' people have to create the problems that their job descriptions say they are supposed to relieve.

Dr Dalrymple calls them the underclass. What if we could see them not as the underclass but as the unwilling hosts of those superfluous workers who simply parasite off them?

The system is thus set up to create disability, crime, marital discord, all sorts of mayhem.

We have precious little manufacturing industry now. Unless you count the industrial-scale manufacture of anguish and dysfunction by these work experience leeches.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see Dalrymple tackle our obsession with vacuous celebrity next. I can't move for shallow, sickly nonentities. In fact, life for me these days is a twofold nightmare: streets awash with the unwashed egotistic underclass; and a full on lowbrow media assault about people I presume to care about in some fashion.