I’m currently looking at GE’s recent thread at the DT, lamenting the rise of the Welfare State and the normalization of welfare dependency, helplessness, and self-righteous mendicancy; a subject LibertyGibbert has previously visited in detail.
The general tone of the comments at the DT, as well as under the original BBC story concerning a long-term unemployed father of seven, on which James’ thread is based, runs along the lines of doesn’t this bloke have any self pride?; or I started working straight out of school, swept floors to keep myself off the dole; to so demand for his skill set dried up? Why didn’t he retrain, the slacker!
As a matter of declaration, I got my own first paid job delivering newspapers at age nine. I was a member of a trade union at twelve, and have worked more or less continuously since leaving school. My parents told me they wouldn’t object to my pursuing a career in music, provided I completed my education first. Which I did. As it transpired, I spent only a few years in the music industry before drifting, via an alphabet of jobs, into the one I’m in now. But I guess most of you have already read about all that, so I won’t bore you with any more details.
But it got me thinking: as many great authors have pointed out, one of the fundamental flaws of a democracy is that pretty much everyone in it is trying to get more out of the system than they are putting in. What about someone who gets up every day, works hard, pays taxes and obeys the law of the land: should he have no more say in how his taxes are spent than the bloke across the street from him—a bloke who lays in bed till noon, pays no taxes, has never worked, but regards both his dole cheque and his vote as a God-given right, along with his right to join in any violent and destructive “protest” in which he may feel like participating? And what of the bloke across town who, with genius and hard work, built up over many years a large, multi-national business, employs thousands of his countrymen and pays millions a year in taxes?
What if the economy worked like that generally? Imagine a world in which the holder of 10% of a company’s shares had no more influence at shareholder meetings than someone who had bought only a single share? Or—far worse—someone who had no shares at all? In such a case, it’s clear the latter person would see to it that the company provides him with a highly-paid, do-nothing, unaccountable sinecure, complete with corporate credit card, unlimited travel, plus…
Hang on a minute: that is starting to sound awfully familiar.
Clearly, something’s not quite right here.
When a society’s net consumers outnumber its net producers—or at any rate, are handed grossly disproportionate power by the vagaries of the electoral system—and a decline, both in both the pre-eminence of the family as a nation’s core social building block, and in the self-esteem once sought by citizens as providers for themselves and their dependents; when this “perfect storm” of toxic social and economic factors takes hold of a society’s throat, we must ask the question, what is the root cause?
I’m not as well-read as some of you on this issue. But it seems increasingly clear to me that, for one or more reasons, Western society has succumbed to the moral hazard of universal adult suffrage. Now, I’m quite aware that whenever anyone starts raising the question of the franchise, alarm bells start going off in the minds of many people. Images of one form of tyranny or another, be it feudalism, plutocracy, or whatever, get raised, Godwin-like, in an attempt to shut down all debate. But it’s a debate our society is one day going to have to have, or be left in the end with very little to vote for.
There won’t be a single person reading this (at least, I hope not) who would wish to limit the franchise on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. In past centuries, the franchise was limited to landholders—not, as many believe, because the nobility wished to confine power to their own class; but rather, since the only form of domestic taxation at the time was land taxes. No representation without taxation. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, surely the right to vote carries with it a concomitant duty to pay taxes?
And what about government employees? They, even more so than welfare dependants, have a vested interest in increasing the size of government, both its scope of operations and total tax take. The same goes for government-employed consultants and quango-dwellers. The income tax they pay is just recycled taxpayer money anyway, so should any of them be entrusted with the vote?
Back when our societies were liberal democracies, and the scope of government services was far narrower than it is today, this dilemma didn’t really exist. Sure, there was government corruption and cronyism, and only a fool would seriously believe we could eliminate it entirely. But when the “captive constituency” of the Welfare State of today’s social democracies grows to a size where it accrues the sort of electoral clout it enjoys today, the temptation of politicians—typically, but by no means exclusively, from one side of the political fence—to pander to the mob who keep them in power, at the expense of the minority who pay their way, becomes irresistible. It is not merely a moral failure on the part of venal politicians, but a symptom of a broken system that plays on that venality.
So folks, what do you think? When I floated the idea of this thread over at Knotted Prop, Kitler was of the opinion that the rich would simply “game the system” to suit themselves. But aren’t they doing that already? And in the process employing an army of tax lawyers and lobbyists to do so? I’d say that if they thought their taxes were buying them more influence—only this time, openly and honestly—they would be more inclined to pay them. And unless they want to spend up big on a private army to keep beggars off the estate, they would have a vested interest in maintaining a social security system that at a minimum furnished all the needy about them with the basics of food, clothing and shelter, such as I have described in my previous article on the subject. Those who find themselves without any political influence would likewise be encouraged to get themselves into paid employment, contributing taxes to society, and being rewarded with the vote they deserve.