John Humphries is in hot water with his employer, the BBC.
The Radio 4 Today presenter said on air that “the welfare state is in crisis”. He then complained of “dependency culture that has grown steadily over the past year.”
For this he was chastised by the BBC Trust, and quite right too. What wasn’t right is that afterwards some pundits accused the BBC of “blatant Left-wing bias”.
Instead they should be telling the presenter to get his facts straight. The welfare state is no crisis whatsoever. In fact it’s doing extremely well. Because of this, it’s the rest of us who are in crisis, but the BBC is right to ignore such trivia.
Unlike Mr Humphries who saw fit to bite the hand that feeds him, the BBC is loyal to its employer, the state. The modern state, to be exact.
And the very nature of the modern state demands that it expand its power above any other consideration. The welfare state serves this purpose famously: by transferring money from those who earned it to those who didn’t, the state transfers more power its own way.
This is innate to the post-Enlightenment state, based as it on the premise that all men are created equal before the state, just as they used to be deemed to be equal before God.
“Democracy,” wrote Aristotle, “arose from men’s thinking that if they are equal in any respect, they are equal absolutely.” This presumptive absolute equality had to be extended to economics.
Even the least successful layers of the population had to have their expectation built up, for otherwise they could unplug themselves from the democratic process, thereby weakening the political class’s hold on power.
Therefore the promise of wealth, or at least comfort, had to be substantially divorced from the ability to earn it. Since in reality the two go hand in hand, the political class came to be judged and rewarded on its ability to create the illusion of a narrowing gap between ability and expectation.
As failure to do so could spell its own demise, success in this illusion-building endeavour first became the main determining factor of political success, and eventually the only one.
Thus R.G. Collingwood’s analysis of the collapse of the Hellenic economy presages the collapse of ours:
“The critical moment was reached when Rome created an urban proletariat whose only function was to eat free bread and watch free shows. This meant the segregation of an entire class which had no work to do whatever; no positive function in society, whether economic or military or administrative or intellectual or religious; only the business of being supported and being amused. When that had been done, it was only a question of time until Plato’s nightmare of a consumers’ society came true; the drones set up their own king and the story of the hive came to an end.”
To make matters worse, enlightenment economists established a parallel between universal suffrage and private enterprise in people’s minds. Both were supposed to be based on individual responsibility for one’s future, either political or economic.
This was a simulacrum of Christian individualism, perverting it first by shifting it into a purely politicised material arena, and second by trying to legitimise a dubious political idea by letting it bask in the borrowed warmth of a sound economic one.
As a result, unchecked democracy and free enterprise became so inextricably linked that the failure of one would presumably lead to the failure of the other.
Since unlimited democracy was founded on the fallacious philosophy of egalitarianism, its practitioners now had to falsify the process of free enterprise as well to make sure its products could be more evenly distributed between the consumers and producers.
Failure to do so would jeopardise the status of those currently in power and undermine the future of the whole political class. Putting it crudely, votes – and the power they confer – had to be not only requested but also bought.
This had to be done with some delicacy: the success of wealth redistribution depended on the existence of wealth to be redistributed.
Therein lay the problem, for the only way to achieve such a symbiosis was to subvert the organic distribution of wealth in a successful economy, in which some people earned increasingly higher wages and some others made increasingly higher profits.
This arrangement had to be replaced by its simulacrum: an increase in the size of groups making a living without earning it, and the consequent plunder of wealth actually earned.
The entitlement group was bound to continue to increase, for human nature is such that the availability of unearned income and the number of those desiring it exist in a symbiotic relationship.
The process of redistribution, rather than being organic, had to become coercive: wealth producers were to be forced to part with greater and greater chunks of their wealth to support the expectations of greater and greater numbers of those who felt entitled to consume without earning.
Hence the emergence of the welfare state, and it’s naughty of John Humphries to have found anything wrong with it. Next thing we know he’ll find something wrong with modern democracy – and then we’ll know for sure he’ll burn in secular hell.