(Author's Note - as ever, and particularly given this post's subject matter, I should point out that I am not 'The Devil's Kitchen'.)
History repeats itself the first time as tragedy - and then sometimes it just repeats itself.
This may seem strange, but there are remarkable similarities between modern Saudi Arabia and imperial Spain. One relied and the other relys too heavily on the flow of one asset for economic survival. In Saudi's case, of course, it's oil; in Spain's case, it was New World bullion. As the bullion teat dried up, Spain's previous failure to diversify led to its decline. The same thing will eventually happen in Saudi Arabia when the oil either runs out or is purchased from elsewhere.
By the same token, there are remarkable similarities between, of all things,, the reconstruction of postwar Iraq and the most notorious episode of the so-called 'Highland Clearances', that of Strathnaver, and they're rooted in administrative over-reliance on economic theory. The State Department wonks who thought that spontaneous order would just break out once the Iraqis were free, free, free were just as wrong, wrong, wrong as Patrick Sellar, a devout disciple of the bits of the 'Wealth of Nations' that he liked, was when he thought that crofters settled on parcels of land too small for their subsistence would just divide their labour and prosper; no questions asked. It didn't happen then - it's a pity anyone thought it would ever happen now.
I join wholeheartedly in DK's call for the abolition of the welfare state; yet one cannot help but wonder just how this is to be done.
The creation of Incapacity Benefit, the King of Benefits, is a sin for which those responsible should one day answer. That "...1m currently (receive) incapacity benefit" makes one wonder just how any government can formulate an employment policy, and in consequence an economic policy, when it connives at the concealment of such enormous unemployment; yet every British government that has held office since Incapacity Benefit was created has attempted to do just that. In my experience it is not the case that once you're on Incap you're on it for life, and there are those who cannot work, and they cannot be left to starve; but it must be reformed.
If Incap is the King of Benefits then Income Support is the Queen. It is Income Support and its predecessors, and the benefits that flow and have flowed from their receipt, that have created the culture of the pregnant teenager soon to become grande dame of yet another perpetually workless household. Maybe I've gone native; but I have the greatest sympathy for those young women who try to break their dependence on Income Support, because the state does not make it easy for them.
Working Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits are a joke, if only because they seek to mimic the effects of tax cuts without cutting taxes.
Child Benefit discriminates against parents with more than one child. Why should one child be worth £18 per week, but two worth only £30? What's the point? Does not compute.
As for Housing Benefit, it sometimes seem that eligibility for this most quicksilver of all benefits is determined by an algorithm with all the mathematical sophistication of a tombola.
And precisely why does receipt of Income Based Job Seekers Allowance qualify you for stuff that you don't get if your eligibility for JSA is Contributions Based?
And yet, and yet, and yet...
Welfarism is now so deeply embedded in the psyche of some Brits that its immediate overnight abolition would be impossible. It must be changed; but gradually, and with as much sensitivity as can be mustered.
For reform to happen, there must be actual jobs recipients can go to; sad to say, the prospect of being screamed at by your fellow citizens in a call centre in order to earn £12K a year isn't much of an inducement to getting out of bed in the morning - particularly if you go to work not knowing if your job will still be in Burnley in a month's time, but in Bangalore instead. Change must be holistic, and must involve trade-offs.
Immediate abolition would, to all intents and purposes, amount to one part of the nation severing itself from another. Now, there may be some who say this would be a good thing, and that they couldn't care less; but there are examples of societies which have been cut in two overnight, on ideological grounds.
My fear is that should the welfare state be subject to sudden, radical reform, that the British themselves would be subjected to an experience not unlike the Partition of India on their doorsteps.
That would be a chance of economic improvement for which the opportunity cost would be just too high.