Thursday, August 11, 2011

George Will on the UK welfare state

 Our welfare state is also based on Lord Beveridge's reforms. Lord Beveridge would be horrified by what has become of his reforms. The nanny state must be cut back. HM UK PM Cameron is trying. So should we.


Britain’s debt, now 62 percent of GDP, is scheduled to rise to 71 percent in 2013-14 before declining. Government devours 47 percent of national income.

The five-year goal of reducing it to 40 percent will be difficult because Cameron has a tepid mandate. In 2010, Conservatives almost suffered a fourth consecutive defeat, and they failed to win a majority against an exhausted and unpopular Labor government.


This may be one reason Cameron has flinched from seriously reforming the established religion. No, not the Church of England, the National Health Service. It is sometimes adequate regarding medicine but is a sensational jobs program: It is the world’s sixth-largest employer (behind the Chinese army, Wal-Mart, China National Petroleum, China State Grid Corp. and Indian Railways).

Osborne says America’s welfare reform of 1996 “helped change the debate over here.” Perhaps, but almost 30 percent of public spending here is still for a welfare system under which an unemployed single mother with two children has more disposable income than a postal worker. There is, Osborne says, considerable resentment among people who “go to work at seven in the morning and the blinds are down next door.” Almost a fifth of British households have no wage earner, while immigrants are 13 percent of the workforce.

Fortunately, in Britain, as in much of the United States, labor unions are fading forces. British unions have only 7 million members, down from 13 million 30 years ago. When, in June, leaders of a large public employees union engineered a one-day strike, the members were not enthusiastic and the public was not inconvenienced.

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