I came across some disturbing statistics over the weekend. Apparently, less than half of the eligible voters in the UK work in the private sector. The rest are either state employees or on state benefits.
This is important because a free society requires the citizens to keep their government in check. It is easy for those who do not rely on welfare and who are not paid a salary by the government to insist that their rulers take a long term view of their needs, look to the health of the economy and not just the wealth of the public finances, and rule in the interests of the nation and not simply serve a host of special interests. But a client nation where the citizens rely on receiving money from the state cannot exercise the same restraining hand.
Of the 44 million on the electoral register, only 20 million are either employed in the private sector or are self-employed. Over a third as many (7.1 million) are employed by government, and their interests lie in pushing up public sector salaries and benefits at the expense of taxpayers; we have already seen the effect of this in the government’s spineless and unprincipled decision not to properly reform the civil service pension scheme. The rest are made up of 11.8 million pensioners, 2.7 million on incapacity benefit and 3.2 million on various other benefits, many of whom pay very little direct taxes and yet all of whom have a vested interest in seeing public spending – and consequently direct taxes – rise.
Benjamin Franklin described democracy as “two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” In this case, the welfare dependent and those on the government payroll now outnumber those whose productivity must ultimately pay the government’s bill. Yesterday I wrote that “It may seem at present that intervention and the large state dominates, but the tide will turn. The voters, be they the over-taxed middle class or working class playthings of bureaucracy, want freedom.” However, if over half the voters are dependent on the government’s ability to squeeze money out of the remaining less-than-half, that is not the case.
Ultimately, freedom relies on autonomous individuals agreeing to pass over a proportion of their wealth to the public good. This is not the case if a predatory government can use the votes of its clients to extract ever more from a minority of independent wealth producers. The results will not only be spiralling taxes and unemployment and a generally worsening economy, which we are already seeing. It will be to draw ever more people into government control, ever expanding its power until we are all its subjects.